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. BillnTed

    Tryin hard to stay relevant with no talent. First she channels Gaga (also on her way out) and now she's digging in Madonna's old bag of shock value tricks.

    Obscurity awaits....

    February 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  2. Ian Jellico


    February 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Sir Ivanhoe

    Read the novel - king of Bat'ha - and Tales from the East: Return of Ivanhoe - to understand all of this.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      she is demon possessed. Check out youtube on her. Her alter is Roman...

      February 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  4. Jacob Cremer

    I don't think it was meant as a criticism of the church at all. It had all the elements of horror movie religious exaggerations. I think people don't afford the same artistic license to music that they do to film and literature. I do think a Jewish or Islamic themed horror movie could be very interesting.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Dhevy

      I beeilve it's many things. Most of us who are "educated" were educated from a top-down perspective/methodology/ideology in our respective fields–we weren't taught from the bottom-up, our poeple didn't write the books and our people didn't teach our classes...we're not taught fundamental theory of knowledge by people who look like us. And we're not taught or encouraged to analyze, think critically, or disassociate ourselves from the masses. I study social science at school while most of my peers study business. I study theory of literature, visual arts, society, politics, etc while others study marketing, finance, management, etc. Business is a HUGE field for black folks nowadays.smh. Thus, social consciousness is not encouraged.Also, I feel that most of "us blacks" have alot of stress in our lives and seek out blogs that will give us a laugh, help us forget our burdens, disillusion us. So blogs or blog posts that may add to that stress are ignored or underappreciated.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:29 am |
  5. Bebe

    I LOVE NICKI!!!!!!

    February 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  6. Hope

    jesus is love. wanna get saved jesus2020.com

    February 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Saved from what?

      February 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • tony

      The wrath of a God who's glory is diminished every moment when He is not considered the greatest good and our desires go for lesser things above Him- that's sin- and His wrath is called hell (or your sins are already judged in Christ on the cross for those who trust Him).

      February 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  7. Barry

    Catholics are about the only remaining group of people who the media allows to be mocked. A telecast would have never allowed (nor should they) a mockery of Jewish or Islamics faith. What's more, if a white man would have performed with black slave girls wrapped in chains, then it would have been a media firestorm and the FCC would have assailed the artist. But no. It's religion. A religion that is important to millions of people. Niki should be ashamed. She lacks class, talent and taste. PC is out of control...in that it still allows this group of faithful people to be publicly mocked. What a shame.

    February 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Barry

      One more thing...I wonder if Obamacare would cover Niki's exorcism – for free?

      February 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Asders

      Well Catholics are the ones who started the christian dark ages, so you do have quite a bit of karma coming at you. And Jews went through the holocaust, blacks went through slavery, what have Catholics gone through?? nada, deal with it

      February 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Likeaprayer82

      This is a performance piece. Trey Parker and Matt Stone give plenty of performances in their shows making fun of EVERY religion. To make a performance with any religious connotation actually is anti-politically correct, as political correctness is focused on what a politician would do to offend the least ammount of people. DERP!

      February 22, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • AddySadie

      I couldn't agree more with you, Barry.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  8. Usman Akhtar


    Watch these videos to see who your Lord, Your Savior, is truly and who take Jesus back after his Cruisifiction. You are the people who enslaved themselves in the slavery of the people who cruisify Jesus. I Challenge you to deny these videos and the massage in these videos. Paradise, who’s Paradise? Think about your kids and what they believe in. Listen to these creatures very carefully. These creatures are saying the name of their and every bodies Creator. May be GOD wants to give you a chance? I hope you won't call these creatures terrorist. Good Luck.

    Watch these videos.
    Watch where this Red car is going.
    Usman Akhtar

    February 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • areyourforreal

      Are you for real? An animal's vocal patterns mimic saying Allah, and you think this proves something?

      February 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Carole Green

    "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 ...""

    So does she have Multiple Personality Disorder?

    February 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  10. Yepyep6598

    Hmmm! what i find offensive is how blacks, whites, latinos, and any other race is very, very, very, very, afraid of Islam and there are no parodies being performed about the Prophet Muhammad and the 72 virgins I guess they know the muslims will come after them in one way and that is to kill. Cowards yes they are from the rappers to the CEOs of the media and entertainment industry I dare anybody make fun of Islam because two things happen first you get fired by your employer and then one of those islamists radicals find you and kill you. They ntell me I give people hell and i tell them I tell the truth and the truth gives them hell. See ya later COWARDS.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  11. Shazzam

    I love performance art but- put that poor girl back on her Ritalin and have her tested for lead poisoning. Get her some counseling for the 'personalities' while we're at it.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  12. rob

    Reality-Yes please provide your references that prove your case. Ops, oh wait, you must mean peoples opinions.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  13. rob

    What a wacko! Nothing from hip hop suprises me. I have to agree that they would never let a performance go on like that if it portrayed Islam. Not in a thousand years.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  14. Sarah

    "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."

