Simon Cowell: 'The X Factor' judges made one major mistake during Boot Camp
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/01/2012
The X Factor has closed the book on its auditions and begun its live shows, which started with last night's Top 16 acts performing for judges Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato.
On Tuesday, Cowell talked to reporters about the reality singing competition's second edition and his thoughts on some of the Top 16 acts and second-season changes -- including the addition of new judges Spears and Lovato and co-hosts Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian.
Below is the concluding portion of Cowell's call. Click here to read the first half.
Are there any plans for Britney to do any performances on the show this season?
Simon Cowell: Britney, 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.
Do you think the public holds the "Groups" category to a different standard that makes it harder to mentor than a solo singer? How do you see it?
Simon Cowell: The funny thing is, it just takes awhile for the public to know the individuals because there's a lot of them. And for some reason, groups don't come in with the same level of sort of sob stories as the solo artists. But, like I said, I think that is going to change this year.
The difficulty I've got with one group, Sister C, is that they find it really difficult to do interviews and they come over as a bit arrogant, but in real life they're not. They're actually very sweet girls, but I've told them, "If people don't like you, no matter how well you sing, you're not going to last long in a competition like this."
Because there is a likeability factor when you're on these shows and you've got to learn how to do it. You've gotta show who you really are and hope people like you. Because as singers, they're really, really good and I want them to do well. But, that's the problem. That is a good point to pick up on.
Can you talk a bit about why you wanted two hosts over one this year?
Simon Cowell: The very first show I ever did on TV was the British version of American Idol, and we had two hosts. It was so much fun and I always think with two hosts, they just [have someone] to rely on. We've worked out -- there's so much talking one host has to do on these live shows in terms of voting information, sponsor information.
So, we thought it would be more fun for the viewer to split it up so you're not hearing the same person talk and talk and talk, but we're going to find out very soon whether it was a good idea or a terrible idea.
Just getting back to Khloe and Mario, you mentioned that you're splitting up what they'll be saying on the show. Will their other hosting duties also be split up, maybe see one of them backstage with the contestants or something?
Simon Cowell: Yes, where we think it's appropriate, and that could be particularly on the voting shows. But it might be more effective to have one backstage and one at the front. I do want to keep them together as much as possible through the show, particularly after a contestant's performance.
I think having two people there to kind of give you support is easier than one person. I think it will make each host braver knowing they've got someone to back them up as well, [like] if they want to get into a [disagreement] with us.
You mentioned earlier in the call that first-season host Steve Jones didn't really express his opinion on the show. Was there anything else he didn't do quite right that you want to see Mario or Khloe do this season?
Simon Cowell: Well, I suppose I see a host's role to be a fan as well as a host. Otherwise, anyone can come in and read out voting information.
That's what I'm looking for more than anything else, is that they're entitled to have their favorites and they're there to stick up for the contestants that they think have been unfairly treated -- and just to have a more organic role I suppose than what you traditionally see on these shows. It's what we've told them when we met and we'll be encouraging them to do that. Most importantly, have fun.
I was just wondering a little bit more about what your thoughts on other teams were. Which team are you most nervous about? You said that Demi's group is pretty strong. Which team are you most worried about?
Simon Cowell: Britney's team. I think everybody in a way wanted that category because we have two or three kids in the category who are super, super talented this year. Britney, she got them and she was absolutely thrilled.
From what I hear, because I actually haven't heard them sing yet, she's doing a pretty good job. I mean we'll find out tomorrow whether that's true or not because it's her responsibility to choose the songs, give them confidence. I would say that's the category every judge fears is going to probably do really well.
Did you think any judges made a bad decision? Was there somebody that you thought they should have kept that they sent home?
Simon Cowell: I know people were concerned about losing [Jillian Jensen], and I think I know why [she] was replaced by somebody else, because she was getting a little bit too gloomy. You've gotta choose people who can be entertainers. I kind of admire Demi for making that decision because she really liked her as a person, but she just went with her gut instinct.
I think everybody else -- I think one guy we probably made a mistake on, we lost him at boot camp, was [Jeffrey Adam Gutt]. I think he would have been a much better older contestant than some of the ones we've chosen. That was probably the biggest mistake we made.
Which job is harder for you, mentoring or judging?
Simon Cowell: Mentoring can be a nightmare because you've got so much responsibility to get it right. And when it goes wrong, you have to take the brunt that it has been your fault the contestant is gone.
