On Tuesday, the internet just about shut down when it was finally confirmed that Britney Spears will be a judge on this coming season of X Factor. Not only that, but she will be joined by record executive LA Reid and the wildcard last minute addition, singer Demi Lovato. At first, I thought the whole thing was a tragic MESS. Given both of the pop stars’ recent personal histories, it felt like the pairing was a train that was bound to derail and that was just too good to be true. But now I find myself changing my tune.
If you’ve kept a close eye on the fan sites (which I’m sure you have), then you’ll know that the Britney/X Factor rumors had been swirling around for months. Then, a few weeks ago, multiple sources reported that Britney had requested Demi Lovato to join the judge’s table. Though up until yesterday, Fox execs and reps for both pop stars remained tight-lipped about the situation.
When the news was finally confirmed, people reacted as if it was the height of Beatlemania. While I was busy rolling my eyes, everyone felt like this was a pop culture moment. What was I missing?
I am a huge, HUGE fan of pop culture, specifically pop music. Growing up, I was a die-hard Britney fan. Though I don’t think she’s got the same spark that she used to have (before 2007, if you know what I’m saying), I still love her. That’s never going to change. Britney Spears is like an addiction; you can stop using, but you’re always going to be an addict.
And for some reason, I was obsessed with Demi Lovato for like three minutes this fall. I don’t really want to go into it because clearly it was a dark time in my life, but I feel like my love for the two pop stars would have me running to the nearest gossip website to be a part of the breaking news. But I wasn’t.
I just didn’t believe it. For starters, Britney hasn’t spoken for herself in years. I think the last time we heard her speak her mind was in Britney: For The Record which I can’t even go into because it’s f-cking heartbreaking. I don’t even remember the last time she did any legit album promo. It had to be before Blackout (any of that forced interview that she croaked through for Femme Fatale don’t count — so stop). Every time she IS interviewed, the reporters have an extremely strict list of things they can and can’t ask her about. I realize that this is somewhat standard practice depending on the celebrity, but if there’s even so much as a hint that the reporter wants to stray from the chosen topics, the interview is cancelled. How is a woman who is so closely guarded supposed to speak freely, let alone give the X Factor contestants advice? Is that going to be scripted too? I honestly don’t get it.
And then there’s Demi Lovato. I’ve written about her on Thought Catalog before and I do happen to appreciate her. I think it’s great that she’s going to be judging because where Britney is more a “performer,” Demi is certainly more of a vocalist. We’ve all (okay, some of us) had our eye on her since she left rehab, released her latest album and continues on her road to recovery. Good for you girl. You go Glen Coco.
BUT, she’s clearly unstable, or is doing her best to make us think she is. If you’ve been watching her in interviews, on red carpets and especially her Twitter, where she is, unlike Britney, allowed to speak freely, you’ll know that things can get interesting. I wonder if she has a good enough handle on her own career to be advising somebody else’s.
Just when the singing/ talent television show fad was beginning to die out, NBC breathed new life into it with The Voice with the addition of celebrity judges. But these just weren’t any D-List celebrity judges like Nicole Scherzinger or Sharon Osbourne, these were people who are icons or who are currently at the top of their game. With superstar talent like Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Cee-Lo and that one guy who sings country music, the show broke new ground. And honestly, it was all about the judges. I can’t even remember who won the first season of The Voice, but I can remember every single stupid had that X-tina wore. Isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Now, X Factor stepped its celebrity game up with Britney and Demi, and ABC is soon debuting a new show called Duets that stars celebrity judges Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke, Lionel Richie (LOL) and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Shows like this seem to leave all other talent competitions behind and it seems that X Factor has the sure-fire best line up.
I originally didn’t care about the X Factor lineup because I thought it was kind of a joke. Despite their recent history, Britney and Demi both had their careers handed to them at the beginning. They both started very young. A few years after Britney’s stint with the Mickey Mouse club, she released “Baby One More Time.” It wasn’t like she had any credits or artistic license with that album, she was a pretty girl who was given pretty songs to sing. What happened after is history. Much the same with Demi. Would we be talking about her right now if she hadn’t been chosen to co-star in Camp Rock? Doubtful. Both girls were merely products of the entertainment industry.
And then it hit me. Maybe that simple fact that they are products is what makes this whole thing genius. Every week, X Factor shows us a singer or group that the judges have chosen to participate in the season, and we, the audience, get to choose which one we like best. The audience picks the one they want to invest in. Who better to help pick the nation’s next best selling act than two girls who have been invested in so many times before. There’s a difference between a group of handlers telling an up-and-comer what’s going to work, and a superstar like Britney telling you what actually does.
And since Britney and Demi have both seen and experienced the downsides of the entertainment industry so personally, I feel like that could only work to the benefit of the contestants. What makes X Factor unique is that the judge’s jobs are to not only judge the talent, but to mentor a group of contestants. To me, having a pop star pick what song a contestant will sing is great, but being able access advice and guidance from someone who has been broken down by the very industry that the contestant is trying to break into is very valuable. While I doubt that the contestants will be able to have much personal interaction with the judges — especially Britney — it’s an interesting idea that I’d like to see play out. If nothing else, they’ll definitely be able to weed out the ones who don’t have thick enough skin to handle the competition, let alone the resulting career.
I’m still on the fence. I’m still kind of shocked that Britney’s leash was loosened enough for her to take on this role, one where she can showcase her personality and make her America’s sweetheart once again. I’m equally as surprised they thought Demi Lovato had enough cred to be a judge. The whole season could very well fall flat on its face with millions of people watching, or we could have some quality TV on our hands that will kick all other competition completely out of the game. Either way, I’ll be watching.