By Hillary Busis
September 10, 2012 at 02:21 PM EDT
Ray Mickshaw/Fox
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Britney Spears is not that innocent — and not that nice to aspiring singers. “She’s very unpredictable,” Simon Cowell recently told reporters during a conference call. “She has taken this very seriously and she’s surprisingly quite mean.”

Wait a minute — sweet, wide-eyed Brit-Brit is going to be more of a Simon than a Paula (or, shudder, a Nicole Scherzinger)? Apparently, according to Cowell: “In the past we’ve had judges that never say no. She can’t say no quick enough on this show. She’s quite difficult to please,” he said, repeating what he told EW’s Dave Karger earlier this month. And this is from the guy who once told an American Idol contestant, “If you had lived 2,000 years ago and sung like that, I think they would have stoned you.”

But don’t take Simon’s word for it.  Early X Factor promos and buzz have also painted Spears as a harsh critic. During one audition, she apparently raised her hand to stop a singer before calmly quipping, “You can’t destroy that song, sweetie.” During another, she tried to let a subpar performer down easy: “I’m sorry, sweetie, but you have to be great to be on this show.” Between the “sweeties,” the smiles, and the cutting remarks, I’d say Britney is trying for a GCB-type persona — minus the cancellation, of course.

For the record, Cowell says that Spears’ fellow new judge Demi Lovato is also a bit of a spark plug. During the conference call, he compared the pair to “two racehorses who are very talented but very difficult to control.” Yes — but who would win the dressage event? (It’d obviously be Britney-pony in a plaid horse kilt.)

Read more:

‘The X Factor’ vs. ‘The Voice’: Which gets your vote? POLL

‘The X Factor’ promo: Demi Lovato insulted by contestant

Enrique Iglesias offered ‘American Idol’ judges spot — EXCLUSIVE

Episode Recaps

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