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The X Factor's Season 2 Premiere: How Did Britney Spears and Demi Lovato Do?

The X Factor S02E01: "Season Premiere Part 1"

Like most reasonable people, I did not watch the first season of The X Factor. This was in a pre-Phillip Phillips age when singing competitions did not interest me very much. Dancing, yes. Prosthetic movie makeup, yes. Scream-karaoke, no. But in retrospect I'm pretty sure Simon Cowell was glad I didn't watch that season either, considering what a clean sweep he made before the premiere of Season 2. Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and Handsome British Host were all sent to the vast elephant graveyard of fired reality show officiants (Hey, Janice Dickinson!) and what followed was a months-long, overblown publicity stunt in which Cowell approached and/or hired megastars to be his new judges. He basically tried to hire anybody who'd ever gone platinum—making sure to leak each conversation to the press along the way—but at least one legit megastar took the bait: Britney Spears. A genuinely intriguing choice! Didn't her handlers make her stop speaking in public sometime around Blackout? Who even knew what kind of judge she would make? Would her X Factor gig be a career redefining (and reinvigorating) moment similar to Jennifer Lopez's American Idol stint? Or would this be another unflattering chapter of her life on par with Britney & Kevin: Chaotic?

The surprising answer came less than halfway through this week's Season 2 premiere: Britney Spears not only is not a train wreck, she's a likable, engaged, and genuinely thoughtful presence. Phew! Honestly, I was glad to see this because I don't think we as a society need to live through another era where we make Britney Spears cry in her car every day. No, Spears has her act together and behaves with nowhere near the Paula Abdul-esque pill haze I'd feared. The more surprising aspect, however, is that not only is Britney Spears not terrible at this job, but she's TOO GOOD FOR IT ENTIRELY. Because, I don't know quite how to say this without resorting to hyperbole, but The X Factor is THE WORST. Just absolutely the worst. I hate it so much, you guys. I want to push The X Factor into a mud puddle. I want to throw bleach on The X Factor's jeans. I want to push The X Factor off the side of a yacht and into the open mouth of a shark (do sharks eat GARBAGE?). I hope after this season ends Simon Cowell fires everybody, including himself, climbs into a helicopter, and flies directly into the sun. GET OUT OF HERE, THE X FACTOR.

Demi Lovato was fine. I mean, no she wasn't. She was whatever. One of those mean girls at the mall who agrees with everything to your face and then will stab you in your back the second you leave the room. She was almost aggressively insincere, her main talent was knowing when the cameras were on her and being able to feign spontaneity or basic human emotion during those times. Child-star stuff. We all know about her huge, overly orchestrated departure from the Disney Channel, but I don't care how many tattoos she has or how many songs are ghostwritten for her about cutting, she's still just a pretty rich girl who's had almost no life experience beyond the entertainment industry. You know? Don't talk to me about bullying if you've been famous since you were 9. Anyway, on the show Lovato was almost hilariously sycophantic, often waiting for Cowell or Spears to form an opinion before she'd follow their cues. Lovato and Cowell had a weird chemistry, like a Lolita-creepy uncle type thing, and their banter was nowhere near as charming as they thought. But all these shenanigans just made Britney Spears look even better: Whether she was just disengaged or just straight-up chill, I liked that Spears just sort of sat back and didn't put on any kind of front for the cameras. Hopefully Lovato will take to heart some of Spears' better instincts.

