Make no mistake: the feud between “American Idol” judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was and is very much real, but Carey wants to stress that their fighting is simply a product of passion for the show and nothing more.
“The whole thing is convoluted,” Carey, who was battling a sinus infection, told reporters at a TCA panel for the show’s upcoming twelfth season in Pasadena, California on Tuesday.
“There are a lot of strong personalities [this season],” she added, saying she knew from the get-go to expect “differences of opinion” on the show.
Mike Darnell, Fox’s President of Alternative Programming, confirmed that the conflict between the two new judges is very much “authentic,” and not merely fabricated to generate buzz for the long-running reality show. “But it’s not just the girls,” he clarified. “It’s everybody.”
Randy Jackson echoed Darnell’s sentiments, recalling many times when he and former judge Simon Cowell were at each other’s throats. “We’ve always, every season, had passionate people,” Jackson noted. “The rifts in the second season between me and Simon…we had a go [at each other]. It’s that passion. That’s what we want from the judges.”
Reporters were given a taste of that “passion” (the day’s buzz word, apparently), when one television critic asked how Minaj and Carey made amends after the dust-up that was captured on tape and leaked online in October. The following uncomfortable and hilarious exchange ensued:
Reporter: Did you guys just hug it out? How did you work it out?
Minaj: We watched my sex tape.
Ryan Seacrest: They made fondue on Christmas eve!
Carey: Time heals everything. I did nothing.
Minaj: We’re professionals.
Carey: It was sort of a one-sided thing.
Minaj: No it wasn’t.
Jackson: Hey, Keith Urban! How are you?
The tension was further illuminated when Carey and Minaj were both asked to say something nice about each other. Minaj, whose seat was separated from Carey by Keith Urban, answered first. “That’s easy,” Minaj admitted, seemingly opting for the high road approach. “She’s one of my favorite artists of all time. She’s really shaped a generation of singers. To be on a panel with her, it’s kind of crazy because all these singers that come in, they aspire to be Mariah Carey in terms of their talent and career length. I feel excited to see them see someone that they look up to so much.”
Carey was less flattering, offering a vague response about how she and Minaj once worked on a song together at the beginning of Nicki’s career and that she knew then that Minaj would go on to have a successful career. “I’m grateful for anything nice that she were to say,” Carey admitted, apparently complimenting Minaj for complimenting her.
Ultimately, Carey feels that the coverage of their rivalry is just a “distraction” from the true focus of the show and it’s “unfair” to the contestants. “The fighting is what it is,” she said. “This is ‘American Idol.’ It’s bigger than some stupid trumped up thing. It’s about the next huge talent superstar.”
Watch a Sneak Peek From the Season Premiere of “American Idol”:
“American Idol” returns for a twelfth season with judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban and host Ryan Seacrest on Wednesday, January 16 at 8/7c.