Minaj, Carey play dueling divas as 'American Idol' hopes for ratings success in season 12

Minaj, Carey play dueling divas as 'American Idol' hopes for ratings success in season 12
Host Ryan Seacrest, poses with judges, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson, Sept. 16, 2012 in New York. (AP Phioto/Fox, Michael Becker)
by: Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES -- There was no hair-pulling between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj on the season debut of "American Idol," although some viewers may have been reduced to it.

The pop divas exchanged insults worthy of middle schoolers, fellow freshman judge Keith Urban looked trapped between them, and there was a whiff of make-believe Wednesday about the show's touted feud.

"We can have accessories. I didn't know that was allowed. That's all I'm gonna say," Carey commented archly about Minaj's flashy, drum major-style hat.

The rapper took offence.

"Why'd you have to reference my hat?" Minaj said, with Carey then accusing Minaj of rudeness to her during an earlier elevator meeting.

Mercifully, a contestant arrived to break up the bickering and remind viewers that we tuned in to a talent show, not an episode of "Real Housewives of American Idol."

When the action resumed, Minaj demonstrated a magnificent talent for eye-rolling and upped the ante with a muttered insult.

"If she called me something that begins with a 'b' and ends with an 'itch,' I rebuke it," Carey declared.

Whether the clash is real, Minaj's scrappiness came off as far more entertaining than Carey's demure, even queenly, manner. Carey is getting a truly royal paycheque: $18 million, to Minaj's $12 million.

The award for least self-absorbed judge goes to genial country singer Urban.

The two-hour episode opened by showcasing last year's winner, Phillip Phillips, and those alumni with established careers, including Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson.

Then host Ryan Seacrest brought "American Idol" back down to Earth and to its new judges.

"Our legacy continues as a new era begins," he said, reciting the panelists' resumes, including record sales, Grammys won and, in Carey's case, vocal range (five octaves, "the definition of diva," Seacrest said).

Cue the parade of good, bad and touching performances and biographies, with contestants facing serious challenges once again an "Idol" hallmark.

The judges, including veteran Randy Jackson, hardened their hearts and rejected a young man who had lost a leg to cancer but melted for a teenage girl whose family fosters children with medical concerns and another singer with partial hearing loss.

"I feel like we jell well in a weird, crazy way," Minaj declared optimistically of the panel near the episode's conclusion.

AUDITION Episodes:

Thursday, Jan. 17 – Season Premiere, Part 2 – Chicago Auditions (CTV Two)
Wednesday, Jan. 23 – Audition Episode (CTV)
Thursday, Jan. 24 – Audition Episode (CTV Two)
Wednesday, Jan. 30 – Audition Episode (CTV)
Thursday, Jan. 31 – Audition Episode (CTV Two)

(All episodes begin at 8 p.m. ET/PT unless otherwise noted)

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