[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t the 54th Annual Grammys Award Ceremony, Nicki Minaj left everyone talking with her performance of “Roman Holiday,” a track off her upcoming sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The performance began with a clip, in which Minaj parodies The Exorcist. In the clip and in the performance, Minaj plays her alter ego, Roman Zolanski, whose mother believes that he is demonic and in need of an exorcism. The live performance was set in a Catholic church with her dancers dressed in religious costumes, such as altar boys and even the Pope.
Many individuals, Catholics particularly, were offended by Minaj’s somewhat blasphemous performance; however, the singer has defended the performance according to Billboard, stating that it was all part of a story she created about Roman. Minaj says, “People around him tell him that he’s not good enough because he’s not normal, and he’s not blending in with the average Joe. And so his mother is scared and the people around him are afraid because they’ve never seen anything like him.” While Minaj explains the concept as a metaphor for fitting in in society and says that she meant no offense by the performance, many found it to be vulgar and distasteful.
[pullquote_right]“Are performers merely expressing themselves creatively and being misunderstood by the general public?”[/pullquote_right]
When I discussed the performance with a Catholic peer, she said that she found it to be extremely offensive and hurtful and further stated that she felt Minaj had attacked the Catholic community and its rituals.
While I personally don’t think Nicki Minaj intended to attack the Catholic community, I have to wonder if the rapper might have taken her statement too far. And this is not the rapper’s first experience with controversy.
As also mentioned in the Billboard article, in early February, Minaj performed at the Super Bowl with Madonna and MIA; however, during this performance, it was MIA that offended the crowd, putting up the middle finger on live television. The media were instantly buzzing with rumors of fines for CBS and punishments for Madonna because of the controversial gesture.
Of course, as we all know, this was not the first time that the Super Bowl half-time show has been ridden with controversy.
During the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004, Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction while performing with Justin Timberlake, which resulted in her nipple being revealed on national television. The nip-slip led to a complete media frenzy and stricter regulations from the FCC. What has come to be known as the “Nipplegate” now even has its own Wikipedia page. While Jackson and Timberlake attribute the incident to the aforementioned wardrobe malfunction, the incident was still heavily discussed for its implications in what many believe is the declining morality of pop culture.
Has pop culture truly become almost completely demoralized? Or are performers merely expressing themselves creatively and being misunderstood by the general public?
Perhaps the most misunderstood and most outrageous performer of all is Lady GaGa. The self-proclaimed Mother Monster has always been something of a performance piece with her gaudy high fashion ensembles; however, she first captured overwhelming media attention at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The singer performed her then-single “Paparazzi,” stunning the audience as she ended the performance by bleeding out and hanging herself onstage.
I can still remember the day after Lady GaGa’s infamous performance. I hadn’t seen it yet but it was all anyone was talking about. Since then, the singer has proved only to be more outrageous and controversial. Whether she is wearing a dress made out of meat, playing piano with all of her limbs or being hatched from an egg-like vessel onstage, the Lady has certainly proved that she is GaGa.
Similarly to Nicki Minaj, GaGa has dealt with controversies from religious communities. Just last year, the second single from her sophomore album Born This Way received negative attention from religious groups for its blasphemous lyrics: “I’m just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel/But I’m still in love with Judas baby.” However, also similarly to Nicki, GaGa has explained on many occasions that the song is simply a metaphor for an unhealthy relationship; many call the song the complicated cousin of “Bad Romance.”
While it may be that these controversial females are pushing the limits with their performances and music, I have to feel that they are being too harshly scrutinized by the public eye. Sure, Nicki and GaGa could perform airhead pop songs and be less controversial like Katy Perry but then they would not be true to themselves. The truth is that these ladies have larger-than-life personalities, which means they have larger-than-life ideas. You can’t please everyone so why bother trying? These women may be getting a bad rep for being blasphemous and controversial, but at least they’re daring to make a statement and be themselves.