Please Collaborate Less, Nicki Minaj

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Nicki Minaj at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, Inglewood, California.  (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

With the release of her collaboration with Avril Lavigne this week, it's starting to feel like Nicki Minaj will record with just about anyone. In classic Lavigne style, "Dumb Blonde" is a cliché-ridden pseudo-anthem, dressed up as empowering but scrubbed so clean it's ultimately devoid of passion, power or personality. Minaj's inclusion is an after-thought; a few bars tacked onto the end of the song in what feels like a flailing bid by Lavigne to grab some street cred.

What the hell is Minaj even doing here? Well, she says she's a Lavigne fan. Let's just hope she got paid handsomely for her 27 seconds.

"Dumb Blonde" is not the first time Minaj has done a collab that felt like she was phoning it in for an artist desperately trying to ride her coattails. Lest we forget she graced MySpace personality Jeffree Star's uncomfortably explicit "Lollipop Luxury" single back in 2009. This track was so bad, it's a miracle anyone got far enough into it to even hear Nicki robotically recite: "I'm really hot, really pretty / I'm into lickin' lollipops 'til they're sticky." Maybe that was the point.


It just doesn't seem to take a lot to talk Minaj into showing up. Consider the fact that Robin Thicke somehow persuaded her to collaborate with him in the direct aftermath of three of his biggest professional disasters (the "Blurred Lines" consent controversy, the copyright infringement lawsuit and his Paula album, which bombed all over the world, as the public realized it definitely didn't want to listen to him publicly harassing his recently estranged wife). Despite the mess he was in, mere months later, Nicki showed up to rhyme on "Shaking It For Daddy" (a track that didn't exactly help Thicke shed his creepy image) and "Back Together," on which Minaj went to all of the trouble of rhyming the words "Ring, a ring ring," with "Ding da ding ding."

It's not the first time she's sounded like she was putting in minimal effort for a paycheck. Her guest verse on "Woman Like Me" by Little Mix is so lackluster, the first half barely even sounds like her. It's most fitting then, that for the accompanying video, Minaj adopted a position where she literally blends into the background; part of the furniture, not the main show, and perfectly fine with it.

One gets the sense that it was probably the easiest thing for everyone involved, especially when you consider what happens when Minaj's featured verses make the artist look mediocre by comparison. Nowhere has this been more obvious than on Bebe Rexha's "No More Broken Hearts," a plodding, snooze-fest of a song that slaps you awake only when Minaj arrives, almost three minutes in.

Even worse than that are the occasions when it feels like Minaj is invited for her name, not her style. By the time David Guetta's "Turn Me On" was released, it had been wiped (save for that one crackin' line about chiropractors) of every single thing that actually makes Nicki Minaj special. Which begs the question: why bother?

It's true that Minaj has the power to show up for seconds on pop tracks and immediately elevate them, as she did so well on Justin Bieber's "Beauty and the Beat," Madonna's "Bitch, I'm Madonna" and even on Fergie's "You Already Know." But for every one of her great collabs, there's a track where she has a verse tacked on for reasons that make zero creative sense for anyone involved. Take, for example, her part on Joe Jonas's Fifty Shades soundtrack contribution, "Bom Bidi Bom." Who does this help exactly?

No one is disputing Nicki Minaj's essential place in hip-hop or her extraordinary talent. But if she keeps up the non-stop featured spots on other people's tracks, whether she fits the bill or not, Nicki Minaj is increasingly at risk of becoming the human equivalent of the Beats Pill, popping up so often and so randomly in music videos, it ceases to mean anything. Making money while you're at the top of your game is one thing. Doing things for a quick buck that might knock you off your pedestal is quite another.  It's high time Nicki Minaj started focusing on quality over ubiquity.