Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj brought their two-diva show to TV critics Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif.
And it was everything you’d want from an act that’s probably sorely needed to drum up interest in Fox’s “American Idol,” which launches its 12th season Jan. 16 with Carey, Minaj, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban - who’ll be lucky if he gets a word in edgewise - at the judges’ table.
Both women wore Louboutins, though Minaj’s heels appeared to be a half-inch or so higher than Carey’s. Minaj’s hair du jour was a relatively conservative jet black (though a preview of the auditions I saw Monday night suggests she’ll roll out her entire wig collection before the season’s done).
Carey wore a strapless green cocktail dress and bling at the neck, ears and wrist, Minaj a short print dress in neutral colors and very bright pink lipstick.
Urban went casual in jeans and a leather jacket, Jackson wore black atop some shoes that defy my meager powers of description (he later told me, enthusiastically, that they were Prada).
The body language was classic: Minaj mostly kept her legs crossed in the opposite direction of Carey, who crossed hers demurely at the ankles.
And, oh, yeah, they both talked some (though Carey apologized for being a little raspy from a sinus infection).
Asked about the reports of a feud between the two women, Carey said, “The fighting is what it is. This is ‘American Idol.’ It's bigger than all that. It’s bigger than some stupid trumped-up thing.”
Asked if each could say something nice about the other (because, yeah, we do therapy here, too), Minaj replied, “I say nice things about Mariah all the time...She’s one of my favorite artists of all time. And I think she’s really shaped a generation of singers.”
When Carey’s turn came, she said, “That was obviously a very sweet thing to say,” and then observed that the two had worked together once early in Minaj’s career and that “I did feel that she was going to go very far.”
I mean, “Nashville” writers couldn’t have scripted a scene between Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere any better.
Afterward, Fox “reality” chief Mike Darnell denied that “Idol’s” frequent, judge-driven controversies are staged for ratings -- or that they overshadow the comptition.
“There’s nothing to talk about but the judges yet, because you don’t know the talent,” he said.
And speaking of the talent: If your name’s not Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, don’t expect winning “Idol” to keep your name permanently on the tip of anyone’s tongue.
After the press conference, a reporter asked Carey how she reacted when contestants sang one of her songs.
She launched into an anecdote about a contestant from a few seasons back who’d sung one of her songs and whom she’d mentored on the show.
“David, what’s his last name?...David --? He sang my song, ‘Always Be Your Baby,’ and I was mentoring. Blond? I know you know his name -- you know who he is. He was great.”
Several of us stood there, and, yes, we knew who she was talking about.
But at that moment, none of us could remember the full name of Season 7 winner David Cook.
Not everyone’s body language needs parsing.
Earlier Tuesday, during a session for Fox’s new thriller, “The Following,” a reporter had playfully suggested that the onscreen chemistry between Philadelphia’s Kevin Bacon, who plays a former FBI agent, and James Purefoy, who plays the serial killer he put in prison, is so strong that sometimes “I’m like, ‘Ooh, I just want them to kiss.’”
Bacon immediately leaned to his right and planted one on Purefoy’s lips.
“Rule nothing in, rule nothing out,” said Purefoy.