It wasn't long ago when rumor and innuendo swept the Internet that Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj simply would not get along on the set of "American Idol" in their roles as judges for Season 12. A few weeks later at some auditions in Charlotte, N. C., a heated dispute between Carey and Minaj -- with Minaj referring to Carey derisively as "her highness" -- was captured on a cell phone, posted on TMZ, and seemed to validate all the rumors that the two new judges were going to be at each other's throats throughout the season. But this past week, over three months after Minaj seemed to simply her cool with regard to Carey, everything seemed kosher between the two pop stars. In fact, they were quick to point out that the third rookie judge, Keith Urban, and veteran judge Randy Jackson were always arguing.
“They fight constantly. I find it offensive,” Carey joked at the Televisions Critics Association press tour Tuesday (Jan. 8), according to ABC News Radio.
Some, including Minaj herself, have been quick to blame producers for prompting the confrontations and hyping the more passionate outbursts to help lure in viewers, but Ken Warwick, executive producer of "American Idol" said that "under no circumstances" did producers attempt to create conflict on the show. But he admitted there were "some great arguments there."
But passion drives the arguments. Passion to help the young artists. Passion to help steer someone's career. Passion to help launch a superstar from simply listening to them sing and aspire to something greater.
"This is a very passionate panel, there are a lot of strong personalities," said Carey, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She agreed that at the beginning it became clear rather quickly that there would be "differences of opinion." And that video of a very loud and angry Nicki Minaj that followed the first day's filming of the Charlotte auditions? "The fighting is what it is," Carey said. "This is American Idol -- it's bigger than all that. It's bigger than some stupid trumped-up thing."
The "trumped-up thing" was the so-called feud that supposedly existed or was ongoing between Minaj and Carey. Both women played that perception down following the videotaped spat (that went viral, of course). They continued to do so during the press conference, and even traded niceties when asked to say something nice about each other.
But Nigel Lythgoe noted that the two were "angry all the time." At the same time, FremantleMedia's Trish Kinane said that the audience was getting what it asked for -- honesty.
Minaj would later reiterate that sentiment, saying that as a former viewer, she often got angry when the judges were passive. "We're here to do a job," she said. "I don't put someone through because of a great story or because there's something going on that may make people cry. ... I didn't really have a problem saying no because we're looking for the best of the best. It brothers me when someone says yes and don't deserve it."
So what we're hearing as viewers is that "American Idol" in its 12th Season will be more honest and put forward more people who deserve to be in the contest, not just those that deserve it and those who might be marginally talented but have a great and/or sympathetic backstory. We are also to expect some heated verbal exchanges from the judges on the panel but are to understand that the arguing is just a product of the moment, not the result of any long-standing feud between bitter industry rivals.
And even if it was true that the two women secretly hate each other, they seem determined to keep the animosity on the down-low and their professionalism in place -- for the most part. And yet, viewers have got to be anticipating some verbal fireworks come the live shows. It just seems inevitable...
And if Urban and Jackson, the last remaining member of the original "American Idol" judging panel, are offering "differences of opinion" as well, the discussions could become quite interesting.
But Minaj was correct. The judges have a responsibility, a job to perform. Not just for the viewers' sake, but, and even more importantly, for the contestants' sake. "American Idol" has proven to be a star-making crucible for several artists, and not just the seasons' winners. Many of those contestants that go on to become finalists (and even those who don't) look up to these people as success models to emulate, look to them for advice and guidance. And if it is true that all the arguing and bickering comes from the passion of opinions and applied experience and the hopes of helping young artists achieve something greater, then good for all of them.
If not, if it is all for the drama, then shame on them.
But Mariah Carey seemed to sum up the new judges panel in one line: "We're putting the 'fun' back in dysfunction."
With that being said, Season 12 of "American Idol," which launches its two-night premiere on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television, should prove to be rather interesting viewing.
Take Home Message: Some things are all for show. For example, Mariah Carey assured the press that the feud between herself and Minaj was "trumped up." And while this might be true, it is also true that stars put on a professional face at times due to contracts and responsibilities. Whatever the case might be, the show is not there as some "Jerry Springer"-like sideshow of repugnant celebrity bickering and fighting but as a talent show for young and aspiring artists. That Carey and Minaj -- and even Urban and Jackson -- can argue in their discussions does not mean they despise each other or that they secretly hate and plot against each other. In the courses of our lives, there will be many times we come across people we disagree with, rivals and competitors that we dislike working with and around, but it is a testament to one's character that, once hired to do a job, once one has signed a contract to perform a certain function, that that function be completed, carried out in its entirety, all manner of personal antagonisms put aside until after the job is done. Professionalism requires it. All those impacted by that job -- including the rival, competitor, foe -- will appreciate it. And in the long run, that ability to work to fulfill one's word, despite the adversities (personal and otherwise), is worth far more than the petty satisfaction of settling scores and personal vendettas. And who knows, in the striving to circumvent the animus, it might be skirted for good, leaving two people who once were antagonists as friends -- or at the very least, respected colleagues.
(photo credit: American Idol, Fremantle North America, Fox Television)