My love of Britney Jean Spears knows no bounds. I defend her against friends of friends with no regard for my personal reputation. I have used “Mmmm Papi” as evidence that she is still writing music. I have danced to her songs like no one was watching, in a crowded room no less. But I think I may have found the line. Last night, I watched the premiere of The X Factor. This is the second time I’ve watched a singing competition show in my life, the first being one of the rejects episodes of American Idol with Roommate #2 in 2007. I do not care for them. I came for Britney. I stayed for Britney. I don’t think I will go back, even for Britney.
The thing about these reality singing shows is that professional singers rarely go on them, Adam Lambert notwithstanding. The X-Factor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, et al are competitions between amateurs. I don’t mean to sound like a snob; sometimes these new singers are amazing. I have every single Kelly Clarkson album ever. But I know hundreds of trained singers who have been training and practicing and not drinking red wine for years, not to be overnight pop sensations, but because we value the craft of singing (cheesy but true). A lot of these competitors haven’t honed the discipline and stamina needed to belt out their top notes, night after night. It’s not interesting to watch people who have been practicing with hair brushes for weeks for this single audition, which is their dream. And it’s really not interesting to watch them cry.
In the real world, public singing should not ever be followed by crying. I can remember an audition for the Orlando Shakespeare Festival where I sounded and felt like I had glass in my throat. It was a painful and humiliating. I did not cry or explain that I was fat in high school. No studio executive or director cares about your backstory or how much you “want it”. If you were sitting in the audience of a concert or a show and a performer started talking about her life and then couldn’t stop crying long enough to sing, you would be pissed. I mean, maybe you would be into it; I don’t know your life. Victims overcoming nebulous past hardships make great TV, but if I had been bullied and tormented in school, my parents wouldn’t have put me on a national stage to sing a song and cry about my problems. They would have gotten me to a therapist.
Last night was a triumph for Britney and her adoring fans. She was sharp and honest. She was well-spoken. Sitting next to the effusive LA Reid, the Botoxed-at-nineteen Demi Lovato, and the creepy dad at Demi Lovato’s bff’s sleepover Simon Cowell, she shone like the American Pop Icon she has always been. If it weren’t for all the singers in the singing competition, the show would have been perfect.