Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is Britney Right for The X-Factor?

The X Factor has spent more time the in the last year hyping who the new judge will be as it has making wannabe popstars churn out soundbite sob stories.

The UK version spent months last year keeping us guessing about who would take slots on the panel. Now Simon Cowell’s US model has tongues wagging again after both Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul were booted off the show after a less than stellar first season (never mind poor Steve Jones who was removed after a poorly received turn as host).

Rumours about Mariah Carey potentially coming on board seem to be swept aside and a proposed slot for Janet Jackson was dismissed by the singer. The latest name to come up and according to some sources, close to signing a contract (or not doing it at all, or wanting more money, or wanting to have a Vegas residency depending on who you read) is none other than Miss Britney Spears.

Now, not to be rain on any Britney fan’s parade but is this really a good idea?

Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a big Britney fan. She was the first popstar I properly became obsessed with. Her last album, Femme Fatale, was one of my most played of last year and was replete with hit after hit. And she has clearly got her act together in a considerable way compared to her pink wig-English accent-paparazzi magnet-shaved head meltdown.

But Britney might be relatively back to normal, on the treadmill of touring, having her life monitored and getting engaged etc etc. But there’s no way Britney is ready to put herself on TV every week with the X-Factor.

Every interview and TV appearance tied to the last album made Britney look rigid, uncomfortable and too shy to properly engage with people. The X-Factor may be a smoke and mirrors slice of reality TV madness but it requires the judges to really engage with both the audience and their chosen acts. Britney looks terrified to speak to anyone not within her inner circle and unable to articulate much more than how “cool” and “great” everything is.

Then there’s the matter of Britney’s own rep. Not known for singing live or being at the peak of her performing powers, can Britney really get away with sitting on a panel and convincing both viewers and acts that she’s a confident, saavy, in-control popstar with something to say?

Look, Britney has become a pop icon, has maintained a level of success many wouldn’t have expected when first debuted at the end the 1990s. And certainly while Britney might not belt ‘em out like Mariah she has a distinctive, quirky vocal style and a popstar presence that still shines now, even if it has dimmed a little.

In some ways, if Britney demonstrated a bit of firecracker energy as a personality you could excuse the “not singing live” bit. Cheryl Cole was written off before she started her run on the X Factor a few years back but soon proved many wrong. Mainly, because she was opinionated, feisty and motional. She was, to coin a cliché, TV gold. If Britney could be that forthcoming and bright then we’d be on to a winner but little that she’s offered us over the last few years suggests that.

The fan in me still wants this to work out. It would be a thrill to see a star like Britney, who is in fact something of a mystery on TV week to week. And certainly, it would add a sense of occasion to the US X-Factor that the first run sorely missed. But, it’s hard to see how Britney could light up the show.

If Cowell is really serious about placing her on the show then maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps she has a personality she’s finally ready to put on full display and like Cole when she first started the show, she’ll be a breath of fresh air. A well-known star peeling back a layer of their public persona and jumpstarting the increasingly crowded talent show world is just.

It’ll be fun to watch this play out over the next few weeks. All of this speculation only helps Cowell build hype for a brand that is struggling in some quarters (US X-Factor has yet to challenge the Voice or American Idol in the TV talent stakes) and starting to wane in others (after a promising start the last UK run felt bogged down with novelty contestants and a misfit panel of judges).

In the meantime, let us remind ourselves of a gem from Britney’s last album. Inside Out was rumoured to be a single from Femme Fatale but was left to languish on the album to the chagrin of fans worldwide. Remind yourself of the track below. More time on songs like these, less on possible talent show roles Britney, OK? Cheers.

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