“Roman Holiday,” the unhinged opener to Nicki Minaj’s 2012 sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, has recently experienced an rebirth. Credit the potent combination of TikTok, Twitter memes and Minaj’s diehard fan base.
Thanks to the ever-growing success of the short form video platform TikTok (along with the impressively creative minds of teenagers), artists now have another space in which their singles can go viral; this year alone, we’ve seen boosts for with DaBaby’s “Suge,” Ava Max’s “Sweet but Psycho” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” But the latest track to be skyrocketed into memedom is a lot less recent, and a lot less expected.
The birth of the “Roman Holiday” meme actually started on Twitter, thanks to Minaj’s fan base, the Barbz, who simply wanted to pay homage to the 2012 tune in early May. Similar to the Lambs’ #JusticeForGlitter campaign that helped Mariah Carey’s Glitter soundtrack return to the charts last November, the Barbz saw an opportunity to celebrate their queen on social media, and “Roman Holiday” was the beneficiary.
The song (which is usually sped up from the original version) can be applied to any video that heightens its silliness. Some of the more popular memes include Game of Thrones‘ Daenerys setting King’s Landing ablaze, a fan splicing his dance moves alongside kooky-looking imitations of The Simpsons, and a brilliant spin off of 1953’s Roman Holiday. Even fellow camp queen Lady Gaga found herself in the mix when she retweeted an edited video of her on this year’s Met Gala red carpet.
roman holiday (1953) featuring roman holiday…I’ve officially reached peak crackheadedness pic.twitter.com/RIqYoUXIqo
— Annie (@carol2015film) May 14, 2019
everyday i add a new video to my collection of roman holiday memes. this one’s my favourite so far pic.twitter.com/didXkkUbTe
— ?•?•? ?? (@elafromtheblock) May 10, 2019
YALL LMFAO pic.twitter.com/OkdBuR1DUE
— laamaj (@thrifttgod) May 14, 2019
— Chris Evans News ? (@jasonsproblems) May 13, 2019
— GARRY (@GarrySlay) May 14, 2019
— Tati Forever (@xcxdreams) May 16, 2019
roman holiday sneaking into the charts undetected because of a meme pic.twitter.com/kTLbHXam6H
— edgar (@hermitafrog) May 15, 2019
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) May 7, 2019
So why “Roman Holiday”? It helps to know the backstory to one of Minaj’s most controversial songs to understand why the diehards decided to lift it up.
Within Minaj’s many alter-egos, one of her most memorable remains Roman Zolanski. The persona of a young British homosexual boy who can’t be tamed was first introduced on 2010’s Pink Friday highlight “Roman’s Revenge,” and would be expanded upon two years later thanks to Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. But ahead of the album’s release in April 2012, Minaj premiered “Roman Holiday” at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.
The bonkers performance began with Minaj in a confession before seguing into a video segment inspired by 1973’s The Exorcist, growing even more theatrical as the rapper levitates towards the ceiling. At the time, many onlookers — especially The Catholic League — took offense to the spectacle.
Seven years later, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is best remembered for hits like “Starships” and “Pound The Alarm,” but the Grammys performance of “Roman Holiday” has now become an unforgettable moment in pop culture history. And these kinds of viral moments never truly seem to die, especially with a fan base as rabid as the Barbz.
Can “Roman Holiday” experience its own chart redemption? Upon its release, the song (which was never officially branded as a radio single) never reached the Billboard Hot 100, but the song has now jumped to 1.4 million U.S. on-demand streams in the week ending May 16, up 298% from the prior week’s 351,000, according to Nielsen Music. This marks the best streaming week in the track’s history.
The possibility of “Roman Holiday” entering the Hot 100 next week is unlikely, as its recent memeability hasn’t been enough to push it on the chart. Yet if the meme continues in the coming weeks, there may be a chance for Minaj — and her sweet Roman — to make a long-delayed bow.