After all of the hype, the "leaked," raw YouTube footage of the judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj arguing, and the resulting faux damage control, the season 12 premiere of American Idol, the Fox network's life support and flagship spectacle, finally arrived and from the first frame of the judges assembling, sparks, actually, well-manicured claws, began to fly as the auditions kicked off in New York.
"I was gonna bring my dog. We can have accessories? I didn't know that was allowed," Carey snarled in reference to Minaj taking off her white-feathered drum major hat and sitting it on the famous table that has sentenced more than a handful of hopefuls to super stardom with 200 million combined album sales and over 371 No. 1 hits.
"But that's the last thing I'm gonna say," continued Carey (someone please alert PETA!). Queens, N.Y. girl Minaj -- recognizing Carey's infamous snide -- shot back: "We said we were going to play nice."
Carey's roles in Glitter and Precious don't prove that she could believably feign this blatant dislike for the younger rapper/singer. Minaj's acting chops displayed on a 2011 SNL appearance showed promise, but I seriously doubt she's capable of faking the discomfort and cringe-worthy moments the two ignite together.
"'All I Want For Christmas Is You' is the best modern day Christmas song," said the very first contestant to Carey about her 1994 ditty.
"It sure was, wasn't it?" Minaj interjected with a Serial Mom smile, hinting at the senior singer's bygone early '90s to mid-2000s era relevance.
"It is, darling. 17 years later and its still No. 1," Carey said with clenched teeth to Minaj, slightly dissing her wildly successful, yet still infantile career. Carey's own 200 million albums sold are the WMD in this war.
But, to her credit, Minaj does come with her own set of accomplishments. She is the first artist in history to chart seven songs at the same time on the Billboard Hot 100 and within a few short years, has rocketed from underground hip-hop scene nobody to household name somebody -- with millions in the bank and Madonna in her iPhone favorites. (Also, Mattel custom made a Barbie in her likeness, the real signifier of success!)
Mrs. Nick Cannon is justifiably salty. Back in 2010, with her single "Up Out My Face," Carey was the first mainstream artist to feature Nicki on a record. You can find them in a silly video together in support of it. Three years later, that girl Carey enabled is now sitting two chairs from her, co-starring on the country's No. 1 show.
Sorry, Mimi. It be like that sometimes.
Minaj did outshine Carey on the premiere episode and may very well be -- with her markedly on point and passionate judgments -- the best judge on Idol since Simon Cowell left to launch the cannibalizing American edition of X-Factor. Her commentary and advice are electric at times and clearly byproducts of her hardscrabble journey enduring incessant rejection and ridicule. The more awkward a contestant was the more love they received from Minaj (but not always a pass to Hollywood).
That's not to say that Idol's resident B-girl did not annoy some viewers with her loud talking and infinite eye rolling. But, we all know one of Minaj's thunderstruck looks at her nemesis was well-deserved after Carey instructed a female contestant, arriving with a picture of herself with Carey from a decade ago, to "make me a copy of this when you can, darling." You gotta love, Mimi. This is the same woman who famously (and ridiculously) wore six-inch stilettos on a Stairmaster during an episode of MTV Cribs.
Randy Jackson is the cool, elder statesman and Keith Urban was noticeably quiet and uninteresting. The contestants ranged from brilliant to banal.
It's all about Carey and Minaj.
Before the show ended, Nicki looked around at her three partners and said, "I think we gel well." After a slight pause and requisite side eye, Carey mumbles, "I agree."
But, who said great television has anything to do with getting along?
Isoul H. Harris is the author of 'Nicki Minaj: Hip Pop Moments 4 Life' (Omnibus Press). It is currently available in the UK, on Kindle, and reaches American shores on April 1st, 2013 (available for pre-order now).