On May 22, 2013, the judging panel for “The X Factor” U.S. held a press conference in Charleston, S.C., to discuss the changes on the show. As previously reported, the judging panel (returning judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato and newly appointed judges Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio) debuted at auditions in Charleston on May 21, 2013, the day after it was officially announced that Rowland and Rubio had joined the show.
The third season of “The X Factor” U.S. will premiere on Fox in September 2013, on a date to be announced.
During the press conference, some of the usual boring, generic questions were asked (“What are you looking for in contestants?”) and the same predictable answers were given. But there were a few things during the press conference that stood out:
There will be a major format change during the middle of Season 3.
Cowell has mentioned in other interviews that there will be a format change to the show, but so far he’s declined to reveal further details. At the press conference he said, “The middle rounds are different … I can’t say what it is because everyone will steal it … It’s going to be a very dramatic show. I haven’t seen this [change] before.”
Rubio is the least-talkative of the judges.
Rubio said the least during the press conference. And based on Internet reports from people who were at the auditions in Charleston, she is the least-talkative judge on the panel. It’s possible that Rubio is still trying to get comfortable on an American TV show, since she is the least-known judge to American audiences. And she is the only judge on the panel who is working with “X Factor” executive producer Cowell for the first time this year. (Cowell was one of Rowland’s bosses when Rowland was a judge on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2011.)
In other interviews, Cowell has called Rubio a “spitfire,” so it remains to be seen if she will be as feisty on the panel as Lovato is with Cowell. Rubio is probably described as a “spitfire” because she’s been sued more than once for assault. On May 6, 2013, paparazzi photographer Hector Vela sued Rubio for allegedly kicking him in the groin and stealing his camera, according to Radar Online. Vela is seeking $75,000 in damages. In 2012, Rubio was sued by her former assistant Felipe Restrepo for allegedly punching, slapping and kicking him. We’ll have to see if she can keep her temper in check on “The X Factor,” especially when Cowell inevitably rips into her with his insults.
Cowell thinks the Charleston area has some of the worst contestants he’s ever seen.
When Cowell was asked what he thinks of the contestants he’s seen in the Charleston area, he said that they were “good” but “outnumbered by some of the worst auditions I have ever heard in my life.” He went on to talk about an unnamed contestant who butchered Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Cowell described this contestant as “not being human … Honest to God, I never head anything so rubbish in my life.” (It sounds like this audition will end up on TV.)
SPOILER ALERT: A country singer named Brandi Lovett made it through the auditions in Charleston.
Cowell said that a 21-year-old country singer named Brandi Lovett was one of the standout contestants in Charleston. “She was just brilliant!” Cowell raved. When Cowell essentially announces at a press conference the name of a contestant he likes, and makes it obvious that this contestant was put through to the next round, it’s not exactly a secret anymore. She was the only contestant he talked about favorably at the press conference.
Cowell and Lovato disagree on how the judging panel’s chemistry has changed this year.
Cowell thinks that now that women are in the majority of the show’s judging panel, things have gotten cattier. He half-jokingly implied that Lovato, Rowland and Rubio will favor male contestants and are prejudiced against attractive female contestants: “I am probably the sole person on this panel who can put pretty girls through. It’s a struggle.”
Rowland countered when she said about Cowell’s interaction with contestants, “He’s been flirting a lot.”
Cowell retorted, “Oh yeah, and you haven’t!”
Meanwhile, Lovato thinks the “girl power” among the female judges has resulted in a friendlier judging panel. She said that the panel has “great energy” and is “more fun and more relaxed” than the 2012 panel that had Britney Spears and L.A. Reid. “Simon has changed for the better … I see him smiling more,” added Lovato.
Cowell thinks girl group Fifth Harmony could be the “real winner” of “The X Factor” U.S.
Fifth Harmony (the girl group came in third place on “The X Factor” U.S. in 2012) is signed to Syco Music/Epic Records, which are Sony Music labels. The titles and release dates of Fifth Harmony’s debut single and album are to be announced.
All of the former “X Factor” U.S. contestants who have released music on Sony have been flops on the U.S. charts: Melanie Amaro, Josh Krajcik, Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, Rachel Crow, Emblem3 and Tate Stevens have all had dismal sales for their Sony Music releases. Although Stevens’ self-titled debut album debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard 200 chart after it was released on April 23, 2013, the album’s overall sales have bombed. The album’s sales declined at such a rapid rate that the album dropped off of the Billboard 200 chart after only three weeks.
As for other “X Factor” U.S. alumni signed to Sony Music labels, teen singers/”X Factor” U.S. alumni Carly Rose Sonenclar and Beatrice Miller are signed to Syco Music, but Cowell has barely mentioned them in the media, which is an indication that they aren’t his favorite acts on his record label. Sonenclar and Miller haven’t released any music on Sony yet. Teen rapper Astro is signed to Epic Records, which has not released any information about his first album for the company. It’s been ages since Cowell has mentioned Astro in interviews or on Twitter.
So it’s no wonder that Cowell is resting his high hopes on Fifth Harmony, which has been keeping a relatively high profile in the media this year by going to celebrity events such as the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, Fox’s upfront presentation and Topshop appearances with Lovato. Fifth Harmony has an uphill battle in getting a hit in America, since there hasn’t been an all-female group that’s made it big in the U.S. since Destiny’s Child broke up in 2006. (Little Mix, the girl group that won on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2011, is currently struggling to get a hit in the U.S., while The Saturdays have also flopped in America.)
At the Charleston press conference, Cowell said about Fifth Harmony: “I love Tate [Stevens], and I think he was a great winner, but I have a hunch that the real winners of our season are going to be Fifth Harmony. There hasn’t been a successful female band in a long time. I’m feeling something. I’m sensing something in this group.”
Rowland (a former member of Destiny’s Child) added: “I heard some music from these ladies, and I’m very excited for them. It’s time for a new girl group. I wish girl groups could do exceeding[ly] beyond what Destiny’s Child or TLC or the Supremes could ever do. We want each generation to get better and better.”
Lovato gushed about Fifth Harmony: “They’re very humble and sweet and so talented. They have phenomenal voices.”
We’ll have to see how well Fifth Harmony will really do on the charts. But, for now, the group seems to be a top priority for Cowell among the former “X Factor” U.S. contestants who are signed to Sony Music.