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."

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

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. Spidey-Man

    HAH! Love it! I would have shaved my beard to play the part of that priest.

    February 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  2. Christians are not allowed near children and other living things

    Christians molest your children, keep your away from them!!!!!

    February 14, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • buzz

      It's too bad the record industry isn't more vigilant about the negative behavior of their own artists. I mean, it's "courageous" for Minaj to engage in a publicity stunt to stay relevant. But, they didn't do much to stop Michael Jackson, they still celebrate his career. And Kanye has been in trouble for underage girls. But the music industry keeps that stuff under wraps.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Reality

      Eliminating this odd couple with a prayer:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request

      February 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  3. angel

    dont watch it-its never good-always ends up boring so not worth it!

    February 14, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  4. Todd E.

    I did not watch the Grammys. Pointless endeavor.

    A schlocky performance intended only to garner attention. Utterly devoid of aesthetic value and does not enrich our culture. it is not art, it is trash.

    February 14, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  5. Reality

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    Ditto for wasting your time confessing your transgressions to a non-representative of some god. If you need to confess, confess to your god!!!

    February 14, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  6. gottastop

    I don't care if one of this bimbo's alter ego's is that of a FLIPPIN' FARM ANIMAL, THIS is the fault of the GRAMMY's , and the network for allowing it to go on. They would all be living in fear of their lives if she had done that to the Jews or the Islamists. Only Christians allow losers to do this to them, as their teaching will NOT allow retaliation, hatred or violence toward someone that does this to them (the entertainment industry does it under the guise of "artists", makes me sick, I'M AN ARTIST, AND THIS IS JUST ABUSE). Only the atheists/ agnostics were actually entertained by it. I hope the promoters of the Grammy's don't mind that millions of Christians have taken notes of the products the were being promoted during that segment of the show. Might as well close up shop now and sell their stock. 8 (

    February 14, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      ABUSE is raping a small boy then telling the world you're their moral compass.
      This was just bad entertainment.

      February 14, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • buzz

      Abuse is also beating the crap out of your wife.... but let's not talk about Chris Brown. Abuse is also suing teenagers into oblivion for sharing music. BUT..... I'd hate to ruin a good consumer experience. The Grammy Awards were awesome. It would be a sin against the Record Industry to criticize pop music for being bad or for being offensive in any way.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • tim-tam

      wow, an economic boycott....how original.

      February 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  7. Nicola

    When isn't the Catholic church upset?

    February 14, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Mirosal

      Right after mass when the altar boys are in the sacristy taking off their robes and changing clothes.

      February 14, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  8. buzz

    It's stupid. Just a viral marketing gimmick. They been doing this for years, putting "Illuminati" stuff in their videos and performances and then leaking exposes. Only total crackpots think that Nicki Minaj has been infused with supernatural anything..... she can't sing, she's not clever, and she looks like a toy. Though she might spend time in purgatory for wasting everyone's time with her music.

    It would be kind of funny, if the content of their pr stunts weren't so arrogant. I mean, really, is it cool for rich pop stars that brainwash people into buying crappy music to pretend that they are members of an elite, secret society that run the world by fooling the poor? Awesome! What broke fool doesn't enjoy watching rich people do decadent, self-absorbed things while the world goes to crap? It's sort of a pure representation of the marketing industry's deepest, dirtyest desire: To enslave us so completely that we will be forced to buy their bad products forever.

    Ack. Doesn't anyone else see how flippin' desperate this seems? I've met junkies who are more talented manipulators of human consciousness than Nicki Minaj.

    February 14, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      I found it particularly ironic that you chose the words "arrogant" and "brain washing" to describe someone mocking an organization whose history is based entirely on "Arrogance" and Brain Washing". Get a grip, get a clue, get a life.

      February 14, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • buzz

      Sorry to offend you. Viral marketing is awesome. Pop music rawks.

      Chris Brown is, like, totally awesome, too.

      I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that I had anything less than total reverence for the Grammy Awards.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  9. Mirosal

    ok, is it me, or does this bimbo actually LOOK like a plastic Barbie doll in the photos? Come to think of it, Barbie has more talent, At least she has a dream house, a Corvette, an SUV, and has been a scientist, a teacher, an astronaut, a physician ... what skills does this Nicki have, other than playing to a tone-deaf audience?

    February 14, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Dozer

      No skills but she DOES have an auto-tune. That's pure gold to today's talentless pop stars.

      February 14, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • jellybean@Mirosal

      I thought it was a doll. Looks hideous.

      February 14, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  10. 0G - No gods, ghosts or goblins

    Didn't see it, not a fan but if it upsets believers, it has some value!

    February 14, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  11. tallulah13

    Every time I think of the Grammys I think of the Simpsons episode where Homer's barbershop quartet won a Grammy for their song "Baby on Board."

    February 14, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  12. OAros

    Extremely disappointed in the Grammy show. Whitney Houston's tribute by Jennifer Hudson was the best. The ending strung up by guitar "jamming" and the entertainment by Minaj was the worst I have ever seen.

    February 14, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  13. Rachel Jones

    Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
    Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
    Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"

    February 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  14. mickey1313

    thiests need to remember, this is our (secular) nation, and they do not have the right to not be offended. All thiests need to be offended at least once a day.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  15. james

    Our Lady of Phatama! How hip hop appropriate for Whitney's national swan song.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  16. EvolvedDNA

    Does the pope have a patent on his dresses and special god attracting hats then ? He is open to ridicule as are every other inst-itution on earth, including Islam, Jews, and Christians ..I see Bill D is playing his usual victim again....he is just sore that he can longer depend on the inquisition to slaughter the masses who laugh at their myths. This fellow could have come dressed as Richard Dawkins or Charles Darwin who cares..

    February 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  17. Theresa

    This may have been the worst performance I have ever seen on the Grammy stage. How could the powers that be think this was entertaining. Religious views aside, this was pure crap.

    February 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • steve

      was horrible, but more importantly the song was horrible, which is the real reason it should not have been aired. The music is crap, so the industry sells it with image and visuals, which don't always work like here.

      February 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Curious

      Read any good books lately?

      February 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • been there done that prayer works

      The B I B L E
      Yes that's the book for me
      I stand alone
      On the word of God
      The B I B L E

      February 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Ah yes, the bible...
      Turning readers into atheists for hundreds of years. There's a good reason the RCC didn't want people to read the bible for themselves, they knew what was in it! LOL

      February 14, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Linann

      I can cast a spell and get the same respons.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Jonathan

    Who is this?!? I don't even.....

    Seriously. People actually dignify these kind of people with attention?

    February 13, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  20. Tired of Offensive Trash on TV

    My first post is missing but it's essentially this: it was offensive(especially the altar boy part), it was lame & stupid, and you're right, she stole took a good Grammy awards show and dropped it in the garbage.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • steve

      actually the show wasn't that good period. Most of the music was bland at best. Taylor Swift performed well, but song was typical and average at best. Jennifer Hudson's tribute was real, but she was off key several times, especially toward end. It was hard watching the Beach Boys barely move, looked as if Brian Wilson was about to die on stage. And Glen Campbell mumbling during his song. Ryan Seacrest looked like he had on a toupee. I tuned in late just to see how they handled Whitney's passing, and the sole reason the show had a large audience. But left knowing why I quit watching a decade ago.

      February 13, 2012 at 11:37 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.