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. Rizzle

    I think everybody needs to calm down. It was an exercism. If you dont like her dont watch here. Plain and simple.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  2. nothing new here

    Don't like her or her music.
    This was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Just like M.I.A. giving the "bird", all for publicity.
    Nothing to see here, move along folks.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  3. The Bible is a book of badly written fairy tales

    It's Monday, folks, don't you all have work to do?

    February 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |




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

      Are you the juggernaut...bitch?

      February 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • PigsBlood

      Durka Durka Durka. Shut up. 🙂

      February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • shan22044

      Sam: oops, your nerd is showing!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  5. ProperVillain

    Nicki M- you have been treading ground that has been already done (decades ago) by artists with actual talent, ability and vision. Do yourself a favor and stick to what you know (which seems like not much...)

    February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • keithmoore1

      I gotta agree. The levitation thing was cool, but the rest of the performance and music was a scattered mish-mash of stuff I've seen plenty of. Nice try, but back to the drawing board.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  6. tdr

    wow, that was a horrible experience. Just when you thought the Academy was starting to put together a great show they put her/it on stage. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  7. Robbie Robbow

    Taking a few jabs at religion in pop music is nothing new, of course. But sounds like it wasn't done very well last night. At least Madonna had good music to go with the provacative videos. This Minaj act is just silly.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Oh no! NM is mocking (I think) judeo/christiandom!! How outrageous! LOL!

    February 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  9. Stephanie

    What this woman did was blatant disrespect to the Christian faith and I frankly don't care if your Catholic, Pentecostal, Morman, or Baptist. Open your eyes America this is what this generation is listening to. This is who they look up to. THis is the music in their iPods, being played in movies, video games. You can say what you want but there is Scientific proof that Music impacts moods, behaviors. This woman is poisoning the youth of this nation with her lyrics, her actions. You ask yourself why you can't reach your children, why they don't understand you? They're listening to a woman who has demons, not alter egos, demons who dictate her every move. It is time for this generation of believers in Christ to stand up against this blasphemy. It is time to reclaim our youth and Children for Christ, It is time to restore our families. I hope she realizes what she's getting herself into and repents before its too late.

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

      Bleh, this chick practically has no fan base, what are you worrying about? Every generation yells the same nonsense about current music, art, TV or whatever corrupting the youth of the nation. Where did you grow up – under a rock?

      February 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Seriously?


      February 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Demon #183,566

      Nope, it's not us. We want nothing to do with her. It's you xtians stirring up this kind of trouble, lady! Quit giving pop stars ideas.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Wow. I'm amazed (but not surprised) at your angry, hateful, non-christlike utterances. Sucks to be you.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • The Bible is a book of badly written fairy tales

      Why should she repent? Did the first pent not work?

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

      That's exactly right Steph....
      It's YOUR responsibility as a parent to teach your children about Christ.
      If you're doing your job properly, none of these silly theatrics should have any effect on your kids.
      Be a parent.
      Don't try to brush responsibility off on someone else.

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

      Wait. This will turn children away from Christianity?

      Well, that's one good thing anyway.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • it's jimjim

      Talk about "scientific proof" then go on to blabber about God. Ironic.

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

      I am much more frightened by people like you, than NM.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Try and claim my child for Christ, and some REALLY unpleasent stuff will happen.

      Live and let live ends when you're within reach of my child, and if I catch you there I shall in short order demonstrate my lack of tolerance for you and your cult.

      Frankly, I miss crucifiction, and its such an inexpensive hobby I believe it might catch on once again!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • shan22044

      Sam what do you mean she has no fan base?

      February 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  10. B Elliott

    Absolutely the WORST performance of the evening. There was NOTHING good about the vocals, the dance, or the artist interpertation of the song. GREAT time to get up and get something the eat.

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

      I thought the whole show was a BOMB. I did catch Nikki Minaj though at the end and thought it was HORRIBLE. Her singing is just plain aweful. Lil Kim was right bout her. Who the hell is buying her records?

      February 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @SUNNY – you must have been in the bathhroom when they did the tribute to Etta James, to Glenn Campbell, the 50th tribute to the Beach Boys, Adele sang, Coldplay and Rihanna, the Foo Fighters and Dead Mouse. Oh yeah, and Paul McCartney and a few country bands.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  11. D

    ..Minaj will be a faded memory this time next year...another in the line of forgettable flashes in the pan..

    February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  12. CJ

    She's trying to be contraversial. It's not working. The sad thing is that she is ACTUALLY talented. She CAN sing and rap but she is clinging to gimmicks. She should take a note form Adele and realize that sticking to being truly talented pays off.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  13. Greg

    How can people get so upset with someone for making fun of a fairy tale? We should actually encourage more ridicule of stupid ideas.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • William Demuth


      February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Alison

    "I get artistic expression but this was just odd."

    That was exactly my feeling while watching her performance. I don't get Nicki Minaj at all. I know, I know, "get off my lawn". But I'm only 30! She's just weird!

    February 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • sam

      LOL! Now I have this terrible vision of her wandering around someone's lawn in that outfit.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Last Night I prayed for your death, yet you are still here.

      I see no proof?

      February 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • boocat

      So does a punch in the head....

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

      Please cite your source. I'm getting tired of mediocre research with nonsensical sources.

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

      Well said boocat

      February 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Matthew 5 : 11,12

      February 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Nope

      Not proven – !!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 4:05 pm |
    • Christians are not allowed near children and other living things

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

      February 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Greg

      Quoting the Bible to support nonsense in the Bible is like asking Ted Bundy to be a character witness at his own trial.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for the thousands of innocent people murdered by the church

      The statute of limitation does not expire for murder. You can act holy and try to mask the transgressions of your church, but those of us who paid attention in history class are not impressed by your piety.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Prayer has been proven? Awesome! Finally! Please reply with the URL of the double-blind study that you're referring to so I can go check it out.

      I've been waiting and wating and waiting to have faith! Anxiously awaiting your reply.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Huh? I've been waiting for some time now, and I haven't received the URL for that study that proves that prayer works!

      Maybe you are away from the keyboard.

      I just can't wait to show this study to all my atheist friends, so that we can all become one with the Lord Jesus, and start praying for all kinds of awesome stuff.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  16. FoolKiller

    I've put up with some pretty bad (or in this case pointless) videos because they had good music. NOT the case here.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  17. boocat

    She's a no talent slag like the rest of these no talent slags (Madonna included) that need dancers, circus acts and bull**** to hide the fact they have no talent and cannot sing. Consider the source and move on.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  18. M W.

    She's an ass. Its an old tired story. They need to start running around Temples and Mosques now to make it interesting. I had to turn it off and watch something more meaningful... like the Simpsons.

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


      February 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  19. Amy Romero

    I hate to break it to you all, but it reallllly didn't appear to be anything negative about the church. Did you think that the movie 'the exorcist' was some sort of political or religious statement? Ummm...it was about an exorcism. Which does happen. So, why the uproar? I'm really surprised that people continually make EVERYTHING into a conspiracy or persecution, yaddayaddayadda. It was a SHOW. For pete's sake, no wonder people are filled with so much negativity and hate...that's what happens when you assume the worst from EVERY situation for no reason.

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

      The only persecution that is going on here is the pollution of the airwaves with this stupid dreck.

      February 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  20. TG

    Her performance stupid and pointless. She has no talent.

    February 13, 2012 at 3:49 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.