Recently, Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid took time to speak about the next season of The X Factor and the upcoming auditions. As always, they were both amusing, sweet, and a pleasure to speak with.
On the rumours surrounding the new judges
Simon Cowell: Well, you know what happened, Bill, and this happened last year, there’s a load of speculation, some true, some not true. It’s true to say that a lot more people have entered the frame this year and we really waited to see who was going to contact us before we actually contacted people. We’re in that place right now, which is a good place to be in. We will meet a number of people over the next few weeks, mainly to explain to them that this is a big commitment when you do a show like this because of the mentoring aspect. But I can’t confirm or deny any of these rumours at the moment.
Jump ahead to see what else these men have to say.
On the judge’s votes and the infamous Nicole and Rachel moment
Simon: Well, I’m glad that you raised the question because essentially this sing off was really intended to save somebody who we thought should stay in the competition but just had a bad night that night. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work according to plan, in particular with Rachel, because for whatever reason they decided to take it to the public. In defence of Nicole, I don’t think she thought for one second that the public could put Rachel in the bottom, but going forward I think it’s really important that we retain this, because it adds a bit of drama to the end of the results show. And more importantly, like I said before, it is intended, we call it the Jennifer Hudson save, if this process had been in place on Idol that week Jennifer would have still remained in the competition probably. So when it’s done properly it is supposed to help the better artists.
On the future of groups in the competition
Simon: When we started the show in the U.K. it did take us a few seasons before good groups emerged, and it’s quite interesting that we’re having this conversation this week because a group who were third on X Factor U.K. in 2010 are about to literally explode in America, One Direction, and there’s even a chance that their album may debut at number one when it’s released. I think that in itself is going to start making the points that groups can do well in these competitions, and I stand by what I said at a press conference last year, I think a group can win this show. We’re trying to encourage better groups to audition. You’ll see a significant difference in the quality of the groups this year, I’m absolutely convinced of that.
On Rachel’s success and future career
Simon: It’s incredible. Bearing in mind the earlier question was really referring to the week where Rachel was kicked out, and I can remember sprinting on to the stage and saying to her, look, honestly, I genuinely believe in a weird way this is the best thing that’s ever happened to your career, which didn’t go down particularly well on that night. But a few days later it sunk in and we stuck to what we said, which was we’re going to make a commitment to you, the public are interested in you, and then along came Nickelodeon, which is such a perfect fit for her, and Columbia Records. And she is, and L.A. you’ve got to agree with this, she’s one of the most determined people I’ve ever met in my life.
L.A. Reid: You’re absolutely right. And from the very beginning we always felt that she had what it takes to become a major star, and she did have the “X” factor. Winning was difficult, but it didn’t stop the process. She’s going to still be a big star. I stand by that.
Simon: I think it’s important, and we did say this before on the show, I think it’s really important that it’s a show you have to want to win, that’s why we put the $5 million up. But at the same time I think that we did a good job in our first season of not just finding one great artist, but a number, and Rachel’s one of a few who’s going to have great careers, I think, off the back of this.
On the group One Direction and what groups need to stand out
Simon: Well, this particular group we actually put together, I made a decision that they hadn’t quite made it or weren’t really a solo artist, and the groups that year, I’ve got to admit, were terrible. And we kind of made a decision on the day that we should experiment and put these five guys together. They just felt right, the minute we had them all standing there we had a feeling this could work. But to be fair, it all came from them. They had all the ideas. They knew the kind of group they wanted to be. We gave them an awful lot of latitude. We never hyped the group or pushed it. It happened on its own momentum in America. But it does prove the point that I think we’re entering a very exciting phase again of pop music and I think One Direction will be huge this year. But importantly for the American show, it’s going to attract hopefully the next ’N Sync or the next Backstreet Boys or the next Destiny’s Child, because there are not that many groups at the moment doing well in America, and this is a massive opportunity for them, and it does separate us from the other two shows.
On having a Whitney Houston tribute episode
L.A.: I was going to recommend to you as well that we do a Whitney segment, because the music is so amazing and it’s so generational and such a challenge for singers, because the songs are so well performed. I actually think that’s really a good comment, a good idea.
Simon: I’ve got a feeling, L.A., just a hunch that you may see a Whitney tribute on The Voice and Idol before us.
L.A.: You’re probably right. You’re probably right.
Simon: In which case if we decide to do it I think we have to do it in a different way. But the important thing is that we’re going to continually pay tribute to Whitney Houston on this show, because we love her, we love her songs, and there probably won’t ever be a season where you won’t hear a Whitney song. They’re timeless.
On working with Paula Abdul again in the future
Simon: For sure. I spoke to her on the night that it was announced, and to Steve. I was going to speak to Nicole that night, but we’re on different time zones so we couldn’t actually speak ourselves. But all of them have been incredibly gracious and respectful, and I feel the same way about them, they’re friends, and there were certain reasons why the changes were made. Our shows always have had to change and evolve over the years, and this particular time it was decided to do it sooner rather than later. But it wasn’t anything negative about them. I think there are huge opportunities for us working with all of them in different areas over the years, and I’m not just saying that. I think it actually will happen.
