Simon Cowell on Taking the X Factor to America

Simon Cowell has personally confirmed to BBC Newsnight that he and his team are working on bringing   the UK show,   X Factor to America.

Simon also confirms that the show will take place in Los Angeles, rather than in Las Vegas as some news outlets have been reporting. The team considered Las Vegas, but the LA peeps (I’m guessing FOX) preferred LA as the location.

ETA: The UK Times   is reporting that Simon is considering dropping Idol, in favor of judging the X Factor when it comes to America. With declining ratings, and contestants who aren’t exactly barnstorming up the charts post Idol, could a Simon exit mean the end of American Idol?

Perez Hilton ran an item this morning, using Contact Music as the source, quoting Simon:

“I think the show will go to America. It has to go to America. There has to be an American version of the show. To not make The X Factor in the biggest market in the world would be crazy.”

I went off in search of the original quote, and found it in this full-length version of a recent interview Simon did with BBC Newsnight.

The interview is nearly 30 minutes long, and worth the listen if you have the time.   If you want to fast forward, the bits about the US version of X Factor come at about the 20 minute mark.

There have been several reports, citing unamed sources, that Simon is making the X Factor part of his negotions for his new American Idol contract with FOX (his current contract runs out in 2010).

  • BootStar

    I’ve been following this story too. I anticipate this year’s Idol being its worst ever.

    You can’t fight City Hall . . . or Simon Cowell.

  • Truthiness

    I was just going to comment on the headlines thread about this.

    Well this will be fun and I don’t see X-Factor working in America. And man I hope that X-Factor in America doesn’t suck as totally as this last season of it has.

    Should make AI fun though in the meantime. New judge, still having Kirsten’s favourite, Bruce still around, and Simon will care even LESS than he did this last season. Yee. haw. Let the party begin.

  • BootStar

    I like your attitude, Truthiness! I guess we might as well embrace the insanity.

    Interestingly, at the very end of the interview, Simon says he never expected either franchise to last as long as it has, but he makes a point of saying that The X Factor’s ratings, surprisingly, are up. What he does’t say (of course) is that Idol’s have been on the decline for the last few years. It’s pretty clear where all of this is heading, however.

    This was a great interview, MJ. Simon did one a few years ago with Terry Gross on NPR when he was out promoting his book, and he really comes off very differently in these settings than he does on his talent shows. I always end up liking him — as hard as I try not to! I think he’s much more of an actor (or often is playing a “character”) than he’d like to admit. Just still not sure which “Simon” is the real one!

  • PattyH

    Must.Not.Happen. :(

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    I always end up liking him ‘” as hard as I try not to! I think he’s much more of an actor (or often is playing a ‘character’ ) than he’d like to admit. Just still not sure which ‘Simon’  is the real one!

    A guy who stays pals with all of his ex-girlfriends can’t be all bad! I think he’s probably a decent fellow who doesn’t get emotionally involved with his business.

  • LaRue

    Is it safe to say that Idol will likely be gone after S10? I can almost see the buzzards swooping in for the roadkill feast.

    The answer: Deat, taxes, and Simon Cowell.

    The questions: what are things you can’t avoid?

  • t2

    X Factor vs. American Idol? Meh — who cares. Aren’t they the same show anyway–except you can have groups? At least X Factor doesn’t have the upper age limit.

    I’ll watch either one just to see if there isn’t an incredible talent that I didn’t know about — a Michael Johns or a Phil Stacey or a Carrie Underwood. It’s a good stepping stone for real talent.

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    X Factor vs. American Idol? Meh ‘” who cares. Aren’t they the same show anyway’“except you can have groups? At least X Factor doesn’t have the upper age limit.

    The judges mentor groups of contestants, and as such, they pick out the kids’ songs, coach them on how to sing it, and prolly dress them too.

    The pimping goes wild, because not only are the contestants competing against each other, but so are the judges. And like SYTYCD, the judges decide on who goes home up until the Top 5 or 6.

    Plus, the auditions are conducted in front of a huge “America’s Got Talent”-like audience.

    The kids perform on a big stage, with dancers and choreography on certain numbers.

    So no, it’s very very different.

  • Sassycatz

    X-Factor is a more of a show than a search for talent in my opinion because talent should be able to stand on its own rather than get propped up by “judges” of dubious stature. I understand that some art is collaborative. However, when someone else is making all the decisions for an “artist,” then you are basically just a puppet and the audience has no clue who or what the artist is, i.e. what is their vision, and whether that person actually has the ability to stand on his or her own feet.

    What makes it even more “painful” is that there is no age limit, so you actually have older performers taking orders from the likes of Simon when they already have their own voice and should be allowed to put that out there for a vote, not Simon’s view of what this person should be.

  • Truthiness

    So no, it’s very very different.

