Did Nicki Minaj ruin her career at last night’s Grammys, or transform herself from Rapper Barbie into a Lady Gaga-style artiste? A little of both, we're guessing. But mostly the former. We've run down what was awful, and what was great, about Minaj's unforgettable (trust us, we've tried) performance last night:
It tried too hard to be a career game-changer.
Sometimes it only takes one jaw-dropping set piece to transform an already-famous diva into a worldwide superstar. For Madonna, it was her garter-belts-and-wedding-cake performance of "Like a Virgin" at the MTV Awards. For Lady Gaga, it was her super-stylized, blood-soaked version of "Paparazzi" at the 2009 VMAs. Minaj's performance last night was meant to be transformational, but this is something audiences need to realize for themselves, after hours of snarking about it on Twitter.
It tried too hard to be a tweetable moment.
Between the fire, the brimstone, the ceiling crawl and the thinly veiled sex acts between dancing religious figures (were they Popes? High-ranking Anglican Bishops? We just don't know), Minaj pushed every culture war button she could, but trying to be provocative is different than actually being provocative. As she must surely have prayed would happen, Catholic League President Bill Donohue even released a statement today asking if Minaj was possessed ("surely an open question," he concluded. Who could argue?).
Twitter has been wondering the same thing:
"Nicki Minaj gotta get back to rap," one fan tweeted "...[S]he Lady Gaga'ing too much." Of course, "Proud of Breezy" is also trending, so Twitter should be taken with an especially big grain of salt today.
It was an indulgent mess:
The "ascension into heaven" segment was intended to signify the expulsion of her alter ego Roman Zolanski, whose…we just can't. Minaj has an amazing flow and great taste in beatmakers, but nothing in her career so far suggests that she's a visionary. Last night's performance seemed cobbled together from coffee table art books, Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video and too many viewings of "The Last Exorcism." Gaga and her egg seem sensible by comparison. The fake cockney by way of Kingston accent may have been the final insult.
It set the wrong tone
This might have gone over better at the VMAs than on a primetime awards show on CBS. The timing didn't help, either. On a night devoted to artists like Adele and Whitney Houston, who needed to do little but stand there and sing, Minaj needed a veritable cast of thousands to make a much smaller impact. Not entirely her fault, but still unfortunate.
At least she tried
Better one messy, indulgent, wrongheaded Nicki Minaj, who at least took her chance and ran with it, than a thousand indifferent Bon Ivers.