Today, in a move to shed years of entertainment restrictions, the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabian kingdom announced that hip-hop provocateur Nicki Minaj will perform there.
Minaj is slated to headline Jeddah World Fest on July 18, an event that is reportedly "in line with Saudi laws and is alcohol and drug-free," according to Stereogum. The festival is "open to people 16 and older and will take place at the King Abdullah Sports Stadium in the Red Sea city." According to the Associated Press, Saudi organizers also said the concert will be broadcast globally and covered by MTV. However, per a July 9 statement from an MTV rep, the network "is not and was never broadcasting or participating in the Jeddah World Festival."
Related | Break the Internet: Nicki Minaj
Other performers scheduled to appear include Liam Payne and DJ Steve Aoki. The kingdom is also promising quick electronic visas for international visitors who want to attend.
Reactions online have yielded everything from excitement to criticism. One viral video posted to Twitter is of a Saudi woman protesting the Saudi government for inviting Minaj — who famously has sexually explicit lyrics and performances — to appear, while forcing women attending the concert to wear a modest full-length robe, called the abaya. Most Saudi women cover their hair and faces with veils.
"She's going to go and shake her ass and all her songs are indecent and about sex and shaking ass and then you tell me to wear the abaya," the Saudi woman says. "What the hell?"
While it is currently unclear what Minaj's thoughts are, or if what she plans to wear during her show will uphold Saudi tradition or not, the kingdom is clearly attempting to rectify its reputation. In recent months, acts like Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, the Black Eyed Peas, rapper Sean Paul, and DJs David Guetta and Tiesto have performed in Saudi Arabia.
Last October, Saudi Arabia received widespread international backlash over the state-sanctioned murder of Saudi critic and writer Jamal Khashoggi close to the crown prince in the kingdom's consulate in Turkey.
And in the recent past, Saudi establishments playing loud music were reportedly still being raided by officials. Elsewhere, gender segregation between single men and women is still enforced in many public spaces, including restaurants, coffee shops, public schools and universities, while other rules have changed, with women now allowed to drive and attend events in sports stadiums.
Photo via Getty