Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato talk about the new season of 'The X Factor'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/10/2012
After crowning its first-season champion, powerhouse singer Melanie Amaro, last season, The X Factor will be returning for a second season on Wednesday night.
While Fox's debut of The X Factor's second season is going to air directly against The Voice's third-season premiere -- which is running over the course of three nights this week, starting tonight -- creator and judge Simon Cowell is confident his show will be a success and come out ontop, especially considering his new panel of judges includes pop icon Britney Spears and singer Demi Lovato.
During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Simon and Demi discussed what viewers can anticipate with the return of Simon's hit reality singing competition and talked about all the hype surrounding the show -- including how Simon found Demi "annoying" in an endearing way while filming the auditions, which qualities Simon's looking for in a new host or co-hosts, why he believes his contestants fare better in the music industry than the winners who come out of The X Factor's competitors, and why he's so sure the second-season of his show will clean up in the ratings.
Below is the first half of Simon and Demi's call with reporters. Check back with Reality TV World on Wednesday for the concluding portion.
I imagine that you guys have run into each other in the course of time, but when it came time to work with one another, what were your first impressions of one another? Is there a moment from the first day, or even that first week, on the set that stands out for you guys?
Simon Cowell: My first recollection was Demi saying to me, "You're much better looking in real life."
Demi Lovato: Of course, of course. I totally said that.
Simon Cowell: I thought she was very confident, very bright, then became quite annoying, but knew what she was talking about.
The show is premiering on TV in just a few days, but you have yet to announce who the host or hosts is/are going to be. Are you ready to make an announcement yet?
Simon Cowell: Not yet, no. We've screen-tested a load of people, but the audition shows don't have any hosts. We've got about three or four weeks, but I think we're going to make a decision in about the next seven days.
Demi, you've come out and spoken about how bullying has affected you. How, in your judging, have you been careful not to cross that border into bullying territory when giving people some negative comments?
Demi Lovato: I think bullying is something that's totally different than criticism. Bullying, I think, can be when you're just harsh really for no reason. I feel when you're giving criticism, you're only trying to help somebody with their performance or their voice or whatever. I think definitely there could be a fine line between some jokes, but for me, ultimately, I'm just having fun and trying to give them criticism.
I know that you have not selected a host yet, and Simon, you just said that you've screen-tested some people. Who is in the running at this point?
Simon Cowell: Quite a few people -- people who are hosts, people who are actors. My gut feeling is we'll probably go with a boy and a girl who haven't had any hosting experience, because I think that might make it more interesting.
So you definitely want to go with a pair, not just one host?
Simon Cowell: You know what? There is so much talking on these shows now. We've worked out -- it's something like 11 or 12 minutes over a two-hour show.
It's just too boring, as [American Idol host Ryan Seacrest] demonstrated, for one person just to say everything. I think you've got to mix it up a little bit. The idea is -- and then you've got to find people with good chemistry as well. I kind of know what we're looking for, but that's why we've screen-tested some people.
The X Factor and The Voice will be airing on the same night [during their premiere weeks]. With Britney Spears seeming to be pitted against Christina Aguilera, we were wondering why your show is going to clean up in the ratings, especially with new judges like Britney and Demi, of course?
Simon Cowell: Let me answer that, if I may, Demi. First of all, I've seen the first show. I think it's sensational. I think the girls do a great job. The contestants are great. The show looks different to anything else we've ever made before. I think this is the reason why NBC decided to put The Voice up against us.
It is a spoiling tactic and it's very simple, they don't want people to see this first episode. I think it's mean-spirited and I hope and I pray that it backfires on them because this is one of the best shows we've ever made. I am [pissed] off about it because I think there is kind of a gentlemen's agreement, but you have to rely that the viewers will make the right selection.
I think three nights in a row is too much. I think there is a lot of interest, rightly so, in our show because of Britney, Demi, the way the show is going to look. We're going to see what happens. But I've learned, don't make any predictions.
How did you guys react when Christina came out and said that she doesn't know what Britney will be able to offerThe X Factor? What do you say to critics like her?
Simon Cowell: ... to watch the show. She might learn something.
What's your response, Demi?
Demi Lovato: I think the whole situation is, there is a little ice there, and I don't know why they would do that. But you know, ultimately, it's about finding a superstar and giving people the chance to win a huge prize of $5 million. That's all that I really care about. I'm honored to be on the panel, let alone on a TV show, especially having a job in this economy. It's amazing. That's all I'm focusing on right now.