    And I’m not a fan of the X-Factor instead of AI. I don’t mind X-Factor in addition because it’s British, so I don’t vote and until recently, hadn’t been able to watch it in real time. But an American X-Factor will be…interesting. I think AI comes off better because the kids get to choose their own songs, make their own arrangements, and I like that the numbers, Adam last season aside, are simpler and don’t rely on back-up singers and dancers.

    The one thing I like more from X-Factor is that they also have groups.

  • jack5791

    I just don’t really get the point of bringing X Factor over. Even though the format is different, they are essentially the same show and concept. Having both would be overkill, and I’m afraid it is the end of Idol if X Factor comes over, which is stupid considering the credibility that AI has.

  • Incipit

    So no, it’s very very different.

    Thanks, MJ – that’s what I thought – With the nifty changes made this past season, from the very beginning I was uninvested in this year’s Idol – and watched a few episodes of the X Factor here instead, courtesy of your blog. I never knew who those contestants really were – everything was decided for them – and many times, the song choice seemed to suffer for it.

    The judges each having their own stable of contestants, picking the songs, etc. was a large disconnect – but it seemed to come down to the public voting actually being for the judge who had the best sense of what they could sell people, while the judges voted for themselves. The acts really seemed more like pawns in the judges game….a major conflict of interest. I didn’t like it at all.

  • CRB

    I’ve given up on Idol and, based on the clips I’ve seen linked at mj’s, doubt I’d watch X-factor even if it jumped the pond. If anything the X-Factor takes the worst of Idol (judges bickering & competing, forced song choice, ect) and expounds on it. This show, X-factor, might be like The Weakest Link and not translate well to America. That show was considered a “sure hit” when it landed.

  • Sassycatz

    This all makes me wonder which American Idol contestants would’ve done well or better under the X-Factor format and which would’ve done worse — if they even made it on the show at all.

  • Anne Themmick

    I read after Season 7 that 2010 was going to be the last year of Idol. So if it does, in fact not come back after this season, it won’t come as a major surprise.

    S7 was the high point of Idol. Someone should have paid attention to the adage…Quit While You’re Ahead.

    A-T

  • barnie

    The judges mentor groups of contestants, and as such, they pick out the kids’ songs, coach them on how to sing it, and prolly dress them too.

    The pimping goes wild, because not only are the contestants competing against each other, but so are the judges. And like SYTYCD, the judges decide on who goes home up until the Top 5 or 6.

    Plus, the auditions are conducted in front of a huge ‘America’s Got Talent’ -like audience.

    The kids perform on a big stage, with dancers and choreography on certain numbers.

    Judges’ outright pimping? Sounds like a show that suits Cowell and 19 very well.
    And them picking the songs? Jeez. Then we’ll never get to see any originality isn’t it?

  • Mark

    This all makes me wonder which American Idol contestants would’ve done well or better under the X-Factor format and which would’ve done worse ‘” if they even made it on the show at all.

    From what I’ve seen on the U.K. one, it biases against don’t need much in the way of musical intelligence or cleverness to work, obviously. I don’t think David Cook or Kris Allen would have had a chance on such a program. It’s also problematic for singers with certain identities; while it doesn’t completely preclude different musical identities, my feeling is that it has a homogenizing effect nonetheless. (For example, this year it had two singers of comparatively unique identity; a 60′s-styled “rock” contestant and an endearingly campy singer. And, um, Jedward, but we won’t get into that. In any event, I’m still under the impression that a Brooke White would have had major issues in translation on X-Factor, moreso than on Idol)

    It biases towards the big-voiced histrionic singers, usually playing on torch songs, that these programs are actually so famous for. Less musical identity in terms of popular culture, the better. I suspect, for example, David Archuleta may have had an even easier time in his ascent. The musical theater stylings that are common on Idol seem even more common on X-Factor.

    Count me amongst those who are not enthused by the X-Factor’s inclusion to the U.S. I did watch the U.K. one, and wasn’t pleased with it at all. It was almost a caricature of all of my frustrations with Idol’s issues. The judging, in particular, is just not even that anymore.

  • barnie

    S7 was the high point of Idol. Someone should have paid attention to the adage’ ¦Quit While You’re Ahead.

    Actually, S5 was. It had the highest ratings and the most successful Top 10 so far.

  • Michelle

    Kill it. AI is dead in the water anyway. They did it to themselves with all the bullshit they pulled this past season. When I found out Lost was airing Tuesdays at 9, I was happy to have a reason to not watch AI this year.

    Have fun with X-Factor Simon, which will allow the judges to be the real stars just like he always wanted.

  • unique28v

    I think I would like X Factor more than AI. I”m kinda sick of AI actually…. but we shall see!

  • t2

    From what I watched of the X-factor this year (which was all from MJ’s blog), the judges pimping is no worst than AI or SYTYCD (the two biggest offenders in the pimping wars).

