There’s lots to learn from Nicki Minaj’s rapping on this record, and from the
brilliant daftness of the chorus vocal hooks, but what intrigues me most is the difference
between the original version on the Now! 79 UK singles compilation, and the remastered
version on her follow‑up album Pink Friday. A/Bing both tracks in my DAW revealed that
the album is roughly 3dB louder subjectively speaking. Even when you compensate for that,
there’s a considerable tonal disparity: it feels as if the album version is down about
3dB below 200Hz, and is also tilted upwards from 1kHz by a decibel or so. Furthermore,
almost all the vocals seem to be higher in level on the album version.
summarise, then: on the album, the track is louder, brighter, and less subby than on the
single, and it has louder vocals. That’s exactly the opposite of what I’d normally
expect! Single versions are usually loud, brash and vocal‑dominated, whereas album
listeners are treated to more lows, a greater dynamic range, and a smoother high end
that’s better suited to louder, wide‑bandwidth playback. So what’s the thinking
behind this? My best guess is that the success of the original version took Minaj’s
production team by surprise, and that in the glare of publicity someone decided that it
didn’t sound competitive sonically alongside other artists’ records, especially in the
light of its unforeseen pop-crossover appeal. If that guess is on target, those two
versions may provide some practical insight into what the higher echelons of the industry
do and don’t consider to be ‘radio friendly’.
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