News that Simon Cowell has tapped R&B singer Kelly Rowland and Latin superstar Paulina Rubio to join him as judges on Season 3 of “The X Factor” doesn't come as a surprise. Along with dozens of others, their names had been floated around for some time as potential replacements for Britney Spears and L.A. Reid.
Neither new judge generates the sort of fanfare that came with snagging Spears, but that’s not a bad thing. “X Factor” has already gone through a handful of judges, with Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and Cheryl Cole having done short bids.
Rowland and Rubio also don't come with the sort of baggage of previous judges (Spears' uncertain stability, Abdul's "Idol" past), and that's what "X Factor" needs now more than ever.
But Rowland and Rubio don’t just come with industry cred, they also have serious judging experience. Rowland previously served as a judge on the eighth season of the more successful British version of “The X Factor,” and Rubio judged "The Voice Mexico" last year and is currently judging "La Voz Kids," a Spanish version of "The Voice" for children.
"The X Factor" has failed to reach the high mark that Cowell set when he walked away from “American Idol” to bring his successful British singing competition to U.S. audiences (“Idol,” pale ratings aside, still trumps it), and the show is largely seen as being on life support.
So what will Rowland and Rubio bring to “The X Factor” this fall?
The Latin superstar isn’t quite a household name for American viewers, but the 41-year-old has been in the industry for most of her life. As with Rowland, she came from a teen-pop group, and then went on to find a bounty of solo success, selling more than 20 million records internationally, so she knows a thing or two about reaching a global market.
Having Rubio on board gives “X Factor” some much needed cred with a demographic that’s been strangely underserved on these types of competitions, but in recent years have seen crossover megastars such as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira flourish. Also, Rubio’s experience with young talent on "La Voz Kids” will be a bonus, given that “X Factor” has the lowest age limit of both “Idol” and “The Voice.”
Each show needs a diva, and Rowland will fill that role nicely. She spent half her life in one of the biggest girl groups of all time, Destiny’s Child, and has the Grammys and platinum plaques to back up whatever advice she doles out. Her solo career isn’t too shabby either.
With Destiny’s Child, Rowland was trained to straddle both R&B and pop seamlessly, and her solo work has jumped across genres. She plunged into the Europop world with her David Guetta collaboration, "When Love Takes Over," which helped usher in a wave of urban acts flirting with EDM textures.
And if she needs some help mentoring, Rowland is the only judge who has Beyoncé on speed dial.