Recently I got to participate in an interview with L.A. Reid, judge and mentor on The X Factor. He discussed his mentoring process, his choices, and a few other things. I really enjoyed speaking with L.A. and look forward to seeing more of him this season. Jump ahead to read what he had to say.
On his choice of Chris Rene
L.A. Reid: Chris Rene has been one of the most popular contestants on this show thus far. So, the only thing that was difficult was the fact that my category had so many guys that I really liked and some really incredible talent, and just narrowing it down to four was a very tough thing.
You know, he has a very unique talent. Chris is somewhere between a singer and almost like a sing rapper. I don’t know what the right word is for it, but he really just has to nail the material. He has to find the right material and then he has to give a compelling performance—a really competitive and compelling performance. If he gets into the moment and he really feels comfortable with the material as he did with his own material when he did his initial audition—if he finds that same comfort with the material that he’ll do on the show, then he’s going to be fine.
Chris gave us his word that he would stay straight. I’m going to take him at his word. When I see him, he looks amazing, and every time I see him he looks even improved from the time before, so whatever he is doing in his own time, it looks like it’s working and I have faith in Chris. I think that he’s going to really emerge as an amazing star and also, a man that we can be proud of who does have the strength to overcome his illness, and the disease he calls ‘addiction.’
L.A.: Well, first of all, I like Dexter a lot, and I respect Nicole’s decision to put Dexter through. Dexter is clearly an artist, a performer, and in this case, a contestant who’s gone through some very, very tough times in his life, right? I don’t think it was so much a focus on spectacle. I think it was more believing in someone and giving someone an opportunity to rebound and to really get their life on track, because he’s clearly talented and yes, he’s a showman, but I don’t think it was a decision based on spectacle. I think it was based on opening a door and giving someone an opportunity to straighten up.
On A&R departments versus televised talent searches
L.A.: That’s a really good question. The answer is that it’s an enhancement because it doesn’t replace A&R. If we look at the charts today, if we look at the most popular songs in the world today, you’ll see that they are largely made up of artists that are found through traditional sources, right? And yet, we do have some talent that is developed from TV reality contests, but for the most part, it hasn’t changed much.
The good news is that between The X Factor and other talent competitions and things like YouTube, we now have more resources for talent, and as a record executive, what we’re looking for are more opportunities to discover talent. So, for us, it’s only an enhancement, but clearly not a replacement.
On song selection
L.A.: Well, we spend a considerable amount of time going through material and trying to find things that we think are sometimes a fit for the contestant, and sometimes a stretch for the contestant, because in the traditional world of records, when artists are selecting material or when we as record executives are selecting material for them, it may not always be their comfort zone and there are times when we’ve forced them to stretch that they’ve actually had their biggest successes. We spend a considerable amount of time going through material and trying different versions of it, different variations on it.
What we try not to do is to just simply do karaoke. Right? But, we do spend a considerable amount of time on material. I love music and I love song, so the most difficult thing is I have about 30,000 songs that I go through to try to find—it’s insane. I make myself crazy.
On his contestants
L.A.: Why do I think they have the potential to win? Well, I think that my guys are very unique. I think, as an example, Astro being a 15-year-old rapper who entered the competition doing original material, as far as I know, now I could be wrong, but I think that’s a very unique approach and it may be a first. So, I like his uniqueness. Phillip Lomax—for a guy to be 22 years old, and to have been so influenced by an era of Frank Sinatra and others, I find that pretty fascinating. So, I think he is a very unique guy and he has a great shot. Marcus Canty is just a great singer. All I can tell you is that Marcus is a great singer, and ultimately I’m moved by talent and I really love his talent. And, Chris Rene, who is arguably the most popular contestant in the competition, is just really special and also entered the competition with original material and has this style that’s somewhere between singing and rapping. He’s just a really special guy and a really lovable guy with an interesting voice and an interesting story. So, I feel really good about the contestants and the guys in my category.
Now, I will say that there were people in other categories that I loved equally and, some of them I wish I had, I have to tell you.
On who is going to win
L.A.: Who’s going to—I don’t know who’s going to win. I wish I knew who’s going to win. I have no idea. We have 17 contestants, 17, right and we are long ways from knowing who’s going to win. Seventeen may sound like a small number, but that’s a lot of people and a lot of opportunities and a lot of performances and a lot of decisions, and it’s going to be really tough. I just hope that it comes out of my category whoever wins.
Again, chatting with L.A. Reid was fun and informative. Be sure to tune in to The X Factor on FOX this Tuesday at 8/7c, and then on its regular days of Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning next week.