By Chad Swiatecki (Rolling Stone)
Britney Spears received the loudest, longest applause at the start of her
first taping as a judge on Fox's The X Factor on Thursday, but it was fellow
newcomer Demi Lovato who appeared ready to steal the spotlight during
the second season of the popular talent search show.
During the first of two days of tapings in Austin, Texas, the panel of four
judges – Spears, Lovato, producer L.A. Reid and series creator Simon Cowell
– listened to 31 singers and groups audition for a chance at a $5 million
recording contract, with the four music industry vets critiquing the
performances and deciding who should advance to the next round in
Spears' addition to the show – along with Lovato, she was announced as a
new judge at television upfront meetings with advertisers earlier this
month, with a rumored $15 million contract – has drawn plenty of speculation about how the pop star would mesh with the other
judges. Wearing a tight, fluorescent salmon pink dress, Spears was the last
judge introduced to the 4,000-plus crowd at the Frank Erwin Center. She
received sustained cheers as she sat down to the right of Cowell, the
departed creator of Fox's American Idol (and normally the biggest star at the judges'
When her turn came to critique singers, Spears remained encouraging and
positive, giving the most "yes" votes of any of the judges and keeping her
comments short and declarative instead of engaging with contestants. Of a teenage male performer she offered, "You could be
bigger than the next Justin Bieber," and in complimenting a moving, soulful
female singer on her confidence she said, "You were flawless."
When a performance demanded critical remarks from Spears, she replied with a
simple "pass," or "I think you need someone to teach you to sing better."
After a sub-par song from a rapper who bore more than a passing resemblance
to her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, Spears said only, "I like your hat."
While Cowell talked to Spears off microphone between many of the
performances and asked her to lead off critiques several times in an
apparent attempt to draw her into exchanges, the
19-year-old Lovato needed no such prodding. Playfully flirting with male
contestants ("she is single now" became a common refrain from Cowell)
and giving insightful comments at every chance, the teen star drew laughs
and cheers from the crowd, along with several stunned, open-mouth
stares from Cowell as the two verbally sparred.
It was those times when the interaction between the contestants and
the judges produced the types of moments that show executives hope will
increase ratings following the ouster of first-year judges Cheryl Cole,
Nicole Scherzinger and former Idol judge Paula Abdul. Take the moment
when Cowell, 52, admitted to taking a liking to a charismatic 22 year-old
contestant, who returned his affection.
"It's too bad we didn't meet 10 years from now," Cowell said with a wink
before Lovato drily countered, "More like 30 years."
Startled and momentarily silenced, Cowell responded, "Demi, you're going
into the naughty chair." It was the first of at least three such utterances
on the day that Cowell lobbed at Lovato, suggesting viewers and audiences
can expect many more charged jabs between the two this season.
Check out the official post here with all the pics, videos and audios of yesterday
What do you think about this first day of auditions? Do you think Britney is a great judge?