In an attempt to be “edgy,” singer Nicki Minaj did the most banal thing possible at the Grammys on Feb. 12. She mocked the Roman Catholic Church in a live performance of her new song “Roman Holiday.” Her anti-Catholic mishmash of a performance came with the support of the group that produced the Grammys, The Recording Academy.
Rapper Nicki Minaj gave a sacrilegious performance mocking a host of Catholic rituals and practices, including the sacrament of confession and the rite of exorcism. Her performance began in a confessional, snarling at a “priest” as if she were possessed. (Video available here)
A pre-taped video was also shown that resembled the movie “The Exorcist.” It showed Minaj climbing on a ceiling and hissing at a would-be “exorcist.” At the end of Minaj’s performance, a “choir” sang a perverted version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” while she levitated. Shattering stained glass windows, the Inquisition, altar boys, and other references to Catholic imagery punctuated the song.
Minaj’s number was laden with a heavy dose of sexual imagery. Scantily clad dancers resembling devils slithered around Minaj while she sang. At one point in the song, a female dancer straddled an altar boy kneeling in prayer in a sexual pose.
Some critics reacted negatively to Minaj’s performance. The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis wrote that “Those who tuned in for Nicki Minaj’s Grammy performance experienced a wave of emotion: First they were confused, then amused and then just plain angry.” Hollie McKay of Fox News wrote that “The mood backstage was a mixture of confusion, embarrassment and offense as the performance dragged on, going deeper and deeper in mocking Catholic faith.”
A leading Catholic group, The Catholic League, slammed Nicki Minaj’s “vulgar” performance saying: “It’s 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.”
In her attempt to hype her new song “Roman Holiday,” she walked in to the Grammys dressed as a cardinal, with an older man dressed as the Pope. The LA Times noted that “Minaj's satanic shtick at the Grammys was part of a carefully staged performance-art P.R. exercise.”
Minaj is no stranger to attacks on the indecency of her songs. But anti-Catholicism seemed to be venturing into new territory for her.
Mockery of Catholicism, however, is an old and tired standby for controversial female artists seeking attention. Madonna staged a mock crucifixion of herself in 2006. In 2010, Lady Gaga dressed up as a nun and swallowed a rosary in her music video “Judas” – which also featured her simulating group sex.
Overt anti-Catholicism, however, had not been directly sanctioned at a major awards show watched by millions before. The anti-Catholic performance was condoned by The Recording Academy, which hosts the Grammys, and required extensive preparation to set up.
Since even the president has had the temerity to attack the Catholic Church, it is hardly surprising that attention-seeking artists would follow his lead. But childish attempts to mock Catholic sacraments and rites by musicians are old news – and are starting to look as ridiculous as they are offensive.