A sex tape. Christian Louboutins. A sinus infection. Cheated contestants.
All of these subjects were rather unsuccessfully referenced in Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj's combined attempts to deflect from the topic of their so-called American Idol feud at Fox's winter TV previews on Tuesday. Producers and the women themselves have repeatedly denied such enmity exists, only acknowledging that they've moved past any friction and disagree solely in the line of duty as Idol's newest judges, alongside fellow new judge Keith Urban and vet Randy Jackson.
At first it appeared that the party line was true. "[Mariah] is one of my favorite artists of all time," Minaj said when asked to compliment her frenemy. "She has shaped a generation of singers... to be on a panel with her is kind of crazy... because these singers aspire to be Mariah Carey in terms of talent and career length." Carey, however, had a more difficult time giving a straightforward compliment. Although she said that "I knew and I did feel [Nicki] was going to go very far" after an early collaboration, she brought the subject back to herself and instead apologized for her sinus infection-induced laryngitis.
Critics later had a chance to witness true discord firsthand when the divas were asked how they had resolved their differences. Minaj first tried humor and joked that their notorious argument captured in a cell phone video at the auditions last fall was forgotten once she released her sex tape. "And there it is," interjected a much put-upon Carey. The two ladies then proceeded to talk over and interrupt each other, both trying to prove to be the bigger person. Here's a snippet of their exchange:
Minaj: It's convoluted ...
It's unfair to [the contestants]. It shouldn't be about any of us. It should be about them.
I've heard them say all the time: "These shows are all about the judges," ... that's why I try to talk about the contestants, but we have to field questions about tapes ...
Time sorts everything. Time heals all wounds.
And watch my tape... We're professionals. Haven't you had an argument with a co-worker?
It was sort of one-sided.
No, it wasn't.
They can agree on my shoes [gesturing toward her Louboutins]... Rising to the top, everybody.
Jackson made a few attempts to interject a joke, but his "wit" was lost among the women's back-and-forth. Urban remained mostly silent.
In the end, the bickering certainly appeared genuine, but it didn't escalate into any direct insults, death threats or weave-pulling (alas). And that candid, enthusiastic dialogue is exactly what Idol wants. According to executive producer Trish Kinane, the show seeks outspoken experts. "[We] wanted honesty," she says. "We very much took that into consideration. I think we got it. They're not shrinking violets."
Check out the impassioned interaction for yourself when American Idol kicks off Season 12 with its two-night premiere Wednesday, Jan. 16 and 17 at 8/7c on Fox.