Just How Badly Did Nicki Minaj Screw Up?
Nicki Minaj and the entire Young Money label is in one hell of a PR nightmare this week after the release of the lyric video for her new single ‘Only.’ What’s the problem? No, it’s not that Chris Brown and Drake are appearing on the same track. It’s because of the surefire way to raise a storm of controversy: Nazi imagery. In a perfectly validated blowback, Minaj has come under fire for drawing upon a ‘Nazi aesthetic’ in the animated clip, but the situation is quickly escalating, due in large part to a formal complaint from the Anti-Defamation League and an awkwardly long period of silence from literally anyone in Nicki’s camp. So we feel obligated to ask…is it worth all the hullaballoo?
Let’s take a look at the video itself. It depicts a cartoon Nicki as a leather pantsuit-clad dictator amassing a faceless army, Drake as the high priest of a religion that is apparently founded not on Christ but on thick asses, Chris Brown as a military general of some kind, and Lil Wayne just standing around in a suit. Does it evoke Nazi-like imagery? To a degree, yes it most certainly does. There are red armbands on military coats and the Young Money insignia is emblazoned within a white circle on a red flag, essentially superimposing where a swastika would be. But by no means is it a pro-Hitler love fest, those images only appear in about a fourth of the video. The rest of the video is missiles exploding in the sky and a slew of Catholic imagery that seems placed for the sole purpose of inciting anger.
This leaves us with the question of why exactly this imagery served as an inspiration in the first place. Like the Catholic aesthetic that is so strangely out of place, it seems that inciting controversy would be reason enough. Pop stars have a long and fabled history of stooping to ridiculous, offensive lengths as a form of publicity. Madonna let loose a shitstorm of rage with the music video ‘Like a Prayer’ that featured her sexually advancing on a black Jesus, it even caused her to lose a major sponsorship with Pepsi. More recently, we can cite just about everything ‘controversial’ Miley Cyrus has done within the past two years as a well oiled publicity machine, ensuring her legacy for years to come.
While this would be a nice and tidy explanation, altering explanations from Nicki and the video’s director, Jeffrey Osborne, make things a little shadier. Nicki took to her Twitter to express her apologies, citing that her video was NOT inspired by Nazis, and that she would never condone Nazism in her art, AND that Jewish friends helped work on the video, which supposedly would get rid of the Nazi idea entirely. Unfortunately for her, Osborne not only directly cited Nazi imagery as an influence but blatantly refused to make an apology. He stressed in a press release that he used a wide variety of imagery, none of which was promoting anything, and that people should calm down and move on to what else is trending.
That said, toying with Nazi imagery is opening a whole can of worms that really does not need to be opened. Was it a smart idea for Nicki to play with this symbolism? Absolutely not, it was just plain dumb. You know what else is dumb? A song where Nicki, Drake, and Lil Wayne sing about how none of them have had sex with each other. Or the entirety of the lyric video. Any claim that Nicki Minaj is a Nazi sympathizer can be invalidated if anybody actually analyzes that video, it’s clear the girl doesn’t really know much about or respect history. She places a statue of herself in the ‘Anaconda’ music video on top of the Parthenon for God’s sake, not to mention that the scenes that do feature Nazi images are meshed with fragments of ancient Egyptian culture and figures of death right out of the Middle Ages, making for a pop culture potpourri that takes a shit on three thousand years of human history.
So to form some semblance of an answer to our questions; no, this abominable lyric video might not be worth the hullaballoo. Are we defending the use of Nazi aesthetics as creative inspiration? Not in the slightest, in fact Nicki is in serious need of some lessons in morality. It’s tasteless, but so is the majority of this video. You know what I find just as disgusting as re-patterning swastikas? That Drake would sexualize The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable, or that Lil Wayne would tell me he ‘pisses greatness like goldfish yellow’ (side note: that is not a healthy color of urine), or that a song that is frankly this bad will be remembered for the controversy of images instead of how mediocre this entire endeavor really is. I’ll always love you Nicki, but girl: Get. Yourself. Together.