updated 10/11/2012 AT 9:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/12/2012 AT 9:10 AM ET
Britney Spears was only 16 when she shot to stardom as the bubblegum-pop star in the school-girl uniform.
But any sense of solidarity or sympathy didn’t seem to soften her judgment on The X Factor Thursday night, when Spears and fellow judge L.A. Reid were tasked with trimming their six-member teams, teen and older-than-25 years old competitors, respectively, into four.
Joined by rapper Will.i.am at her Malibu house, Spears kept it real. After Justin Bieber lookalike Reed Deming, 13, belted out a stripped-down version of the Plain White T’s 2006 single “Hey There Delilah” – a little classic rock, when you factor in his age – the freshly minted judge snipped, “I think he could deliver a little bit better than he did.” (Of course, she has already been recognized for her tough-as-nails touch at the judges’ table.)