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SIMON COWELL: My Exclusive Interview; He Reveals America’s ‘The X Factor’ Judges; But Will It Turn Into ‘The ZZZZZZ Factor’?

I’ll have more from my exclusive interview with Simon Cowell later tonight. But, for now, I can report that Cowell has told me all about how he’s been assembling his judge’s panel for his U.S. version of The X Factor which debuts this fall on Fox. “First of all, it’s like casting a dinner party. You’ve got to have people on the panel you get on well with.” But in my opinion this is sounding like the most boring dinner party ever and I wouldn’t bother staying tuned through dessert. Though recently he admitted that the process has shown publicly “complete and utter indecisiveness”, he made it clear to me he has finally decided on his judging panel.

Cowell tells me that in addition to himself and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group who resigned to join The X Factor panel on Fox (and about whom Simon said “was my No. 1 choice to sit alongside me on the show”), he has made up his mind to bring back Paula Abdul beside him and to add a Brit singer convicted of assault who’s unknown to American audiences, Cheryl Cole. Of course, Cowell was once an unknown here, too. I understand from Cowell that negotiations for Abdul’s deal haven’t even started and that Cole’s deal isn’t quite done yet. And of course, he could change his mind.

But an insider tells me about Cole that “she’s pretty much a shoo-in for for the show” and will be announced as a judge within less than a week. When I asked Simon about “this Cole woman” who began judging on the 5th season of Cowell’s British version of The X Factor which is now in its 8th season, he laughed at my description of her. I opined about how hard it is for UK personalities to click with U.S. audiences. Though she has her own widely imitated catchphrase there telling wannabe contestants they are “really, really luv-erly” in her incomprehensible Newcastle accent and has become a UK tabloid obsession, over here she’ll just be another nobody. (As Jennifer Lopez asked recently, “She is a singer, right?”)

But Cowell responded: “I never think about it as an American or British audience. I genuinely don’t. I think that’s what’s happened on a lot of these shows now is it’s almost like you’ve got to hire well known celebrities to be a judge. And with Cheryl, when I hired her initially, I’d only met her literally once when I offered her the job on [British] X Factor. I thought she was bright, cute, knew what she was talking about, ambitious. And you meet someone special a few times in your life.. And this girl is special. She’s just got a great ability to communicate. Shes a great judge. She’s smart. It’s just a hunch. If people take to her like the British public did, I think she’s going to do really well in America. And Fox was desperate to hire her.”

“Really?” I asked. “I heard there was pushback from Fox.”
“No, absolute opposite,” Cowell claimed. “Mike Darnell and Peter Rice will tell you they wanted her all the time, I showed a tape to Mike Darnell two years ago of a clip I’d shot in England of Cheryl and he said there and then, ‘I’d hire her now for Idol.’ They absolutely fell in love with her. In a way, the deal, it was almost conditional on Cheryl having the gig. They were desperate for her.”

“So,” I said, “wouldn’t it then be expected to have someone quote-unquote famous also on the panel besides you?”

“Yes. Very,” Simon replied. “I’ve always wanted Paula. Always been very vocal about that. I missed her the second she left the show. Always loved working with her even though she can be a pain. And I’ve been consistent about this. I don’t know what it is about her, but I’ve always clicked with her. You just have to get that chemistry, and she’s right. I’ve never found anyone better than her. I think there’s a good chance it will be her. We’ve agreed that we would meet as many people as possible, and now we’re reaching the deadline we’ve got to make the decision soon. But I think she’s got a really good shot.” 

But Cowell poo-poo’ed my suggestion that Abdul now may be too overexposed after serving as a judge on American Idol for 8 years and then departing amid a huge outcry from fans who wanted her to stay, and then moving on to headline another TV talent series as lead judge, CBS’s lame and derivative Live to Dance, which debuted in January 2011 only to be canceled after one season. Simon and Abdul are close friends and he made no secret on and off Idol that he didn’t want her to leave and that he disliked her successors, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres.

Make no mistake: I admire Simon as a consummate showman who knew exactly how to manipulate Read More »

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ITV Confirms Simon Cowell Will Not Be Weekly Judge On UK ‘X Factor’

Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of TV, said this weekend that Simon Cowell will not be one of the main judges on the British X Factor. ITV is still holding out that Cowell will appear in the live shows toward the end of this fall’s series -– even if it is just by video link. How desperate is that? Fincham has told the Sunday Mirror: “We are talking to him about ways he can have an on-screen presence later in the show. He will not be a weekly judge.”

