Roman Holiday (song)
|Song by Nicki Minaj|
|from the album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded|
|Released||April 2, 2012|
Roman Holiday is a song by American rapper and singer Nicki Minaj, the opening track from her second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. It was written by Nicki Minaj, Larry Nacht, Winston Thomas and Safarree Samuels, and produced by Blackout (Thomas) and Pink Friday Productions. Two months prior to the album's official release, Minaj performed what many viewed as a controversial rendition of the song at the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony on February 12, 2012 before its release, which received generally unfavorable reviews from critics. Reviewing the album, Jessica Hopper of Spin called the song itself "pure theater, the closest hip-hop's gotten to its own "Bohemian Rhapsody", full of thrilling crescendos and twitchy verses that verge on the ridiculous, but always shift toward the triumphant.
In an interview with MTV, Minaj discussed the fate of her character and alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. "...if you're not familiar with Roman, then you will be familiar with him very soon. He's the boy that lives inside of me. He's a lunatic and he's gay, and he'll be on Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (the new album) a lot." Minaj imagined Roman as having been exiled to Russia. "Well, he was there [in Moscow] secretly because Martha wanted him to go there. So they put him in this thing with monks and nuns; they were trying to rehabilitate him." Minaj debuted the character live during a controversial performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. 
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"Roman Holiday" is a fast-paced Hindi hip-hop and pop rap and song influenced by opera music that runs for four minutes and five seconds. It features a complex production, utilizing elements such as rattling sound effects, sonic drops, synths, and laser's The song also references the traditional hymn "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". The song received comparisons to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, taken from their fourth studio album A Night at the Opera (1975).
"Roman Holiday" received general acclaim from music critics. Jessica Hopper, from Spin magazine, called the song "nearly flawless" and "pure theater, the closest hip-hop's gotten to its own "Bohemian Rhapsody", full of thrilling crescendos and twitchy verses that verge on the ridiculous, but always shift toward the triumphant." She described the song as part of the "gratifying front end (of the album)" and dismissed "subsequent pop tracks as a paying of the piper": "The too-perfect, Dr. Luke-produced songs are her penance for sneaking deranged yodeling ode 'Roman Holiday' in there." Jim Farber of New York Daily News praises the song's style and philosophy: "The peak parts of the star's second CD, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, turn that trend smack on its back. The rhythms, textures and inflections of the best tracks far outfreak, and outwit, any get-up the star has ever sported.Take the opening cut, 'Roman Holiday.' When Minaj previewed this ditty on the Grammys back in February, her zany (some said blasphemous) theatrics obscured the originality of both the beat and of Minaj’s rapping attack. On the disk, you can bask in her fitful, stuttering style — a manic cadence informed by its own grace. In the space of one track, Minaj mixes pitches and flows to create as much rhythmic surprise as a top comic. Using the persona of Roman Zolanski — the most amped-up gay man imaginable — Minaj unleashes a great spew of profane humor. She matches that to vocal and percussive rhythms that meld a Trinidadian patois, a New York attitude and a Hindi hip-hop bounce. Such a pan-cultural swirl shoots Missy Elliott's brand of hip-hop surreality to the moon."
Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone, says "Nicki Minaj is a purist's nightmare. She doesn't just straddle pop categories, she dumps them in a Cuisinart, whips them to a frothy purée, then trains a guided missile at the whole mess." to illustrate his point, he then goes on to describe "Roman Holiday": "(The album)Roman Reloaded opens with Minaj – a biracial woman from Queens via Trinidad – ranting in the voice of her (Polish?) homosexual 'twin brother' alter ego. In the same song, she takes on the voice of Martha Zolanski, Roman's mother, singing in a cartoon Cockney accent. 'Take your medication, Roman,' counsels Minaj/Martha. 'Quack, quack to a duck and a chicken, too/Put the hyena in a freakin' zoo,' answers Minaj/ Roman. Later, she bursts into 'O Come, All Ye Faithful.' Al Fox of BBC says of Minaj "Few artists in Minaj’s position would dare to take risks as bold as this," while citing "Roman Holiday" for its "Major-key, tap-along pop sensibilities; disquieting lyrical content; wide-eyed, over-pronounced Valley Girl patter; a reworking of O Come All Ye Faithful; shuddering, skeletal beats." AllMusic's David Jeffries lists "Roman Holiday" as a "Track Pick," while Rolling Stone, in its 4 Star review, names the song a "Key Track" on the album.
54th Grammy Awards performance
"Roman Holiday" made its debut on February 12, 2012 at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. It was the first song ever performed on the Grammy stage by a solo female rapper.
Minaj said in an interview with Rap-Up, “the Grammys chose ‘Roman Holiday.’ The producers of the Grammys came to the studio and I played them ‘Roman Holiday,’ and I could not play them another record after they heard that. They went crazy. I could have chosen to do a no-brainer pop song, but I can’t do it anymore. I have to stay true to what I’m doing.”
The performance received generally unfavorable reviews. MTV said Minaj's "Roman Holiday" "was the most elaborate of the night's Grammy performances and (had) everyone talking," with AllHipHop founder Chuck Creekmur adding “I definitely felt like she was reaching out to the mainstream with this performance, trying to make that full leap into the pop world. She’ll definitely have people talking. Obviously, we’ve seen this before with Madonna and Lady Gaga — especially Gaga." Rolling Stone's Steve Knopper called the performance "disturbing, but still somehow great." David Marchese of Spin described it as an "awesomely outlandish phantasmagoria." In 2015, longtime Grammy producer Kenneth Ehrlich called the performance a "disappointment":
|“||I was not proud of what we did with Nicki Minaj three years ago. I thought that was a disappointment both in terms of what we did and to an extent what she did. I’m not going to absolve us of any responsibility, but it just wasn’t good. If it had been controversial and good, I think I would have been proud of it. But we probably let out the string a little too much on that one.||”|
Bill Donahue of the conservative watch group, The Catholic League, criticized the performance. "Whether Minaj is possessed is surely an open question, but what is not in doubt is the irresponsibility of The Recording Academy". Choreographer Laurieann Gibson, however, said ""I personally chose to stay away from any religious moves. There were no crosses. There were no religious symbols. We made sure we were very respectable. The bishop was a symbolic figurehead. He was not [intended] in a negative light, but in a position of authority".
Minaj told Ryan Seacrest "It's the most comfortable I've ever been onstage in my entire life." She told radio station Power 105.1 "“(Roman Holiday) was my best performance ever and if everybody didn’t agree you can… That was my best performance ever, ever. But can I say something, I did a skit on my ‘Right Through Me,’ I did a skit on ‘Moment for Life’ video, I did a fighting scene in my ‘Fly’ video. That was the skit for the ‘Roman Holiday’ video, it goes perfectly for the song, what don’t y’all understand?”
|US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles.||13|
Credits and personnel
Credits are taken from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded liner notes.
- Vocals: Nicki Minaj, Marissa Bregman
- Writing: Onika Maraj, Larry Nacht, Safaree Samuels, Winston Thomas
Recorded at: Conway Studios Los Angeles CA
- Recording: Ariel Chobaz
- Assisted by: John Sher
- Mix engineer: Ariel Chobaz
- Assisted by: Lyttleton "Cartwheel" Carter
- Additional vocals: Marissa Bregman
- Producing: Blackout
- On the Best Buy version of the album, Marissa Bregman is listed as a featured vocalist on the track "Roman Holiday"
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- Roman Holiday Official Credits, ASCAP, 2012
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