'X Factor' Season 3 Preview: Better Than Expected

The U.S. X Factor has had a few troubles in its two short seasons. Round 1 was forgettable (aside from the single moment in which Nicole Sherzinger's decision made a talented child cry on national television) and Round 2 failed to really make an impression aside from Britney Spears' ability to contort her face in disapproval, but perhaps the third time's the charm.

Now, I've only screened the first round of Season 3's auditions, but one thing is for sure: the chemistry at the judges table is actually there this season. Oh yes, life can exist among the Pepsi-sponsored beverages. Without Britney "That was amazing" Spears and L.A. "I'm not going to be Randy Jackson" Reid, Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell are left to rule the roost. But throughout the course of Wednesday night's episode, something wonderful happens: Cowell is no longer the king of the castle. Sure, being that it's his show, much of the focus is placed on him through the magic of editing, but it's clear that the three ladies to his right are going to be the spice of Season 3.

From Kelly Rowland's specific, yet emotional responses to great performances to Paulina Rubio's playful antics when the producers throw the judges a clear goof-audition, these ladies get it. They know how to be reality judges — without the Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey-brand fireworks that gave lady judges such a bad name on Season 12 of American Idol. (Shocker: famous divas can get along on stage without wanting to kill each other. )

But what else can we look forward to on this all-new season of The X Factor?

  • One genuinely surprising powerhouse contestant: Seriously, get the tissues ready, because Idol winner Candice Glover's not the only reality show star who'll sing you right into a puddle of your own tears.
  • The return of "pitchy": Duhn-duhn-duhhhhn. Randy Jackson's infamous nonsense word is back on television courtesy of new judge Rubio, but at least Demi, Kelly, and Simon know the error of her ways. Plus, the ease with which she used that ridiculous non-word just means she's done her reality TV homework ... even if she misread this particular lesson.
  • Simon is kind of a softie: Without spoiling the specific audition that turns Simon into a teddy bear, just know that the typically stony judge becomes a pile of mush for one inspiring young singer. Warning: you may actually have the urge to hug him.
  • Kelly Rowland is bringing it style-wise: While I love Paulina's sweet disposition already, her wardrobe isn't exactly winning me over. (There is a giant, purple hat involved at one point.) Kelly, on the other hand, pulls it out every single time. Great hair, fantastic dresses, and when she dresses down, she's still rocking trends with a leather baseball cap and floral jacket. Be still, my stylish heart.

Season 3 of The X Factor premieres Wednesday night at 8 PM on Fox.