Simon Cowell: 'X Factor' getting co-hosts, but mum on judge reports
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/23/2012
The X Factor creator and judge Simon Cowell and fellow judge L.A. Reid are anticipating their Fox reality singing competition's second season, which will feature many new changes and kick off with its live auditions in three weeks.
On Wednesday, the former American Idol judge and Reid talked to reporters during a conference call about the second season of The X Factor and all the hype surrounding the show -- including what their comments were on Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and Fergie reportedly expressing interest in joining the judging panel to replace Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul, how close they were to having Whitney Houston fill one of those two slots, who they are thinking of to take Steve Jones' place as the new host, and what the status is of the show's first-season finalists who got signed to record deals and are currently working on their debut albums.
Will you have the other two judges picked by the time the live auditions start?
Simon Cowell: The live auditions we have just spoken about, these are the ones which aren't filmed. These are the open auditions, so we probably don't need to confirm the new judges by then. That will happen over the next few weeks.
If Whitney Houston hadn't passed away, how improbable would it have been to have her as a judge next season?
L.A. Reid: You know what? We love Whitney and we would have certainly considered it. But the truth is, it never quite came to that. There was an interest there, but we never actually had meetings about it. But again, we're both huge fans of Whitney and we're very sad about the loss of Whitney, but we didn't really get that far. So, I don't think it's proper to comment beyond that.
Some names have been tossed around as to who will fill the two open spots on the judging panel such as Fergie and Janet Jackson. Do you have any comment on them?
Simon Cowell: You know what happens and this happened last year, that there's a load of speculation -- some true, some not true. It's true to say that a lot of people, well a lot more people, have been to 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 just because of the mentoring aspect, but I can't confirm or deny any of these rumors at the moment.
Will any rules change next season in terms of allowing the judges to let the viewer vote determine who will stay and who will go home in the event of a deadlock? Because there was a lot of criticism after judge Nicole had tossed her decision as a judge to the public once Rachel Crow was squaring off against Marcus Canty and Crow shockingly was the one eliminated.
Simon Cowell: 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 defense of Nicole, I don't think she thought for one second the public had put Rachel in the bottom. But I think going forward, I think it's really important that we retain this, because I think 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.
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If it was a process that had been in place on Idol that week, Jennifer would have still remained in competition probably. So when it's done properly, it is supposed to help the better artists.
There have been reports that Britney Spears has shown interest in joining The X Factor. Hypothetically speaking, if she were to become a judge, what do you think she would bring to the table?
L.A. Reid: That's really slick. (Laughs) The only thing I can count on is that we will likely have two girls. That's what you can probably count on.
L.A. Reid: Not it can be confirmed, right? (Laughs) Otherwise, come on!
Simon Cowell: I couldn't comment on it. Are we flattered that there could be interest? Yes. Other than that, there's going to be a few twists and turns over the next few weeks and a lot of things we're going to announce. But while you've got The Voice and Idol competing with each other, I've learned a big lesson, "Keep your mouth shut. Don't give it all away." (Laughs)
Will The X Factor pay any sort of tribute to Whitney Houston next season?
L.A. Reid: I think that's a great idea. I was going to recommend that to you as well (laughs) that we do a Whitney segment because the music is so amazing and so generational and such a challenge for singers, because the songs are so well performed. I actually think that's a really good idea.
Simon Cowell: I've got a feeling, L.A., just a hunch, that you may see a Whitney tribute on The Voice and the Idol before us.
Simon Cowell: 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, 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, you know? They're timeless.
Simon, would you consider working with former The X Factor judge Paula on any future projects now that she won't be a part of the show going forward?
Simon Cowell: Oh for sure. I spoke to her on the night that it was announced. I was going to speak to Nicole that night but we're in different time zones so we couldn't actually speak ourselves, but both of them -- actually all of them -- they've been incredibly gracious and respectful, and I feel the same way about them. They're friends. There were certain reasons why the changes were made.
Our show's 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. I'm not just saying that. I think it will actually happen.
Simon, you recently wrote on your Twitter account, "Maybe the winner of TheXFactorUSA this yr should compete with winner of The Voice & Idol in a super final. Just a thought. I'd be up for it." Do you think there would be a chance of that actually happening?
Simon Cowell: I was very disappointed with the reaction of that from the other two shows, because I like the idea of a super final, providing the contestants were up for it from the beginning. But I thought it would be something different. They both buckled it for now, but I spoke to L.A., and we're still up for it.
