Five minutes into their season-opening news conference and the new team at “American Idol” were having their first disagreement — about their disagreements. Then Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj kept it going.
“We’re professionals. Have you ever had an argument with someone you’ve worked with?” Minaj said after repeated questions Tuesday about her reported feud with new fellow judge Carey.
“This was sort of one-sided,” interjected Carey, wearing a queenly smile.
“No, it wasn’t,” snapped back Minaj.
Fox network executive Mike Darnell was asked by reporters with the Television Critics Association if the clash was authentic. He said there was a lot of musical passion within the group, which also includes country star Keith Urban and returning judge Randy Jackson, and that triggered disagreements.
Reports that the two divas were at odds surfaced last fall. On “The View,” Barbara Walters recounted a phone conversation with Carey in which the pop star said that Minaj threatened to shoot her after a taping. The rapper quickly responded with dismissive tweets.
A reporter later asked Minaj and Carey to offer something about each other they admire, and the responses were somewhat tepid.
"I say nice things about Mariah all the time. I tell Mariah all the time how much of a fan I am of her," Minaj insisted. "She's one of my favorite artists of all time ... She's shaped a generation of singers. It's kind of crazy to be on a panel with her ... I feel excited to see [the contestants] see someone they look up to so much ... [and] hear her critique."
"And that was obviously a very sweet thing to say," Carey said. "Nicki and I worked together very early on in her career and did a song from an album I'd done called 'Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,' called 'Up Out My Face,' ironically ... it was one of my favorite videos and songs and I did feel that she was going to go very far, and still have that feeling and am grateful for anything nice that she and anyone else have to say about me."
When asked how the pair had overcome their differences (if they indeed had), Carey said, "The whole thing is convoluted ... It's a distraction from the show, and it's a distraction from the contestants and it's unfair to them. It shouldn't be about us."
Minaj agreed, "I've heard people say, 'Are these shows turning into all about the judges?' and then we have to field questions about [feuds]."
As for the specific "how" they reached a "reconciliation," the artists were oblique. "Time sorts everything -- time heals all wounds," Carey said, before adding, "I did nothing and here we are."
The panel then bizarrely devolved into all of the judges talking over each other while Carey drew attention to her shoes as something "we can all agree on," before Minaj insisted, "We're professionals ... This is what America wants, they want drama!"
Drama aside, the panel offered a few interesting revelations about "Idol's" twelfth season, namely Minaj's opinion on rappers as contestants.
"I definitely don't think a rapper should be in this competition," she said. "Rap and hip hop is completely different from 'American Idol.' It's a different situation ... I would never go on a show like this as a rapper and I would never encourage anyone who's a rapper to go on a show like this. It's an honest singing competition and I'm not here to change that."
Likewise, Carey admitted she "would never have wanted to go on a show like this" at the beginning of her career. "I did have my struggles that I went through as a singer and a songwriter ... I had to learn in front of the world how to be and how to be on TV and sing ... It was very tough, especially when I see these kids and I'm totally relating to them because I was basically their age when I was starting out."
"These shows are not necessarily for everyone," Jackson said. "You have to have nerves of steel. You have to have the confidence that you can get up in front of us."
Conversely, Urban admitted that he'd been on three reality singing competitions when he was younger, meaning that "to a large degree, I know how these guys feel ... I got crucified by judges when I was nine years old."
Though some have argued that "American Idol's" influence is waning, Mike Darnell (Fox's President of Alternative Entertainment) argued that the show is "reaching a renewal every couple of years. This panel has reinvigorated the show. It's exciting. The talent's great, but the energy on this panel ... There are too many of these shows on the air probably and they are taking each other down a bit ... [but] this is the show. This is the only one that makes stars. Period."
And though Lythgoe acknowledged "Idol's" penchant for the "white boy with guitar" contestants, he insisted, "This year, we can honestly say the girls are stronger."