When it came down to it, the R&B mega-diva and the hip-hop queen got into it over — you guessed it — the issue of authenticity in country music!
Wednesday’s (January 23) “American Idol” featured the showdown everyone’s been waiting for: the spat between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj that briefly shut down production on the show’s Charlotte, North Carolina, audition rounds and gave gossip magazines the juicy Mariah/Nicki beef they had been craving when video leaked online . And when these two megaplatinum megastars went at it, poor Summer Cunningham — a 20-year-old contestant from Warner Robins, Georgia — was caught in the middle.
Cunningham had just wrapped her audition, singing “Lean on Me,” when Keith Urban asked her where she saw herself as a singer. When she answered that she felt she’d already done “the country thing,” Urban took offense at what he considered a slight to his genre. That led to Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson debating the merits of her country chops, while Minaj — who had already given her approval of the singer — gave exaggerated eye rolls at the other end of the table. (In voice-over leading up to the fight, host Ryan Seacrest explained it had already been “a long day of judging” prior to the blowup.) When the conversation came back to Minaj, after Carey said she could hear country music in Cunningham’s voice, Minaj offered an exasperated, “For a minute, I thought it was, like, a country music debate.”
“Why are we, like, picking her apart because of, like, a country comment?” Minaj asked her fellow judges, specifically Carey and Jackson. “I mean, you guys make comments about everybody in popular music all day, nonstop.”
“Really, is that what I do?” asked Mariah, who had already entered into Level 3 Diva Mode, and was quickly ascending up the ranks. (If there was an award for hair flips and quiet-but-meaningful head turns, Carey would win, hands down.) Carey, Minaj and Jackson talked over each other, until Minaj began to talk about painting artists into a corner, a topic she’s touched on as a judge already. “I feel like we’re going into, ’Are you country, ARE YOU COUNTRY, DO YOU LIKE COUNTRY?’ ” she said, turning up her voice.
Carey: “I’m sorry, it’s just that that’s what I do, Nicki. So when I’m making comments, I’m trying to help her, as opposed to just talk about her outfit.”
Minaj: “Let me continue to speak.”
Carey: “Of course, you always do. Go ahead.”
Minaj continued, “All we’re actually doing is just scaring her into lying. Like she said what she said, she has every right to say that and feel that.” Turning to Cunningham, she told her, “You have a great voice.”
The conversation turned back to Cunningham’s mention of country as a genre, and Minaj said to Carey and Jackson, “I feel like you’re trying to make her claim it.” Carey interrupted, saying, “That isn’t what … ” but Minaj talked over her. “Instead of forcing her to claim something, my view is that we’re making them try to change their minds.”
“I think it’s asking who she is,” Carey explained. Minaj shot back, “Watch the tape back, and you’ll understand.” A miffed Mariah replied, “Really, is that what you do? Really? So you watch the tape back?”
An uncomfortable-looking Cunningham was still standing before the judges, and they told her she was headed to Hollywood. (This is, after all, a singing competition, and the judges are there to listen to the singers.)
As Cunningham was leaving, Mariah snipped, “I love this moment,” and followed it with, “Yay country!”
Jackson, who had clearly sided with Mariah in the argument, took it upon himself to tout his 30 years in the business and his ability to offer “a little help, insight” to the contestants, which really ticked off Nicki. “Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry. I can’t help her. Maybe I should just get off the f—ing panel,” she huffed, and walked off the set.
“Nicki’s mad, she’s walking out!” Jackson announced, to which Mariah replied, “That was my move. I was gonna do that the next time she ragged on me.” Off camera, Minaj could be heard saying, “I’m done!”
Of course, she wasn’t done. After commercial break, a highlight reel ran, spotlighting various news outlets covering the early October spat. Some contestants wondered aloud what it would be like to go in front of the judges the day after the big fight, and when Carey entered the building on the next day of auditions, a camera man asked if she was looking forward to more of the same on Day 2. “Hope not,” she answered.
In the video from that day that leaked online in October, things definitely got a little more heated — and a little more personal — but producers clearly chose to edit things down. “I told them, I’m not f—ing putting up with her f—ing highness over there,” Minaj says in the clip obtained by TMZ but left out of Wednesday’s episode.
When asked later by MTV News how she and Carey were getting along after the fight, Minaj said, “We’re fine,” stretching the two words out in a way that let people read into her comments whatever they wanted.
The Charlotte auditions continued, but the Mariah/Nicki feud seems far from finished. Remember, we’ve still got several months of live episodes to look forward to, which gives them plenty of time to debate the merits of country music, or whatever other topics they feel like discussing.
What did you think of Wednesday’s “Idol” blowout? Let us know in the comments!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.