Nicki Minaj didn’t win the award for “Best New Artist” at the Grammys on Sunday night, but she still managed to catch everyone’s attention. This would normally be a good thing for most celebrities, who often try to get as much publicity as they can. However, Nicki’s performance at the show left everyone confused and angry. First, Minaj showed up on the red carpet accompanied by a man dressed as the Pope. She wore a red satin gown, cape, and gloves by Versace. One fashion correspondent for E! News called her outfit and her date “a little bonkers.” Her entrance was already pretty strange, but her performance was on another level. Minaj sang a song from her upcoming album “Roman Reloaded,” and included enough religious symbolism to make everyone watching feel uncomfortable. She acted possessed and spoke in tongues before seeming to perform an exorcism of herself onstage – she strapped herself to a table and levitated above fire as a church choir sang a version of “Come All Ye Faithful.” There were very few positive reactions to the performance. Everyone backstage seemed confused and offended and viewers at home took to Twitter immediately to voice their opinions. One user tweeted that “religion shouldn’t be disrespected like that” while others simply wanted to tell Nicki that she “sucked.” Critics and other organizations weren’t happy either – the Catholic League president released a statement saying they shouldn’t have to “fend off attacks in the entertainment industry.”
I’m sure Nicki will continue to get press for her performance, and it will likely all be negative. Any star who mocks religion in a song or concert causes controversy and is often met with an immediate backlash. Minaj isn’t the first performer to take this route with a performance though. Here are a few other stars that have caused an uproar over their use of religious symbolism.
Lady Gaga’s video for her song “Alejandro” received a lot of attention when first released because of its “highly sexualized material combined with religious imagery.” Gaga wears a latex nun’s habit, swallows rosary beads, and holds a crucifix in front of her crotch in the video. Her video for “Judas” was also filled with biblical imagery, but the singer insisted she didn’t intend to attack religion and instead wanted to “celebrate faith.”
Madonna was the pop star to start it all – she used religious imagery in several of her music videos during the 1980s and 1990s. For instance, her 1987 video “La Isla Bonita” included religious symbolism and her “Like a Prayer” video was protested by religious groups who claimed it was offensive to Christianity.