‘X Factor’: Seven judge-worthy divas beyond Britney Spears


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Following the bloodbath on Simon Cowell’s ‘The X Factor,’ which left first season judges Nicole Sherzinger and Paula Abdul with a pink slip, the Internet has continued to buzz over who Cowell would tap to replace the two female judge slots.

A virtual who’s who of the current pop diva landscape has been thrown into the rumor mill (Nicki Minaj!? Beyonce!? Janet Jackson!? Fergie!? Katy Perry?!), but recently online speculation has intensified that Britney Spears is nearing a reported $10 million deal to join the show and sit next to Cowell and L.A. Reid. The high profile signing would put her slightly under the $12 million that Jennifer Lopez rakes in at rivaling competition ‘American Idol.’


Whether Cowell wants to admit it, the search to find his new judges couldn’t have been an easy one. A swath of mega-selling pop divas will be busy touring this year, so Madonna, Cher, Celine Dion (she has a Vegas residency) and Jackson are automatically out. Jackson was long rumored to be in talks to take a seat, but last week she announced that despite being flattered by the attention, it was impossible for her to do the gig because of film and touring commitments. There were also reports that before her death Whitney Houston was considering throwing her name in the hat and wanted to meet with Cowell.

Not that we don’t have faith in Spears. Like Lopez and Abdul, she absolutely knows what it takes to be a successful pop star, but it’s difficult to picture her judging a singing competition. Some will argue she’s unfit to judge because of her knack for lip-syncing onstage, but the major concern lies in how Spears would hold up with offering off-the-cuff criticism and bantering with her fellow judges on a weekly basis -- on live television nonetheless.

With a formal judging announcement expected soon, Pop & Hiss offers Cowell a little bit of unsolicited advice just in case Spears falls through. Here are seven bold-named divas Cowell and Co. should consider:

Pink: She fought executive and ‘X Factor’ judge L.A. Reid tooth and nail to support her desires to switch to a more pop-rock edge after her urban-leaning debut (she proved to be right). Viewers already know the well-publicized story by now, but we hope the two of them sitting next to one another would lead to snarky bickering and a competitive spirit that would benefit the viewers and their respective artists.

Mariah Carey: Carey has remained one of the rumored talents Cowell has his eyes on. She was actually supposed to help Cowell pick his finalists last season and the multi-octave diva would be a perfect fit for the show. Unlike Sherzinger, she has the profile (and the raw talent) to back up her diva antics. Also, watch any of her QVC appearances to see how loose and lively she gets without a script.

Faith Hill: For some reason these shows routinely lean on pop stars to dole out advice, and completely miss the country market –- something “The Voice” got right. Getting a country diva could be the thing to give the show a broader appeal. Country crooners typically fare well on “Idol,’ and Hill could have polished “X Factor” country-pop outfit Lakoda Rayne a lot sooner than Abdul did. If Miranda Lambert wasn’t hitched to “Voice” judge Blake Shelton, her prowess on the charts could have made her a draw for viewers.


Shakira: One of “X Factor’s” biggest strength and weakness is dividing their categories among the judges (boys, girls, over 30 contestants and groups). Where Sherzinger got overwhelmed with her older than 30 group last season, someone as versatile as Shakira could flourish. She has a perfect stage presence, and where a great deal of acts got swallowed up by “X Factor’s” massive production values, Shakira could no doubt help contestants use the stage to their benefit.

Mary J. Blige: “Idol” viewers got a glimpse of how well Blige can nurture talent this week when she offered the contestants vocal tips, and got it right every time. Where Christina Aguilera usually lets her ego get in the way of mentoring on “The Voice,” Blige is one of the few divas who would check hers at the door.

Diana Ross: The schedule of these singing competitions is a logistical nightmare. A talent as big as Ross, however, doesn’t have to keep a rigorous touring schedule, and although she’s currently on the road now she could pair audition dates with tour commitments before settling down for the live shows. An admittedly ambitious addition to this wish list, getting a seasoned diva whom people still care about (keywords: still care about) would be another dose of credibility.

Alicia Keys: Getting someone like Keys –- a piano virtuoso, deft songwriter and Grammy darling -- would ultimately benefit the contestants. Keys seems as if she would meticulously groom the contestants into superstars and that’s always fun for the viewers at home. She’d also be able to take Cowell to task if he gets lippy, and he always does.

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-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photos, left to right: Britney Spears. Credit: Randee St Nicholas; Mariah Carey. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Pink. Credit: RCA Records