X Factor

'X Factor's' Nicole Scherzinger needs to stop playing it safe

Nov. 29, 2011 at 9:05 AM ET

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"The X Factor" has fairly decent judges in L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. But Nicole Scherzinger, second from left, not so much.

Dear Nicole,

I’m writing to you as a public service on behalf of everyone who watches “X Factor.” I genuinely like the show, but I’m worried about it because right now you’re dragging it down single-handedly.

You’re a judge and a mentor of the over-30s, but as of now, you’re mostly just taking up space. We’re two months into “X Factor” and I can’t remember a single thing you’ve said. You rarely have anything to say when judging others, nor do you seem to have the same personality from day to day. One week you're headbanging to a Josh Krajcik song, and the next you're sitting there demurely like a soccer mom.

Here's the problem: Right now, you have no identity as a judge. You're not critical.  You're not entertaining. You're not funny. You're never going to out-flake co-judge Paula Abdul. You had that little made-for-TV feud with Simon Cowell going on for a few episodes, but he’s moved on to L.A. Reid now. You’re just bland and boring.

I know that you may be feeling some pressure. You weren't the first choice as a judge, and I wish they had stuck with the original plan, both because I liked Cheryl Cole and because you would have probably helped Steve Jones to be less stiff as a host. Maybe that’s what’s causing you to react by playing it safe.

It’s disappointing, mostly because I’ve seen you sing. When you’re onstage with the dancers behind you and the audience in front of you, you project total confidence and attitude. In addition, you, more than anyone else on the show, know what it takes to make it in the music business as a manufactured superstar and how hard it is to build on that initial burst of recognition once the show goes away. You’re an original “Popstar,” for crying out loud, even if few remember Eden’s Crush. You’re a Pussycat Doll.

But when you’re behind the podium, you look like you’re petrified to say anything mean or to make a mistake. And you need to stop behaving like that.

So do the contestants a favor: Be honest with them. Tell Drew that she’s got to do something to bring the show’s energy up every now and then instead of sticking with the teen angst ballads every week. Inform Rachel Crow that she needs to add a little edginess to her personality if she wants to avoid being labeled as a Disney Channel singer. Figure out if Chris Rene is a one-hit wonder with “Young Homie” or if he’s got something else in the tank. Stop treating the hopefuls like precious flowers who will wither and die if criticized, and start telling them what they need to do to succeed.

At the very least, do something besides sit there and offer meaningless platitudes every week. The audience needs more, the contestants need more, and you probably need more if you want to come back next season.

Sincerely,

Craig

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