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Megatron: Why Isn’t it an Instant Mega Hit?

It goes without saying that Nicki Minaj is arguably the greatest female rapper to ever grace mainstream music. Over the course of the last decade, she has presented herself in a light that is unmatched by any other female emcee to come before or after her. She’s remained consistent with new material, versatile with her delivery, and seasoned with an array of collaborators. In the summer of 2018, she released the album Queen, which though made initial impact on the charts, eventually dissolved off by the end of 2018 with little buzz or fanfare towards its singles. Most recently, her latest single, “Megatron”, was released two weeks ago. The single debut at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. By its second week, the tune had fallen to #90 and is expected to fall completely off by next week. For an artist of Minaj’s caliber the question then becomes, why is the single not faring well so early with an album on the way?

While it is possible the single has already reached its peak, it is just as possible that it hasn’t. In present day, due to streaming singles tend to rise to the top quite faster than they would a decade ago. Because of this, their climb to the top takes less as long. For Minaj, a track starting at #20 at a time when there are heavily popular singles out by Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X, Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, and other heavyweights is not an insult. What it implies is the initial reaction to her new single is buzz generated from die hard fans who have streamed the tune endlessly and bought digital copies. This is the explanation for the drop from 70 spots. 

In terms of quality, the single isn’t the greatest of her most recent offerings, yet it has a very radio friendly command to it. The greatest issue with it receiving heavy radio airplay on Top 40 markets is the presence of female rappers dominating the scene. Unfortunately we live in a generation where it is merely impossible for all talents to succeed at once. Over the years, Minaj’s once grip tight throne has turned loose. Today’s rap scene is dominated by the City Girls, Megan the Stallion, Cardi B, and Lizzo. All of these acts have singles performing significantly better than a solo track released by Minaj has in quite some time. It doesn’t help with the public feud with Cardi B and her arrogant demeanor associated with her over the years as well.

Perhaps the biggest struggle with Minaj’s new single, however, is the fact that ageism is syncing in to her career. In her 30s, Minaj is no longer the mid-20s superstar that she once was. The road that she paved is being trafficked by several other female rappers who are creating their own mark based on the way that she has paved. The reality of the music business is that most women tend to not make it onto the radio after the age of 35. Of course, there are exceptions, specifically like Beyonce. Even Queen Bey is not as regular the fixture on the radio as she once was at the age of 37. Minaj is no different and finds herself releasing consistently good music that doesn’t attract radio formats similar to the likes of Britney Spears (37), Mariah Carey (49), and Mary J. Blige (48). 

This does not imply that Minaj’s career is over; she is still an artist with a strong social media following and receives high profile recognition from many music and media outlets. For what it’s worth, it simply implies that the days of releasing B-level music and it keeping her on top, are no longer with us due to the level of young competition bringing the best they can and teams that recognize their potential. The Nicki Phoenix is still very capable of rising and perhaps finally taking her to #1 for the first time in her career. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than “Megatron” to do so. 

July 18, 2019

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