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. Cricket

    Adele and Jennifer owned the night.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Mike


      February 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  2. Mark

    I guess nobody watches SNL anymore or The Simpsons or Family Guy, cause Jews and Muslims get spoofed on all the time, we have forgotten how to laugh at ourselves, ALL in the Family re runs where are you?

    February 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    Nicki Minaj is an illuminati sellout just like the rest... Jay-Z, Kanye, etc.... they are distractions from whats really going on.....www.sonylegend.com

    February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Michael in Houston

    I am sure in her little world she is shocking. Hey micki ninja or whatever the heck your name is.....trust us...most of us out here have zero clue as to who you are in the first place.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  5. Rosira Palmer

    Very aggressive and hard to watch. High cost presentation with poor quality of music. Sad.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Christianity is not healthy for the thousands of innocent people murdered by the church

    Your church doesn't get a pass for these atrocities. 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 4:25 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for the thousands of innocent people murdered by the church

      Oh. I posted that in the wrong thread. This was directed to the prayerful one. You know who you are.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mike

      But don't be ignorant of the good done by the church today. You're being glib, as Tom Cruise would say, because the charitable works of the church are massive.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  7. dxconn

    I agree, very stupid performance. And to all the young female artists who are trying to stir things up – look who gets all the awards – Adele – just plain great voice – no gimmicks, no stupid tricks. No one can even understand what Nikki is saying or doing. Just plain useless. Would never buy her album.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  8. Mark

    what a non talented useless waste of time, have we gotten to the point where we have so called singers and now rappers, who need to use technical support to make them sound good. Seriously, the problem is even with that type of support Nicki still still sounds like Crap! Where's the mic? I can dress like an idiot and where sunglasses and become a Rap star. Oh ya and put some ryming phrases together that make no sense at all. Eminem at least shows some talent, no games, just a Rap artist.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  9. Plush

    we can only hope she joins Whitney soon.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Impressively offensive on SOOOO many levels!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  10. Tiffany

    That wasn't shocking, it was just stupid. I like it when artists take risks and do things that are odd, but they have to have a point. The "acting" was embarassing, and the song was pretty awful too. There was nothing to like.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Veda

      I so agree!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  11. WillH85

    There was a good point in this article. She never would have been allowed to have done a performance that would have offended Jews or Muslims. But when it comes to the catholics, I guess nobody really cares. Its not so much that I care if they're offended, but there should be one standard. I hope next time someone actually tries to do a performance that would offend Muslims, then we would see what hypocrites the entertainment industry are.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      1- Watch the Clash perform "Rock the Casbah"

      2- Then remove foot from mouth

      The poor persecuted Jeebus Freak routine was old shoe in the 14th century!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  12. jdog

    just trying to distract form CRAP music...if an "artist" and I use that term highly suspectedly with Gaga, and Perry, Rhanna and that crew needs to deflect so much with ly synching, pom and BS type theatrics, they KNOW they have NOTHING and NO integrity in their "music"

    February 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Bobbie

    I suspected as much, but now it's been confirmed; she really is a talentLESS head case. Hopefully, she'll go the 'winehouse way ' shortly!

    February 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  14. jephro

    That outfit looks like pronounced labia minora

    February 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  15. MissJ

    I'm not even Roman Catholic or Anglican but I was personally offended by this histerics. If this had insulted Islam or those of the Jewish persuasion, there would have been an uproar. I think from now on the Grammy's should find out what type of performance(s) are being presented beforehand. Another oddball, what was with the Mickey Mouse psychedelic stuff? That is structly old hat from the 80's. Miss J

    February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Mike

      That electric mouse face was a bit of stupid nonsense. The Grammy's laid an egg in large part. What an embarrassment.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      That's Dead Mouse. You're not supposed to know who the DJ/mixer guy is. Kind of like the Gorrilaz are only meant to be seen as their cartoon characters. Aren't you lame?

      February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I am pleased you were offended.

      I hate her music, but I will spend a buck on ITUNES, just so she can continue to offend your cult.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Annas still dead

    Her music sucks a$$ like Bobby Brown's.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Norm

    Ask Marilyn Manson what he thought of the performance.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      The beautiful people, the beautiful people... it all comes down to the size of your steeple!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Mike

    I think it was more a Madonna than Lady Gaga ripoff. It was so talentless that I couldn't bother being offended. I suggest that she molest a child or an animal to create controversy because this is all been there, done that.

    Actually, the Gammy's were so good and so bad with the bad dominating. How many geriatric cases could they pack on that stage? Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Glenn Campbell, and the Beach Boys? Poor Glenn didn't know what do when his song ended. The Foo Fights stunk up the place, so did Chris Brown. Who was good? Katy Perry, Adele, Jennifer Hudson and a couple of others. Whoever does the programming should be fired. That was one hellofva snooze fest.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Rootieboy

      The Beach Boys actually got a standing ovation. They were just awesome

      February 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Mike

      There were three beach Boys songs. Only the last one was by the Beach Boys! It was fine. The two prior ones ate donkey.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Tiffany

      Katy Perry was TERRIBLE! Her voice is so shrill and grating. How could you think that was a good performance? Boring and dangerous to a person's ears!

      February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @Tiffany – I bet your world tour and millions of fans are much more awesome.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  19. dori


    February 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  20. Wow

    She's just jealous that M.I.A. got all the attention at the superbowl.

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

      What is there to be jealous of–Madonna is a top-rated star and the show overall was fantastic and well done–just what or who was she 'fingering' at–it was a stupid gesture, period. She got her 15 minutes, nuf said.

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

      Like I said – she was jealous of the attention. Nobody talked about Nicki being in the halftime show.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:43 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.