Starships (song)

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"Starships"
Single by Nicki Minaj
from the album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
B-side "Stupid Hoe"
Released February 14, 2012 (2012-02-14)
(see release history)
Format
Recorded November 2011
Genre
Length 3:30
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • RedOne
  • Rami Yacoub
  • Carl Falk
Nicki Minaj singles chronology
  • "Starships"
  • (2012)

"Starships" is a song by Trinidadian-American singer-songwriter and rapper Nicki Minaj, taken from her second studio album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. It was released on February 14, 2012 by Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Republic as the lead single from the album. The song was written by Minaj, Nadir Khayat, Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub and Wayne Hector, and was produced by RedOne, Yacoub, and Falk. "Starships" received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who complimented its production, though found it generic and criticized Minaj's transition towards pop music. The song is Minaj's most successful single to date, peaking inside the top five in over fifteen countries. It remains her most certified single to date, and has become one of the best-selling singles of all time. The song also made US Billboard history, debuting in the US top ten and then spending a total of 21 consecutive weeks in the top ten.

Minaj has performed the song live in a number of appearances, and was the encore performance on the Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour. The corresponding music video was shot Oahu Island, Hawaii. Directed by Anthony Mandler, the song features Nicki on a beach in a bikini, and near the end of the video, it shows her and a "party-esque" dancing to the song and performing. The music video was critically acclaimed from music critics, many praising the kaleidoscope effects in the video and the fun, carefree style. However, some critics noticed its postponed release, because the video for her single "Beez in the Trap" was released before "Starships" was. With all the success, the song has also sparked controversy surrounding a pulled live performance. The song was included in the 2012 videogame Dance Central 3 and is included in the best-selling videogame Just Dance 2014. It is also one of the select few songs available on Just Dance 2014's demo version. In September 2013 electronic artist Clive Tanaka filed suit against Nicki Minaj and the writers of the song, claiming it infringed on his own composition and recording, "Neu Chicago".[1]

Production[edit]

Onika Maraj, Nadir Khayat, Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub, Wayne Hector and Bilal Hajji wrote "Starships" in 2011.The Demo for Nicki Minaj was Red One's Original Version of Starships. sung by Mohombi, Before Minaj personalized the verses to make it sound "more her style" but keeping the Chorus. Minaj's vocals were recorded at Conway Studios in Los Angeles. Trevor Muzzy described the vocal recording process:

"I did not want to assume that how he was recording her wasn't working, so I asked him what he had set up, and he told me that there were two vocal signal chains, one being a Telefunken ELAM 251 going into a Chandler TG2 mic pre and then through an Urei 1176 [compressor]. The other was a more traditional Neumann-Neve chain. The 251 chain sounded amazing and worked really well with the 1176, which I don't typically use for cutting vocals. It gave her voice a unique character with a cool edge that wasn't there with the other chain. We cut Nicki's vocals in a day, and I came back and we redid a few things, so you could say it was a two-day process."[2]

The song was mainly mixed in only a day, and Muzzy went to Conway to see what minor adjustments Minaj wanted to do to the mix.[2]

Composition[edit]

A 21 second sample of the song's chorus.[3]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Starships" has been described as showing Minaj's "pop side" by MTV.[4][5] The Los Angeles Times stated the song "morphs into what RedOne knows best: glossy Euro-pop dance numbers" while Billboard referred to it as a "Euro-pop dance anthem".[6][7]

PopCrush stated that the song had a "electropop vibe".[8][9] The song starts with an electric guitar before going into a rap verse, followed by a sung pre-chorus.[2] After the chorus, there is a '90s-influenced[citation needed] Eurodance breakdown, which some critics[who?] have compared to the likes of Europop groups 2 Unlimited and C+C Music Factory. During the final breakdown, a stadium football chant can be heard chanting the lead notes of the song. The background vocals on the chorus were considered extremely similar to Britney Spears' 2011 single "Till the World Ends" by Scott Schettler of Popcrush.[3] Jocelyn Vena of MTV also said that "it's hard not to see Spears' influence on the rapper/singer when listening to the song."[10] Billboard compared "Starships" to the work of Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, other artists produced by RedOne.[11] Musically, "Starships" is written in the key of D major and follows a moderate tempo of 125 beats per minute. Written in common time, the song follows a chord progression of D−A−G−Bm−Fm−G.[12] The song contains a brief sample of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as written by Jane Taylor.

