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Nicki Minaj did what?
Hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj arrives at the Grammy Awards on Sunday.
February 13th, 2012
02:31 PM ET

Nicki Minaj did what?

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Even with a superstar memorialized and a Beach Boys reunion, it was a confusing high church sendup, complete with exorcisms, that stole the show at Sunday night's Grammy Awards.

When Nicki Minaj walked the red carpet in a red shawl that harkened back to Little Red Riding Hood, along with a man dressed as the pope in a white cassock and pointed white miter hat, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come on the stage at the Staples Center for the 54th Grammys.

Minaj hits the red carpet with a man dressed as the pope.

Minaj is a hip-hop artist who was nominated, in part or in full, for four Grammys, including best new artist and best rap album of the year.

She walked away from the evening empty-handed but stirred a hornets' nest with a live performance of her new song "Roman Reloaded."

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It began with Minaj sitting with a priest in a confessional. If the song is an allusion to the Catholic Church, the priest's costume collar was an odd choice, because his vestments were distinctively Anglican.

Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, said the choice of collar probably "was more of a wardrobe inaccuracy," as she suspects the intent was to portray a Catholic confessional.

"It's an Anglican collar, and the priest is wearing a white stole.  In a confession, you'd wear a purple stole," the scarf-like clothing priests wear, said Danielle Tumminio, an Episcopal priest in Massachusetts. "That seemed a bit odd."

The performance continued with a video spoof of the classic horror film "The Exorcist," stained-glass windows, dancing monks, an altar boy in a seductive position on a kneeler with a female dancer and a choir singing "O Come All Ye Faithful." It ended with Minaj levitating, stiff as a board, off the stage.

"People just didn't get it," said Nischelle Turner, a CNN entertainment correspondent who was on the red carpet at the Grammys. "Nobody really got it at all.  More so, people were just saying, 'I get artistic expression but this was just odd.' "

In a statement, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said the performance was probably approved by the Recording Academy, which is responsible for the Grammys.

"Whether Minaj is possessed is surely an open question, but what is not in doubt is the irresponsibility of The Recording Academy. Never would they allow an artist to insult Judaism or Islam," he wrote.

"The video reminded me a lot of Madonna's 'Like a Prayer,' being provocative with religious imagery," Tumminio said.  What surprised her, though, was, " 'Like a Prayer' has religious lyrics, whereas this [Minaj] song really doesn't."

Tumminio echoed some of Donohue's concerns that Christianity, and in particular the Catholic Church, was being maligned. "Roman Catholicism, more than other Christian denominations, has really got a heightened awareness of sexual abuse perpetuated by clergy.  It's damaged the reputation of the church and the idea the church is an institution that gives hope to people."

But it was the exorcism scenes that raised the most eyebrows.

"It's a performance," author Matt Baglio said.  "Any artist is going to touch on the most sensational and well-known kind of iconic images associated with exorcism.  She captured them pretty well, climbing up on the wall and levitation; just being aggressive, and her voice was changing."

Baglio is the author of The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which followed Father Gary Thomas, an American Catholic priest who trained to be a exorcist in Rome.  (We profiled Thomas here last year.)

Baglio says that as he wrote the book, he observed 30 exorcisms.

"I didn't see anything like that.  The real world exorcism is nothing like that.  It's much more boring," he said. "The exorcisms I saw were much less spectacular.  That made it much more creepy for me."

Minaj did not respond to CNN's request for comment on the performance.

But she has spoken before about having many alter egos, including the character of Roman Zolanski, whom she has described as a crazed gay male. Spin.com explained it this way: "Roman allows Minaj to tap into the fire-breathing, giddily nihilistic spirit that drew so many rap heads to her mixtapes ..."

Having the character out in public on music's biggest stage and drawing the ire of religious critics probably won't hurt sales. "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," Minaj's sophomore album, is expected to be released in April.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Music

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    April 22, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  4. AntiPalinAlaskan

    Maybe she was trying to out-Madonna Madonna in the anti-clerical department.

    March 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  5. Mike

    This "artist" "makes" some terrible music. A complete piece of trash. And don't tell me because she is rich she is great. She is a bottom feeder ho.........just heard that ho song the other day.....unbelievable. Get these people away from mixing boards!!!! It produces the worst kind of simple music and then you call yourself a singer?? come on.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • jady

      she can rap pretty well.... but it's not even about artistry, you're right... it's about commerciality.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  6. Andry

    Hehe, nu e nevoie sa-mi simti lipsa, am eu grija sa te scraotecc din cand in cand :-pNu zice nimeni ca toate astea nu pot fi catalogate si ca echipe, din anumite puncte de vedere, zic doar ca uneori imi aduc aminte de vorba aia a lui Murphy: cand ai un ciocan in mana, toate lucrurile din jur ti se par cuie . In cazul tau, cuvintele cheie ar fi marketing si echipa (cele care te preocupa mai mult, cele la care-ti place sa revii des)

    March 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  7. ElKai0

    I was hoping what Nicki Minaj did was Die. She is truly a talentless, worthless human being. Absolutely awful. The fact that people like this skillless dim-wit makes me sad.

    February 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  8. The Circle ThaT Contr0ls The tHe Square(Tetrahedron)

    The Human Race has caused more wars, than any other race of life, this is why we are seeking to remove it. ~Hitler

    February 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  9. The Circle That Controls The The Square

    Typical Answer from 99.7% of Americans. – WAKE UP AMERICA ! Okay. Wake up from what exactly ? And when you awaken yourself, what do you do ? You people can't even unite as Americans, let alone Christians and Atheists, let alone Democarts and Republicans, yet you want people to wake up over Nicki Minaj ? LMAO!!!!!!!!! I'm sorry, that's just hilarious.

    February 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • The Circle That Controls The The Square

      I feel the GRAMMATICAL AND SPELL CHECK police on the way. WAKE UP ! LOL !

      February 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  10. Denny Tate

    Nicki Minaj is a mainstream rapper and performing artist. She is delivering an art form of theatrics, there is nothing sinister operating her music or telling her what to do. The conspiracy theorists are foolish to think that a One World Agenda would use negativity in song for enlightenment and illumination. Illumination seeks to purify, not corrupt. But if such an Order of Enlightenment exists, and if they were using any celebrities for operation of order, they would use artists that promoted our path to World Peace. But some say that such a path does exists and they are not good but evil, and I say once again, they would use such a path for deception and you cannot deceive the public with Lady Gaga, Jay Z or Nicki Minaj.
    The Path of Enlightenment is GOOD, and has nothing to do with such a music industry. The artists that seek attention are behind their own conspiracy theories. It makes good sales and shrouds them within the mystery they so desire.
    Food For Thought- Keep your eyes off the triangle and pay attention to the square.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Paul

      Path of Enlightenment is good you say? I guess you missed the key fundamental belief that stems from the age of enlightenment. That belief is there are no absolutes. Followers of enlightenment do not let society, world, and religion tell them what is good and what is evil. (which is why most do not respect others and see themselves as their own gods) It's left up to them as the individual to decide. That being said... Nicki Minaj is just one of many examples. She's not from a secret society or none of that. She is what most americans of today are. An atheist who lives her the life the way she wants with no filter or boundaries. That is what true enlightenment is suppose to be according to you peeps.

      March 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  11. Mark

    It was one of the most amateurish, demented performances I have ever witnessed. Another sign of the decline of America. Very sad. Minaj also looked like she was made of plastic. Wake up America.

    February 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.