Britney Spears received the loudest, longest applause at the start of her
first taping as a judge on Fox’s The X Factor on Thursday, but it was fellow
newcomer Demi Lovato who appeared ready to steal the spotlight during
the second season of the popular talent search show. While Cowell talked to Spears off microphone between many of the
performances and asked her to lead off critiques several times in an
apparent attempt to draw her into exchanges, the
19-year-old Lovato needed no such prodding. Playfully flirting with male
contestants (“she is single now” became a common refrain from Cowell)
and giving insightful comments at every chance, the teen star drew laughs
and cheers from the crowd, along with several stunned, open-mouth
stares from Cowell as the two verbally sparred.
It was those times when the interaction between the contestants and
the judges produced the types of moments that show executives hope will
increase ratings following the ouster of first-year judges Cheryl Cole,
Nicole Scherzinger and former Idol judge Paula Abdul. Take the moment
when Cowell, 52, admitted to taking a liking to a charismatic 22 year-old
contestant, who returned his affection.
“It’s too bad we didn’t meet 10 years from now,” Cowell said with a wink
before Lovato drily countered, “More like 30 years.”
Startled and momentarily silenced, Cowell responded, “Demi, you’re going
into the naughty chair.” It was the first of at least three such utterances
on the day that Cowell lobbed at Lovato, suggesting viewers and audiences
can expect many more charged jabs between the two this season.