Nicki Minaj was sending a religious message with her Catholic-themed “Roman Holiday” performance at Sunday night’s Grammy awards. But what was it?
Minaj’s performance contained it all: a Catholic confession scene, and apparent demonic possession, followed by a series of break dancing monks, chanting choir boys and one levitating songstress.
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The Twittersphere was apparently unable to make spiritual heads or tails of her art, but in a statement, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was sure that her Catholic collage of a performance was intended to insult Catholics.
None of this was by accident, and all of it was approved by The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys. 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.
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.
Minaj is far from the only pop queen to use controversial religious imagery in her performances. Lady Gaga played a sexy, sadomasochistic nun in her “Alejandro” video and took on the part of Mary Magdalene in her “Judas” video, using the story of Jesus Christ’s bretrayer as a metaphor for her own inner darkness. Britney Spears also ticked off the Catholic League when she appeared scantily clad in a confessional in her 2007 album’s art. And few artists have played the provocateur with Catholic imagery more than Madonna.
Could you decipher the religious message in Minaj’s performance art? Tell us what you saw in the comments below.