Because the other two judges on the panel aren't here, I think it's the perfect time to get both of your critiques on them and their performance as judges so far on this season.
Demi Lovato: Yes. [L.A. Reid] and Britney are so amazing. I feel like they are doing just a great job, especially Britney. I feel like the world hasn't really gotten a chance to see her personality over the past couple of years and now this is the perfect opportunity for people to really see the light inside of her just shine.
She's very witty and funny and quirky and I just have such a good time working with her. L.A. is so much fun to work with, so much funner than Simon, and we just have...
Simon Cowell: I think Britney is a fascinating person because you just don't know anything about her. She's very unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen. She has taken this very seriously and she's surprisingly quite mean. In the past, we've had judges who never say no.
She can't say no quick enough on this show. She's quite difficult to please, but she's a fascinating person and I've gotten to like her a lot. L.A. is on the panel because, like me, we are two of the biggest hit-makers in the world right now. As important as it is to have artists on the panel, you've got to have people who are currently having a hit record.
Otherwise, it's impossible to judge these shows. I feel very secure with L.A. But he's [mad at] me this year because last year, he had Justin Bieber. This year, I've got One Direction, so there is a lot of competition between the two of us. But it's a very well-balanced panel I think.
On the topic of The Voice versus The X Factor, [The Voice executive producer] Mark Burnett is saying that it didn't enter his mind at all the fact that it was going go up against you all. Do you believe that at all?
Simon Cowell: Give me a break. Like I don't know when my show is going out next week. Like I said, it's tactical. But it's very important to get this message out -- they don't want you to watch this show. I think it's going to backfire.
Do you think you found a marketable star in auditions? Do you have that lightning-in-a-bottle effect like you had with first-season singer and rapper Chris Rene?
Simon Cowell: There are a lot of good people who came on the show this year. There is no question or doubt when you offer $5 million as a prize, you get a lot of good people. Interestingly, although they were weak last year, I think the groups are very strong this year, and particularly, the 12 to 17-year-old contestants.
They're like a whole new breed who actually haven't even been brought up on these talent shows before. They've been influenced by what they see on YouTube, social networking, and stuff like that. They've brought something very interesting to the show. It's very, very competitive this year. Right from the get-go, you're going to see some amazing people in the first episode.
Simon, last season, I kind of noticed you and Nicole Scherzinger would go back and forth, but I'm curious -- based on the previews -- it looks like you and Demi go at it a little bit back and forth. Tell me how that rapport built itself to that point where you guys were able to be playful and give each other a hard time?
Simon Cowell: I have a habit of working with annoying people, and Demi has definitely brought that again this year in spades, in bucket loads. But that's kind of what I expected.
When I saw Demi a couple of years ago, I thought she'd be interesting to work with because of what she's been through, coming through the whole Disney system, being a bit of a rebel, very marketable artist. People like that are always going to be what I call, "lippy."
We have different views on the contestants, but I thought it was important since a lot of the contestants are young and that we have a very young audience, that we have to have somebody closer to that age group. But if I'm comfortable with somebody, then you can argue with them. So I'm obviously very comfortable with Demi.
Simon, tell me a little bit about how you describe the chemistry of the judges' panel this year now that you have Demi and Britney instead of Paula Abdul and Nicole. How does it feel for you?
Simon Cowell: Both of these two, they're like having two [people] who are very talented but difficult to control. We have no control over these two whatsoever and there are many, many times where we disagree, but that's probably what's made it more interesting this year.
They're both unpredictable, both have different views, strong views. It made every day interesting. To be fair to them, the effect they had on the audience when they both walked in was just staggering. I've never seen anything like it. I think the contestants were excited by them, so it's been fun overall.
How do you feel about last year's contestants and how they've done compared to, say, The Voice contestants? It seems like your contestants have gotten a lot more -- they've been out there a heck of a lot more in my mind.
Simon Cowell: I've learned over the years, because I've done these shows for a long time, whether it's One Direction, or Cher Lloyd, or Susan Boyle, or Leona Lewis, you've got to take your time making the record. You can't rush anything out.
Importantly, you just have to make a great album and that's what we're doing at the moment with Melanie. I think she's a great artist and I've heard some of the future cuts. They sound incredible.
It's always our aim, like we've done with One Direction, it's not just to have a hit record off the back of a show, it's launching an artist worldwide to compete with everybody else out there. That's what we try to do every year when we make this show.
Above is the first half of Simon and Demi's call with reporters. Check back with Reality TV World on Wednesday for the concluding portion.