Simon Cowell: (Laughs) I don't know whether it's going to happen or not. It kind of felt like it was going to be the musical Super Bowl and I loved that idea, but you know what, maybe we'll just have to compete on the Grammys or something going forward and on the charts.
And also, I think we've got to hear from the network. At the moment, [Nigel Lythgoe] and [Adam Levine] commented. I have no idea whether Fox and NBC think it's a good idea, and I think at the end of the day there, they'll be the ones who will have the ultimate decision on whether this is going to happen or not. If you guys push it, it might happen.
What is the status of all The X Factor finalists who had gotten signed to Sony Music recording contracts? When should fans expect their debut albums to be released and what are your expectations for those artists?
L.A. Reid: So Melanie Amaro has signed on, Chris Rene, Josh Krajcik has a deal, Marcus Canty, Rachel Crow, and ["Astro" Brian Bradley]. The ones I'm personally responsible for are making great progress and I believe that -- I don't have the release dates in front of me -- but we just released Chris Rene's first single and we're about to release Marcus Canty's single in two weeks.
We're still recording Melanie. Melanie is a 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 and she's one of the greats. We want her record to reflect that.
And Astro is also recording with some great people like [rapper Pharrell Williams]. He's in Miami with Pharrell and different producers, so we're making a lot of progress with all of this. And again, Chris Rene's single has already been released and Marcus Canty's two weeks. It's coming along well.
Absolutely we have high expectations for them, but we don't cheat ourselves in believing that we can microwave an artist and start them over night. 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 sort of saturate the world.
We're patient and we want to do it right -- the same way that Simon has already done with [the group] One Direction, a Top 10 single in America. You do it the right way. There wasn't a rush to do it. It's more important to do it properly and we're going to stick with that philosophy.
Simon Cowell: Where I completely agree with you is that there is no -- the only way you make a great record, sometimes it's 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. So I think it's six artists who have been signed on, but you'll start seeing the results over the next few months.
What was The X Factor's motivation for allowing people to audition and be on the show who had pre-existing contracts?
Simon Cowell: Well, in the world we live in now -- and as you know, The Voice has done that -- I think that we would be naive assuming that the only great talent you're going to find are people who don't have contracts and we've always said on this show that you've got to open up to everyone. And L.A. and myself have both spoken about this. It's got to be like the real world.
Have you made any decisions as to who will be the new host or co-hosts of the show?
Simon Cowell: It will be two. There will be two, yeah. What was learned from 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 the hosting job.
You've got to give out so much information now -- telephone lines, the integration of 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 at different parts of the studio throughout the show, and I think 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. Reid: It actually started with Steve and Nicole didn't it? You had two hosts in the very beginning, so it's consistent.
Simon Cowell: 100% percent. I think it's going to make it more interesting and I doubt that these people who are hiring are current hosts. They might come from a different background.
Do you have any comment on the high expectations you had set for The X Factor's first season versus the show's actual results, and do you have any ratings expectations for Season 2?
Simon Cowell: Well, I was misquoted. I actually said we hope we get more than two million last year and someone added a zero. So we actually did better than expectations. I'm kidding by the way. I shot my big mouth off before the show.
You know, I always go into this with a sense of excitement. I was coming off a massive year in the U.K. where we got 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 or every show I've ever been on, the show has grown over the years whether it's Idol or The X Factor or America's Got Talent. We started with really small numbers and then grew, and you're seeing the same thing with The Voice, who are doing much better in their 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. I genuinely learned a lot and I think we've learned how we can make the show better. I like the fact that it's gotten very competitive now. It's kind of exciting.
There have been reports that American Idol'sRyan Seacrest is getting a little restless and his contract is expiring soon, so would he ever be a possibility for The X Factor? And why do many shows succeed with one host while you believe The X Factor needs two?
Simon Cowell: They don't always do it well. I mean, I think Ryan is brilliant at what he does and I also think Ryan is a very good negotiator (laughs) and I admire him for that. He'll stay on Idol. But look, it's time for a change. We've been doing this for 11 years, these shows.
You just can't keep doing the same thing, and I think we learned a lesson last year that the traditional host's role on a show like this has to change into something else. Therefore, the show will look different and it will feel different. I do think it's important -- I'm probably talking myself out of a job here -- we have more Americans on the show. But I'm sort of American because I've been working there for 10 years.
L.A. Reid: You can't talk yourself out of a job because we're not letting you go. (Laughs)