Rapper Nicki Minaj drew ridicule from viewers of the 2012 Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, with a performance that parodied the Catholic rites of confession and exorcism.
“No Lady Gaga performance at the 2012 Grammys? Bummer. But wanna-be controversial rapper Nicki Minaj was happy to do her best Gaga imitation,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote of the spectacle, which featured dancing monks and altar servers and ended with Minaj levitating in the presence of a “bishop.”
In a Feb. 13 statement, Catholic League President Bill Donohue wondered, “Is Nicki Minaj possessed?”
Donohue, however, was not the only one perplexed by the appearance of Minaj’s altar ego “Roman Zolanski” – who began the number by singing a Broadway tune in a mock-confessional, and later had her frenetic rapping interrupted by a hymn-singing choir.
Reactions on the social media network Twitter, as reported by the Washington Post, included: “Can’t go to sleep, I’m scared Nicki Minaj is going to come in my room,” and “Dear Nicki Minaj, you make me grateful for fast forward on DVR.”
One Twitter user quipped that the blind soul singer Stevie Wonder was “the luckiest man in the crowd at the Nicki Minaj performance.”
Donohue, however, was not amused by the garish and sexualized use of Catholic imagery.
“All of it was approved by the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys,” he noted. “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.”
The Catholic League president has previously criticized similar decades-old stunts by Madonna, as well as Lady Gaga’s 2010 revival of religious motifs in her “Alejandro” video.
In his reaction to the 2012 Grammys, Donohue said it was “bad enough that Catholics have to fight for their rights vis-à-vis a hostile administration in Washington without also having to fend off attacks in the entertainment industry.”
“The net effect, however, will only embolden Catholics, as well as their friends in other faith communities,” he predicted.
Minaj had arrived at the awards ceremony in a red cowl, alongside an older man dressed as a Catholic bishop. Described by some media reports as a “Pope look-alike,” he figured in her act’s pyrotechnically-enhanced finale along with the mock altar servers, choir, and various backup dancers.
The rapper, whose work incorporates a variety of flamboyant fictional personas, was nominated for “Best New Artist” but lost out to folk-rock band Bon Iver.