Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”
Once upon a rhyme two bubblegum nymphs lit up the pitch black pop sky with tales of teenage dreams and rose-colored weekends. Princess Katy Perry sang this year from atop her Golden Coast lollipop tower; while Dutchess Nicki Minaj led a brigade of bad Barbies across the hard candy-coated pop landscape. This year we saw the rise and reign of the psuedo-sexual siren; from adolescent dreams to Roman’s vengeful screams, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj exemplified both sides of Barbie – the pinup princess and the baroness behind barbs. Amidst all of the flashing lights, these two were the fireworks that took fantastical flight.
Nicki Minaj opened the year launching feature after brilliant feature across star-studded tracks. She held court with the divas, the dons, and the du jours; throwing down with everyone from Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, to Rick Ross, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem, Ludacris, Usher, and will.i.am. Co-sign after co-sign Minaj built hype and suffocated hearsay. Before long, it seemed as if the collective culture’s eyes were glued to Nicki’s rocketeering rise, awaiting with bated breath the halogenic blast of her solo debut; Pink Friday was the explosive result. The album is truly Minaj’s child, and capstoned her rookie year exceptionally well. It’s the pink hybrid hue between that clean white naive newness and raw red monstrosity; it’s the bridge between the come-up of the work week and the kick-back of the weekend, where Miss Minaj continues to blaze somewhere in between as the not-quite-a-babydoll-but-not-yet-a-boss.
Elsewhere in space, or perhaps just LaLaLand, Katy Perry brought the teenage dream to life. She lauded Angeleno starlets and San Franciscan popsicle-melters with “California Gurls,” fantasized in the twilight with her sophomore album’s title track, and blew the fuse with “Firework.” The singles were a taste, and the soundtrack gave a face to the modern teen scene: carefree kidults, faded high-flyers, over-the-top fairy tales, under-the-influence fun, a life of spectacular nights in an endless daze, all beneath the bombastic glow of fantastic reality detached. Perry brought the energy of a Tinkerbell Bardot: the enigmatic effervescence of infinite youth, and the vintage pinup playgirl blended and suspended in a state of perpetual nostalgia.
Take the dutchess’ bark, fire-breathing flows from a dungeon dragon, and the princess’ electro-pop rocks; shake, stir, spark, sit back and watch the spectacle of a sonic light show. Perhaps the truest essence of Minaj and Perry’s tandem is the captured sense of aspirational aggression – the fairy femme fatale: explosive for entertainment’s sake, the extraterrestrial California Gurl with her head in the clouds, hand in her spaceman’s pocket, and heart on the dancefloor, a massive attack courtesy of Mattel, an aerial assault on Pop culture, with the world gazing awe-struck at the little misses’ meteor shower.