Soon after it was announced that Britney Spears would be replacing Paula Abdul on “The X-Factor” speculation began that perhaps this hinted at Simon Cowell’s preferred type of woman. Guys do have types, no question about it. Justin Timberlake likes blonds, while John Mayer prefers girls with a publicist. So does that mean Simon Cowell has a soft spot for the bubbly, flighty and scandal prone?
Was Simon simply choosing another peppy, wide-eyed girl because that’s his thing? Was it to help soften his frosty on-air persona? Or was he just brilliantly calculating the media monsoon that Britney carries in tow? Can’t they all be true?
Whatever the reason, expectations are high. Britney is set to not just draw her fan base (which remain strong and vast) but also the train-wreckers – those eager to see a possible meltdown on national television, as with the infamous 2007 MTV Awards. That risky element is a big part of the Britney appeal for a show like X-Factor – and her $15M payday reflects that. No other major mainstream artist can bring the same level of danger to what is otherwise just Star Search on steroids. Everyone gets that we aren’t electing a Prime Minister here, and no one understands that better then Simon. X-Factor may not even wind up generating much of a celebrity when all is said and done. How many people remember the name of last year’s winner?
Britney and Demi Lovato will be replacing Paula and Nicole Scherzinger- both of whom left X-Factor awkwardly last year. Nicole told ‘Extra’ that she’d even received death threats (plural) over her vote to boot a young contestant. It was a rocky start. So what if things go badly this season? What if Britney implodes? How would the show ever go on? The truth is these shows feed on that kind of hay, in fact they practically invite it. For the network, eyeballs are eyeballs, no matter why they came to the party.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by Paula herself. When she was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Corey Clark (a contestant from American Idol who claimed she privately coached him to win), American Idol just steamed onward as though the integrity of the show had not been seriously called into question. The scandal, it turns out, only increased the ratings, and for Cowell – that’s always the real prize.
When Spears was announced as a judge, many just assumed she would be taking on the kinder role, a supportive voice amidst Simon’s harsh criticism. However reports at ryanseacrest.com suggest that Britney might not be going the Little Miss Sunshine route. One source described her treatment of rehearsal contestants as “ruthless.” Last month TMZ reported that she also stormed off stage at their first auditions in Austin, TX – reportedly over a bad rendition of one of her songs. Paula, you might recall, did the same thing during last year’s premiere when a contestant dropped his pants while auditioning.
The X-Factor is so relatively new that it still feels like a natural extension of American Idol. That makes comparisons between the two quite difficult. And attaching Machiavellian motivesto Simon’s choice might be going a bit too far. After all, Demi Lovato is clearly no carbon copy of Nicole, who she replaces this Fall. She got her start on Barney & Friends while Nicole was headlining a Las Vegas-style review. In reality Simon’s choice of Spears as a judge probably has very little to do with his appetite for romance. He seems to date women a bit closer to his own age, including former X-Factor (British version) judge Dannii Minogue.
Maybe trying to type Simon with this is impractical. Maybe formula is a better word. ‘Britney is just like Paula’ sounds good, but if you think about, isn’t everything on X-Factor just like everything on American Idol to begin with? And isn’t that kind of the point?
Will King is a television and media critic who splits his time as a stand up comic. He collects conspiracy theories and claims to have invented Teflon. In his spare time he follows presidential politics and all traffic signs. He lives in Charlotte, NC.
Selma: Simon sure loves his crazies. First Paula now Britney. But when you look at his own personal life, the type of girls he has relationships with is the total opposite. Is Simon a closet crazy lover? Sounds like he is a few french fries short of a Happy Meal! Simon play this DiscoveryGame, you’ve got some serious figuring out to do.
Giulia: Let’s just hope Simon isn’t counting on a Britney meltdown so he can reap those benefits. That would be rude, Mr. Cowell! I recommend this DiscoveryGame for Simon because being plugged into gossip sounds like his forté , looking for who is going to bring him the highest ratings!