    The “round of 32 or 24 or whatever” is being done in front of a bigger and bigger audience each year — not as big as X Factor, but still large (which I think is bad because the piano only intimate setting they originally had focused on the voice.)

    And honestly, I’m so disappointed in AI for the past couple of years that watching the judges try to “mold” someone like Bo or Cook or Fantasia in addition to making them work with dancers…well, it just might provide me with a bit of guilty humor.

  • jammasta

    I think if some contestants made it on X Factor, things would’ve been much different.

    It seems like If the season 8 contestants went on, Adam Lambert would kill them all, and we would’ve actually had a Top 3 of Adam/Danny/Lil. I think Danny and Lil would’ve benefited from X Factor format because the judges choose their songs and would pimp them hard. Plus, they were more on showmanship.

    Kris and Matt would not have made it far at all because they lose instruments and arrangements. Interesting, those were my two favorites this season.

    Archuleta could’ve possibly defeated Cook. Syesha, Ramiele, and Michael would’ve been more powerful. Brooke and Jason would’ve not done so well either. Kristy Lee Cook may not have made top 12.

    Just my thoughts and going by my assumption that they don’t play instruments on X Factor (I’ve never seen anyone play instruments, then again I only watched most of this season).

    So yes, X Factor would be a very different show. My season 7 favorite would’ve won at the expense of my other 3 faves (cook, Jason, Brooke), and Season 8 would’ve been pretty boring and it would’ve just been The Adam Show.

    Personally, I like the X Factor format better, though if they brought it here I’d incorporate some AI elements so it’s not just the judges having all the power. I like mentors, but they shouldn’t control everything. I wouldn’t mind song choices running through them but coming from the contestants and the mentor helping with a rearrangement if possible.

    Although Lady GaGa might have won X Factor too and that’s just not cool. Although I’d probably appreciate her more since she did do many different things rather than the stupid things she does now.

  • Incipit

    This all makes me wonder which American Idol contestants would’ve done well or better under the X-Factor format and which would’ve done worse ‘” if they even made it on the show at all.

    Sassy, assuming David Cook made it on the hypothetical show at all – there wouldn’t have been any “Hello” – Nigel wanted “Addicted to Love”” – there wouldn’t have been any “Little Sparrow” Dolly Parton week – Simon does not like songs about birds – or seem to understand metaphor. (snerk) Would the judges even know about Chris Cornell’s version of “Billie Jean”existing? naw – they would have picked ‘something safe’ – and Mercy knows what we would have gotten on Andrew Lloyd Weber’s night….or for Mariah, with judges picking songs and arrangements. Just look at the kinds of songs they picked when they had the chance!

    There certainly wouldn’t have been any “The World I Know” at the Finale or any other song that wasn’t at least 40 years old. And that’s just one contestant as an example..but a good example of an artist being able to sell a song they believe in – as opposed to one handed to them.

    In other words – no individuality at all – the “X” in X Factor stands for homogenized…IMO.

  • Sassycatz

    Would the judges even know about Chris Cornell’s version of ‘Billie Jean’ existing? naw ‘“ they would have picked ‘something safe’ ‘“

    Absolutely not. They did not know Chris Cornell’s version no matter how many times Seacrest or David said it. If he had done Billie Jean, it would’ve been the Michael Jackson version — with dancing! Talk about WTFCook!

    and Mercy knows what we would have gotten on Andrew Lloyd Weber’s night’ ¦.

    I think this is the one thing that would’ve stayed the same *if* Cook was their leading contestant at the time. Andrew Lloyd Weber was busy promoting his Phantom production in Vegas, so a Phantom song had to be sung by someone and preferably the contestant leading the contest at the time. That’s why I think Cook was encouraged to sing Music of the Night.

    There certainly wouldn’t have been any ‘The World I Know’  at the Finale or any other song that wasn’t at least 40 years old.

    Definitely no “The World I Know.” It would’ve been a rehash of whatever song Simon liked Cook singing best from those he had already done.

  • http://www.twilightslo.com Mateja

    X Factor winner Joe McElderry has his The Climb music video on his YouTube channel:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/JoeMcElderryTV

    I had to use proxy website to see it…

    The video is nothing special, classic. Cheryl Cole is the main star.
    This was Alexandra Burke’s video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLF1WAeDuLM

    Leona Lewis’ music video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf0t8JIkY2M

  • jammasta

    If he had done Billie Jean, it would’ve been the Michael Jackson version ‘” with dancing! Talk about WTFCook!

