Nicki Minaj’s Grammys Performance Takes On Criticism
On Sunday night at the Grammys, in front of a crowd wrecked by sadness, Nicki Minaj ascended to fantastic heights in a religious themed performance that had many wringing their hands.
As she strutted down the red carpet in red vestments, shrouded in a hood and flanked by a man dressed as the pope, audiences wondered what she might do during her performance. As the opening whirs of “Roman’s Revenge” echoed throughout the Staples Center, Minaj—in character as her gay male alter ego Roman Zolanski—confessed her lyrics to a priest in a Catholic ritual of atonement. Seconds later, a film began playing that featured Roman’s exorcism, and the action quickly cut back to the stage. Audiences heard Minaj debut “Roman Holiday” while strapped down to a wooden board as clergy members, altar boys, and choirs sang and danced across the stage.
On Monday, several prominent Catholic organizations—including the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue—condemned Minaj’s performance as tasteless and even questioned whether the rapper might actually be possessed.
There are two ways to approach the backlash to Minaj’s overtly religious mess of a performance. On the one hand, very few people other than these prominent groups are discussing “Roman Holiday” because, as Linda Holmes of NPR pointed out, the performance was so obviously tailored for controversy that nobody ended up caring. You can’t shout at people “look how controversial this is” and expect them to really take action. On the same note, the Catholic organizations that responded to Minaj took less of a condemning stance than usual—perhaps only commenting for commenting’s sake.
The other way to approach it is to look beyond the face value of the spectacle. Minaj, a professed Catholic, herself admitted that the performance was meant to showcase her alter ego’s demonic side, rather than slander the Church. If one looks closely, it’s hard to find anything inflammatory about the Catholic faith at all on the stage, except for some scantily clad women grinding on altar boys who represent Roman’s devilish nature. Sometimes people get their feathers ruffled without paying any attention to the subject matter. In the case of Minaj’s Grammy performance—and also M.I.A.’s Super Bowl finger flip—viewers needed to take a step back before commenting.
Brennan Carley / Heights Editor