Before Nicki Minaj had signed off on her deal with "American Idol" to appear on the hit reality competition show as a judge, it was being reported by TMZ and other gossip media outlets that first-signed Mariah Carey was none too thrilled with the panel selection. And no sooner had the live auditions begun when reports coming out of the sessions indicated that the two were already at odds. But the "Starships" singer recently told Access Hollywood that although she and Carey had their own opinions, she had respect for the "Touch My Body" singer.
"Mariah's a legend and I just want to say that…," Minaj told Access Hollywood. "I'm sitting next to a woman who I've looked up to since I can remember enjoying music. My mother and I bonded to Mariah and I told her that, before even American Idol."
But could Minaj's words have been a dig at Carey's age? Carey is 42 and believed by some to be a bit sensitive about her age. Still, Minaj may have simply been complimenting Carey, telling her that the singer of over 20 chart-toppers held a special place in her heart.
Minaj would later add, "Ultimately, there's respect there and I think if nothing else, it'll make for really great TV."
But having respect for someone does not mean that the two people get along or work well together.
In fact, just after the auditions began, Naughty But Nice Rob used the word "respect" when his sources spoke about the two popular singers at work. The gossip columnist said that "American Idol" insiders confided that the women were simply airing their disagreements. But TMZ had reported that at a Sunday taping in New York City, Carey had interrupted Minaj's critiques several times and Minaj had retaliated by simply talking louder and over Carey. It was TMZ that first reported that Carey had hung up the phone when "Idol" producers had called to tell her they were signing Minaj.
But Naughty But Nice Rob quoted an anonymous source as saying that: “Mariah is old-school, where everything starts and ends with the voice. Nicki is looking for talent that catches her eye. She is far more interested in the whole package rather than just the ability to sing.”
Another source told him that the two women "might never be friends, but they can work together."
Not a ringing endorsement, but one that was seconded by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest in an appearance on NBC's "Today Show."
When asked if the two new judges were truly at each other's throats like the rumor mill was suggesting, Seacrest said, "Nicki and Mariah, two very different, strong, powerful successful women on the panel -- there are not too many dull moments between the two of them. But at the end of the day, we all hug and laugh and go home and get ready for another day." When asked to elaborate, he said, "They get along fine but they're strong and candid in their opinion."
In the end, it could all be a build-up for the show. With a new judges panel (except for Randy Jackson, there are three new judges, including country singer Keith Urban), a suggestion of tension and combatitiveness could spark increased curiosity in the show, bring in more viewers, something "Idol" has been losing traction with over the years.
But there is something worrisome in the everybody is using that same story, much like crimes committed by multiple perpetrators. When everybody tells the same story without very much detail, the story is generally found to be shaky, hiding something. Is that what we're seeing with the Carey-Minaj situation? Something hidden? Or are we seeing people cleverly playing the animosity angle to jump-start the show's ratings?
And it should be noted that respect can be multi-layered, and there can be a vast difference between having respect for someone professionally while not respecting them personally. And vice versa. And there could be history there. Carey and Minaj have worked together before, with the "Super Bass" singer featured on Carey's 2010 hit "Up Out My Face," but it is uncertain how much of the project saw interaction between the two pop stars.
And yet there might have been just enough interaction to draw the lines of respect.
"American Idol" will begin its twelfth season in January on Fox Television.
(photo credit: Philip Nelson, Creative Commons)