On a super battle between The Voice, American Idol, and The X Factor
Simon: I was very disappointed with the reactions from the other two shows because I like the idea of super finals, providing the contestants were up for it from the beginning. But I thought it would be something different. They’ve both bottled it for now, but I spoke to L.A. and we’re still up for it.
L.A.: Absolutely. I think it’s a great idea, especially if it takes place on The X Factor.
Simon: I don’t know whether that’s ever going to happen or not, but it felt like it was going to be the musical Super Bowl, and I love that idea. But you know what, maybe we’ll just have to compete in the Grammys or something going forward.
L.A.: And on the charts, right?
Simon: And in the charts, yes. And also I think that we’ve got to hear from the networks, at the moment Nigel and Adam commented. I have no idea whether Fox or NBC think that it’s a good idea, and I think at the end of the day they’re the ones who will have the ultimate decision on whether this is going to happen or not.
[Note from Megan: Are you kidding me? That is the BEST idea ever. I would love to see a singing super bowl between these three shows. It would make this TV addict happy! NBC and FOX, are you listening?!]
Details on the contestants who have signed for album deals
L.A.: Melanie Amaro has signed on, Chris Rene, Josh Krajcik has a deal, right, Marcus Canty, Rachel, and Astro. This is L.A. The ones I’m personally responsible for are making great progress. And I don’t have the release dates in front of me but we just released Chris Rene’s first single, we’re about to release Marcus Canty’s single in two weeks, and we’re still recording Melanie. Melanie is a very, very important and special artist because she’s the winner of The X Factor so it’s very important that we get it right and not just rush it out for the sake of having it out. But we really want music that can stand the test of time. She’s one of the greats and we want her record to reflect that. And Astro is also recording with some great people like Farrell, he’s in Miami with Farrell and different producers like that, so we’re making a lot of progress with all of them. And again, Chris Rene’s single has already been released, and Marcus Canty’s in two weeks. It’s coming along well.
We have high expectations for them, but we don’t kid ourselves in believing that we can microwave artists and start them overnight. We’re patient enough to take the right amount of time and do this properly. Yes, they have an amazing platform with The X Factor, but they’re still recording artists that really have to saturate the world. We’re patient and we want to do it right, the same way that Simon has already done it with One Direction, who now have a top ten single in America, he did it the right way. There wasn’t a rush to do it. It was more important to do it properly. And we’re going to stick with that philosophy.
Simon: Yes, and you know what, L.A., where I completely agree with you is that the only way you make a great record sometimes is by taking time and you’ve got to find great material and you’ve got to find the right direction for the artist. You can’t just throw a record out there. We’ve made a commitment to them, we’ve invested a lot of money, and we have to try and get these artists successful all over the world. Then you know you’ve done your job properly, because you want someone from this show representing America globally. And I think it’s six artists who have been signed on, but you’ll start to see the results over the next few months.
On the motivation behind adding people with pre-existing contracts
Simon: Well, in the world we live in now, and as you know The Voice have done that, I think that we would be naïve assuming that the only great talent that you’re going to find are people who don’t have contracts. We’ve always said on this show that you’ve got to open it up to everyone, and L.A. and myself have both spoken about this, it’s got to be like the real world.
On what we can expect from the hosting
Simon: There will be two. Yes, what we’ve learned on the show is you’ve got so much information you’ve got to relay as one person now, and I think it’s almost impossible to have one person doing a hosting job. You’ve got to give out so much information now on telephone lines, the integration with the sponsors, I mean, they’re like newscasters now these hosts. It’s a much, much bigger role. I think there’s a more fun way of doing it with two people, so that they can be in different parts of the studio throughout the show, and I think that you’re going to see a very different chemistry with two people. I always wanted a boy and a girl to host the show, and I think that’s definitely going to happen now.
L.A.: It actually started, right, Simon, it actually started with Steve and Nicole, you had two hosts in the very beginning, so it’s consistent.
Simon: A hundred percent. I think it’s going to make it more interesting, and I doubt the people who we’re hiring are current hosts, they might come from a different background.
On the expectations for ratings
Simon: Well, I was misquoted. I actually said I hope we get more than two million last year, and someone added a zero. But we actually did better than expectations.
I’m kidding, by the way, though. I shot my big mouth off as usual. But I always go into this with a sense of excitement. I was coming off of a massive year in the U.K. where we had gone over 20 million and then quickly realized I should have kept my mouth shut, because the figures were good. But what normally has happened with all of the shows I’ve ever done before, for every show I’ve ever been on the shows have grown over the years, whether it’s Idol, or X Factor, or Got Talent, we started with reasonable numbers and grown, and you’re seeing the same thing with The Voice, who are doing much better in the second season than the first season, because you learn. So I absolutely expect the second season to do better than the first season, and of course we’re competitive. I’m not doing this because you want to be third or fourth, you throw everything you can to give yourself a shot at winning. And I learned a lot from last year, genuinely learned a lot. And I think we’ve learned how we can make the show better and I like the fact that it’s got very competitive now. It’s kind of exciting.
That’s all for now, but be sure to stay tuned for more news and interviews for The X Factor. I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride while they get themselves sorted out over there.