‘The X Factor’ USA season 2 review (part 1): Talking Britney Spears, production

The X Factor LogoOver the next few days, we are going to just about everything we can to break down what has been a rather complicated season of “The X Factor,” a show that started off in some level on a high with plenty of buzz and even a pretty great premiere, and try to figure out just where the show goes from here.

Over the coming days we will look both at the talent and what needs to be changed moving forward, but we’re going to start things off here with what worked and what didn’t when it comes to Simon Cowell, the judging panel, the hosts, and the production behind the scenes.

The judges

When Simon got rid of Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, there was much rejoicing after the debacle that was season 1. Then, there was much rejoicing after the booking of Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, two bonafide pop stars who are at times controversial and who what it takes to be successful in the modern music business. Sadly, we don’t know if there is any real rejoicing now.

Before we talk about any judge in particular, though, it needs to be said here: Simon may be the star of the show, but he is also one of its biggest problems. You need a very specific sort of person to not have their personality swallowed up next to the guy, especially when he also doubles as your boss. It was so striking to us this year how brilliant Nicole was on the British version of the show, and how this was far and away different from how insecure and desperate she felt at times stateside during the first season. The only major difference? There was no Simon breathing down her neck.

Simon’s presence really minimized the importance of one L.A. Reid, an extremely smart and respected businessman who is making the right decision to focus more on his day job. He just didn’t have the right sort of energy for the show at times, and he was almost actually too similar to Cowell in many ways that we need a little bit more personality on the panel.

'The X Factor' Debate

Speaking of personality, where in the world was this when it came to Britney Spears? Once again, she may be an example of a personality engulfed by Simon and the madness of this show, but in no way did the pop princess earn a $15 million check for the season. Her criticisms were never longer than a sentence, were often extremely generic and vague, and every time she leaned in to the camera, you could see it in her head that she was just waiting for it to be over. For financial reasons alone Britney is almost sure to be gone, and in many ways that is best. She’s always been a great pop star, and one of the reasons why is because she is such an enigma. Ultimately, she’s better off going back to that rather than having her best moment on TV be a strange face she makes after Fifth Harmony was through to the finals.

The one person who did shine almost all year was Demi Lovato, who certainly practice what she preached when it came to her “stay strong” tattoo. She never backed down from Simon, and was consistently one of the only judges aware that this is an entertainment show first and foremost. People are here to be entertained! Demi did struggle at times as a mentor, but much of that is not her fault given what production forced on her.


With that, we come to the real evil empire here that caused the show so many problems this year: the faces behind the scenes. Whoever is responsible for licensing music should be fired straight out of the gate. We need new music! Carly Rose Sonenclar had a big moment with “Hallelujah” during the finale, but she failed to receive enough votes for it since this is a song that singing-show viewers are sick of hearing. Producers need to be aware of that … and also that putting her next to LeAnn Rimes in a duet was a terrible idea.

The producers in many ways damaged badly the chances of Lyric 145, Vino Alan, and Beatrice Miller early in the competition by saddling them with things they didn’t want to do, and they yet again tried to thrust many of these singers into superstardom long before they were ready. This is why so many of our favorite performances this season (CeCe Frey’s “Sexy and I Know It,” Lyric 145’s “Party in the USA”) were at the judges’ houses. They were intimate, and didn’t have the seizure-inducing lights and spectacle behind them.

The hosts

Is it possible that not having hosts for the entire show could be a cool idea? It would save the show a good deal of cash, and during the live rounds the judges could just introduce the acts themselves. After all, all Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez brought to the show this year were walking advertisements for Pepsi and frequent utterances of the words “yes,” “and,” and “but.” Mario was surprisingly the worst offender, and for a veteran host we don’t know how he came across so unsympathetic and programmed to show no emotion. Heck, we’d rather have Steve Jones back than more of him.

We’ll get into some more possibly hosting suggestions in the third part of our review early next week, but this cannot be left the same next year. This is a much harder job than it is made out to be, and there are only a select few who really do it well on TV right now: Ryan Seacrest, Cat Deeley, Tom Bergeron, and British “X Factor” host Dermot O’Leary are our personal picks.

If you want to read some more on what the season 2 winner in Tate Stevens is going to do moving forward, you can by heading on over to the link here.

Photo: Fox

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