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Nicki Minaj on ‘American Idol,’ Week Three: She Was Late, NBD

Nicki Minaj, in awe of Steven Tyler in a wig

The big deal, if you are concerned about the narrative of American Idol and not, say, how boss Nicki Minaj is behaving, or how awesome her outfits are, or the way in which she seems to, with little provocation, expose all kinds of backwards-ass assumptions about the soul-killing music industry, is that Thursday night’s show provided viewers with the last batch of contestants who would be going to Hollywood. But a handful of other interesting things happened too: Nicki refused to leave the boat (because the show on Wednesday was on a boat) even during a fire drill; former judge and buddy to Burger King and complete maniac Steven Tyler popped up dressed like a woman (more specifically, my grandmother, I think) on Thursday; Nicki was late and that must mean she doesn’t take this stupid job seriously; and way too many contestants wandered onto that stage with some very real, though no less cloying, stories of personal tragedy and triumph.

For real, it was just a rapid-fire session of sadness up in this piece: A singer whose parents are deaf, a young Bieber-like boy with cystic fibrosis, a dude with a speech impediment thanks to doctor shitting the bed on his tonsils operation, but woah, he can sing like an angel! Idol producers ride these narratives hard and it has the strange effect of firmly packaging their stories into “a tale of human triumph” that tests even the most empathetic viewers’ patience. One more thing before we get going: So, here’s how American Idol is going to work, right? Interesting Wednesday show, and a beyond-tedious Thursday episode to follow it up? It’s, like, reality shows aren’t even entertainment, really? They’re just these sloughs that we’re forced to endure — just because. Scary, man.

Now, the important stuff. On Wednesday’s show, Nicki Minaj was late to the show’s auditions because of an awards-show obligation (or something?), and Mariah Carey got caught in traffic. This left the show up to Randy Jackson, who just, like, Jesus Christ “dawg,” fall back, already!; and Keith Urban, he of the weird chest tattoo and wife of actress Nicole Kidman, who he coyly references about once an episode. If you read any of the obnoxious up-in-an-hour Idol recaps, there was a distinct “How dare she?” attitude towards Nicki being late. It is worth noting that we’re only on week three and there have been multiple times that Keith Urban has been conspicuously missing from the table. Last week, he announced he was leaving early due to a benefit he had to attend with his wife (which is pretty much exactly the same as Nicki’s reason for being late). But there have been other moments where his seat is empty and thanks to quick editing and the guy being a boring lump of a bro, anyway, it was hard to notice. There were some straight-up “colored people time” feelings floating around after Wednesday night’s show and that’s maddeningly ridiculous. Reality television is getting pretty real in 2013.