Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and the white guy with guitar phenomenon: What didn’t American Idol show us?

· Popular culture

Last night on American Idol we saw an edited-down version of the fight between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. They were arguing over whether or not a singer should know which genre they want to sing in, as early as the auditions. Or at least that was the implication of the argument.


I’m on Team Nicki. It’s dumb to give someone grief about not knowing if they want to be a country singer or a country-rock singer if they are just starting out in their musical careers. While Nicki and Mariah were arguing, the hapless contestant stood there, wanting probably to crawl into a hole. Not very professional of either diva.


Randy Jackson and Mariah did seem a bit dismissive of Nicki. Keith Urban seemed a bit offended by the contestant’s implied dismissal of country music. None of the judges came off particularly well in this exchange, although in general I really like Keith Urban.


The show clearly did not show all of the fight. Several online media outlets showed a scene where Nicki was shouting “I told them I wasn’t going to put up with her already,” referring of course to Mariah. It makes me think it was less of a publicity stunt, or else they probably would have aired the whole thing, obscenities and all (albeit bleeped out). Maybe that was why they didn’t show the whole thing, because of the swearing (the show is still meant to be seen by families). On the other hand, they led off the show with an immediate mention of the scandal. So it’s hard to say if it was a publicity stunt or not. One thing I did find off in the beginning segments was that Nicki was rolling her eyes over stuff I didn’t think that was important so it seemed kind of odd. But again, editing, probably.


But what I found most interesting about the show is that there were no white guys with guitars, or very few during last night’s episode. It seems clear, at least at this stage, that the show is doing as much as possible to prevent the win of another white guy with guitar, because it hurts the show’s franchise if the same type wins again and again. Although by all accounts, last season’s winner, Scotty McCreery has done really well, so maybe it’s not that much of a catastrophe if a WGWG wins. But I do think the show, if given its preference, would get a female winner again. Every since they allowed instruments, there has been one type of winner only. Maybe the fight between Minaj and Carey was manufactured in order to recoup some of the loss of attention that has been granted to the show for precisely this reason: the WGWG phenomenon. 

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