The Fox singing competition series The X Factor returns for Season 2 in September, with two new judges – pop stars Britney Spears and Demi Lovato – and a new crop of aspiring talent. Although I don’t typically cover reality shows, Spears is such a fascinating public figure that I’m making an exception.
Via satellite from Miami for boot camp rounds, during the Fox portion of the TCA Summer Press Tour, Britney Spears and Simon Cowell talked about how she decided to become a judge, what she brings to the show, how inspiring it is to nurture new talent, the relationship between the judges’ panel, the pressure of finding a blockbuster artist on the show, and whether this show is as much about the judges as it is the talent. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
BRITNEY SPEARS: Well, actually, I’d seen the show a couple of times, and I was such a fan of the show, and my make-up artist was the make-up artist for Simon. We talked about it a couple of times, when I was on tour, but really never took it seriously until she went back and started working for him. And then, we just all met up, and it made sense. I adore Simon, and it was something I really wanted to do.
Simon, what is it that Britney brings to the show?
SIMON COWELL: I’m not going to lie about this. I’ve always said that the number person I wanted on one of these shows was Britney because I was fascinated with her, as a person and as a pop star. There’s something intriguing about her. I didn’t know her as a person, and I thought it would be interesting to have her on one of these shows, so you could see another side of her. And she’s a really, really good judge.
Did you ever consider bringing up the age requirements for the show, after Rachel Crow had a meltdown, last season?
COWELL: Not really. That was difficult, wasn’t it? That was the girls’ fault there, unfortunately, because they could have saved her. The whole point of the show is that you do have an opportunity to save people like Rachel. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, that week. But, I don’t think that will happen again. And Rachel has grown up, on the back of it. She’s having a great time. She’s done a lot of incredible things since leaving the show, so there’s no scars. We are careful, though, who we screen, at that age.
SPEARS: Well, I just feel like, being with Simon and L.A. [Reid] and Demi [Lovato], just the team that we are together, makes it so much fun to do the show. It’s inspiring to be around people like that, and it’s made it a lot of fun for me.
COWELL: Britney’s quite mean, which you’ll discover. Everyone thinks she’s just a sweetheart.
Britney, what other reality or competition shows have you watched and enjoyed?
SPEARS: American Idol, in the beginning.
Simon, who are you considering to host the show?
COWELL: The plan is to have a boy and a girl. Ideally, we would all like someone who maybe hasn’t actually been a host before. We’re screen testing some people, in the next three to four weeks, so we should make an announcement around about middle of August.
How much job security do the judges on your show have?
COWELL: Not much. No one really has any job security anymore, including myself. You’re at the hands of the audience who watch the shows. We’ve always made a point, on these shows, of changing whenever we think it’s necessary. For certain reasons, we thought, even though the girls did a great job last year, that we needed a change. We were learning as we went along, last year. But, I don’t envision this changing for awhile. We all seem to be getting along really well. The panel works. The girls seem happy. I’ve got my buddy, L.A., back. We’re having a good time.
COWELL: Well, you will see this on the show. They are harder to please than me or L.A. They’re very, very happy with telling people, “No.” They’ve definitely got their own opinions, but that’s why we hired them. The fact that Britney has been successful for so many years is a testament to her star power. And I’ve thought for the last of couple years that Demi is one of the hottest new artists around, at the moment. So, unfortunately, I have to agree with them, some of the time.
Do you feel that pressure to find a blockbuster artist on this show?
COWELL: It’s a good question, and the answer to your question is yes, I do feel pressure to do that, and I put myself under pressure. We all do. If I was making a show and I didn’t believe that we could find a worldwide-selling artist, at the end of it, I wouldn’t bother making this. I brought the show to America because I think the best singers in the world, historically, are American. Britain’s got its fair share, as well, but some of the greatest singers, ever, whether you’re talking about Whitney [Houston] or Mariah [Carey] or Aretha Franklin, are from the legacy here. So, I put myself under an awful lot of pressure.
Britney, how does The X-Factor boot camp compare to Mouseketeer boot camp?
SPEARS: It’s quite similar, in the fact that we did have a big call, for all of us together. We got in line and we each auditioned. I actually didn’t get to see the other auditions, but we went in individually, and it was a lot of fun. I think this is a little bit more on the upscale of things because it’s a TV show, and we weren’t on television when we were doing The Mickey Mouse Club auditions.
These shows have a habit of exposing a side of people that we rarely get to see, and we get to learn a little bit more about them, in a more intimate way. What have you learned, going through this experience, and what do you think some of the misconceptions may be still about you?
SPEARS: This show has been really good for me to do because I’ve been able to help this talent come in and achieve their dream, and I can relate to them on such a level because I started out at such a young age. I know the foundation and the depth of what you go through, in achieving your dream and doing this. So, being able to do this has been a great, great experience for me.
It’s been said that, as a judge, you’re tough but fair. Since you’re still a current recording artist, are you tough on them because you’re maybe evaluating some of the upcoming competition?
SPEARS: I think it’s just based on who I am and my personality. In everyday life, I’m just a very honest person.
Can you give us an idea of some of the things you like and don’t like, in music?
SPEARS: Well, I’m actually a huge fan of hip-hop. I like hip-hop music. I love rap. I like cabaret music, as well. I just love live music and bands.
SPEARS: In this industry, there are so many auditions that you go on, and there are so many that you don’t get, and some that you do get. It’s just the way of the industry, and you just have to learn from it.
What does being a part of The X Factor do for your career?
SPEARS: I’ve done eight tours and I’ve been in the music industry for awhile, and I just really feel like being able to be on a show where I can give back and help people achieve their dream is just really interesting to me. It’s really different from anything I’ve ever done. It’s purely just on the fact that I love the show.
Do you think this show is as much about the judges, as it is the talent?
SPEARS: I think it’s about the talent, definitely, and a little bit of us.