Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
May 22, 2012
Reality show singing competitions may have originated back in the late ’90s (anyone else remember Say What? Karaoke and Making the Band?), but they have never been bigger than right now. American Idol crowned Kelly Clarkson its first winner 10 years ago, and the show’s Wednesday and Thursday episodes are still the second- and fourth-highest-rated hours on TV today, respectively. Idol’s biggest rival, The Voice comes in only slightly behind.
Seeing how popular these programs are, it only makes sense that other entertainment figures are trying to cash in. Jennifer Lopez revitalized her entire career when she became an Idol judge last season. Maroon 5’s Adam Levine saw similarly increased album sales when he became a judge on The Voice, and even Christina Aguilera, who hasn’t released any music of her own since starting on that show, scored a top-10 single as a featured vocalist on Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” It was her first hit in four years.
Becoming a reality TV judge used to be a career move for older stars like Paula Abdul or Lopez, who were looking to reach a younger audience. More recently, however, it has become a viable path for pop singers who are at the peaks of their careers.
On May 14, X Factor creator and judge Simon Cowell announced that Britney Spears and Demi Lovato would replace season one judges Nicole Scherzinger (of The Pussycat Dolls) and Abdul. Cowell and the other continuing judge, music mogul L.A. Reid, brought Spears and Lovato onto the show on May 14 to introduce them as the new judges.
We know these women can sell albums, but how will Spears and Lovato do as judges? Spears is now known more for her wild behavior than for her music, which has become more and more auto-tuned and overproduced with each album she releases. She has appeared on reality TV once before, in 2005’s Britney and Kevin: Chaotic. The show documented Spears and then-husband Kevin Federline’s bizarro and short-lived marriage. It was critically panned and lasted for less than a full month on UPN, so no great vote of confidence there.
Much less is known about Lovato, the 19-year-old former Disney Channel star. She has released three albums in the last four years, all of which reached the top four or higher on the Billboard charts. Though she hasn’t come close to Spears in terms of an image crisis, she has had a few public problems of her own. In 2010, she entered a rehab program for an eating disorder and self-harm. These issues, however, are obviously serious, and should not be fodder for public judgement the way Spears’ antics have been.
Auditions for X Factor’s second season have already begun. The season will air in September. Until then, well, let’s just hope that Lovato and Spears can stay out of trouble long enough to prove they can be as successful as the stars who have judged before them.