Katy Perry’s got nothing on Nicki Minaj.
At the 2012 Grammys, Perry rolled on-stage with a blue wig and her hit song “E.T.”, then abruptly transitioned into “Part of Me,” which pop news sources have attributed to her break-up with Russell Brand. (There are lines like “So you can keep the diamond ring,” for example.) Things just haven’t been the same since Perry’s religious parents have tried to hook her up with Jesus-lovin’ Tim Tebow.
Yet Perry was formerly the queen of cotton candy cloud sensuality, of references to sucking Snoop Dogg’s lollipop and a hyperfemininity that only a white girl of pastor parents could muster. Sweet and adoring in her innocence, Perry doesn’t stand a chance against hardcore female rapper Nicki Minaj, who stole the 2012 Grammys with “Roman Holiday.” Both a tribute to and a pushback against the movie “The Exorcist,” Minaj’s performance engaged the short attention spans of social media users, compelling them to post their own thoughts on Minaj’s “interpretation” of Catholicism, exorcism and the use of highly charged religious imagery in pop culture social media spectacle.
In “Roman Holiday,” Minaj performed an exorcism of her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. By the end of the performance, she was levitating high above fires and clergy members. EOnline called Minaj’s performance the “worst spectacle” of the 2012 Grammys.
“As much as we like the rap pixie, Nicki Minaj offered up a Lady Gaga-lite scary religious movie that was way too long, kinda silly and way annoying coming so late in the show,” writes Erik Pedersen. “But hey, at least she can always ask her Pope-date for absolution!”
Whereas Katy Perry is a softcore, singsongy teenage dreamer girl who is stuck at last Friday night’s drunken party, Nicki Minaj exists in a space of highly charged religious imagery, relying on a male narrative yet occupying space as a female body. This just one of the reasons “Roman Holiday” shook things up. Says Racialicious’ LaToya Peterson quoting Menda Francois’ thesis “Step Your Pussy Up: Nicki Minaj and the Signifyin(g) Tropes of Hardcore Female Rap”:
Implicit in Minaj’s Signification onto the male narrative is a strategic process of identity construction, relying primarily on the male narrative and male voice to help shape the hardcore female rapper’s public image. Essentially, by engaging in dialogue with the male narrative, Minaj is aligning herself with male rappers and creating her identity as one of (pseudo)masculinity, an asset valuable to her role as a hardcore female rapper. It is within this genre that femcees operate as performers of gender and are most harshly judged by an injurious rubric of masculinity.
Unlike Perry’s “E.T.”, which relies on the fetishization of black male rapstar Kanye West as “alien” in a sci-fi trope, Minaj’s “Roman Holiday” transcends this othered “outer space.” Minaj’s exorcism of her male alter-ego Roman Zolanski completes her transformation into hardcore rapper, one who is capable of simultaneously being both and neither. If she had possessed demons before the Grammys, she certainly does not now.
Yet some social media users took Minaj’s performance too literally. “Nicki Minaj possessed by Demon Grammy Performance,” reads an FTD News headline. YouTube commenter iJared TV announced that he was vehemently against any sort of “religious type thing” in pop culture music videos.
“If you bring in any religious type thing, like a Catholic priest…you’re gonna lose a lot of your Catholic audience,” he says in his YouTube video commentary. “I’m not Catholic or anything, but you don’t disrespect religion in your music or anything.” But Minaj was not disrespecting any sort of Catholic audience. Her on-stage transformation was her own, and out of it came her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski.
Did Nicki Minaj Save the Grammys?
According to NPR, she did. Her performance catapulted the event from just another awards show into a social media spectacle complete with Twitter and second screens:
We all well know that this is how mainstream pop music survives in the single-download age. No one style dominates, and as artists compete for attention, they’re turning ever more hyperbolic. At the Grammys, this was best illustrated by Nicki Minaj’s wild debut of the title track from her upcoming second album, Roman Holiday. A tribute to The Exorcist that more closely recalled a florid Dario Argento horror opera, the number included mock clergy, levitation and Minaj singing “I Feel Pretty” in an accent that would horrify Downton Abbey admirers. “Roman Holiday” sent the Twitterverse into hysterics. And it’s impossible to think that wasn’t part of the reason it was approved.
Minaj has officially and fully entered into the Twitterific pop culture mindshare. In fact, her entrance was christened by a friendly email from the Catholic League, who was very concerned about the “exorcism” of Minaj’s male-gendered alter-ego and, implicitly, her use of the male narrative. Indeed, anything involving non-normative gender is cause for concern.
Some Twitter users like @savory1, a self-described “hard working soccer mom” in Orland Park, Illinois, defended Minaj’s performance: “It was art get over it.” Minaj fired back on Twitter with a few words, slamming the Catholic League and everyone who for some reason may fear their own alter-ego, or just themselves.
