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. jannerl

    I watched Minaj for a minute and then had to change channels – the performance was overproduced, pointless and boring

    February 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Jay

      My dog watched Minaj for about a minute, keeled over and died...

      February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • BigJohn

      I watched Minaj for a minute, and I haven't been able to make love to my wife ever since. I sure hope viagra is effective!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • CarolFromMich

      I only watched Minaj for 30 seconds and the lunch I ate earlier quickly showed up for an impromptu performance on my lap!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Calvin

      I watched Minaj for her full performance. I think I now know why all the fish in my fishtank died and the paint peeled off the wall that was opposite the television.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • T

      Chuck Norris was able to watch the whole performance...but blinked twice

      February 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Roxanne

      I find Nikki to be hot and I like to pleasure myself while watching her perform. This time though I couldn't even get slightly wet. I had to attack the poor pizza guy to get off. I got a free pizza though.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  2. brian

    This was just painful to watch, and even more painful to listen to. I'm not offended by the psuedo-religious imagery at all, but my ears were offended by the aweful noise she was making onstage. And despite the questionable concept, the execution was sloppy and impossible to follow, leaving most viewers asking, what the hell was that all about? Controversial? No. Stupid? Yes.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Alison

      Agreed. I knew religious folk were going to make a big deal out of it though. I was just more confused than anything. It was very weird.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • BR

      Well said!

      February 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  3. Jay

    Bottom line, if Nikki had not been at the Grammy's 99.9999% of the population wouldn't have even noticed. She could stop performing tomorrow, and there would be no loss to anyone except herself and her promoters...

    February 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • TB

      Agreed. Her performance was dumb

      February 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  4. dw

    What an amateur she is. Just insult as many people as you can, on a subject you know nothing about. That makes you cool, and you will have lots of fans. Hope her "star" fades real soon.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  5. T

    funny how people only mention "theft, murder, and abuse " ...how about all the good that churches have been providing for all these years?

    February 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • William Demuth


      The buggery, the bigotry and the blindness. Those traits have made SUCH a difference in the lives of millions!

      February 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • comeon

      And those are?

      February 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • T

      helping the poor, the weak, fighting injustice, etc...

      February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • T

      William Demuth, so what do you believe in? Or do you have everything figured out? you must be a very sad person indeed.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I believe in "Truth, Justice, and the American way! I believe in cold beer, hard rock and hot women.

      One does NOT need fairy tales to believe in, only ones self!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  6. random viewer

    This article said Nicki Minaj's performance stole the show??!! I watched the entire show last night and couldn't disagree more. It was actually after watching 1/4 of during Minaj's performance that I took a break and played with my dog. Being controversial for controversial's sake doesn't do it for me, sorry! The music has to be decent at least (Madonna, Lady Gaga).

    In my humble opinion, I actually think Taylor Swift's vocal and live performance stole the show. I am not a country music fan and I know she can sing, but the whole live performance with her playing guitar, the other musicians, stage set-up and everything else actually locked my eyes to the screen. I'm sure I'm not the only one, otherwise she wouldn't get a standing ovation from fellow musicians for so long.

    I was nervous for Adele, her performance was okay, not as great as her live performance of the same song on the David Letterman Show earlier in the year, but her key got lower than now, I hope it's not permanent.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • random viewer

      I meant to write "her key is lower "now

      February 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • DK

      i agree. not a big Swift fan, but she definitely brought the most natural energy. everyone else was too uptight or phony.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Chad

    COULD YOU IMAGINE if she showed up with an actor dressed as Mohammod and then did a performance where she was seemingly attempting to mock the Islamic church?? There would be articles left and right about how she was deliberately trying to inflame the extremists, and how it was in bad taste, and on and on. But because it was a Christian church she was targetting she is called "odd", her motives are questioned in one obscure CNN article and the typical characters take to the blogs cheerleading any attempt to mock the church. I'm no Catholic but can plainly see the double standard and find it troubling.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • T


      February 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Have you ever seen the Clash perform "Rocking the Casbah"?

      We dislike their imaginary God just as much as yours.

      You are just closer to our children so we spat upon your imaginary God first.

      For the towel heads, we just send Born Agains overseas to kill them.

      For us it's a Win/Win

      February 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Chad

      William Demuth, you are a troll.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • .....

      "William Demuth, you are a troll."

      Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot....how's that log doing in your eye....

      February 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Trolls, Demons, Gods, Vampires, and Saints are all imaginary creatures.

      But if you need to believe me a supernatural figure I can understand!