    That was actually kinda what I expected, but I didn’t really know David Cook back then (Yes, I expected David Cook to break out some amazing dance moves on stage XD). I hated Chris Cornell’s version of Billie Jean and it just led to an overrated performance from David Cook. That song was too untouchable for me. Now, Always Be My Baby? THAT was genius, an excellent performance from David Cook and a risk that paid off well, definitely THE best performance of Season 7 IMO. We would’ve missed that gem if he were on X Factor, but I think with the right retooling of X Factor, they could make it so someone as good as David Cook could’ve benefited, yet still kept many elements of X Factor format. But they’d also have to differentiate it from American Idol, so if they do bring it here they shouldn’t add TOO many elements.

    Also I hate myself for saying that I like a Miley Cyrus song but it kinda makes me feel better that it’s Joe McElderry singing it >_>. I like Joe.

    I’m still really torn on song choice. Yes, some contestants will be great song choosers, maybe not have the best voice. But there will be some contestants who kinda suck at song choice but have good voices, or they won’t mix up their songs. For example, David Archuleta. I admit that he was my favorite in Season 7, but it still would’ve been nice to see him mix it up a bit more. Case 2, Top 9 week in AI8. Except for Kris, Adam, and maybe Allison, it was pretty awful, yet it was possible the most open theme that season. And even then, as good as Adam and Allison were, I would say that Kris was the only one that night who even sounded current.

    There has to be a way of combining both advantages while doing a decent job of keeping out the negatives.

  • chessguy99

    I see X-Factor as perfect for the American market. The clashes between mentors and contestants, contestant smacktalking each other, the judge motivation because they have a stake in results, the tabloid coverage of contestants; all this will make for a sure hit with American viewers who have shown a craving for good drama-llama reality shows. The fact that it also contains singing is a bonus. I myself can’t wait.

  • jammasta

    Oh God, I completely forgot about some inevitable drama. Ugh.

    I hate drama on these shows. How I wish the media didn’t thrive on drama.

  • Incipit

    Chessguy, everything you wrote may very sadly turn out to be quite true – but everything you wrote is a nice summation of all the reasons I would never care to watch such a thing. The contestants who agree to such a set up are willing to hand over their individual preferences to be guided and marketed as someone, or something they are not. It’s the whole Deus ex Machina flavor that is off putting.

    Looks like the only people without a stake in the results of this Machiavellian X contest would be the consumers who are expected to support the resulting music, so the finalists can have an actual career, beyond the flash in the pan. They can’t all have Susan Boyle stories.

    If the consumers are willing to be entertained by a singing, dancing tabloid show – it would be a bit much to also expect to receive good, new music from artists who know who they are and what they want to say, considering the source. IMO, of course.

  • primeminister

    Well, it’s not like X Factor contestants are blowing up on the charts either.

  • butte009

    I myself am looking forward to it jumping the pond. I like the addition of groups and the performance/show aspect. Let’s give the SYTYCD alumni some more airtime! :)

    Maybe it’s written in Louis’ rulebook somewhere but I don’t see why the US XF contestants couldn’t have a say in song choice/arrangement. Didn’t Simon say he let Danyl and Jamie pick the song a few times? So for me it’s not a given that that option would go away. Frankly, not many AI contestants over the years have been able to do it well anyways (arrangements that is).

    I also think a UK poster had said in one of the previous performance threads that some XF contestants have played instruments in the past. It just so happened that none of this season’s contestants were so inclined. So again… I don’t foresee an issue or disadvantage. Many contestants just stand there for there performance (e.g. Stacey) so why not hold a guitar or play piano? No difference IMO.

    I didn’t see the XF judges as being any better or worse than AI. They have their own mentees so you knew they would pimp them over the other groups.

  • http://www.twilightslo.com Mateja

    LOL.

    Judges are also mentors, they pick songs for their contestants from the list. Usually they do that on Sunday morning. Contestant tries to sing a few songs, mentor listens and then decides.

    Danyl and Jamie had problems with their song choices because of Simon. Simon is a busy man, so he doesn’t have time to mentor his contestants properly himself. So he pays someone else to do his job as a mentor. That guy is Simon’s friend from Sony. Simon shows up on Friday (one day before the show) at rehearsals, to see how his acts are doing. If he is not happy with the song choice or performance, he changes the song. That’s why Danyl and Jamie complained so much. Then he let them to have a say, but really, they need mentor’s approval for everything.

    They have voice coaches, choreographer, and professional musicians to create the arrangements. They don’t have live band in a studio, I guess everything is pre-recorded somehow. Instruments are not exactly forbidden, but they have backing tracks. And, as Simon says, it’s a singing competition. They are looking for a popstar, someone who has singing and (possibly) performance skills. Adam would be perfect for X Factor. I think one or two contestants played instruments in the past, but it was probably once in the whole season…

    If you watched X Factor, judges don’t talk about song arrangements during their critiques. They sometimes critique each other’s song choices, but usually only singing, choreography, performance… They certainly don’t talk about artistry like Kara did this year on Idol.

    Oh and groups. They seem interesting, but they never win. Usually they don’t go very far. Especially girl groups. Boybands stay a little longer.