It was the moment that “X Factor” fans were waiting for. Wednesday night’s first live show promised proof of whether new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato were ready for prime time, or if the latest bold-name reality singing show panelists only give great TV in the editing room.
And the early verdict after the two-hour performance show was … yes and no.
MTV News spoke to a pair of “Factor” experts to judge Britney and Demi and the reviews were mixed, though both agreed that Spears was taking home a pretty hefty paycheck compared to the Dr. Seuss-level amount of words she expended on the show.
“Demi impressed me and I thought she was really sassy in a relatable way,” said Shirley Halperin, music editor for the Hollywood Reporter. “It was so nice to hear an honest-to-goodness opinion after two seasons of J.Lo and Steven Tyler [on 'American Idol'], who didn’t say much. It was weirdly refreshing and she seemed like a real person, which I could not say of Britney, who seemed a little bit like a robot.”
Though she didn’t offer the kind of detailed, impassioned comments that Lovato did, Halperin said Spears held her own and didn’t go off the rails (as some had feared the highly sheltered singer might) in her first live TV gig. “It wasn’t a big train wreck by any means, but she didn’t really say much. You could easily count the total number of words she said, which was around 50 and she’s getting paid $15 million!”
If anything, Spears’ live debut was a bit anticlimactic for Halperin, who thought that some of the low energy on Spears’ part may have come from the show being moved up one day due to the World Series finishing early and the singer being not quite ready for the live shows.
“Factor” blogger MJ Santilli said both women distinguished themselves by making bad song choices for their charges, but that Spears’ miscues seemed to point out her lack of musical wisdom. “When Britney went outside of her genre you could tell she didn’t have a lot of musical knowledge and her picks were mostly terrible,” she said of choices that included a Train song for soul sister Diamond White and a sleepy Jason Mraz number for Adele-like singer Beatrice Miller.
“Britney pretty much said something was amazing, or that it was boring, which was not very illuminating,” said Santilli. “She was just kind of wooden and making faces … and not very engaged.”
She thought Lovato, who gamely mixed it up with Simon Cowell and wasn’t afraid to offer some unpopular opinions, was better, but might have also suffered from some first-night jitters. “She was not as thoughtful as she was when I saw her live [during auditions] in Providence,” she said.
Neither thought Spears (or Lovato) were going to give the show the kind of ratings boost some at Fox may have been hoping for. Though “Factor” scored 7.4 million viewers on the traditionally slow Halloween night, the 2.7 rating with adults 18-49 was up from last week’s special telecast, but a 22 percent drop for the previous Wednesday episode on October 11, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
She may not boost the ratings in the way Cowell intended, but, if nothing else, Halperin said the move to “Factor” is a personal boost for Spears. “I think the show is good for her career, but she’s not necessarily all that great for the show,” she said. “It’s normalized her and makes her a bit more accessible than she’s been the last six years and does a lot for her PR, but does it help the ‘X Factor’ become a more watchable or talked about show? I don’t think so.”
It’s obviously very early in the game to paint either judge as a success or failure, but based on Wednesday’s show, Santilli put it even more succinctly: “If Britney is not awesome or a train wreck, forget it,” she said.
What did you think of Britney and Demi on “X Factor” Wednesday night? Did they kill it, or did they bomb? Let us know in comments below.