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. GB9197

    That performance was pure garbage. It showed how little talent she has, particularly when compared to Jennifer Hudson and Adele who can actually sing. I would be fine if the performance was 'shocking' or 'offensive' if it was half way decent, clever, and/or entertaining, but it was none of the above. Just awful and embarrassing.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  2. NightCelt


    February 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Heh. Hi, NightCelt!

      February 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  3. concerned in cleveland

    It's like Busta Rhymes had LeeAnn Rimes do his hair, and then made a video. Gross.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  4. John

    There is an inverse correlation to degree of talent and ridiculousness of presentation. That is, the better your singing ability, the less there is a need to stage over-the-top theatrical gimmickry. Whitney Houston, easily the best female singing voice of her generation, never had to mask any vocal shortcoming in ridiculous theatrics ala Minaj. I'd like to see how popular Minaj would be without relying on these huge broadway production numbers.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  5. bill

    All the intellectualism and religiosity aside, this is merely a desperate attempt by a desperate person to remain relevant (in the media) and achieve fame and fortune.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  6. Keksi

    Just another Illuminati Satanic show,first by Madonna at Superbowl and now her at Grammys.It just shows Illuminati run entire USA media scene.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • John

      This is why I love America: every nut case in the world is allowed opportunities to express his or her crazy opinion.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Milo Kilo

      I assume you drank the kool-aid too like all of these cynical people. This is what is wrong with the new form of communication, running behind blogs to not say anything productive. Also, the religious crazies should calm down, no one is trying to take away religion and start a war over your belief. This is America, the greatest damn civilization since the Holy Roman Empire and the only way we can stay great is to stay SANE. Ninki Minaj is an ARTIST, so except "in your face" entertainment. She is human just like you and me, and personally I was like "Woooooo" when I say her performance, but I respected it, beacuse she worked it; thats an ARTIST. For those who will ranabout me, Fredick Nietzche wrote about "priestly type people" being reactive and judmental of all, but themselves and I think Ms Minaj did the same last night. God Bless America and let hope that none of us on this blog ever get a chance to be an ARTIST, because we will all suck at it; ie..Milli Vinilli (Girl You Know it's TRUE!)

      February 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Milo Kilo

      My previous comment wasn't directed toward you John...as for Keksi

      February 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  7. Marc

    What do you expect from a Dirt Bag.. I mean Really!!!!

    February 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  8. Joe, San Diego

    Ugh that heifer

    February 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  9. Shirley

    The religious imagery was just lost on me. I couldn't get past the flaky performance and the horrific singing. I've been watching these types of shows for many years, but Minaj's Roman fiasco was easily the worst I've ever seen. I know I've heard cats mating in my backyard that had more musical talent, and the visual portion of that mess? Overly busy and overdone. I was more than just a little embarrassed for the woman.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  10. David

    Lousy song and performance....not even worth commenting on. We're all wasting a bunch of time inadvertently promoting the CNN website and her music.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • John

      Exactly. No one (apparently not even me) get that if we just ignored all articles about any of these talentless performers, they would mostly just go away. Instead, every time we click on an article, we're telling CNN (and everyone else) that we are interested in this person.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  11. Kelly

    NO TALENT.... therefore she tried to be as crazy as possible so people will forget that she can't sing.... just a wanna be Lady Gaga....

    February 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  12. Jerry

    Is this entertainment or stupidity at the highest level. Would this bit__ do the same thing wearing a Muslin garb. If she ever had the guts/audacity to do it, the Muslims would hunt her down blow her genitals and hang her from the highest and most visible location. And, in this case deservedly so!!!

    February 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  13. VoiceFrmLeft

    The Catholic League is out in force this week... if complaining and pointing fingers means "out in force" that is... Freedom of religion doesn't take precedence over freedom of speech (expression) unless that expression is hate speech, which this clearly wasn't. I didn't care for the performance, but religious outrage? Over this??? Give me a break...

    February 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  14. J.W

    Even if you don't like her music, you have to agree she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Kurt

      LOL sorry not even close to being the most beautiful... not even close

      February 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • weimtrainer

      Uh. No I don't.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think you need new glasses.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Mike in SA

      The most beautiful woman in YOUR world maybe, but in OUR world, not even close.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • J.W

      You all are either gay or have bad taste. I cannot tell which.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • jmski

      Beautiful??? Aside from the fact that she has NO talent, she is wierd and looks weird. No awards to be doled out here!Adele is the beautiful one and has talent!

      February 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Flab Merganser

      You should see an optician, IMMEDIATELY!!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • literate

      Ah, nope, try again.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • freedog

      Beautiful...like a bulldogs ass.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • John

      Your comment makes me ashamed to share your initials.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  15. Gaga fan

    I agree with the criticism - if you want to do something Outrageously Arty, be sure it doesn't totally lack cohesion or sense of purpose. When Madonna rolled around in a wedding dress in '84, it was connected to the song. Gaga has pulled off some spectacular imagery and has succeeded more than failed, but she flopped with the Meat Dress because it seemed to just hijack attention for attention's sake. In the same way, Minaj flopped last night.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  16. Billy

    don't get your panties in a bunch... i was raised catholic and no one i ever met at church seemed to take it all that seriously. Oddly enough, those who did appear to be the more holy of the bunch, thought nothing of walking right past church members of color, w/o a word... when they saw them on the street. My personal experience with it, after 20 years of immersion was... it was just a hypocritical pass time for most people who attended.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Peggy

    I agree with Booby. Was she trying to upstage anything original Lady Gaga has done? The performance was so wrong on so many levels. Given the emotion of the evening's tribute to Whitney Houston, totally inappropriate. Ms Minaj hopefully your 15 minutes of fame are up soon.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  18. J.W

    I think Nicki Minaj is religious though. I think she says prayers before her concerts.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  19. John Paul

    My faith us unshakable. How could I be offended by an artist performing at a show? I'm not offended. That's silly. If anything, it was unoriginal, and that offends me.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  20. Mike

    Not religious at all, but the performance was just stupid regardless. Lame.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • BR

      Mike: I'm exactly with you. I think the performance was pointless. Some of her other stuff has a sense of humor with it, which I enjoyed. This performance was puzzling.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:00 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.