- “Were they offended by ‘the devil inside’??? Shut-up & watch the movie b**ch!”
- “Not, 2, Not 1…I wish I at least had a point five percentile worth of f**ks to give right now.”
- “And more importantly, love people for WHO they are. #nohate #nojudgement #nocondemnation.”
Now, is that something Katy Perry could have said? Not without a lot of sugary sweet sentimentality.
Image via Flickr.
Boston-based Nanigans, a firm specializing in the Facebook ads marketplace, recently released new data confirming a jump in the Facebook ads marketplace this past holiday season over the 2010 holiday season. Facebook ads charged a higher cost-per-click (CPC), otherwise known as pay-per-click (PPC), which means that an advertiser pays each time a user clicks on the listing. This is especially interesting considering Facebook’s latest incentive, which offers discounts for Facebook ads that keep users inside the network.
A Facebook IPO is in the works, and sources told AllThingsD that it will hit during the third week in May. For now, it is still a private company.
Research firm eMarketer Inc. shows ad revenues grew from $738 million in 2009 to an estimated $3.8 billion in 2011. Facebook Credits are becoming an increasingly important revenue source, bringing in an estimated total of $4.27 billion in 2011 alone. Analysis credit Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg with the company’s advertising strategy success.
New data from InsideSocialGames reveals more about the top most-played Facebook games. When people had downtime this holiday season, they were more likely to play Words With Friends and Farmville.
The number of Words With Friends players went up 9% to 15,100,000 monthly average users. A total of 1.3 million users joined during the holiday week. Farmville, the second most popular holiday game, went up 2% to 33,900,000 monthly average users. It gained 800,000 users over the holiday.
Other Zynga games with a significant increase in players over the holiday week included CityVille at number 7; it gained 300,000 users, or 0.61%. Texas HoldEm Poker gained 200,000 users, up 0.7%.
Last year at this time, Zynga classic CityVille was the number two game with 49,600,000 monthly average users. CastleVille and FarmVille were at number four and five with 37,100,000 and 33,900,000 MAU respectively. Words With Friends was at number 15.
Words With Friends is one of Zynga’s fastest growing games. In its first mobile app rankings for Android, Nielsen listed Words With Friends as one of the top apps. Toward the end of December 2011, Words With Friends was ranked as the number two game for Android.
Zynga went public at the end of 2011, pricing its shares at $8.50-$10. Its stock price closed out at $9.45 today.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, users downloaded more than 1 billion apps for the first time ever that short of a time frame. Across iOS and Android, over 1.2 billion apps were downloaded, according to a new report by Flurry Analytics. That was a 60% increase over early December.
The holiday season typically sees a surge in mobile application downloads, especially once Christmas Day arrives and countless consumers all over the world unwrap their new Android devices, iPhones, iPads and iPods. In a true testament to the continued proliferation of these devices, this year’s holiday spike in app downloads was a one for the record books, according to Flurry’s data.
The vast majority of downloads were seen in the United States and several other Western countries made the top ten. In second place was China, which saw 99 million downloads. That sounds like a lot, but it’s relatively small compared to China’s overall installed base, as the report pointed out. It’s the second biggest app market in the world, but only saw about one fifth of downloads the week after Christmas, which of course is not as widely celebrated in China.
Apple hasn’t released numbers, but there’s little doubt that items like iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch did quite well this holiday season, and for those who already own such devices an iTunes Store gift card made for a no-brainer of a present. Amazon’s own Kindle Fire, which has access to a limited version of the Android Marketplace, was that company’s top-selling and most frequently gifted item this holiday season as well.
The 1 billion weekly downloads threshold may be a new one, but it’s one that Flurry expects to see continue well into 2012. There’s very little reason to doubt that prediction, as smartphones and tablets continue to pick up steam in the marketplace and new devices from Apple, Amazon and Android handset manufacturers are expected to drop throughout the year, in many cases at lower price points.
Not unsurprisingly, this holiday season was a big one for the world’s biggest e-commerce retailer. But it wasn’t just all those remote-controlled, inflatable flying sharks and Forever Lazy pajamas people ordered. Among the biggest winners this year was Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers and, naturally, the e-books that go on them.
Kindles flew off Amazon’s digital shelves at a rate of over 1 million per week during the month of December and occupied the top three slots on the company’s site-wide bestseller list. The #1 position was held by the Kindle Fire, which was also the most gifted and wished-for item on the entire site, according to data released today by Amazon.
What good would all those new e-reader devices be without books to go with them? Sure enough, after unwrapping their new gadgets on Christmas Day, people took to the Kindle Store to download books, making it the single best day for ebook downloads since Amazon starting offering them. Between Black Friday and Christmas, Kindle books sold 175% more than they did during that same time period last year.
