“X Factor”: Simon Cowell Promises a Britney Spears You've Never Seen Before

To contestants, new judge Spears is "surprisingly quite mean."

In its first season “The X Factor” didn’t quite turn out to be the television phenomenon that Simon Cowell predicted – but he’s not going to let that stop him from hotly hyping the show’s sophmore run. Especially because he’s recruited no less than Demi Lovato and Britney Spears to join him and L.A. Reid on the judging panel. Cowell and Lovato reveal how the show plans to stand out in an ever more crowded field of singing competitions.

On their unique dynamic as judges:

Simon Cowell: My first recollection was Demi saying to me ‘You’re much better looking in real life.’

Demi Lovato: Of course, of course. I totally said that.  

Cowell: I thought she was very confident, very bright – then became quite annoying, but knew what she was talking about…When I saw Demi a couple of years ago I thought she’d be interesting to work with because of what she’s been through, coming through the whole Disney system, being a bit of a rebel, very marketable artist. People like that are always going to be what I call, “lippy.” We have different views on the contestants, but I thought it was important since a lot of the contestants are young and that we have a very young audience, that we have to have somebody closer to that age group. But if I’m comfortable with somebody, then you can argue with them, so I’m obviously very comfortable with Demi.

Lovato: It’s everything that I thought it would be and more because I always thought it would be so much fun and difficult, but at the same time, you’re in a position that you’re mentoring people. You’re trying to give them the best advice possible so that they can be groomed into this pop star that you know they can be. It’s a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, but I am very excited of putting everything that I have into it. 

On the expected ratings shootout between “The X Factor” and timeslot rival “The Voice”:

Cowell: First of all, I’ve seen the first show. I think it’s sensational. I think the girls do a great job. The contestants are great. The show looks different to anything else we’ve ever made before. I think this is the reason why NBC decided to put 'The Voice' up against us. It is a spoiling tactic and it’s very simple—they don’t want people to see this first episode. I think it’s mean-spirited and I hope and I pray that it backfires on them because this is one of the best shows we’ve ever made. I am pissed off about it because I think there is kind of a gentlemen’s agreement, but you have to rely that the viewers will make the right selection. I think three nights in a row is too much. I think there is a lot of interest, rightly so, in our show because of Britney, Demi, the way the show is going to look. We’re going to see what happens. But I’ve learned, don’t make any predictions.

On Christina Aguilera’s comment that she doesn’t know what Britney Spears will be able to offer “X Factor”:

Cowell: [She should] watch the show. She might learn something.  

On co-judges Britney Spears and L.A. Reid:

Cowell: I think Britney is a fascinating person, because you just don’t know anything about her. She’s very unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen. She has taken this very seriously and she’s surprisingly quite mean! In the past we’ve had judges who never say no. She can’t say no quick enough on this show. She’s quite difficult to please. But she’s a fascinating person and I’ve gotten to like her a lot…If you buy a dog, you expect it to lick you and then it turns out to bite you – It was rather like that. It was a real surprise. She’s really, really difficult to please. But in a way, I think it made it more interesting because she just wouldn’t say yes for people to like her. When you do these auditions in front of 5,000 people, they boo you. But she was kind of fearless. Because I know the first show Demi said, no, and she got booed, I could see the look on her face, like, ‘I don’t think I want to do this show anymore.’ It’s kind of difficult, but she’s going to surprise a lot of people, I think, when you see her.

Lovato: L.A. and Britney are so amazing. I feel like they are doing just a great job, especially Britney. I feel like the world hasn’t really gotten a chance to see her personality over the past couple of years and now this is the perfect opportunity for people to really see the light inside of her just shine. She’s very witty and funny and quirky and I just have such a good time working with her. L.A. is so much fun to work with, so much funner than Simon, and we just have a connection.  

L.A. is on the panel because, like me, we are two of the biggest hit-makers in the world right now. As important as it is to have artists on the panel, you’ve got to have people who are currently having a hit record; otherwise it’s impossible to judge these shows. I feel very secure with L.A.

On whether a potential star may emerge from the auditions:

Cowell: There are a lot of good people who came on the show this year. There is no question or doubt when you offer $5 million as a prize, you get a lot of good people. Interestingly, although they were weak last year, I think the groups are very strong this year, and particularly, the 12 to 17-year-old contestants. They’re like a whole new breed who actually haven’t even been brought up on these talent shows before. They’ve been influenced by what they see on YouTube, social networking, and stuff like that. They’ve brought something very interesting to the show.  It’s very, very competitive this year. Right from the get-go, you’re going to see some amazing people in the first episode.

On the other tweaks to the second season:

Cowell: The headlines are that we’ve allowed the audience to see even more of the audition process than what they’ve seen before. There is a lot of stuff backstage. You’re definitely seeing more of how the contestants interact with each other, how they prepare for the auditions, and in the case of the first audition, there is a lot of [action] that happens behind the scenes, which you don’t normally see. I found it fascinating to watch because this is the first time, even though I’ve done this a long time, I genuinely believe I know what it’s like to be a contestant on this show. I found it fascinating. There is a lot more reality than we’ve ever shown before. Maybe before, we showed people 60% of the process, now it feels like it’s 100%.

"The X Factor" returns to Fox on Wednesday Sept 12 at 8 p.m. ET

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