It was official, and then it was official again: Simon Cowell officially announced Britney Spears was joining "The X Factor" on May 14, making it clear that he was betting on America's reigning pop princess pull in stronger ratings for Season 2. But besides an extra $15 million, what does the move to television mean for the 30-year-old Spears, whose relationship with the medium ranges from the disastrous ("Britney & Kevin: Chaotic") to the brilliant (her "How I Met Your Mother" cameo)?
Below, two Huffington Post Celebrity editors sound off on what the news means for Spears' career: Kelly Fisher argues that the "X Factor" deal is a terrible idea for Spears, while Youyoung Lee argues that Spears could very well follow in the showbiz-savvy footsteps of Jennifer Lopez.
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Forget the oddly medicated behavior, sartorial penchant for bandage dresses, that never-quite-recovered forehead line -- Britney joining Team "X Factor" as its newest judge is the best thing to have happened to the 30-year-old pop princess' career.
It's Britney, bitch! Here's why.
Shows like "X Factor" historically have not done well when they take a relative unknown and throw her to the American public. Take Nicole Scherzinger ("X Factor") and Kara DioGuardi ("American Idol") for example: two reasonably talented performers and songwriters whose critiques always seemed overshadowed by a feeling of "Who the heck are you?" Better for talent competitions are veteran performers whose association with a past zeitgeist also means they are people who have earned our trust: Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, even Howard Stern.
Out of these, no one staged a comeback as terrifically as Lopez, who took a break from her career in 2008, after giving birth to twins. In 2010, Lopez quietly inked a $12 million contract to join "American Idol." By 2011, Lopez had debuted her new single "On the Floor" on the show, proven herself telegenically charmed and been crowned People magazine's "Most Beautiful Person of the Year." And by 2012, the 42-year-old topped the annual Forbes "Celebrity 100 List," which ranked her as the most powerful celebrity in the world. "It used to be enough for a celebrity to act or sing really well," the magazine wrote. "Today celebs need to be businesses."
Which is why Britney is poised to make such a spectacular comeback. Her influence is prominent even 14 years after "...Baby One More Time" rattled us with aggressively sexual school girl imagery and grunting-as-singing (the generation of girls currently parroting Britney's raspy baby voice also makes that clear). We root for Britney because we grew up with her, because we also in part created her: the head-shaving, the umbrella car-bashing, the divorce from K-Fed and eventual rehabilitation -- this is the absurd behavior of a girl whose life has been engineered to entertain since the age of eight. Even after a disastrous 2007 VMAs performance, during which an unfit Britney sadly gyrated to "Gimme More," supporters jumped to her defense. "The poor girl was in the midst of a breakdown.If i had 80,fat Mexican guys in my face when i went to get coffee,i'd have a breakdown as well,although i'd turn all Sean Penn on them. Back the Fuck up. x," an intense commenter wrote on one YouTube clip of the performance just this week.
In other words, Britney's gig on "X Factor" is her game to lose. Just as Britney has been engineered to entertain, we are engineered to support her, in the way that we are also engineered to support the American dream. At a time when autotune has become par for the course and Chris Brown doesn't even attempt to sing during the Billboard Music Awards, Britney's brand of candy pop seems as authentic as ever. The nostalgia runs rampant. So she'll never dance like this again. And she'll probably never really look like this again, either. But it's still Britney, bitch.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a huge Britney Spears fan. I have her albums, I've made up dances to her songs and, yes, I've sung my heart out at her concerts. However, as much as I love me some Britney, I think her decision to join "The X Factor" is a bad idea.
First of all, why did she take this gig? Reality shows are for celebrities looking for a comeback. A spotlight has been shining on Ms. Spears since she danced her way onto MTV in 1999. For almost 14 years we've watched her go from bubbly pop star to sexy siren, and then from unstable starlet and to a now slightly older, and probably heavily medicated, performer. Though she hasn't always made headlines for the right reasons, getting attention has never been an issue for Britney.
In fact, there are few stars more famous than Britney (she landed at No. 6 on Forbes' Celebrity 100 List this year). What she needs is to take some time off to spend with her sons and fiance, Jason Trawick. The only real "break" she's had since she hit the scene was her 2007 rehab stints and 2008 psych ward visit -- and those "vacations" weren't exactly on her own accord. She's been going, going, going over the past few years, most recently promoting her "Femme Fatale" album and tour. It's time for Britney to focus on having a (somewhat) normal life out of the public eye and most certainly not on television. Jennifer Lopez's marriage fell apart after she became an "American Idol" judge. While it's likely the show didn't single-handedly cause her divorce from Marc Anthony, the grueling schedule couldn't have helped their relationship, and it should serve as a warning for the soon-to-be Mrs. Trawick.
Timing isn't the only issue. As much as I hate to say it, the Britney we fell in love with is not the Britney we know today. Since she went through some, um, issues a few years ago, it seems like she's been given a strict script to follow whenever making any kind of public appearance. Being a judge on a talent competition requires the ability to talk to contestants and fellow judges on a somewhat spontaneous basis -- and we haven't exactly seen anything spontaneous from Britney since she shaved her head. (Sorry, I went there.) What audiences really want from her is some kick-ass dance tunes to throw on their iPods, not some polite, rehearsed comments about a wannabe superstar's performance. I love her, but my goodness, she's going to be boooring.
On another note, Britney lending her services to "The X Factor" will likely lead to another round of comparison with her longtime "frienemy" Christina Aguilera, who sits over on NBC's "The Voice." Britney and Christina both arrived on the pop scene around the same time and these two ladies have endured years of comparisons, both professionally and personally. Though they have gone in different directions since they dominated "TRL," placing them on primetime TV might dredge up the comparisons yet again.
With all of that being said, I hope I'm wrong. I hope Britney surprises everyone (myself included) when she takes her seat at "The X Factor" judges' table this fall. Best case scenario: She wows the crowd, giving Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera a real run for their money. Worst case scenario: She bombs and is ousted after one season. But hey, everyone loves a good comeback.
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