Simon Cowell Tells 'X Factor' Hopefuls to Stay Away From Jason Mraz, Remains Coy on Other Hosts
By Dave Steinfeld Posted Mar 23rd 2011 02:16PM
Even if you've been making a concerted effort to avoid pop culture, you know who Simon Cowell is. Such is the level of Cowell's fame and influence in the entertainment industry.
A native of the UK and veteran of the music business, Cowell first became familiar to American audiences in the summer of 2002 when the reality TV series 'American Idol' premiered. A spin-off of England's similar series 'Pop Idol,' the object of the show was to find the best unsigned singer in America. From the start, it seemed as if nearly as much attention was paid to the judges -- Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson -- as to the singers themselves. Their interaction with each other could be funny and Cowell's disaffected tone and sarcastic comments in particular left viewers glued to their seats. Love him or hate him, Cowell was a huge part of 'Idol''s success. And what a success it was! Idol became the first TV series to hit No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for six consecutive seasons -- surpassing both 'All in the Family' and 'The Cosby Show'. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks and David Cook are among the stars it has produced.
After nine seasons on 'American Idol', Cowell left the show in 2010, eager for new challenges. To that end, he is bringing his popular UK series 'The X Factor' to America later this year. Similar to 'Idol' in its theme, 'The X Factor' will premiere on Fox in September -- but auditions will be held in six American cities beginning this Sunday in Los Angeles. Cowell -- whose net worth is already said to be somewhere around $200 million -- will serve not only as executive producer of the series but also as one of the judges. In the meantime, rumors have been flying about who the other judges might be, with Mariah Carey's name recently mentioned as one of the possibilities.
PopEater recently caught up with Cowell to discuss his old and new projects -- and we were surprised at how gracious he was!
'X Factor' premieres in America this September and we've been hearing a lot of things on this end. The latest is that L.A. Reid will definitely be a judge [on the show], that Mariah won't be a judge and that Nicole Scherzinger may be hosting. How much of that is actually true?
Nothing is confirmed right now other than L.A. Reid. Mariah I met a couple of weeks ago because she wants a role on the live shows, and that's still to be discussed. We've had a lot of conversations with Nicole about the show -- and other shows, actually -- [but] it's too early to confirm.
We saw a video in which you say that one of the songs people who audition for 'X Factor' should not sing is the Jason Mraz tune. We're assuming you mean 'I'm Yours.' Tell us why they shouldn't sing that one and if there are any other tunes they should definitely avoid.
Well, it's not because I don't like the song. I do like the song and I love Jason. The problem is that everybody always does it identically to the original. It has a very long intro and nobody ever tries to change it up. It is the most annoying audition song in the world -- because you can't change it! Normally, as soon as I hear the opening bars of 'I'm Yours,' I just [say] "You know what? Choose something else 'cause I know what this is gonna sound like."
It's the same thing with 'At Last' by Etta James. I mean, we hear that so many times and, again, it's always identical to the original. It drives you nuts after awhile.
Switching gears, a little over a year ago you spearheaded a really nice project for the relief effort in Haiti -- the all-star single of 'Everybody Hurts.' People have said that it seemed like everybody really came together and that no one tried to out sing anyone else. What was your experience like on that project?
I was actually asked by the Prime Minister of [England]. I got a call from him to say, "Could we put a record together quickly?" I said yes. We had so little time -- I mean, it was my team that did most of the work, getting everyone to appear on the record. It was interesting because a lot of people did knock us back, but everybody who did appear on it, you genuinely felt that they cared. It was a really fantastic experience. [People were] very polite, turned up on time, made themselves available. It was a real pleasure to work on for that reason. And it did raise a lot of money.
We also wanted to ask you how the UK and US pop markets differ from each other as far as the audiences go. Is one more fickle than the other?
It's interesting you ask that question because I'm finding more and more that they're getting much closer now. I was having this conversation with Will.i.am a couple of nights ago and he was telling me the importance now of the UK as a gateway into Europe. He was using himself as an example [because] he was able to break in the UK before he properly broke in America. This didn't happen years ago.
You see the same thing happening in reverse now with Adele. You know, she's had a lot of success in Europe and now she's breaking big-time in America. I think things like iTunes have brought the world closer together because we can hear each others' music much quicker now.
You spent nine years at 'American Idol.' Was there one singer in that period that you felt should have won that didn't?
I'll tell you who I was disappointed didn't get into the finals -- really disappointed -- was Tamyra Gray. I was really looking forward that year to a Kelly Clarkson/Tamyra Gray final. It could have been one of the best ever because they were both brilliant singers. On the night, anybody could have won, to be honest with you. I mean, I love Kelly -- she's one of my favorite artists -- but that was the one time I was really gutted.
Los Angeles 3/27
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