ROBYN BECK, AFP

Suddenly, Nicki Minaj's choice of Grammy date -- some old dude dressed like the pope -- makes a little more sense. Performing 'Roman Holiday' during Sunday night's (Feb. 12) telecast, the idiosyncratic rhymer went for a mystical avant-garde religious theme, imagining herself -- or rather her male alter ego, Roman -- as the subject of an exorcism.

Introduced by pal Drake as "intelligent" and "driven," Minaj started her oddball performance in a confessional booth, where she sang lines from 'I Feel Pretty' and thoroughly freaked out her priest. Nicki then let a pre-taped video segment advance the story, such that it was, and when next we saw her, she was strapped down, as if possessed by the devil.

That's when things got weird. She spoke in tongues, levitated and danced with monks. At one point, the whole gang sang bits of 'O Come, All Ye Faithful.'

In another time, she would have been called a witch and burned at the stake. In 2012, post-Madonna, post-Gaga, she's hailed as genius -- though sadly not Best New Artist, since Bon Iver won -- and wildly applauded. How's that for progress?