Critical reception[edit]

The Los Angeles Times said that "The new single will undoubtedly divide Minaj's fan base. Longtime fans may want the cypher queen they fell in love with when she was young and hungry on the mixtape circuit, while her newer, sugar pop-loving delegation will likely crave the quirkier verses -- and cotton candy-colored wigs -- of today's Minaj."[13] MTV said that "The song not only is pure pop perfection, but RedOne's influence is evident, thanks to its grinding Euro dance beats", adding that "It is certainly the perfect song for those who enjoyed shaking their groove thang to 'Super Bass'. The lighthearted, feel-good vibe of the song is perfect for casual Barbz to blast. It's hard not to see Britney Spears' influence on the rapper/singer when listening to the song, and given that the two toured together last year, Minaj may be trying to remind her pop fans that she has an ear for what they want."[10] Entertainment Weekly gave a negative review, stating that it's "super clubby and contains almost no rapping, which continues Minaj's push into the complete opposite direction she should be heading."[14]

Bill Lamb from About.com was mixed with his review, stating: "Starships is a solid outing for Nicki Minaj. However, the day-glo pop-rap success of 'Super Bass', emotional power of 'Fly', and experimentation of her Grammy Awards performance has left us expecting Nicki Minaj to push boundaries. 'Starships' feels a little bit like retreating into a musical pocket and trying a little too hard to insure another pop chart hit. The result is pleasurable but not particularly memorable."[15] Bloggers for Billboard magazine, Andrew Hampp and Erika Ramirez, criticized the track for, "...monstrous pop hooks that overshadow its throwaway lyrics", while stating that it is, "the most polarizing single in Minaj's career to date". The pair also noticed that Minaj seemed to be exploring her "musical identity" through singing instead of focusing on her strengths.[11] Slant Magazine stated that "Starships (along with 'Pound the Alarm', 'Whip It', and 'Automatic') are "retro-techno-pop earsores comprised of indiscriminately arranged bits of LMFAO's 'Sexy and I Know It', Rihanna's 'We Found Love', and pretty much any recent Britney Spears or Katy Perry song you can name" adding that "For the chorus to her self-affirmation anthem, Minaj shouts 'Starships were meant to fly!', echoing Katy Perry's 'Baby, you're a firework!' for its uncomprehending intuition that if something is in the sky then it must also be inspiring."[16]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Starships" debuted at number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, marking her second solo arrival in the top ten after "Super Bass", which reached number three. The song eventually peaked at number five and was certified triple platinum in the US on August 16, 2012 with sales exceeding three million.[17] The song was also very successful on the US component charts. The song peaked at number two on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart and number three on Pop Songs. It managed to reach number ten on Rap Songs and eighty-five on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. As of January 2013, the song has sold 4,000,000 digital copies in the United States,[18] and 7,200,000 copies worldwide.[19]

In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number sixteen. The song eventually peaked at number two in that country, missing out on the top spot with Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know outselling Minaj by 20,000 copies. Despite this, the song made it Minaj's highest single to date in that country, and she broke the UK record for being the highest charting female rapper in history.[20] It also became the 6th most played song of 2012 in the UK. It was ranked the 7th best-selling song of 2012 in the UK for selling 864,000 copies as of the 31st of December, also becoming the best-selling song not to peak at number one.[21] As of 16 June 2013, the song has spent 69 weeks in the charts. In Scotland, the song debuted at number eleven. Successfully, the song managed to peak at number one for two consecutive weeks, becoming Minaj's second number one in that country following Where Them Girls At. The song stayed in the chart for twenty-nine non-consecutive weeks. In Ireland, the song debuted at number eight. Eventually, the song peaked at number two, before going on to spend thirty-eight consecutive weeks in the top forty.

In the Oceanic regions, the song was a huge success. In Australia, the song debuted at number fourteen, rising to number two, staying there for five consecutive weeks. The song resulted in being Minaj's highest single in that country, and was certified 6× platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) with sales exceeding 420,000.[22] In New Zealand, the song debuted at twelve. The next week it rose to four and peaked at number two. The song has resulted in being Minaj's highest-peaking and longest-charting single in that country and was certified 2× platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) with sales exceeding 30,000. Just recently in New Zealand, the song made the top five for the Top Selling Singles of 2012, placed at four.[23]

In the European regions, the song was a huge success as well. In France, the song debuted at 102, and rose to forty-seven the next week. The song eventually peaked at number five for three non-consecutive weeks. In Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), the song peaked at number five and number seven and charted over 20 weeks in both regions. It was eventually certified Gold by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) with sales over 10,000. In Sweden, the song debuted at number forty-three on the charts. The song peaked at three for two consecutive weeks and stayed in the charts for 29 weeks. The song was then certified gold by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI Sweden) with shipments of 20,000. In Switzerland, the song debuted at sixty on the charts. It later rose to number five in its 12th week for two consecutive weeks. It was then certified platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI Switzerland) with sales exceeding 30,000. In the spring of 2012, "Starships" was the 21st most downloaded ringtone.[24]

