Nicki Minaj may have opened her set at the Adult Swim upfronts party on Wednesday night (May 18) with the hit “Feeling Myself,” but by the end of the night, she was feeling her audience — quite literally.
Minaj took to the Terminal 5 stage for a little under an hour (for an event intended to woo ad buyers for the TV network) to perform bite-sized versions of some of her biggest hits. In a cavernous venue filled with giant inflatable characters from Adult Swim’s programming, traditional-looking suits mingled with the twenty-somethings one would expect at a Minaj concert to snag free branded t-shirts and stuffed character toys as 3D projections mesmerized in the background.
Minaj’s setlist included her recent blockbusters like “Trufflebutter,” “Only” and “Anaconda,” as well as remixes of singles she has been featured on, like Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)” and Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type.” Minaj also threw it back to songs like 2010’s “BedRock” and “Moment 4 Life,” declaring that audience members who could sing along to her older work deserved extra love.
That love for her fans—especially female ones—was something Minaj was eager to demonstrate. Three fourths of the way through the concert, Minaj stopped singing to instead host an impromptu dance contest between a few lucky audience members.
“I’m looking for a female who thinks they can back that ass up,” she said, taking off her patent heeled boots to walk the stage barefoot. “If you’re standing next to the baddest bitch in the building, point her out.” As if the chance to share a stage with her weren’t enticing enough, Minaj also offered a cash prize to whichever audience member drew the most cheering from the crowd with their dancing.
Pulling five women onto the stage with her, who hailed from as close as New Jersey and as far as Haiti, Minaj watched the volunteers dance with faux shock whenever the dancing got steamy. Finally, she selected a winner based on the audience response. After much scrambling from her team backstage, at whom she had casually directed the statement, “I need $500!”, Minaj made good on her promise of a cash reward. Prior to handing over the money, though, she celebrated the lucky fan’s win by—what else?—having her bend over while Minaj twerked on her.
Though she congratulated all the lady participants for their participation, one gent who was invited onstage to show off his moves was met with more snark than unbridled enthusiasm. Minaj looked unimpressed while he grooved to the beat, and though she offered a verbal “I love you” as he left the stage, she was quick to follow it up with a conspiratorial wink at the audience. Having followed an earlier question to the men in the room —“Fellas, are y’all treating these women like queens?”— it seemed that Minaj saw it as a night about supporting her girls.
In the end, though, Minaj invested in giving her fans a good time, regardless of gender. As she prepared to perform the last song of the night, “Starships,” Minaj admonished the crowd to “get the fuck drunker and turn up one more time.” And turn up they did, as sparkling confetti rained down in a glow of hot-pink light.
If her performance helps ad sales rain down on Adult Swim in a similar manner, it’s certain that the event will be considered a success all around.