Interview: Simon Cowell Chats THE X FACTOR Season 2
Simon Cowell is an A&R executive, producer and star of some of the highest-rated television shows in the world. His discerning eye for talent and his candid remarks have made him a household name. In 2002, he founded his U.K.-based media and entertainment Production Company, Syco, which became a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment in 2010. Syco’s television and music assets include the global TV franchises “The X Factor” and “Got Talent,” as well as International Artists such as One Direction, Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle, Il Divo, Cher Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson and Labrinth. Cowell has worked with artists who have sold more than 300 million records worldwide.
The X FACTOR judge spoke to reporters on Tuesday about co-judges, new hosts and what to expect on upcoming episodes of the FOX singing competition.
I know a lot of people were skeptical about Britney as a judge. How have you found her as a judge and a mentor so far?
I’m glad we started with started with that question actually because I think she’s been a lot better than everybody thought. She’s very engaged. I was with her yesterday and she’s very, very into her contestants. She thinks she can win the competition.
I don’t know what she’s going to be like on a live show because we haven’t done one yet and it’s a very, very different setup than the auditions because at this point, the judges are competing with each other because we’re all mentoring our own acts. So, I don’t know how she’s going to cope with that part, but I think she’s excited about the shows. She has been, I think, a very, very good judge.
I was just wondering not just for the Groups category but overall, who do you think are the strongest contestants going into the round of 16?
Well the groups are a million times better than last year and I’ve had a lot of success with groups over the years. Some of them I could really, really see having a big future outside this competition and that will be witnessed tomorrow. I mean one group in particular are just off the charts tomorrow night.
The rest of the competition—obviously, Britney’s category, which is the Young Teens, are really, really strong and they’re going to be popular. They’re going to get a lot of votes. I think Debbie’s got a good category, but I’m not sure she’s got a winner. Maybe one girl has a shot; Janelle I think her name is, who I really, really like. She could be a little bit of a dark horse and Ellie, no chance whatsoever.
Are you surprised at the chemistry that’s been fostered between the groups that were assembled by the judges?
Not really. I mean like I said, I’ve done this so many times. I mean the last time, I did it with One Direction and my job is that you try and look for chemistry, encourage it when it happens, but these girls have done really, really well and they’ve become really popular over the last few weeks. So, I have a lot of confidence in them.
Do you feel when the contestants stay in a house together they do become closer as a group when they have to perform?
Yes and no. I mean I think they all end up getting on each other’s nerves. Some people Will Bond; the others will do the opposite, but I think it’s easier for us to have them all in one place when we’re going up to mentor them. There are facilities there and it kind of works as a rehearsal room, but they just got to get on with it. If they don’t like each other, concentrate on the competition like I said and then after they leave the competition they can bite each other as long as they want.
How do you feel Khloe is going to cope with her first days of hosting?
Well, it’s been a problem because we brought the show forward a days. So, that’s one less day’s rehearsal. So, she’s going to have nerves of steel when she goes in there tomorrow, but my attitude is we could have prerecorded it, which I think would have made it boring. On live TV things do go wrong and that’s probably one of the reasons why we always go live. I kind of like to see the unpredictable and I quite like seeing people under pressure and just how they deal with it. You don’t want robots. You want human beings.
The meeting I had with her and Mario when very well. They seem to have good chemistry. She’s really looking forward to doing this; wants to prove a point and I think they’re going to be fun together.
Do you anticipate former contestants from last year like Josh and Melanie will make appearances this year and perform on the show?
Yes, a couple of them will over the next few weeks, definitely.
You mentioned that Khloe has a point to prove in being the cohost this season. Can you explain?
Yes. I saw quite a number of knocking articles saying, “What are you thinking? Why should she be a host?” I mean she’s had a lot of positive press, but I think she’s had her doubters. I think she wants to prove anyone who doubter her that she’s capable of doing the job.
I’ve got to tell you, and I don’t know her well, but when she came over to my house the other day, I mean she really has got a fun personality. I think she gets what her role is. I think she’s there to be a voice for the contestants and to have fun with it. When you want to go off script I mean I always think that’s more fun rather than someone just reading off a teleprompter or what we call an auto queue.
I think you’ll find that she speaks her mind.
You know what? I think you’re right and she certainly did the first time I met her. But, I encourage that. I like that. They’re there to have opinions and I think it was lacking last season. The host, he didn’t seem to have an opinion on any of the performances and I think it’s important with hosts that they are allowed to pitch in as well as the judges. If they disagree with the judges, they’re entitled to say something.
I just wanted to get your comment on what some of the critics are saying - that singing competition shows are becoming more about the judges than the contestants.
I mean these shows can only work on these live aspects if you’ve got good and engaging contestants. If it has to rely on the judges, you’ve got a real problem. I can remember the first year I did a show in America, I mean all I remember from that show was the fact that Kelly Clarkson won and that, to me, obviously was the most important part. Maybe in the early parts of the show, on the auditions, the judges have a little bit more to do, but when it comes to live shows, it’s 90% about the contestants.
As a viewer, you’ve got to believe that you’re watching someone who not only could win the competition, but potentially could be a star. That’s the exciting part about watching these live shows. Like I said, I’ve been down to some of the rehearsals. I think people are going to get blown away by the talent this year. It’s so much better than what we did last year.
I was wondering if there were any plans for Britany to do any performances on the show.
Britnay; I’m going to push as much as possible for her to do something on the final and I think she’ll probably do it.
Why did you want two hosts over one this year?