If you are reading this article you probably plan on watching Season 2 of “The X Factor” tonight. Well this year Demi Lovato and Britney Spears are on board—and offer good critiques—as the show’s brand new judges. Additionally, two new hosts, one male and one female, are expected, and producers have tried a whole slew of backstage tactics to give audiences a more all-encompassing feel for what goes on during the shooting of the show. Tuesday, “The X Factor” had a very special blue carpet premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and afterward the floor was open for some pretty interesting Q&A questions regarding the direction of Season 2. As the judges spoke out about their experiences, a few interesting thoughts emerged.
Simon Cowell, in particular, wanted to give fans a whole new viewing experience this year. In order to achieve this, producers went backstage and taped more of the behind-the-scenes interactions between the contestants and the judges so fans get to see everything from catty contestants to know-it-alls, as well as moments of resilience and breakdowns. The idea here seems to increase the show dramatic aspect by increasing its plot lines.
“We allow you, the viewer, to take something that people haven’t seen before and we deliver it without voiceover or narrative telling you how to feel.“
This isn’t totally true. “The X Factor” certainly uses background music as a starting point for where the audience should be emotionally, but the sentiment is still very sincere. At the end of the day, the season premiere will feature some production ideas that audiences have never seen before, and Cowell wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Yeah, I’ve been making these shows for 10 or 11 years, and I’ve seen them told in pretty much the same way. What I was always fascinated with as a viewer was what it would be like to be a contestant on the show. My gut feeling was there was a lot of competitiveness and bitchiness behind the cameras, which we never show the audience.”
Even with new ideas set forth to attempt to redefine the reality market and new judges and talent in the arena, what will set a contestant apart on “The X Factor” remains the same. Passion and enjoyment will separate the losers from the winners, according to veteran judge L.A. Reed, but newer judge Britney Spears summed up the idea best.
“[I’m looking for] someone who genuinely enjoys what they do. You can have a great voice and be a great performer, but if you don’t genuinely enjoy it, it shows.”
If only some contestants had taken this advice before jumping on that stage.
Reportedly, Spears received her share of boos and she mentioned, “It was hard for me at first, and then you gradually get used to it. It’s hard because they all boo you,” Spears told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “You have got 5,000 people behind you and they actually love everyone. So if you say no, they go crazy.”
In fact, the notoriously harsh Cowell even claimed that Spears’ striking ability to turn away contestants made him look like “a softie.”
“I actually came over as a softie. I would say yes, and [Spears and Demi Lovato] are looking at me like these people are never going to be stars,” he remarked.
So what does it take for Spears to say yes?
“The package; I want them to be able to perform, I want them to feel alive onstage, and of course the voice has to be amazing as well,” she said. “To combine all those three things is the ‘it’ factor for me… It’s a thrill and is so much fun when you actually see it, when you see someone come to life on the stage and deliver the way they are supposed to. It is just the best feeling.”
And although Spears has now happily settled into her judge’s role, Cowell did have to step in with some early words of reassurance.
“I always know that on the first day, whoever we hire, within two or three hours there is going to be a ‘what the hell have I done?’ Everyone goes through it,” he said. “(Britney) is a good judge, and I had a feeling she was going to be a good judge, and the reason I say that is because nobody can survive at the top for a long period without really understanding music.”
After a solid-but-not spectacular first season, which averaged 11 million viewers and crowned Melanie Amaro the winner of a $5 million contract, “The X Factor” underwent a major overhaul that included the exits of judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, along with host Steve Jones. Cowell then made the bold choices to add Spears, 30, along with 20-year-old Lovato, to the judges’ table. Neither had any related experience, but Cowell trusted them simply because of their status as hitmakers. (Spears has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and Lovato currently has the No. 1 song in the country with “Give Your Heart a Break.”)
Cowell’s next big coup? Getting Spears and Lovato to sing on the show! “I’d love to see a duet between the two of them. They’ve really become good friends and they’ve got a lot of respect for each other,” Cowell says. “I hope it’s going to happen.”
The addition of Spears and Lovato has definitely been the splashiest update made to X Factor for its sophomore run, but Cowell says it’s another modification – the lack of a host during audition rounds – that will “reinvent the whole genre” of singing-competition shows. “There was a show I always wanted to make where we told the story through the contestants. I didn’t want any voiceover. I didn’t want any hosts on the auditions. I wanted the contestants to tell the story. It was a very, very risky thing to do,” Cowell says. And after having seen the first episode back? Cowell – never one to undersell – states, “I thought it was genius.”
If reports are true, Khloe Kardashian is front-runner to host “The X Factor.”
Since Season 1 – Cowell’s rivalry with fellow judge and record industry stalwart Reid has not changed. “L.A. is very competitive even in the real world. Last year, he had Justin Bieber. This year, I’ve got One Direction. We always want the biggest artists in the world and I’m beating him this year. He doesn’t like it.”
Like One Direction, Cowell says the contestants to watch on this season of “The X Factor” are the 12-17 year-olds and the groups, despite the fact that the groups category was completely eliminated by the fifth week of live shows last season. “They’re harder to sell than a solo artist,” Cowell admits. “The groups are surprisingly strong. There are two groups in particular who I would sign if they walked into my record label tomorrow. I mean really good and different.”
“The X Factor’s” new season premieres Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.