As for the episode itself, it should go without saying that The X Factor is the fakest fake that ever faked. First off, there were those behind-the-scenes, allegedly fly-on-the-wall moments filmed in the style of The Hills. By that I mean essentially scripted. From the blonde mean-girl talking trash on everybody backstage, to the kid who mistakenly checked out a man in drag, to the former boy-bander giving "advice" to a trio of tank top-clad bros, the whole enterprise made me long for American Idol's aggressively amateurish backstage interviews with Ryan Seacrest. As for the onstage performances, they were even more heavily manipulative than Idol's. Let's get something straight: When you are using an entire auditorium for auditions and thousands of people are in attendance, then the people who go on stage are carefully selected for maximum story potential. So it's just an absolute lie that the PRODUCER of the show would be "surprised" at each new person coming out. Knock it off, Simon. You know exactly what you're doing. But this total charade of mysteriousness made things all the more outrageous when someone from Britney Spears' distant past was trotted out, in essence, to fail in front of her. A potentially mentally unstable man who'd once recorded a duet with Spears ten years ago came out and sang with a raspy, time-ravaged voice and went on to plead with Spears to say "Yes." The whole spectacle was made even harder to watch by Spears' genuinely wrenching reaction. Everything about it seemed real, particularly in how internally she seemed to be retreating as it went on and on, even barely acknowledging Cowell when he came over to "comfort" her. Ugh, this show is shameless. "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE" —Maya Angelou.

Anyway, I guess no write-up of this garbage is complete without mentioning the supposed emotional high point of the episode. A cute girl came out, immediately started crying when she saw Lovato, and they began trading stories of having been bullied. Which, fine. Ranting about the dilution of the bullying meme will win me no fans. But Lovato definitely made the situation about her, and Jillian Jensen ended up having adequate singing abilities. Did her raspy, limited voice project all the pain that the judges claimed it had? I wasn't hearing it. But watch and decide that for yourself!

Clearly I have a cold heart and am going directly to heck when I die. But still. After sitting through an hour and 45 minutes of this thing I probably became extra-immune to television fakery. Sorry Jillian Jensen, but I have a feeling the producers have thoroughly exploited your story and you probably won't be seen again. Who knows?

To sum up: Britney Spears good, The X Factor awful/evil. DO NOT WANT.


QUESTIONS:

... How do YOU think Britney did?

... Anything else different about The X Factor this year?

... What was your favorite moment from the premiere?

... Are Emblem-3 the next One Direction?



Comments (27)
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LOL, Do sharks eat GARBAGE? Oh Price..
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watching x factor after the voice is just so boring!

and bout brit, she surprised me cuz i thought shed be all bubbly and nice but no, she is a b**** when she needs to be! lol and not in a bad way at all! loved her but i probably wont follow this season cuz i dont think i like this show anymore..

oh and i did like emblem 3 but their music seems very different from 1d as i see it... dont reaaally know all of 1ds songs tho
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ALSO I SOOO AGREE ABOUT DEMI OMG FINALLY SOMEONE THAT SEES IT TOO.
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YOU ARE A PHILLIP PHILLIPS' FAN?





YES!!!!!
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Staff
<3
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<3 <3
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I was going to watch this to see Demi and Britney but after reading your recap and watching that one video haha I've had my fill of drama. If there is one thing I hateeeee watching is people with "stories" on competition shows talking about how hard their life has been, then after being mediocre everyone will automatically give a standing ovation and be crying....nah I'm good haha

Britney is probably laughing at the ridiculousness of this show...all the way to the bank.
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X Factor is better than the other talent contest out there atleast. and there's no way Britney or Demi could have been worse than Paula and Nicole.
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ha. didn't pay attention to who was writing it until i got to 'but The X Factor is THE WORST. Just absolutely the worst. I hate it so much, you guys.' and i knew it had to be price :P
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"and it made us sick."...... US??
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Demi who? And why is Britney judging ANYTHING? Even looks?
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Except Britney was kind of awesome! I mean, as awesome as anything related to this can be. She was sort of great.
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i LOVE britney and demi on this show!! soo much better than the hosts from last year hands DOWN!!
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I loved Britney and Demi! The show itself (currently in it's 9th year here in the UK) is stale and needs to die. But it's nice to see Brit and Demi.
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Price, I think I'm in love with you. This is the first X-Factor recap that I've COMPLETELY agreed with. I'm surprised that more people didn't outright hate last night's premiere. It took all the worst aspects of reality singing competitions and rolled it into one big ball of poo.
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HATE.... when will these shows finally die?
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I usually dont watch reality shows but i went over my familys house last night and watched it with my sister. It wasnt great but was def entertaining. We were laughing the ENTIRE time. At Spears most of the time. When the people are singing and the camera cuts away to show the judges faces britt always had this high look on her face.... hysterical. Her head was tilted back with her mouth wide open like DUH. When my sis paused it on that i laughed so hard my stomach started hurting. Funny
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I popped in and out, largely out of boredom at nothing actually GOOD being on.

