The X Factor creator believes Rap is helping his show.
Simon Cowell’s got love for the Hip-Hop community, and coming from the man has solely changed the music industry with his franchise of globally successful talent shows, it says a lot for Rap’s standing in the overall music industry. In an exclusive interview, The Source recently chatted with Simon about his billion-dollar franchise, new rules being broken for season 2 of X-Factor, and how he turned his life around and became one of television’s most influential producers. Cowell even reveals that adding Brooklyn MC and and Unsigned Hype alum, Astro and California-bred Chris Rene to Season 1 introduced the show to an entire new group of demographics often cut from these competitions—Hip-Hop! “If you’re going to grow a show from the beginning, you’ve got to get cool people watching your shows. Otherwise your dead,” says Cowell.
Did you expect Astro to be a fan favorite?
I wasn’t sure because he wasn’t the easiest contestant, as you could see, to have on the show. I mean right from the get go there would be certain things we asked him to do in certain stages, and he just went ‘No’, and I thought ‘God, you could be quite difficult.’ But we just could not deny his talent, and then we got to know him as a kid and he was actually a really, really sweet guy–very respectful, and it was all a bit of a front, but I was very proud of the fact that this show gave him the opportunity and importantly didn’t compromise him, you know? He had total say in everything he did, every week put on a brilliant show.
What happened behind the scenes when Astro sort of rebelled on that one episode?
When we had that situation when he wasn’t going to sing, he came over to my house the following day with L.A. (Reid) and his dad. And I said, you know what, the most important thing is you’ve got to walk high when eventually you leave this show and it’s very important that next week you kind of got to be a bit more humble, and promise me that you’re never going to do that again. And he went ‘I promise, I won’t do that again.’ And we kind of joked about it, and I really got to like him more after that. And he left on a high and that’s what I wanted for him.
I see that you changed one of the rules this season, anyone with a pre-existing contract can enter, why did you decide that?
Because I don’t like rules. We said right from the get go on this show that there would be as little rules as possible, that’s why the minimum age is 12 and also groups can enter. Then we kept saying what’s the point of restricting people who’ve got a management contract, we might be missing out on some really good people. So it was a very easy decision to make. If you’ve got a management contract, who cares? So it’s another rule that has just now gone away.”
Is it because of the headache of dealing with people who sign bad contracts?
You don’t know what your going to encounter, but I think the important thing for the individuals is that if you’ve got a management contract you could argue, ‘Well you must be good,’… but you haven’t gotten a deal yet, so there’s a problem. So hopefully this will help you and we will just deal with it case by case.
How did you intend to make X Factor different from, well, the other shows?
I like the idea of every year we’re going to find somebody that we can say we just wouldn’t have found this kind of person on another show. You’ve got to break the rules, like I said, break traditions and accept this for what it is, it’s a fantastic platform, millions of people are going to see you every week, and if you win you’re going to end up with a ton of money and you’re on your way.”
You’ve said before that you’ve faced everyone’s biggest fear by being broke and many people are experiencing that now. What encouraged you during you’re down time to not give up?
I would say belief in myself, and also the fact there was no shame in losing things. None of my friends treated me any differently, and I had the support of my family. And I gave myself time to get myself back on my feet again. I didn’t own anything; I did owe the bank some money. I did find a good bank manager who supported me, it wasn’t a massive loan, but I made a good case why I was a good person to bet on. And I really, really took my time and I thought to myself, ‘I do believe every negative has a positive.’…I didn’t feel any worse driving a smaller car compared to the Porsche or whatever I had before, it was still my car. I’d bought it myself and I was still proud of it. So in a weird way it was a good thing it happened to me so I have a lot of sympathy for what people are going through at the moment, but you’ve got to be optimistic. You’ve got to believe in yourself and you’ve got to learn from other people. And…You’ve got to be a good listener.
Why a $5 million dollar contract? Don’t you think that could spoil new artists?
Well….no, I like the idea of somebody getting really rich on this show (laughs). It just appealed to me from day one. And I think that there is no question or doubt it does attract better talent. Somebody who may be thinking I’m not sure if this is the route for me, when you’ve got $5 million dollars at stake, it changes everything. You wouldn’t turn it down, would you?
I would never turn that down. In fact, I’d sign the deal for $500, but hey I’m no artist.
And I still think you’d be a nice person afterwards. But you’d prefer the $5 Million.
–Interview By Courtney Brown
Read more of Courtney’s interview with Simon Cowell in the next issue of the Source!