Before Nicki Minaj & Charli XCX compete in pop next year, let's review their biggest hits

  /  08.17.2016

I never thought I’d see Nicki Minaj and Charli XCX go toe-to-toe in any arena. Minaj with her manic alter-egos and equally-frenetic rap flow, Charli with her punk attitude draped in pop stylings; it seemed unlikely that they’d ever compete in a ring or on a chart, but come 2017 that may change.

In a recent cover story with Fader, Charli XCX defiantly declared: “I want to make the best pop album of 2017.” Trailing not far behind, producer London on Da Track, who’s been in studio with Minaj as she works on her new album, told Complex that she was entering similar musical territory: “These are more singing records than rap. They’re crossover.”

Not that the genre is necessarily new terrain for Minaj; when you consider her highest-charting songs, they tend to be of the pop persuasion anyway. Here, we compare them to Charli’s best-selling singles too to discover who’s got the better chance of walking away with the title.

2011 | Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass” | Chart Position: 3

Let me remind you that it was Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez‘s unabashed fandom for this track that helped catapult it from an afterthought bonus track on the deluxe version of Minaj’s Pink Friday album to the highest-charting song of her career. Largely driven by a chintzy twinkly beat (and not a bass as promised by the title), this juggernaut of a track was unapologetic in its candy-coated playfulness and turned out to be an inescapable guilty pleasure in spite (or maybe because) of it.

2012 | Nicki Minaj, “Starships” | Chart Position: 5

This was unapologetic in a different way: it basically hit you over the head and knocked you unconscious with its fist-pumping maximalism. It also made no qualms about being unoriginal. The opening guitar riff was quite literally plucked from Miley Cyrus‘ equally pervasive pop track “Party in The USA” and the chorus’ pounding synths from Avicii‘s “Levels.” By the time the frenzied trance breakdown came, that’s exactly how you felt too.

2012 | Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX, “I Love It” | Chart Position: 7

Charli didn’t just appear as a guest on this; she actually wrote and gave to the Swedish duo what she would later admit to being the “most annoying song in the world.” Like the aforementioned “Starships,” it was an infectiously energetic electro-anthem with skyrocketing synths made for an arena, but “I Love It” was also part-shouting match. The trio’s breakup non-ballad felt raucous and unruly and, yes, sometimes like children chanting on a playground. But you probably screamed it at the top of your lungs, too.

2014 | Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, “Fancy” | Chart Position: 1

Like “I Love It,” it was Charli’s chorus that carried “Fancy”—Azalea‘s rapid-fire verses were cool too, but no one felt as comfortable dishing those delusionally cocky lyrics as she did. Over a distinct rubbery bounce of a beat, Charli’s swaggy and sneery in-your-face vocal was what made the ode to the glamorous life so damn fun.

2014 | Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda” | Chart Position: 2

Though this largely borrowed from hip-hop classic “Baby Got Back,” the original’s trademark and always-identifiable creep-bop beat, now punctuated with both the lash of a whip (per the song’s sexually suggestive nature, duh) and a ringing school bell, was just silly enough that it could scale (and sully) even Billboard’s well-respected chart. Well, it was either the beat or the ass-tastic video that got virtually the entire nation’s ears (and widened, judgmental eyes) on the track.

2014 | Charli XCX, “Boom Clap” | Chart Position: 6

As we mentioned before, let’s give praise to Charli XCX for making the most out of a bad situation, for being able to sprinkle joy throughout a film (The Fault In Our Stars) that existed for no other reason than to turn you into a mushy ball of sobs and snot. We didn’t even care that the song title was just a meaningless onomatopoeia; the track was 80s-inspired, synthy-pop goodness and managed to be bound by none of the same sap that populated the movie it came from.

Verdict: Because Charli’s songs seem to chart higher (or at all) in her homeland of the UK compared to America, and because Nicki Minaj has a Midas touch when it comes to singles (even if their accompanying albums are critically-panned), Charli will have to come with a major crossover for the masses to defeat Minaj and her multiple personalities. And for the sake of variety and a desire to break up radio monotony, we kinda hope she does.


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