Five Things to Know About Season 2 of ‘The X Factor’

The X Factor (FOX)

Is three nights in a row of blind auditions on “The Voice” too many? Simon Cowell sure hopes so. Tonight, the Season 2 premiere of his “X Factor” faces off against a third night of “The Voice”’s debut week—a last-minute addition to the NBC lineup.

DVR the Premiere of “The X Factor”

“I think it’s mean-spirited, and I hope and I pray that it backfires on them,” said Cowell, the “X Factor” creator, “because this is one of the best shows we’ve ever made.”

What’s so great about the new season of the “X Factor” you ask? A judge’s panel reshuffling and lots of backstage drama are only part of the story. “The show looks different to anything else we’ve ever made before,” Cowell asserted.

Here are five changes the singing competition has in store this season to keep us tuning in to the “X Factor”—while DVRing “The Voice,” of course.

The Judges: Melanie Amaro didn’t have time to cash her $5 million check before Simon Cowell fired co-judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul, and replaced them with Demi Lovato and pop royalty Britney Spears. With these two, “The X Factor” reaches teens and tweens and the older folks who danced to Brit in high school. Plus, the addition of Britney Spears makes for a juicy competition with her former “Mickey Mouse Club” co-star Christina Aguilera, who is coaching her own team of singers over on “The Voice.”

Preview “The X Factor”:

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Commentary Gets Meaner: Simon Cowell has fairly earned his reputation as the meanest judge in music competition television, but that title may not last much longer. Simon said Britney Spears proved to be much meaner than he ever expected. “You know how if you buy a dog, you expect it to lick you and it turns out to bite you? It was a surprise,” he told reporters on a recent conference call. Hopefully that’ll mean a tougher selection process and less sugar-coating, something all of these music shows do way too much of.

The Host(s): Word is still out on who he/she/they will be, but the new pick is bound to be better than dull and drab Steve Jones, a British import that didn’t quite bring his, well, x factor to the show last season. So far, Cowell has hinted that he will choose a male/female pair to host, and rumors have been flying that a Kardashian sister and a Jonas brother are in the running.

More Backstage Drama: Though we got to know all the rocky details about Melanie Amaro’s binational upbringing and Rachel Crow’s crackbaby past, we didn’t get to see the two of them—or any of the other contestants—interact much. That’s going to change. This season, Cowell’s promising loads more behind-the-scenes footage, showing us where the contestants live and how they get along when they are not standing at the center of very elaborate production numbers and belting. That means we’ll have more moments to grow to like the contestants as people, and maybe just maybe, vote to keep them in, and ultimately buy their record.

Groups Rise: Cowell proved that groups can do well on “The X Factor,” when he assembled the wildly popular One Direction in the UK version. In the U.S., however, the groups failed to last beyond week five last season. But with coach Paula Abdul out of the mix, Cowell said the groups this year are strong, “particularly the 12- to 17-year-old contestants.” Cowell described this batch of youngsters as “a whole new breed,” that’s been raised on social networking and YouTube videos—not on aging music competitions like Cowell’s alma mater, “American Idol.” “It’s very, very competitive this year.”

“The X Factor” premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 8/7c on Fox.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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