I don’t usually do this, but I watched the Grammy’s last night. I was curious to see how they would acknowledge the death of Whitney Houston, so I tuned in. The program featured the normal stream of pop culture pabulum that one has come to expect from the Grammy’s, but this year’s edition moved from lowbrow to insult when Nicky Minaj took the stage. It was so bad that I hit the fast-forward button through Minaj’s performance. Not only was it an aesthetic and artistic nightmare, it was a distasteful sacrilege.
Michael Gerson is right to ask why hardly anyone was offended by Minaj’s impious spectacle. He writes,
Nicki Minaj’s Grammy Awards performance — complete with a mock exorcism, a mock confession and dancing monks — caused its intended cultural buzz. Some believe it is a transparent publicity stunt. Others believe it is the sign of a collapsing civilization. We should stop all this bickering. There is no reason it can’t be both…
How did anti-clericalism become permissible in polite liberal society? That is a large topic. But one reason is probably the cultural isolation of the knowledge class. A New York-based journalist may have little daily contact with people who are offended when Notre Dame is forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. An L.A.-based entertainer may never encounter anyone who is deeply disturbed by anti-Catholic stereotypes. These cultural figures inhabit Minaj land, where religion is repression, bishops are ludicrous and sacrilege is entertainment.
These views are not thoughtful or serious. But when it comes to bigotry, it is possible to be pathetic and dangerous at the same time. Nicki Minaj has demonstrated it.
Read the rest here.
One thing for sure, the world isn’t shocked anymore. These people have to take on a whole new audience; religion. Speaking out only gives them the needed publicity they wanted. This is just a display of Total and Complete Depravity.
Ian Hugh Clary
For me, it falls under the “if everything is offensive, then nothing is offensive.” Her creativity is on par with Lady Gaga–which isn’t saying much. It’s also along the lines of her wanting to offend me, so why give her the satisfaction? Sometimes indifference is the most damaging response to such idiocy.
Here, here, Ian. I think you may be right. If you find this post deleted later, you’ll know why. 🙂
What polite liberal society?
Oh YGG, you’re so cute…
Anyway, why aren’t we outraged? Maybe because we as a nation don’t care about art anymore. Which is what happens when conservatives cut arts education funding every chance that they get. So, instead of innovation coming from learning more and experiencing more (see Dvorak, Cage, Copland, the Beatles, John Coltrane, etc) now, the only innovation is through outrage. This isn’t Nicki Minaj’s fault entirely…after all, she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing as an artist: getting your attention. This is the fault of every idiot that thinks that the NEA, the NEH, CPB and likeminded organizations shouldn’t be funded. Because ignorance of the arts produces ignorant art. Good job, conservatives.
I was glad to see very little mention of her offensive performance. They broke records for viewership and thankfully she’s gotten very little press. She’s just the hip-hop version of Gaga, doing outrageous things for attention and press which helps her sell more music.
1. Any outrage shouldn’t be directed towards Nicki Minaj so much as it should be towards A) the Grammy producers, who approve all performances in advance and B) the record industry who promotes stuff like this even though it is totally unnecessary to sell records. Focusing on the artists makes no sense. Artists wield virtually no influence, and most don’t even make any money. Even the idea that they are “role models”: record companies choose, develop and promote who they wish to be role models. That is why “American Idol” was so hated at first: it circumvented the record company system, and made stars out of people who never would have gotten a record contract otherwise (i.e. evangelical Christians Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks). Though I do not agree with “Paul” above who believe that the solution to this problem is giving taxpayer money to support the work of people like Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, there does seem to be a political/ideological blindspot here. We won’t criticize the big entertainment companies themselves, because that is being anti-corporation, which means being an economic liberal. So, we criticize the artists themselves, as if the artists would somehow exist without the entertainment companies recruiting and promoting them. Nicki Minaj’s record label is Universal Music Group, a part of the multinational conglomerate Vivendi. Instead of asking “why does Nicki Minaj do what she does” ask “why doesn’t Universal/Vivendi sign more acts like Rosemary Clooney, the Andrews Sisters and Mahalia Jackson?” But doing that would mean admitting that once in awhile (or more than once in awhile) corporations do bad things. Unfortunately, the tendency to do so does not exist in neo-conservatism.
2. I am sorry, but if someone wants to make fun of Roman Catholics, that is not a big issue for me. Roman Catholicism is a false religion that presents another gospel that deceives many. Had Nicki Minaj lampooned Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc. the liberal media would have been outraged, but Gerson and other neo-conservatives would have been on her side (well, if it had been Islam or New Age … Judaism not so much). Beyond the general idea that we should show each other mutual respect for its own sake (and keep in mind: Jesus Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount and its golden rule to the church … He did not cast those pearls before swine like Minaj so to pretend that she is somehow bound to honor it is or any other teachings from scripture is folly) I do not see where the issue is for those who are products of and adhere to the Reformation. An attack on the papists and their idols, institutions and agenda is not an attack on Christianity. What is an attack on Christianity is the idea that we have anything in common with papists, Mormons, modalists (see T.D. Jakes and the Elephant Room) or any other group of gospel-deniers. Minaj (and her ilk) going after the Vatican is akin to Stalin’s Soviet Union fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany: no dog in that hunt, and nothing positive comes from either side prevailing.
I work in the entertainment industry, both as a musician and as a broadcaster. Believe me when I tell you, there wasn’t a single thing you said in point #1 that at all has anything to do with reality. American Idol was built by label execs (Simon Cowell and Clive Davis) as a cutesy way to get the American people interested in pop stars and starlets. Ruben Stoddard is the only AI winner who really shocked me at all, because every last one of the other winners seemed like a Johnny Bravo who just needed to fit the suit, man.
As to the quip about Mapplethorpe and Serrano, sure, those exist. But so do Reich, Glass, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis and thousands of other artists whose greatest works would have been inconceivable without grants from any number of sources. You must take the bad with the merely good and the magnificent.
But really, you missed my point here: we’ve raised at least two generations of kids who are no longer exposed to kids’ days at the symphony, music history, art history or a decent reading list in their lit classes. And frankly, not knowing art means not really knowing history. Not knowing history means that someone like Nicki Minaj (a) gets a chance in the first place with her mediocrity and (b) she doesn’t get that her schtick has been done 100 times before by Alice Cooper (a born again Christian, btw), Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, the entire downtown scene in NYC in the 80’s, and of course, Madonna.
Moral of the story? Want to see art not be a race to the bottom? Get your kids to the art museum, get your kids to the kids day at the symphony, the jazz for kids concerts and make sure they read decent books.