(or A Superbowl/Grammy Post-Mortem on How Nicki Minaj Managed to Sidestep America’s Parochial Sensibilities to Grab the Freak Baton from Madonna)
In the midst of Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime performance which at different times honored the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the pagan deity Baphomet, football, America, gospel and of course L-U-V Madonna herself, Nicki Minaj stood off to the side shaking her ass and her pom-poms, doing “The Bump” with Madonna when appropriate and generally following the script while M.I.A. flipped off 114 million people, pressing the “Big Red Button” and triggering the news cycle’s catastrophic event sensor.
While the FCC wrestled with whether or not a performer in the midst of performing deserves to pay a fine for dropping an unexpected bird on the world, the NFL and NBC issued statements condemning the act as inappropriate, and even Madonna was moved to respond saying “I understand it’s punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy and positivity, it seemed negative. It’s such a teenager, irrelevant thing to do…” Harsh words from Madonna who perpetrated more than a few controversies in her day and probably even influenced some of M.I.A.’s punk tendencies, but you have to figure in that Madge had to say something to ward off the circling vultures…
While M.I.A.’s reputation flailed in the media storm, Minaj escaped unscathed, ensuring access to Giza-sized mounds of cash in the future. While she did the right thing and kept her proverbial mouth shut, she was in the process of constructing her own agitprop with the express permission and financial support of The Recording Academy of the United States.
If you missed Nicki Minaj’s red carpet entrance into the Grammy’s last night it’s worth Googling to see Minaj in an extravagant Little Red Riding Hood getup embroidered with Versace’s Medusa logo and being escorted by an elderly white man dressed as the Pope.
Little did we know she was foreshadowing the over the top spectacle of "Roman Holiday." As demonstrated time and time again, sacrilege is a surefire way to hit high ratings, and Minaj, following in a long line of performers who have offended the Catholic Church including Madonna, Sinead O’Connor and most recently Lady Gaga, brought her already bizarre stage presence to bear on confession, alter boys and exorcism in the form of her alter-ego Roman Zolanski.
Highlights from the hilariously overblown performance feature Minaj insanely screaming at a priest in a confessional and singing “I’m so pre-tty,” choreographed monks, a choir sampling “O Come All Ye’ Faithful” and Nicki levitating during the final throes of her exorcism. For a hot minute it seemed like the Catholic Church’s PR wing was finally getting with the program and not taking things so personally. After all, that’s showbiz, right? When in Rome…? Had they finally realized the difference between blasphemy and parody (and could they sit down with our copyright lawmakers and explain it to them?). Maybe they had their hands full with fallout from the Vatican leaks tied to the Pope’s right-hand man Bertone and a corruption scandal hotter than one of Berlusconi's "bunga-bunga" parties (it’s always nice to see that hypocrisy isn’t distinctly American).
Unfortunately that’s not the way it went down. The Catholic League responded to the performance earlier today with extreme prejudice calling out Minaj and The Recording Academy with even harsher words than Madonna had for M.I.A., but for the time being, it appears that like M.I.A., the Grammys just don’t give a shit.