It doesn’t launch until the 16th, but if reports by a number of outlets are anything to go by, Nicki Minaj is ‘American Idol‘s reigning champ- despite being on the judging panel with Pop icon Mariah Carey.
Indeed, in what comes as a unanimous vote in her favor, the ‘Your Love‘ Rapper has welcomed claims that of all the judges on this year’s panel she is the one to beat. Claims, backed by the show’s producer, Nigel Lythgoe.
“No one was more shocked by this development than me–not long ago, I’d questioned Fox’s controversial decision to cast a rapper, whose first album came out barely two years ago, as a judge of a singing show that’d been on the air for a decade. I’d additionally criticized Nicki’s utter lack of likability on her short-lived E! reality show, “My Truth.” But apparently very few of the 1,800 or so spectators who attended Wednesday’s Los Angeles-area screening at UCLA’s Royce Hall had ever shared my doubts about Nicki. From the moment the lights dimmed and Nicki appeared onscreen in what was the first of many B-52′s-worthy wigs, her superfans, aka the “Barbz,” were howling. And by the time that Nicki and her fellow judges emerged onstage to participate in a livestreamed Q&A moderated by host Ryan Seacrest, they were going as crazy as Nicki in her “Stupid Stupid” music video. And by then, I was starting to understand her appeal.
No, I didn’t quite bumrush the Royce Hall auditorium’s microphone to scream for all the Interweb to hear that “NICKI MINAJ IS F***ING AWESOME!” (as one overzealous Barb did), but I did get a little more excited for “Idol” Season 12 than I had been before.
Nicki had energy. She had enthusiasm. She positively critiqued one auditioner with an amusing “In Living Color”/”Men On Film” reference, shouting out, “Z-formation snap! Werk, werk!” She flirted with hunky opposite-sex contestants with a lip-licking, leering shamelessness that would make even former pervy judge Steven Tyler blanch. She provided lulz-y entertainment just by flashing one screwy, Keystone-Cop facial expression (oh my, the GIF possibilities will be endless this season) or by adopting a British accent (this was her “Martha Zolanski” alter ego, but it sort of sounded like a bad Simon Cowell impersonation). And yes, she occasionally squeezed in a little barb (no pun intended) at her supposed nemesis, like when she told one hopeful, “Your range is better than Mariah’s.” (Oh no she didn’t!)
But really, for someone recently accused of threatening a co-star with gun violence and warranting the need for beefed-up on-set security, Nicki surprisingly came across as the nice judge on the panel during the preview’s relatively feud-free 45 minutes. It was Nicki who comforted a sad, untalented 15-year-old boy whose dream of becoming The Next Justin Bieber had just been crushed, offering him a hug and posing with him for a saucy cheek-kissing photo that he probably giddily posted on Instagram the instant Ryan Seacrest ushered him out of the audition room.
It was Nicki who told one young woman, who helps her parents take care of special-needs foster children: “I think so many girls will be inspired by you.” It was Nicki who jumped to the defense of a rapping country singer (or country-singing rapper?) when her fellow judges were about to deliver three big no’s. (Of course, the fact that this contestant–who did eventually get a golden ticket–rapped “Superbass” probably had something to do with that.) And it was Nicki whose giant anime eyes misted over as she witnessed the audition of a severe stutterer with an astoundingly excellent singing voice. So you see, at least one of Nicki’s alter egos is a big softy!”
“Nicki Minaj has a devil-may-care spontaneity that lends itself well to the unscripted format. While Carey has a self-conscious poise that she tries to laugh off by going over the top and talking about being a diva and referring to people as “dahhhling,” it’s not hard to see that she ultimately believes she is very much a grand dame.
If Minaj takes herself too seriously, she is savvy enough to know that the way to win people over is to pretend like she’s not. And while she had moments of very clear insincerity (“I’m so inspired by you,” Minaj croaked to an adequate auditioning singer), she exudes an overall looseness, a willingness to engage, hug, flirt and joke around with the common people singing for her that a 23-year-strong superstar of Carey’s caliber clearly is uncomfortable with.
Minaj feels like a natural leader, whereas Carey looks mostly uncomfortable, going along for the ride, exposure and rumored $18 million paycheck.”
“She’s also smart, in a way reminiscent of — believe it or not — Dolly Parton. You can just imagine Minaj saying something like, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” But, like Parton, she hides a savvy business mind underneath the Barbie-doll makeup and anime-cosplay hair color.
Minaj has the potential to capture the zeitgeist of the Idol voters the way Simon Cowell did more than a decade ago. She understands them — maybe not the show’s entire viewership, but the people who will decide this season’s winner — and she knows how they think. So when she starts talking about how the girls are going to flip for one of the contestants, pay attention. She may not look like it, but she’s the audience. Watch her.”
“The judges are always going to be interesting because they are who they are. I don’t really want to know that there’s been a huge blowup between them and have it it all taken out of proportion. I’m not into that sort of publicity. It will, I guess, get people to watch to see if they blow up on TV. So, everybody tells me I should be grateful. I would much prefer that they watch because these judges are excellent. Nicki Minaj, I think, is one of the best judges I’ve ever worked with.”