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Can Britney Spears handle 'The X Factor'?

Simon Cowell is banking big on Spears. But how will the tightly controlled star fare on live TV?

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It’s official. On May 14, Fox finally confirmed that Britney Spears — who, despite her recent successes, is still working to fully rebound from her public meltdown in 2007 — is indeed joining The X Factor as a judge. As she said during the big reveal to advertisers at the network’s upfronts presentation in NYC, “I’m ready to find a true star.”

Clearly Spears (who’ll take home a reported $15 million for the season) brings much-needed star power to the judging panel, which includes the show’s mastermind Simon Cowell, record producer L.A. Reid, and fellow newbie Demi Lovato. And the talent competition — after axing judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones following an overhyped debut season that drew a ho-hum average of 12.6 million viewers — is desperate for more fans in its quest to catch American Idol (averaging 19.3 million) or even The Voice (which drew 15 million last season and has helped revitalize the career of Spears’ rival and fellow ex-Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera). The pop star, 30, could deliver her millions of fans — and legions of haters, who may tune in just to watch her fail. As professional provocateur and newly minted America’s Got Talent judge Howard Stern told reporters May 10, ”I’ll tune in to see what kind of train wreck she is.” That seems to be a popular sentiment in the industry. ”If she does a great job, it’s great TV. And if she’s a hot mess, it’s great TV,” one reality-show talent rep tells EW. ”It’s a win-win.”

Ratings aside, for many, the real question is, How will the notoriously micromanaged Spears fare on live television? The singer — who remains under a conservatorship overseen by her father, Jamie Spears, and her fiancé and manager, Jason Trawick — hasn’t given an in-depth interview since her infamously messy sit-down with Matt Lauer in June 2006. (These days, she generally relies on email interviews with print publications, or brief pretaped segments with the entertainment shows.) And will she really feel comfortable critiquing others, given her modest vocal prowess? Her comments at the May 14 presentation weren’t exactly riveting or incisive. (”I am so excited about this whole experience. It’s gonna be so much fun and so different from anything I’ve ever done.”) But Camp Spears probably isn’t worried. ”There’s no person who knows better how to weather the storm, how to deal with media, how to put on a show,” says Claude Kelly, who wrote songs on Spears’ last two albums, 2008’s Circus and 2011’s Femme Fatale. As for live TV, he adds, ”People forget that Britney’s a very, very charming Southern girl.” So get ready to watch, y’all! (Additional reporting by James Hibberd, Melissa Maerz, and Lynette Rice)