And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #266: Nicki Minaj v Taylor Swift

By | Published on Friday 24 July 2015

Nicki Minaj

Taylor Swift might have thought she was going to make it out of this week ahead on brownie points. After much criticism in recent weeks for the contract she had been asking photographers to sign before being granted access to her live shows, she created a new agreement that is less restrictive.

In fact, she went so far as to draw up the contract with the help of the US National Press Photographers Association. Swift, the organisation’s general legal counsel Mickey H Osterreicher said, “should be commended” for her reaction to accusations that she – and many other artists – were making it difficult for photographers to make a living from their work. See? Total brownie point overload. Then she ruined everything with a single tweet.

But, hey, that’s not where the story starts. It starts with the nominations for this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, the arbiter of all artistry in short form video making. Nicki Minaj came out of the announcement with three nominations in all, for Best Female Video, Best Collaboration and Best Hip Hop Video.

A pretty good haul, but notably missing was a nod in the overall Video Of The Year category. Instead, all the nodding went to Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar and that Taylor Swift.

Noting that neither her ‘Anaconda’ or ‘Feeling Myself’ videos had made it to this category, or the Best Choreography list for that matter, Minaj tweeted “Hey MTV, thank you for my nominations. Did ‘Feeling Myself’ miss the deadline or…?”

No need to fill in that ‘or’, because she continued: “If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, ‘Anaconda’ would be nominated for Best Choreo and Vid Of The Year as well. When the ‘other’ girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination”.

Summing up her thoughts, she added: “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for Vid Of The Year”.

All five nominated videos could be said to celebrate women with slim bodies to some degree, but Swift seemed to think it was a dig at her in particular, and fired a response back to that specific tweet, saying: “I’ve done nothing but love and support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot”.

Minaj wrote back: “Huh? You must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about you. I love you just as much. But you should speak on this”.

Speak? Hey, why don’t you do it yourself, said Swift: “If I win, please come up with me! You’re invited to any stage I’m ever on”.

And therein lies the basis of about four billion column inches in the space of a mere few hours. And those column inches then generated yet more about the previous column inches. And then these 30 column inches, for good measure.

In many initial reports, the story was entirely framed as Minaj attacking Swift – or making “jabs” at her in one case – to which Minaj wrote: “Nothing I said had to do with Taylor. So what jabs? White media and their tactics. So sad. That’s what they want”.

She added in response to a fan saying that these media organisations were missing the point: “They’re not missing the point, they’re just attempting to overshadow the point. Oldest trick in the book”.

Particularly singled out for criticism was a piece by Glamour, which portrayed Minaj as some sort of crazed loon and Swift as a calm and reasoned bringer of peace to the land, and an accompanying tweet from the mag linking to the piece saying, “Taylor Swift shut down Nicki Minaj on Twitter and it was WONDERFUL”; thus proving the point Minaj was making about the media’s portrayal of women who don’t fit into a very specific, preferably white and thin, mould.

Minaj herself commented on this article, while praising another by Guardian writer Nosheen Iqbal, who wrote: “The broader point Minaj is making is clear: throughout music history, black women aren’t recognised in the popular music canon in the same way their white counterparts are”.

That seems like a perfectly valid point simply expressed. And while Minaj was acting presumptuously in thinking that the Video Of The Year title was hers to have in the first place, given the attention the ‘Anaconda’ video got upon its release, it’s possible that who she is might have worked against her somewhat.

But, hey, why discuss a broader topic when you can make something about yourself? Enter Katy Perry. “Finding it ironic to parade the ‘pit-women-against-other-women argument’ about as one unmeasurably capitalises on the take down of a woman”, wrote Perry, seemingly noting that ‘Bad Blood’ – the video for which Swift is nominated – is a song about a feud between the two musicians.

Perry then threw a further cat amongst the pigeons by announcing that the real slight in the VMA nominations for Video Of The Year was the omission of Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, which, while only recently released, noted Perry, was in fact put out within the eligibility period.

It’s hard to know if that’s Perry bringing things round to Minaj’s original point or not. To be honest, at this stage it’s hard to keep up with anything in this whole saga, so I think bringing it around to the original point is a good idea, even if that wasn’t Perry’s aim.

Awards nominations shouldn’t be something that anyone gets upset about. In fact the world would be a much better place if there were no awards at all. Awards are stupid. And what about the very concept of gendered awards – how is it relevant to have separate best male and female videos? Gender isn’t a musical genre. Stop doing that, awards ceremonies.

Though all that said, while the MTV VMAs continue to exist and continue to stir up controversy, they do serve to highlight issues like this. And MTV often seems to revel in all that (did I mention that Miley Cyrus is being rewarded for her contribution to the ceremony’s reputation by being made host this year?), even though it could be making waves just as big by challenging them.

Meanwhile, a day later Swift returned to Twitter to apologise, saying: “I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki”.

“That means so much Taylor, thank you” Minaj replied. In another tweet she added: “I’ve always loved her. Everyone makes mistakes. She gained so much more respect from me. Let’s move on”. So I guess it’s all sorted. But did Taylor Swift lose all her brownie points or not?