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. Karen

    I wonder if Nikki feels stupid today for making a fool out of herself last night. The Grammys are to honor music..THAT was not music. That was like nails on a blackboard.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  2. moogly

    I'm not even catholic and this is offending.
    Tell you what celebs, do this making fun of the muslim religion you bunch of hypocrites. You won't dare and that offends me even more. Wave your flags for your stupid causes and mock other people's beliefs all you want, one day people will wake up and stop buying anything to do with you.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  3. Gimmeabreak

    If you check the real "buzz" you will note that most people, religious and otherwise, thought her act was completely lame.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  4. Poolchick

    I actually changed the channel when that came on. I tried to give it a shot but it was horrible. I don't get how these new comers are even making it. It seems they let anyone make a record now since so much of the music today sucks. Never heard of her before and don't care to again. So much talent in that room and they chose her to perform. Don't get it!

    February 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  5. sackoffleas

    Not like to old days Grammy

    February 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  6. Isabella

    If it was music, it was poorly done. If it was performance art, it was confusing at best. I lost interest and took a break.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  7. Karen

    It was like a bad nightmare in high def. She made me wonder how she got as far as she did in the music business. Someone must have been related to a producer or something.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  8. Ingrid

    She is typical of Hollywood and the music industry. Probably has trouble spelling her own name. The next pill popper found floating in her bathtub....

    February 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Kevin Mestrich

    I found Nicki Minaj's performance at the Grammys to be absolutley and completely irreligious, sacrilegious and an assault to all Catholics in this world. How dare she desecrate a religion and faith that she is not a part of. You could never do this to our brothers and sisters of Jewish or Muslim faith with out a wave of protest. Why are people still allowed to desecrate people of the Catholic faith in such a manner? There are millions of people in this world of the Catholic faith who work each day to promote social justice and improved lives for others based on their beliefs in Jesus' suffering and affection for the oppressed.

    Nicki Minaj's performance at the Grammys (and the Grammys' allowance of her performance) demonstrated very little empathy for the sacrifice of those committed to this faith which is grounded in values and a strong commitment to the life of Jesus. The world today requires tolerance and not an abdication of personal values based one's own personal beliefs. I would never criticize another religion or non-religious friend (atheist) in such a way. Doing such will only continue to promote disharmony in the world and Catholics should no longer be subjected to this form of tyranny, abuse and ridicule.

    Kind regards,
    Kevin Mestrich

    February 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Looie6

      I don't get it. People say that Led Zeppelin & Ozzy are satanic. What would you call this showing?

      February 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • WiccanJason

      As a counterpoint... I'd like to point out that, as a Wiccan (or, as both male and female Wiccans tend to prefer, 'witch'), your holy book states quite clearly that I am to be killed. Exodus 22:18- 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'

      Your most prominent American exorcist recently listed Wicca as one of a list of factors he believes are driving the increase in exorcism requests. Mind you, only Christians believe in a supremely evil deity. We most certainly do not place that much importance on a negative belief.

      Your religion has a history of vile, murderous acts (The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of the Santa Sophia springs to mind, as does the Inquisition, also known as 'Let's kill all the Jews and Muslims in Spain') and blatant, often violent, intolerance. Not to mention the fact that your current Pope has a history of supporting facism and genocide.

      Blessed Be,

      February 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jack

      Hey Catholics, until you clean up your churches of pedophile priests maybe you should keep your mouths shut!.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Rick

      As a counterpost,

      as an atheist i think you're a moron.
      Its the grammys, not church.
      get over it or change the channel.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  10. Scott

    "Stole the show?" Pleaase, her performance was an embarrassment compared to what had been a great, respectful show!!

    February 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Karen

      The only thing she stole was the ticket to get in the Grammys. She has no talent.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  11. Collin


    February 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  12. Thanos

    Nicki Minaj did not steal the show. There was no standing ovation. The performance was all over the place and lacked any real focus. Stop giving talentless hacks publicity and they will all go away.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • NoGoodGrammy

      Sadly, they'll be another next in line after her.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Karen

      I am still trying to figure out the Mouse last night...how do you audition and get a record deal as a mouse that lights up? Ridiculous. Its insulting to the intelligence of our kids that think this is normal.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  13. Young black male spokesperson

    She's nice to look at, sometimes, but her music is trash.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • jimmer

      Nice to look at if you like plastic monkeys with an a ss the size of a dumpster.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Aces2Jokers

      that's a plastic monkey that can get it at anytime.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Edward Cullen

      I want to bite her head off and give it to Bella.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  14. Brian

    Lets give the Catholic Church a rest and concentrate on giving these Hip Hop artists an education past the 3rd grade.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  15. Susan

    Another talentless rapper !

    February 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  16. Know talent when I see it

    and Nicki Minaj has a tremendous amount of it. I don't own any of her music, but it is evident that she is arguably the best female rapper today (perhaps ever), and she can actually sing. Just because you do not like someone or they offend your sensitive ideals, don't be disrespectful to their actual abilities.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Ah...I would have to say no you don't.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Karen

      Lately if you put a wig on it...dress it in a wierd costume and prance it on a stage with fire and broken glass or shoot fireworks out of its bra it has talent... That kind of act belongs in a circus. The only singer that has proved herself through her costumes is Lady GaGa...I think Nikki is wearing her wigs too tight and is cutting off the blood to her brain cause no one in their right mind would have gone out there and did what she did last night and thought that was normal.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Get it right!!!

      IF you say she has talent and can sing like you say (and I don't know that for a fact), then she should stop wasting our time and put it to good use!!! Make her talent worth while, like Whitney Houston did.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  17. Trey

    The song is not called "Roman Reloaded." It is called "Roman Holiday." The new album is called "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded."

    February 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  18. filmkid

    "Roman Zolanski??" Roman Polanski should sue. There was a lot of talent on the Grammy stage last night, but Ms. Minaj has a long way to go before that word will be associated with her...

    February 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  19. PoBoy

    First the President and now Niki Minaj. The poor Catholic Church can't catch break. Perhaps they need relax and unwind their panties. Don't they have more important demons to exorcise, like pedophilia, declining numbers and fading relevance in the 21st century?

    February 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Mike

      You're really super into the word "panties" aren't you? Now put that Sears catalogue away and get some sleep before you hurt yourself.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  20. J.W

    You all are a bunch of haters. Nicki is awesome.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Roxanne

      True. We are a bunch who hates Nicki. She isn't at all awesome to us.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Mike

      Ummm...no. But she was far from the only train wreck on that stage. Wow, what a dud of a night! Charter the yellow sub for Paul (twice they had him sing? Even he fell asleep on the second one!). Isn't Tony Bennett dead yet? I like Glenn Campbell but couldn't they have had someone to HELP HIM OFF STAGE so he wouldn't be asking what to do while mic'ed up? For frickin' Pete's sake! Enough of the Foo Fighters, Chris Brown, etc. Even Taylor Swift laid an Egg. Why couldn't Stevie Wonder or Diana Ross do a song? Outside of Adele and Jennifer Hudson it was pathetic. Fire the programmer. Awful.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I don't particularly like country, but Taylor Swift did a good job.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:28 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.