Indie Authors on the Rise
Found amidst the company’s holiday sales stats are a few clues about what the future of publishing might entail. In addition to obvious choices like Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, readers have been downloading books by independent authors at a growing pace.
In 2011, the first and fourth best-selling ebooks were by indie authors who published their work via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. No longer are readers limited to offerings from big publishing houses. Thanks to the explosion in e-books and the devices they’re best read on, unknown authors can become best-sellers like never before.
2012: Another Huge Year For Tablets
It was no mistake that Amazon released its media tablet just in time for the holiday season, and at less than half the cost of the iPad. The device is the fastest-growing tablet since the first generation iPad, and that growth shows no signs of stopping.
The early success of the Kindle Fire closes out another big year for tablets and precedes what is sure to be yet another one. Apple is expected to unveil the next generation of the iPad at some point in 2012, possibly in multiple sizes and almost certainly with a smaller price tag. Android is pushing its own platform forward with Ice Cream Sandwich and we’ll undoubtedly see a host of new ICS-friendly devices next year.
We’ll also see the launch of Windows 8 next year, a new generation of Microsoft’s operating system that will offer a seamless experience across dekstops, tablets and smartphones. How well it will catch on remains to be seen, but for Windows users, an affordable Windows 8-based tablet could be hard to resist.
When you’re holiday shopping this year, there’s little doubt that Amazon would prefer that you buy that copy of the Steve Jobs biography or Snuggie on their site, rather than in an actual store. That’s why the e-commerce giant offers things like free shipping and a mobile app that lets you scan barcodes and compare prices.
In many cases, the price Amazon pulls up on its Price Check app for iOS is going to smaller than the one stuck to the item you’re holding in your hand. They know this, and so to further encourage you to buy from them, Amazon is offering a 5% discount on items purchased via the Price Check app.
The promotion has its limitations. For one, the deal is only good this Saturday, December 10. According to Amazon’s press release, the 5% discount is good on up to three “qualifying products in eligible categories.” That list of categories includes electronics, DVDs, toys, music and sporting goods, but there’s no word on how many products are eligible for the price cut.
As smartphone adoption continues to grow, more and more people are engaging in mobile commerce, and the buying isn’t limited to when consumers are at home or work. More than one third of smartphone owners used the device to make a purchase while standing in a bricks and mortar store, according to recent data from ComScore.
Amazon is well aware of the trend, and they’re hoping to cash in on it even further by running this promotion. For physical retailers, many of whom have already felt the heat from Amazon’s success, it puts them in a difficult spot. Amazon is able to offer lower prices thanks to its very structure, which includes less overhead than businesses that operate out of a physical storefront.
For consumers, the bottom line is who has the cheaper price, and who can get them their purchases in time for holiday gift-giving. As long as Amazon can deliver in those two areas, we can only see this trend toward mobile commerce continue.
The catalog industry is a thriving business that all the big names in retail spend large sums of money on. Partly because my mother was once a lead copywriter for a prominent catalog, the holiday season has always dominated by large stacks of retailers’ reading material. With the digital era, those stacks of catalogs have disappeared but Google is making a concerted effort to aggregate all the prominent catalogs in one place for Android tablets and the iPad.
Google has released this year’s version of Google Catalogs as an app for both iOS and Android. As we have seen over the Thanksgiving weekend, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, mobile commerce is exploding. Through partnerships with Google and others, large retailers are making sure they are not left in the dust.
Google Catalogs has more than 125 brands from L.L. Bean (pictured below), Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nike and more. It has over 400 catalogs in the collections across several categories including jewelry, gifts, toys, kids, gadgets and outdoor adventure.
There are interactive tags for pricing and ordering details and the ability to see more photos and information on various products. Google Catalogs will easily direct you to the nearest store to purchase items or redirect you to the company’s Web page for purchasing. Users can also create collages out of the catalogs (really, the best use for paper catalogs in the long run) with a screenshot tool that can be cut-and-pasted to a noteboard.
Really want that (jacket, hat, gadget, kitchen set, scented candle, socks etc.) on your holiday list? The catalog will allow users to send the clipping via email or favorite items within the app.
Google Catalogs represents and inflection point for mobile shoppers and confluence of the technology industry and Madison Avenue retailers. One potential problem for retailers is that they do not get the data they would otherwise accumulate on buyers by having their home addresses on hand for future catalogs and demographic breakdown. If users do make a purchase by being redirected through Google Catalogs, retailers will eventually get that information but users can hide behind their Google Account (or not sign in at all) for browsing purposes.
Are you going to be doing mobile shopping this holiday season? Does one app that acts as a library of catalogs entice you to purchase from your tablet? Let us know how you plan to attack the holiday shopping season in the comments.