The judges
Photo: Fox

Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj Feud Starts Early In American Idol

The two divas were going at one another 10 minutes into the episode, as they first sat down at the judges’ table for the show’s New York auditions. Minaj was carrying a drum major’s helmet — because of course she was — and she had it perched in front of her at her seat, which miffed Carey. It was apparently a point of discussion before they even came in the room.

“We can have accessories? I didn’t know that was allowed,” Carey spat, adding that had she known, she would have brought along her dog. “But that’s the last thing I’m gonna say.”

Minaj smiled at Carey and said to her, “We were gonna play nice,” and Carey placated her, “I actually love the hat. No, I do! I think it’s cute.”

The tension over the hat hung in the air, interrupted only by the day’s first contestant, 27-year-old Michael Buonopane. He failed to earn a ticket to Hollywood, but on his way out, he told Carey he thought “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was “the best modern-day Christmas song.” “It sure was, wasn’t it, Mike?” Minaj shot back, emphasizing the word “was.” Carey took the bait and touted, “Still is, dah-ling, #1 last year! Seventeen years later, it’s still #1. Oh my goodness!” Minaj, smiling through gritted teeth, looked away from Carey and uttered, “Bitch. She’s a bitch! She’s a bitch! She’s a bitch!” But Carey got the last word in: “If she called me something that begins with a ‘B’ and ends in an ‘itch,’ I rebuke it.”

Welcome to the 12th season of “American Idol,” everyone! Fans have been primed for the Mariah and Nicki show since the first reports of their on-set spats hit the gossip columns, and Wednesday’s premiere didn’t disappoint in the drama department. Nor did “Idol” shy away from their tiffs, gleefully ramping up the tension between the two, cutting to Minaj rolling her eyes or making weird faces while reacting to Carey whenever possible. This was a two-woman show; fellow judges Randy Jackson and Keith Urban were simply along for the ride.

Even an innocuous conversation about “Mean Girls” turned into a point of contention. During a down moment, Carey said to no one in particular, “I want to lose three pounds.” Minaj chimed in, “I know how you can!” Carey dismissingly responded, “It’s a quote from ‘Mean Girls.’ If you knew ‘Mean Girls’ … ” Minaj shot back, as if to prove her Plastics bona fides, “I do know ‘Mean Girls.’ ” Carey asked her which character said the line, and when Minaj stumbled (“um, not Lindsay, the other one, with the blond hair … “) Carey knew she got the better of her. “What’s her name? I just want to know!” Carey said. You guys, this feud is so fetch.

Sure, there were also some contestants on the episode as well. Tenna Torres, a 28-year-old from Queens who once attended Mimi’s Camp Mariah, was an early standout and won four “yes” votes from the judges on the strength of her version of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Christina “Isabelle,” a 21-year-old from Duluth, Georgia, and another Mariah protégé, made Nicki say “OMG” with her version of “Summertime.” “I say you’re going reall,y really far in this competition,” Nicki told the Berklee School of Music student. There was also Shira Gavrielov, a 23-year-old from Brooklyn by way of Israel, who has already scored a #1 hit in her home country. She got four “yes” votes from the judges, and Nicki labeled her a “superstar.” And 24-year-old Frankie Ford, a Brooklyn kid who sings for money on the New York subway, was praised by Urban for his “BIG” voice and Carey for his “inner glow.”

Sarah Restuccio, a 17-year-old student and farmer from Hammonton, New Jersey, worked the room by doing versions of both Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song” and Minaj’s own “Super Bass.” The stylistic sea between the two songs was off-putting to Urban but endearing to Minaj. “She’s every little girl!” Minaj argued. “Boys are gonna love her ’cause she’s pretty, and girls are going to identify with her.” Nicki’s passionate arguing helped sway the room in Restuccio’s favor, and she earned four “yes” votes from the panel.

Others that were among the 41 contestants making it through to Hollywood included 18-year-old Angela Miller, who suffers from considerable hearing loss in both ears but was praised for her tone and the soul in her voice; Gurpreet Singh Sarin, whose colorful collection of turbans has earned him the nickname “The Turbanator”; and 20-year-old Ashlee Feliciano, who sang Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and was told by Mariah she had great potential.

Wednesday’s episode closed, however, with the judges reflecting on themselves — mainly, the chemistry between Mariah and Nicki. “I feel like we jell well,” Minaj said, with Carey adding in, “I agree.”

Strap in, folks. This roller-coaster ride is only just beginning.

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