So, yes, anyone can judge to be honest with you, but mentoring, choosing the right material, making sure their image is right, making sure they're getting on and overseeing everything -- particularly at the beginning when you've got four acts -- is hard work.
I mean, it really is a lot of mental pressure. It's embarrassing on the night when you got it wrong. I mean, it's just the worst feeling because then you're being judged. So, yes, mentoring is the hardest job.
When people previously asked you about whom you wanted to host The X Factor, you sort of implied, especially to Ellen DeGeneres, that you wanted Khloe. But you also mentioned that you kind of didn't want somebody who had real hosting experience although Mario Lopez, who got the job, is pretty much a professional host.
Simon Cowell: That's pretty observant of you. I was waiting for someone to pick that up.
I was wondering if it was a compromise of the network, or was it your goal all along to kind of balance Khloe with somebody else?
Simon Cowell: Well, there were a lot of people who tested and we went back on the test with Mario and Khloe. It was the network really who said, "It's just too risky to put two people on a show who haven't hosted before." What they felt was that Mario, he's a really professional, safe pair of hands.
And Khloe, certainly in her first season, would need someone around her who has had a lot of experience. That's why in the end, we decided on those two. I mean, Mario was always up there as one of the top candidates. Seeing them together, it was the right decision. They do seem to have a good chemistry.
Is there any truth at all to feuds between them? There were rumors floating around on the Internet that there was a little feud between them already.
Simon Cowell: Well, both probably want more at times than the other. I mean that goes without saying. I don't know specifically of what's happened or if anything, but now that you've asked, I'll ask later on when I go down there.
So, you obviously don't have a problem talking about how you feel about the contestants, but what do you find the most difficult aspect of the job in general besides mentoring?
Simon Cowell: The time pressure where you've got to choose songs really, really quickly. When you've gone through one live show, one results show and then almost immediately the producers pounce on you and you've got to come up with material which is going to work the following week.
It's harder than you think because you're always trying to create moments. I try and do it as if these were the records they would put out and their [future] is in your hands. Like I said, if you get it wrong, it's your responsibility.
When somebody you like -- when I lost Drew Ryniewicz last year from the competition, who I liked, because I chose a stupid song for her that particular week, you feel really bad afterwards. So, it's not a nice feeling, but it's a good feeling when you get it right and I think I've got it right this year.
Now that the contestants are singing live and everything, do they get more nervous? What do you guys say to them as their mentors?
Simon Cowell: They're more excited now. I mean, this is what they've been gearing up to, the live shows. When they walk out onto that set for the first time, I mean, it's a buzz because they're really close to it. But this is what separates the men from the boys.
I mean some people on the live shows rise; other people, you'll see it, will falter. That's the sign of a good artist or not. But the buzz, I have to say, which I'm feeling from the contestants right now just before we go live, it's really exciting. They can't wait to do it. They can't wait to get out there.
Last year, we saw some unpredictable moments with "Astro" Brian Bradley and Rachel Crow, especially when she got eliminated. I'm sure it was as shocking for you to watch as it was for us. Are you better preparing the contestants this year for rejection, in particular, the younger ones?
Simon Cowell: We haven't discussed rejection with them yet. It's a little bit early. I'm sure Britney's mentioned it, but no matter how much you say to someone, "Not everyone can win," it's heartbreaking to them when they lose.
Rachel reacted that way because she genuinely in her heart believed that she'd already won the competition. So, she was just in total shock that she was eliminated so early. And Astro was just being a brat to be honest with you. We sorted it out and he was fine afterwards.
But, I try not to say too much, which is why we make our shows live, because I think you have to have show meltdowns and everything from these shows. If we prerecorded it and edited it out, I think it would be quite boring.
Are planning to do a wild card this year?
Simon Cowell: In the way that we did it last year, I don't think so. I think my gut feeling is there won't be one this year. There was talk of it, but we've already got 16 contestants and that's a lot. There's nobody I feel as passionately about as I did with Melanie Amaro. It was just stupid that I didn't put her through the first time. So, if I was a betting man, I'd say there won't be one this year.
Last season on American Idol, there was an invitation for the president to come on. Would you extend that invitation this year to sing or to perform in some way?
Simon Cowell: Definitely. I mean, even duet I'd take. They could both come on and do a duet together... They can make up their differences, sing a song together. Music is the great healer, as you know, and they will be very welcome any week to do that. That was a good question. Alternatively, we'll just take one.
Above is the concluding portion of Cowell's call. Click here to read the first half.