American Idol 12: The big pop diva blow-up started over country music?

Norman Byrd's picture

That big bad "American Idol" judges feud viewers have been hearing about for over three months finally hit the television screen and country music seemed to cause Mariah and Nicki to get their redneck on.

Who would of thunk it? No. Really. All that hype over the feuding between "American Idol" judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey eventually exploded into yelling on the set of the show at the Charlotte auditions (which aired Wednesday evening, Jan. 23), a cuss-fest fit for a viral video, and then -- what? It was... just done, over, complete, finished. But why? What had caused it?

Oddly enough, although there does seem to be some kind of animosity -- personal? professional? delusional? -- going on between the new female judges on the panel and that same animosity might have contributed to the blow-up that occurred Wednesday evening in Charlotte, the actual "straw" that proved too much was a difference of opinion on artistic direction. And it all started with country music. Sort of. Well, judge for yourself.

"Idol" host Ryan Seacrest let viewers know in a voiceover that trouble had been brewing all day...

Taesha Bethea claimed to be a "rock" girl but seemed to confuse the judges (all but Judge Nicki) when she decided to sing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." As is often the case on "American Idol," a discussion began about "knowing" who one is as an artist. (Since they are to provide direction, one also has to wonder why it would matter at the audition stage, where the judges are supposed to be choosing contestants on their ability to sing.) To convince them she was indeed a "rock" girl, Taesha offers some Alanis Morissette. She splits the vote and Judge Keith Urban was allowed to get a deciding call. Since he'd already given her a "yes," it was no surprise he put her through to Hollywood.

But Nicki's "yes" for Taesha had been given with the comment that she didn't care what kind of artist Taesha wanted to be, which prompted knowing stares between Judge Mariah and her fellow judge/manager/friend Randy Jackson. (Read: Nicki has no idea what she's talking about.)

Summer Cunningham was next. She performed Bill Withers' "Lean On Me." Although nicely done, the judges decided to continue their artistic direction conversation. When told she had a voice suited for country music, Summer said, "Well, I did the country thing."

Judge Keith, a country singer, took exception to the dismissal and told Summer that that was like saying she had done the "brain surgeon thing." Summer quickly backtracked and said country music was like home to her.

Meanwhile, Judge Nicki obviously had become bored with the conversation. Still, something had to be said. She told the other judges they were forcing the contestants to lie in order to be sent through (apparently Nicki caught a certain falseness in Summer's sudden retraction on doing the country thing).

And thus began the back-and-forth that ended with Nicki cussing out Mariah and stalking off the set. It was all caught on a cell phone video and soon posted on TMZ.

Still, everyone was back at work the next day. With all the eye-rolling and the condescending tones still in play the next day, everything seemed to be back to normal. (Of course, three months and some editing has a tendency to blur the weeks of non-stop headlines about the feud between Nicki and Mariah, a feud they both insisted didn't exist. Although the media interpreted the blow-up as a natural development -- and possibly the first of many -- in a tense working relationship (justifying all the feuding speculation), it seemed to mark an end to the drama as well.)

So was there ever really a feud? Is there one still? Perhaps. But what seems to be at work in the Nicki Minaj-Mariah Carey dynamic isn't that they are feuding. There seems to be professional rivalry mixed with the antagonism acquired between competitors when one would usurp the position of another, the princess attempting to take the throne, the queen tenaciously hanging on.

Of course, they could simply have a deep personal dislike for each other.

Judge Nicki has stated in later interviews that one of her biggest fears was becoming a "crazy psycho again" when the show goes live. She told Ellen Degeneres that she wasn't psycho but admitted she went a little crazy that day in Charlotte.

Being outspoken and unafraid to speak one's mind can have its drawbacks.

The live shows are scheduled to begin in March.

And Summer Cunningham? Well, viewers might just get to see whatever artistic direction she eventually takes. She got a gold ticket to Hollywood.

"American Idol" airs on Fox Television on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. (EST).

Take Home Message: There are times when we let our petty dislikes and grudges override our good judgment. Hopefully, those times for most do not ever get as bad as the obnoxious display on the "American Idol" set in Charlotte. That being said, even Minaj has admitted that she overreacted and hoped it would never happen again. At the same time, her fellow judge and verbal sparring partner, Mariah Carey, has exhibited a lack of professionalism as well, often contributing to the tension on the set with sly comments and asides of her own. Minaj has seemed willing to admit her mistakes and move on but Carey only admits that there is no feud and has yet to admit to anything else. It could make for more tense moments in the future. Better to get the differences resolved and move forward because even one unwilling player in a relationship keeps everyone mired and unable to operate at peak efficiency.

(photo credit: Eva Rinaldi, Creative Commons)

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