Given that Cowell occupies a space somewhere between David Beckham and God in the UK national consciousness, this is a huge blow to ITV. Cowell and the broadcaster have been wrangling for weeks over how Cowell could do both the UK and U.S. versions at the same time. The UK X Factor begins in August, while the U.S. Fox version starts in September. The UK auditions had already been moved back to May to accommodate Cowell. ITV suggested providing a private jet to zoom Cowell back and forth across the pond. Cowell said no. Then ITV suggested moving production of the Fox X Factor to New York instead. “Uh uh,” said Cowell, who instead proposed shifting the UK show to the beginning of January. But ITV couldn’t face losing the estimated £22 million ($36 million) profit it makes from the show, split with Cowell’s production company Syco and co-producer Talkback Thames. … Read More »

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Simon Cowell: ‘X Factor’ Nowhere Near Picking Remaining Judges

Nellie Andreeva

On a call promoting the new X Factor recording booths that are being dispatched to six cities for auditions, boss Simon Cowell shared his frustration over the dragged-out decision on who the remaining two judges will be, joining him and Antonio “L.A.” Reid on the panel. “We are still having nightly arguments, trying to get everyone to agree,” Cowell said. “If you ask everyone, you have 25 different opinions.” He admitted the process shows “publicly complete and utter indecisiveness.” He had previously hoped to have everyone in place by the start of the show’s auditions March 27. As for names, Cowell confirmed that Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie is a name that “was put forward” but, like with anyone else, there is a long process of checking availability and willingness to commit. “This is not a two-days-a-week job,” Cowell said, referring to the judging gigs on other competition shows, including American Idol. Another name that had just popped up was that of Gloria Estefan. Cowell said that the singer unexpectedly “turned up” today at the X Factor Miami auditions “and did a great job. She gave everyone support and encouragement.” Other female singers that have been constantly bandied about for X Factor jobs are Cheryl Cole, Mariah Carey, Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul.

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It’s Official: Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid Tapped As ‘X Factor’ Judge

By | Friday March 18, 2011 @ 1:09pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Fox just officially announced that Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who resigned yesterday as chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, will join Simon Cowell on the judging panel of The X Factor. “L.A. was my number one choice to sit alongside me on the show,” Cowell said. “In my opinion, he is one of the greatest ever music executives and of course a fantastic writer and producer. I am thrilled he has agreed to join the show, and for any artist auditioning, they know they have the chance to meet a true star-maker.” Auditions for X Factor begin March 27.

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L.A. Reid Steps Down As Chairman Of Island Def Jam To Judge ‘X Factor’

By and | Thursday March 17, 2011 @ 12:14pm PDT

Here is the email that went out from Antonio “L.A.” Reid to his staff today. What he doesn’t say is that, according to insiders, he will be taking the full-time gig as the first judge on Simon Cowell’s much-hyped U.S. version of The X Factor debuting on Fox this fall. Reid’s decision to exit isn’t surprising to recording industry insiders given that there’s so much movement atop all the music labels right now. Reid’s contract with Universal Music is up in December so he will get an early release. UPDATE: As Billboard expected, Barry Weiss, who recently arrived at Universal Music Group from Sony, will take on oversight of the group.

To my Island Def Jam family:

After much consideration, I have decided to leave my position as Chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group.

I have always thrived on growth and the next great challenge, and I look forward with much enthusiasm to what the future holds.

I am extremely proud of our beautiful roster and all we have accomplished in my seven years with IDJ. We continue to have incredible success together with today’s most phenomenal superstars – Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, Rick Ross, The Killers, The-Dream, Chrisette Michele, Jeezy and Ludacris to name a few.

I want to thank all of you for your amazing contributions.

With Warm Regards -

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Record Executive L.A. Reid Negotiating For ‘X Factor’ Judging Gig

By | Wednesday March 16, 2011 @ 5:28pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Well, now there will be two judges on big singing-competition series dropping Mariah Carey’s name. Sources confirm that Island Def Jam Music Group chairman and CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid is in negotiations to join Simon Cowell’s upcoming X Factor on Fox to serve as as a judge alongside Cowell. Reid has guided the careers of Carey, Justin Bieber, Usher, Rihanna, Kanye West, Pink and Toni Braxton. American Idol judge Randy Jackson, of course, has also worked with Carey, a fact he loves to bring up on the veteran reality show. And Cowell has said publicly that he wants Carey herself to be a judge on X Factor. Along with the judge search, Fox and Cowell are also looking for a host for the series, with Enrique Iglesias among those approached. X Factor auditions begin March 27.

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