In the week beginning July 13, 2012, "Starships" made Billboard Hot 100 history by both debuting in and spending a total of 21 consecutive weeks in the US top ten, surpassing the Black Eyed Peas' single "I Gotta Feeling" which spent 20 weeks in the top 10 in 2009.[25]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The "Starships" video was filmed on Oahu Island, Hawaii and the opening scene is from the Nā Pali Coast on the island of Kauaʻi in Hawaii. It was a 3-day shoot, with filming beginning on March 13, 2012 and ending on March 15, 2012. The video was directed by Anthony Mandler with extensive post-VFX produced by Leah Harmony and executed by a team of artists at Culver City-based post production company KILT.[26] In an interview with Capital FM, Minaj briefly commented on the video for "Starships", calling it "very, very saucy" and her "best one yet".[27] The video premiered on April 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm on MTV.[26][28]

Synopsis[edit]

Minaj on a beach in Hawaii in the music video.

The video opens with a starship flying towards an island after being summoned by its local tribesmen. The island locals slowly awake as the craft passes overhead. The starship then beams a pink bikini-clad electric green-haired Minaj down onto the beach and she begins to sing. She is presumably being worshipped as a goddess as she is carried away through the jungle by the island locals wearing a pale pink bikini with strands hanging off the bottom and short green hair, which is also worn during some kaleidoscope effects and in one scene of her on the beach singing. Minaj is then seen dancing in the mountains wearing a white, pink and black bodysuit behind a glass box while some of the male islanders run up to her. The scene then shifts towards the volcano top at nighttime where Minaj is sitting on top of the box with some of the locals dancing around her. In the final scene, a blonde-haired Minaj, wearing a white fringed strapless bikini splattered with paint, is partying with the islanders. Intercut scenes show Minaj singing with kaleidoscope effects on her in the second outfit and some more kaleidoscope effects in the same outfit but under blacklights. It ends with her singing the last line while looking directly into the camera.

Reception and contest[edit]

MTV's John Mitchell criticized the video's postponed release, finding it strange that the video for the album's third single, "Beez in the Trap", was released before that of "Starships".[29] On May 28, 2012, a "Starships" video campaign was announced on Minaj's official website. It asked fans to record a video of themselves performing "Starships" by singing, dancing or with a musical instrument. Minaj will then select 5 winners. The contest winners won tickets and passes to meet Minaj on her Pink Friday Tour.[30] The song won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video in September 2012.

Live performances[edit]

On February 26, 2012, Minaj performed the single live for the first time along with "Moment 4 Life", "Turn Me On" and "Super Bass" at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. Minaj also performed the single on the eleventh season of American Idol results show on March 29, 2012, and on Today on April 6.[31] Minaj performed the song in a mash-up with "Right by My Side" at The Ellen DeGeneres Show on May 10, 2012.[32] Minaj also performed the single on her Pink Friday Tour. The song was also the encore song of Minaj's Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour.

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
  1. "Starships" – 3:30
German and UK CD single[33][34]
  1. "Starships" – 3:30
  2. "Stupid Hoe" – 3:16

Personnel[edit]

Recording[35]
Personnel[35]
  • Nicki Minaj – vocals, songwriter
  • RedOne – songwriter, producer, instruments
  • Carl Falk – songwriter, producer, mixing, additional vocals, instruments, guitar
  • Rami Yacoub – songwriter, producer, mixing, vocal editing, instruments
  • Wayne Hector – songwriter, additional vocals
  • Trevor Muzzy – recording, mixing, vocal editing
  • Ariel Chobaz – recording
  • Jon Sher – recording assistant
  • Mohombi – additional vocals

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[77] 6× Platinum 420,000^
Belgium (BEA)[78] Gold 15,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[79] 2× Platinum 60,000^
Italy (FIMI)[80] Gold 15,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)[81] 3× Platinum 180,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[82] 2× Platinum 30,000*
Sweden (GLF)[83] Gold 20,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[84] Platinum 30,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[85] Platinum 864,000[86]
United States (RIAA)[87] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Awards[edit]

Year Awards ceremony Award Results
2012 MTV Video Music Awards[88] Best Female Video Won

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format
United States[89] February 14, 2012 Radio premiere, digital download
Canada[90] Digital download
United Kingdom[91]
Ireland[92]
Belgium[93] February 15, 2012
Spain[94]
Finland[95]
Italy[96]
Luxembourg[97]
Netherlands[98]
New Zealand[99]
Norway[100]
Austria[101]
Portugal[102]
Singapore[103]
United States February 21, 2012 Mainstream and Rhythmic radio
Germany[104] April 6, 2012 CD single

References[edit]

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