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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  2. Tired of Offensive Trash on TV

    Madonna must be relieved that Minaj didn't do something stupid like this at the Super Bowl. MIA was bad enough doing her "finger show". The Grammys had a pretty good show going until Minaj's idiotic performance. It stunk, it made no sense and it was plain offensive, especially the bit with the altar boy. HORRIBLE!!! Yep, she stole the show and stuck it right into the garbage...

    February 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  3. CO

    Setting aside any religious insults, etc... the performance was pure crap, bad acting, bad rapping, bad dancing..bad..bad..bad!! I am glad I was watching off my DVR so I could fastforward through it.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  4. Homey

    As a Catholic, I am not really offended by this but I was really confused trying to make sense of the short film, confession intro and the Christmas carol parts. I felt like the song itself was bad enough to waste the 5 minutes of my time watching the show which was, by the way, one of the best in years.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "As a Catholic, I am not really offended by this..."

      Good! I was staying awake nights, worrying you were offended. LOL


      February 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  5. Liz

    If you ask me, she's trying too hard to act like Lady Gaga, and she's coming across as trying too hard. She needs to try being more original. Or at least as original as it's possible to be in the entertainment industry.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Fog Of Gwar

      I would say Lady Gaga is trying to hard to be David Bowie and Grace Jones so the same could be said about LG.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  6. Vicki

    Well, she didn't win anything...that pretty much says it...

    February 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  7. wow

    what is up with people these days????? her intentions are verrry clearr and she is clearly possessed and a demons little puppet and those who support her saying she didnt have any intentions on offending catholics and christians are just clueless
    this girl took it to the next step and is worse than gaga.
    the media can not be trusted these days.....
    out of all the good thing you can sing about , rap about , or perform about ... whyyy based on exorcism and satanic symbols and rituals??

    February 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Fog Of Gwar

      No. I disagree completely. Throughout time, questions are raised against authority whether right or wrong. I don't necessarily see that as a terrible thing. It would take more than some half-baked stage folly to shake my faith anyway. It's a free country and the second you start stoning people for expressing their opinions, art, etc. (regardless of how idiotic) will be the second we are no longer the United States of America. Here's a novel idea...turn the other cheek; that's what I was taught and it works pretty good.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Your funny.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  8. Fog Of Gwar

    I highly doubt Minaj was setting out to offend people or insult any religious organization. What I don't understand is how performance art like hers and Lady Gaga etc. has much to do with recording artists. What Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj do (i.e. create attention for themselves) they do well, but their musical talent is dwarfed compared to the many genuinely talented recording artists that were in that arena last night. That's just my opinion.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  9. Shocked123

    Bad taste. She has been deleted from my list-

    February 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  10. SavyGran

    I kept thinking it was going to make sense, but it never did. What a colossal waste of time and money that segment was. Otherwise, this was probably the best Grammys show I have yet to see.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  11. Oh Boy

    Yeesh...you turn on your TV and see this? What kinda messed up world is this?? Gosh...

    February 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Oh Boy

      Ikr...Lol This is a pretty messed up world....especially then!!

      February 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  12. bla bla bla

    This is disgusting, burn her at the stake, why do people continue to pick on Christians its the muslims who are trying to kill everyone

    February 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  13. K. Harlan

    Terrible preformance!! I changed channel on this crap!! What were the Grammy people thinking?? Pure junk!!

    February 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  14. ron brooks

    Thank god she was covering her fat ass and thunder thighs that would have made her look more like Bride of Frankenstein

    February 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  15. WDinDallas

    Burn her at the stake. I'll bring the marshmellows ;o)

    She is a moron.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  16. Reality

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Once the final recognition is made, said topic will have no relevance.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  17. Pam

    Did I just read a critique about what type of priest he was and what colors he should have been wearing? Really! Who on earth say even say that was a good performance. She is a disgrace to the music industry. I would have scratched that act and have done a better tribute to Whitney.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  18. Baffled

    This chick is a moron.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Robert

      I agree fully. total idiot feeding even more iditotic masses. a great lame product of the american "music" industry... music for the masses... the lobotomized masses.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Robert..the same could be said about those who blindly follow the doctrines and claims of religion.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  19. someone

    Well I happen to think its oringinal. I doubt she meant any offense. Probably thought it would atract publicity. And,hello, its working.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Satendra

      Terima kasih atas link nya Mas Heri! Tapi di eztv sudah di cek belum torrent nya? Vertor ebdbera dari situs penyedia torrent lain (seperti pizzatorrent, isohunt, dll.) karena torrent yang masuk sudah di verifikasi (kecuali situs torrent private/membership based seperti demonoid, dll.).

      March 2, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  20. Touchdown

    If she generated this much attention/publicity with this performance, can you imagine the world wide attention/publicity she could have generated had she done a Muslim/Islam based performance? I think even Louis Farrakhan would have weighed in on that one! She had an opening and missed it! Maybe next time...

    February 13, 2012 at 6:16 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.