Finally, “The X Factor” is near.
Simon Cowell announced he was leaving ‘Idol” and starting the U.S. version of “X Factor” in the spring of 2010. The tease has been going on so long, it’s hard to believe the actual show is a mere six days away! (Wednesday, Sept. 21, to be exact)
He did yet another press conference with plebes like me on Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights. Sadly, not all the questions were terribly smart but that’s how these press conferences go.
Isn’t it ironic? Asked what he’d think if “Idol” won an Emmy this year, he said he’d find it “funny” and then joke that he’d claim victory for it since an Emmy can sometimes be perceived as a lifetime achievement award.
Nerves? “It’s good nerves. I’m really psyched. We’re going to do something like a film premiere in a cinema. It’s brilliant.” [I guess they were having some sort of red carpet event like a movie.]
Will they encourage different versions of famous songs like Kris Allen’s “Heartless”? “100%. We want as unique a version as possible, else it’s just a karaoke competition. Within three weeks, you’ll start hearing contestants way outside their comfort zones. You don’t want a bad sound a like.”
I asked him whether there are songs that he really would ban from over use? ” ‘I Believe I Can Fly.’ ‘At Last.’ I’m allergic to that song. Everyone thinks ‘Unchained Melody’ i smy favorite tune. That’s a joke. It’s not. I can’t hear that anymore. That hit by Jason Mraz. I can’t listen to that either. Another one is ‘Ordinary People’ by John Legend. People always try to sing that version but it’s never as good. I have to stop it after five seconds.”
Paula Abdul as an ‘old dog’: “A great thing working about her is that within five minutes of filming, she’s not aware the cameras are on. She’s fight with you over something important, often not. It’s like getting an old dog from the rescue. It’s great to see you. The relationship is back intact.”
The infamous back stories: “They’re crucial. I get to meet the contestants for the first time when they audition. We have no background on them at all. I don’t want to know. If they’re interesting to me when I ask them questions, they should be interesting to people watching the show. If they start droning on about singing since they were three or four, I’m honestly not interested. I expect they all wanted to be singers. That’s obvious. I’m interested in back stories. If they’re gotten divorced. Why did they divorce. If they are married. Are they happy leaving college to pursue a music career?… You’ve really got to be an interesting person and have a good back story.”
Bringing Randy Jackson to the fold? “I miss Randy. He’s a really good friend. We could get him a couple of front-row seats. He can do his dog barking thing. Seriously, I really do miss him. But he’s happy on ‘Idol.’ … We hang out all the time. I plan to see him for dinner this week.”
American audiences vs. Brit audiences: “The American audiences are more vocal. When they like someone, they let you know and certainly let you know when they disagree with you. Tapings are better in the evenings. They’re more drunk – and louder. I like that.”
Coaching on ‘The Voice’: “They didn’t do it as well as we did… Can you mentor someone through a show and actually create a star? You will have to judge ‘X Factor’ on what we do compared to what they did on ‘The Voice.’ As I’m talking to you this week, an artist I mentored on ‘X Factor’ last year on the U.K. who came in third, they’re going to have the biggest selling single this year, a band called One Direction. That’s what I call proper mentoring, preparing them for the real world.”
Cheryl Cole scrubbed out? “She’ll be in the first hour. And then she gets replaced by Nicole.” [How they'll explain the change, he did not say.]
How to convince Fox to bring “X Factor” to the states: “The show was becoming more and more popular around the world. Inevitably, someone would have come along and do something close to that show. Once we explained that to Fox, they accepted the fact it’s going to have to go on the air. They didn’t have to be brought in dragging and screaming. These are expensive shows to produce. Because we had a couple of good years in the U.K., I think it sped up the process. They really got into it. The other challenges are who should judge and host it. Lots of things went wrong along the way… bad things happen when you make a reality show. It becomes very public. We just have to deal with it.” [He was obviously alluding to the whole Cheryl Cole mess.]
Previews show Simon getting rather upset. Why? “It was during the boot camp shows with 110 contestants. They were given a list of songs that they had to strip down. They were coming up with weird creative versions of songs. They were sounding worse and worse. It sounded like rubbish. We had a live show. They knew it was rubbish. It was one of those uncomfortable days. The producers thought it would be amusing to include it in the show. I was embarrassed but why not keep it in?” [Hey, wait. He's the top executive producer. He knows good TV. Of course he was going to keep it in!]
Why mentoring is superior to the ‘Idol’ hands off approach: “I used to get frustrated that we couldn’t do anything with the contestants on a week-to-week basis. They’d make these awful decisions. Some contestants haven’t done well may have won for popularity but not have a unique talent demonstrated week to week. We have to update the process.” [Hmmm.... was he alluding to the show Kris Allen/Adam Lambert dynamic?]