My opinions:

Demi: WTF happened to your eyebrows?

Britney: Someone dresses like they still think their nineteen.

Performers: Meh. Except for the one guy who was really, really bad but landed a wild punch responding to the criticism ("That's why you use Autotune.")
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I thought Britney and Demi did really well as judges, even though both of them got exploited by Simon. I'm pretty sure Simon planned the whole Britney's former duet partner thing, just in order to get Britney to cry. Same with Demi's anti-bullying stance. Sooner or later Simon would bring that up and use it for his own show.



Don't get me wrong, I like X-Factor's format. Unlike The Voice, we can actually see contestant progress and actually see them perform many times before they get eliminated. Their stage production is also 10X better than Idol. They actually make it look like a box office concert stage than Idol's karaoke lounge bar stage.



I'm sad that the ratings were horrible from last night. I'm done with Idol after the last winner, who is practically the same from the last 4 winners. The Voice has a lot of great singers but they barely get to perform and the show is mostly about the mentors which kinda sucks. Oh well.
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OMG I was so worried that Price would try to convince me to watch this horror. Last time I took his advice I got hooked on Teen Wolf--and I don't regret it. While I usually have complete faith in his taste, I admit I wavered. I wondered what brand of cough syrup he'd been ordering by the gallon from Canada. I tensed up when I clicked. I'm sorry, Price. Full faith restored. This show is awful. Brittany and Demi reminded me of mean girls giving you the up/down smirk the minute you walk in the door. I'm sticking with the Voice.
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I completely agree that Jillian's performance was subpar at best, and her back-story caused the judges (especially Demi) to make it out to be something that it wasn't. I also agree that WAY too much time was spent on backstories and personal histories rather than singing talent. However, I don't agree with you saying that just because Demi is pretty and has been in the entertainment business her whole life, that she couldn't have been bullied. We may never know if she fabricated it or if it really happened, but she is stepping out and being a good spokesman for anti-bullying.



The "scripted" scenes were laughable (great point about "The Hills") Did anyone notice those two girls walking down the street having that conversation? If this show wants to be taken seriously, it needs to cut that out fast. But I am intrigued by the judges, so I may keep watching on and off.
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Agree with the Demi thing. I mean that whole sitch was totally overblown to create drama and stuff, but that doesn't mean she was never struggling with bulimia and depression and cutting. I feel like she was but it was just overplayed.
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i cant watch these kinds of shows they make me cringe
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I totally agree with Price. After watching it, I went online just to check if anybody was really buying this completely scripted "competition" horsecrap. And I was like really shocked to read all the raving reviews the premiere got...were they even watching the same show!... I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thought this was like a really bad (but expensive) reality show on Bravo! And I agree that Britney was the only saving grace for the 2 hours I'll never get back.
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Totally agree with you Price. The show is heavily scripted and it was obvious they were feeding Britney some lines, to me she seemed like a robot. I was like watching The Britney Spears show last night so I dunno if I'm gonna tune in later for episode 2 because I want a show that focuses on the contestant not the judges
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I thought Britney was surprisingly good too and easily the best part of the show. They could have featured her a lot more than they did. Simon's still pretty good at the witty, devastating insults. But what was with that weird t-shirt he wore in the commercial they kept repeating? He's taken the plunging neckline too far for too long. As far the acts went, Jillian was a mediocre singer whose segment went on way too long. Manufactured tear-jerking. The bro trio was decent but can they pull it off again? I loved how the boy band dude was checking them out as he walked up to the stage, that was hilarious.
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Staff
Yeah there was A LOT going on with the boy band scene. I liked that subplot.
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