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

soundoff (437 Responses)
  1. Michelle

    I actually thought it was the most boring segment of the entire show. I picked up my laptop and pretty much quit watching until the noise stopped. I almost changed the channel. It really was that uninteresting.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  2. SurfDog

    That was the biggest mess I have ever seen. What a pile of cr@p. Hard to understand how they allocated Niki Minaj so much valuable time. What a joke. Just garbage.

    On the other hands Bruno Mars, Jennifer Hudson and several others displayed serious talent, and uplifting performances.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Erin

      Seriously! Bruno Mars was my favorite performance of the night. Great energy and so much talent. Jennifer Hudson gets credit for getting up on stage and singing a Whitney Houston song, let alone singing that song as a tribute to the late singer, and that's coming from someone who typically mutes the TV during her Weight Watchers commercials. I wish Bonnie Raitt had sung the Etta James song with Alicia Keys; she was marvelous. But Nicki? Even Lady Gaga had to think that performance was ridiculous and over-the-top. Another moment I wish I could unsee/unhear was the duet between Rihanna and Coldplay – it was beyond terrible.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Erin

      I mean "Without Alicia Keys"

      February 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Iwatchedthis

    This was by far the worst performance of the night. I'm tired of trying to figure out if she is trying to copy Little Kim or Lady Gaga but she fails at both. The psycho doll look never was in...........Can't wait for the Nicki fad to end....it's close but not quite there yet.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  4. Matt

    I am a pastor and was not offended by her view of the church. I was more offended that her performance tried to be passed off as either musical or...well, frankly, good. That was horrible. How awesome was Dave Grohl's statement later that real musicians write their own stuff, play instruments, and don't need autotune. Hahahaha.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • The Circle That Controls The Square

      Matt- Has about the best Pastor Statement we've seen here tonight.

      February 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  5. Pat in IL

    If she could sing, she wouldn't have to go crazy to get attention.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Linda

    another nut job!!!!!!! Her and Gaga actually gag gag, should ride off in the sunset together!

    February 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  7. Mary

    Seeing that reminded me why I haven't watched the Grammy Awards for the last 10 years.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  8. Leucadia Bob


    February 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  9. William Demuth

    I must confess I wouldn't know her music if you played it!

    But the cultural undermining of the power of the church has made me a fan!

    To me, I find the trend in African Americans to turn away from the God of the slave masters seems WELL past due!

    February 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  10. Allow me to do the Catholic response and save you the trouble

    Blah blah blah sacrilege

    Blah blah blah we're so persecuted

    Blah blah blah everyone else is evil

    Blah blah blah lake of fire

    Blah blah blah.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

      GET IN ME

      February 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Fake of Liar

      Blah blah blah

      February 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  11. GA

    Good lord, it is a sad day if ANYONE thinks this was in any way, a good performance. I'm no prude, genuine controversey is fine if real thought-proviking discussion ACTUALLY HAPPEN. But this was manufactured. It was confusing. It was BORING. It was poorly executed, unoriginal, and on and on. It just wasn't good. Yet this reporter is making a fool of themself going behind this lockstep thinking anything reportable is actually happening here. Move along kids, nothing to see here.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • sam

      It really was a mess.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ben

      I agree, my friends and I flipped over and watched the performance, and we didn't come off thinking "Wow, that was excellent commentary about the negative aspects of Catholicism" or "That was uncalled for and an overly harsh critique of Christian dogma", what we came off thinking was "What in the world did we just watch?". It's obvious that the main thing that was being attempted was to out crazy Lady Gaga, and in that respect she completely failed. It was all spectacle with no musical, social, or artistic implications, and it was kind of painful to watch.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  12. TruthPrevails

    She looks like some porcelain doll.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • William Demuth

      She does look somewhat mutated.

      February 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  13. Shouldnt be a woman with him

    Meh. Maybe if Justin Beiber did this it would be more accurate.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  14. GodPot

    That would have made a more impressive statement if the fake pope was a stunt man and she lit him on fire which would have been more impressive than just the tiny picture Sinead burned.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sinead's career was destroyed because she spoke the truth.

      Anyone who knows of the Deaf Irish buggery scandal can't help but feel she is a martyr for the Atheist movement.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam


      February 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    • Will it change the channel? Better yet, kill your television?

      February 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Peter

      Will it make you shut up...probably not...let's wait and see if it changes.

      February 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      February 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Nope

      **The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs."""""`~~~~

      February 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for the thousands of people murdered by the church

      Pray for your church. They're the real sinners.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  16. hamburger steak

    Just more nig ger SHYT!!

    February 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • hippypoet

      racisms is dead, why aren't you?

      February 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      She stinks for so many valid reasons, calling out race just proves your ignorance.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  17. Squidward Tentacles

    Not a Nikki Minaj fan – she is her own biggest fan – but if it pisses off the Church of Child Molester Hiders, then good for her.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    For the firt time in the history is music. a popular music artist uses shock tactics to gain attention.
    The ghost of Elvis' swivelling hips could not be reached for comment.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i know right.. how is this any different from lady gaga in her wacked out dresses.... this is just religious as well... so what, she gets points for multi-tasking- please!

      February 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  19. J.W

    You can do whatever you want when you look like that.

    February 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  20. hippypoet

    now theres a costume!

    February 13, 2012 at 2:31 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.