Spears is embracing her new role as judge and abandoning her demure persona by being completely blunt with contestants

By James Hibberd
Updated June 29, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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One word to describe Britney Spears as an X Factor judge? Blunt. Sources say the former pop princess was nervous and timid at the start of the Fox show’s nationwide audition tour. But that sure changed fast. Factor‘s $15 million-a-year new hire has become downright direct as she’s grown more accustomed to critiquing wannabe talent — especially with several performers who boldly attempted to impress the judging panel with Spears’ own songs. ”She gets right to the point and, though she’s not as chatty as [fellow new judge] Demi [Lovato], she explains her decisions,” says a source familiar with the auditions. ”She is rarely on the fence — she either loves or hates someone, and you can tell she makes up her mind on them fast.” Three cities into the tour for Factor‘s second season, which premieres Sept. 12, Spears has favored singers who are visually exciting and give charismatic performances rather than those who just have a strong voice. (Her favorite dismissal: ”Too boring.”) She’ll sometimes add critiques of nonvocal performance factors, such as stage presence or dancing, and especially seems to connect with contestants who are braving the spotlight at a young age like she did. ”She’s looking for that spark, that enthusiasm,” the source says. ”If somebody doesn’t have the greatest voice but has a lot of other things going for them, she won’t rule them out.” She and Lovato have even persuaded the show’s other judges — Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid — to support some of their favorite contestants. But other times Britney just hits them, baby: ”I feel like you look like a tennis player,” she told one contestant, ”and should take up a sport or a different occupation.”

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The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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