When fans of American Idol found out that three new judges were joining Randy Jackson for season 12, there was all sorts of speculation that Mimi would be diva-licious, Keith Urban would provide legitimacy and Nicki Minaj would just…be there.
As it turns out, Nicki Minaj is probably the breakout star (along with Angela Miller, Candice Glover and Kree Harrison) of American Idol this year. We’ve compiled our top ten favorite reasons why we love to watch Nicki Minaj hold court on American Idol.
1. She Refuses To Conform.
When Sarah Restuccio auditioned first as a country pop singer and then added a playful rendition of Nicki’s own “Super Bass”, she confused the entire panel…except for Nicki, who argued, “She’s every little girl! There are so many girls who identify with her, who are coming from where she is, maybe lives on a farm, and they sing Super Bass!”
While Mariah, Randy and Keith are still stuck in the age where singers can only fit in one demographic, Nicki is a hip hop diva, a pop star and a mogul. You can and should do more than one thing in order to stay current. Also, it’s pretty amazing to see Nicki wear the panel down until they agree with her.
2. She Is A Self-Help Guru.
Jessica Kartalis messed up her audition by playing her guitar in the wrong key. While she was obviously talented, her audition wasn’t strong enough to send her through. All four of the judges passed on her politely, saying that she should definitely come back in a year or two after she had matured as a performer.
Naturally, Jessica wasn’t hearing this so she tried to reason with the judges by saying, “Today’s my only shot.” In response, Nicki laid down some realness that I want tattooed on my arm, emblazoned on a poster and engraved on a coffee mug:
“It’s not your only shot. It will never be your only shot until you decide it is.”
3. She’s Really, Really–I Mean, REALLY–Honest.
Matheus Fernandes is incredibly talented. He wowed the judges in his audition and made it all the way to Hollywood. The thing is he started making excuses for his performances and referring to his extremely short stature in his song lyrics. There’s nothing wrong with owning who you are, but Fernandes was making the fact that he was a little person such a big part of his persona that it was distracting from his voice.
Nicki did the un-PC thing and called him out on it, saying, “I felt like every time you perform you like keep on making reference to your height. Sometimes things can go from being inspiring to becoming you want a pity party. And once you’re great, we don’t even notice your height. You don’t have to milk that ever, ever again. Be you. Be great and just rest in, you know, your talent after today.”
Which is good advice. Matheus is ridiculously talented and should rely on that–and not sympathy.
4. She’s Flirty.
American Idol is no stranger to flirtatious judges. Simon Cowell would always tell the ladies when they looked good. Sometimes it was a compliment (as in, “You look like a pop star tonight.”), sometimes it was an insult (as in “Well the good news is you look fantastic.”), and sometimes it was just him kind of being a middle aged creep. Back in the day, Paula Abdul caught flack for flirting so much she allegedly had an affair with a contestant and Kara DioGuardio famously made a contestant take his shirt off.
When Nicki flirts with the male contestants, it’s an art form. With her it’s all swagger and charm and punchlines. She sees what she likes and she comments on it. It should also be noted that she doesn’t just presume the dudes are ever single. She always asks if they have a girlfriend first. So, she’s classy in her sexual aggression.
5. She’s Also Flirty With The Girls.
Look, Nicki Minaj is an equal opportunity flirt. No sexism here. After Kree Harrison killed it with Faith Hill’s “Stronger” last week, Minaj exclaimed, “Well, you know that you are my wife!..And your sexiness level went up another notch tonight, again, seriously, what did you do?’ To which Kree gamely responded, “I’m just trying to do my wife proud.”
The thing is after Nicki flirts with Kree–or with any contestant for that matter–she drops the cuteness and plunges straight into a legitimate musical critique. The flirting is just for fun, but she takes judging seriously.
6. She Has A British accent.
For years, the thing that set Simon Cowell apart from other judges wasn’t just his brutally honest insights or his tight black shirts, but his British accent. Having a British accent in the United States adds a bit of class, a bit of foreignness, and a bit of distinction to the proceedings*.
Now that Nicki Minaj is on the American Idol judges’ panel, we have a British accent critiquing the contestants again. In fact, we might have two…
*So long as it’s not a Geordie accent like the delightful X Factor UK judge Cheryl Cole has. In which case, American producers are so worried that you’ll need to be subtitled that they are afraid to hire you Stateside for a job you nailed. (But rumor is she’s going to replace Britney Spears on X Factor USA next year!!!)
7. She Has Amazing Hair.
It’s a frivolous statement, sure, but never underestimate the power of a coif–or an amazing wig. Depending on her headgear, Nicki can be a cream puff or a dictator. That kind of versatility helps her pivot between giving a contestant a “yes” or a “no” with the greatest of ease.
8. She Also Has Amazing Eyes.
Nicki Minaj might have the most expressive eyes on Earth. She can say more with a squint or a raised eyebrow than Randy Jackson can using all of the words he knows in the English language. I know that some people find Nicki’s constant eye rolling annoying, but I absolutely love it. Minaj can voice her dissent with just an eye roll. Like here:
9. She Gives Hilarious Nicknames.
Okay, there’s no real intellectual reason to explain why Nicki Minaj nicknaming a kid wearing green pants and a collared shirt, “Collared Greens”, is so delightful, it just is. Sometimes her nicknames are silly. Sometimes they are absurd. Sometimes they are actually quite witty. No matter what, though, Nicki’s nicknames are entertaining.
10. She Doesn’t Crush People–She Inspires Them.
In past seasons of American Idol, judges either had to be brutally honest to the point of cruelty or sugary sweet and ineffectual in their critiques. Nicki might be one of the only judges in the history of the show who can be both earnest and empathetic.
In previous seasons, someone like James Bae would have been laughed out of the room–and he almost was–until Nicki stepped in and gave him a heartfelt pep talk complete with a hug and kiss.
She will break someone’s dreams, but she doesn’t want to break their hearts.
And that’s got to be the biggest reason why we love Nicki Minaj.
[Photo and Video Credit: Getty Images and Fox Media]