    ......who gives a f***.

    February 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  15. 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 11:54 pm |
    • Reality-Check

      Conjecture is fun and everything, but you can't delete from history the 500+ witnesses alone that saw Christ rise to heaven. You also can't erase secular historians talking about Christ and his miracles, and how strongly his followers believed in Him.

      February 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Reality Re-Check

      "but you can't delete from history the 500+ witnesses alone that saw Christ rise to heaven".

      Then by the same token, we can't delete from history the hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of people that have "seen" ghosts, or UFOs, or Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster, etc.

      There ya go, Reality Check. With one partial sentence, you've just PROVEN what many, many people have spent their entire lives trying to do. Way to go!!!

      February 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • ......

      Hit report abuse on every reality repeat post, they are all garbage

      February 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • But...he's right

      It's not garbage, it's...correct.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

      And this has to do with what, on the music show? It was a bad preformance. shes a cute girl, but her spot stunk

      February 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. The Phist

    Rap isn't even real music. Why is this tool in the news?

    February 14, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Sarah

      yeah. music totally isn't music.

      February 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ben

      What is real music you dumb @$$. this is not real rap. i agree she sucks but dont be so ignorant fool, maybe look up immortal technique or someone with talent damn idiot. go back to school

      February 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • TheMendicant

      You're a moron parading your opinion around as fact if you honestly believe that.

      I love rap, but things like Lil' Weezy or Nicky Minaj is NOT RAP. Ice Cube, Eminem, Tupac and Immortal Tech = RAP.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Capitan

      Vanilla Ice = Rap. Or, wait, what were we talking about again?

      February 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  17. Rocco

    Shame on the Academy for allowing this number to go on...shame,shame and shame on you.

    February 14, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Proven .

    February 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Nicole

      give me a PROVEN example along with supporting facts and a detailed explanation of such, then I will believe what you said. atheism is perfectly healthy. it's a lot healthier than believing in a random book some fool in 1300 could have written, which has been changed and changed over the last hundreds of years. but whatever helps the masses sleep at night, I support. I wouldn't want insomniatic delusional religious nazis shoving their opinions down everyone's throats 24/7, afterall.

      February 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • just sayin

      Proofs have been given for days, look them up.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Sarah

      yeah. delusion changes things too. And naive belief.

      February 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • cold hard facts

      I'll stand fo rthat book nicole as authentic ...I received teh Holy Spirit exactly according to the way Jesus said in John 7:37-39...

      February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  19. Greg

    One of the most entertaining performances of the night. This years Grammy's was severely lacking in entertainment.

    February 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  20. ignoranceisnotblissitsdumb

    Anyone who does not understand this performance art piece is not farmiliar with Nicki Manaj at all. First off, she and her family is from Trinidad and Tobago which is heavily Roman Catholic. Her Grandmother was Roman Catholic and raised her until she was 5, when her mother and father moved her to NY. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who tried to kill Nicki's mother and according to interviews I have read in the past, Nicki created alter egos to A: Shield herself and mother from the abusive father and B: later when she went to highschool she was in drama class. She, from a young age, decided that she would become rich and/or famous to give her mother and self a better life. She succeeded. I interpret her performance this way:

    The pope (Mainly)/priests are controlling father type of figures. Nicki had an abusive and controlling father. Her exorcism of her alter ego was a way of telling herself and the masses that she is ready to move on into her own skin. All of this was very dramatic, which makes sense, seeing as in highschool she was in Drama. Because of a Roman Catholic backround it was easier for her to convey this to the audience. She bared her soul to the world and did it her way. I see nothing wrong with that.

    Do not forget, also, the US was build on freedom of expression, religion and speech to name a few.

    February 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • I Agree: Your Ignorance IS Dumb


      February 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • ric

      It may be a personal expression of whatever she experienced in the past, but the point is, is that it wasnt entertaining.

      February 18, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • sharon

      Interesting. She had a hard life and her act reflected that. So write a book; sing about it; go to therapy, etc., but that doesn't mean it is worthy of being on the Grammies and is entertaining to watch.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:58 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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.