      February 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • sam

      That's a great point, Chad. I'm sorry people forgot to keep calling christians 'extremists'.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Chad

      *SIGH* as a non-religious, fairly normal person I was only trying to point out that it isn't just the "religious" who see the obvious double standard and show that not all non-religious people are near militant anti-church crazies. Then you guys come along and act like the typical bigots I was referring to in my original comment. Move along now, you've s**t on enough people today.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Jane

      there is no islamic church.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  8. BigPN

    This performance was meant to be controversial and get people talking about her. Its just a publicity stunt to sell records, but not much substance. Its the norm!

    February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  9. Gauntletwielder

    Nicki Minaj has always been about shock & appearance more than talent. She is a living caricature. (Just like Cee-lo Green.) She did something weird...that should not be a surprise to anyone.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • toxictown

      Hmm...I agree on Niki but...Cee-Lo is actually a pretty good singer.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • comeon

      Cee-Lo has a very good voice and is actually clever and creative.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. GRAMMY

    Poor girl she is following to Sinéad O'Connor's path, her career of this girl in the garbage.
    She went home empty handed????? I wonder wht???/

    February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  11. gozer

    Sometimes artistic expression just falls flat on its face. I get that she's got a creative vision, but to me many of the elements were discordant and needed self editing. I also think the performance itself sounded poorly. I couldn't hear the audio very well. Overall it felt like a rehearsal.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dawn

      That's actually the most honest and intelligent assessment of her performance. With that much creative vision bubbling around, not all of its going to resonate, however, with some self-editing, she could be a very talented artist.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  12. partnerskk

    No talent.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  13. SurfDog

    just another overdressed, pimped out, primped up, bleach blonde, boob job, no talent chick.

    If you cant really sing, you have to go nutz on stage. Check out Adelle. She didnt have to pull any theatrics, because she can truly sing..........................

    February 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Hillary Clinton has NATURAL boobs.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. deanmyrick

    it's cool to hate on the church! The day is coming "when all will fall on their knees and confess Jesus is Lord". That doesn't mean that all of those people will go to heaven when they do so. Many of them will still go to hell, but they will know who sent them there.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Is that what the preachers make the altar boys?

      Your religion is a scam designed to defraud idiots, and it appears to be working.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, preach more of that, it really gets people repenting. Or not.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Mark

    No insult intended, but Nicki who? I like music, but most of these awards shows have become mini-circuses.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • truth

      Which is why she did the acct, to get people like you to talk about it. FYI, she is a "singer".. more like she talks weirdly over "music" and is somehow popular.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  16. Jay

    Wow, she is really pretty ugly. All her songs are just her repeating the same words over and over and over and over and over.... No talent, just a lot of promotion from her friends.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  17. James K.

    If she wanted to make a real statement, she should have walked the red carper with Mohammed.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Mindy Lou

      I agree with you. It was probably the stupidist thing I have ever watched on TV. That is not talent

      February 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • toxictown

      True. While no fan of the catholic church myself, attacking it these days is pretty much lobbing a softball. Been done to death – sorry, not that "edgy".

      February 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  18. kso

    yep, you're all talking about it though.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Living your life for yourself and not an outdated religion based on a roman-era death cult does as well.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  20. stormy miller

    the church is nothing more than a big farce. the whole thing is show and theatrics and then pass around the donation plate. any chance to make fun of the church is well recieved by me!!!!!

    February 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • deanmyrick

      I'm just guessing....are you a so-called enlightened and/or tolerant liberal? I find less real tolerance in liberal circles than anywhere else.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • sheshie

      I am sure the church cares about what you say or think about it!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • allanhowls

      Yep, Dean, it's not like the church has a couple thousand years of theft, murder, and abuse under its belt. It's all the fault of rationalists.


      Who was it that threatened death to those who would not convert?
      Is it lberals/progressives who are so intolerant as to beat the "demons" out of their children?

      I was raised in a fundamentalist family, and brought up to believe in the word of God. I never met more hateful people than those in the pews around me. They believe in God's love for themselves, and damnation for everyone else.

      Say what you will, but I've seen both sides, and it's not even close.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • T

      Miller... jew.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • sheshie

      deanmyrick... Exactly!!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • William Demuth

      As the story of the Emperors new clothes theaches us, once a few begin telling the truth, the dogma breaks down.

      Christianity will linger for a while, but the RCC is on its death bed.

      I guess even the weakest amongst us mentaly can't buy into the nonesense they engaged in during the buggery scandal.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • boocat

      deanmyrick – IS THERE ANYTHING you conservative morons do not make political??????ANYTHING???

      February 13, 2012 at 3:56 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.