Simon Cowell: “You’re going to hear a different kind of singer this year.”

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

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Simon Cowell is, amongst other things, a record company executive, a television and film producer…and a global TV star. Renowned for his sharp eye for talent and candid opinions, Simon Cowell has completely transformed popular culture in the 21st century, through his TV and music interests.

Cowell’s company, Syco Entertainment, is a world-renowned music, film, and television production company responsible for some of the most successful global music and television franchises. Syco’s television assets include the two international TV phenomenon formats: Got Talent and The X Factor. This year, Syco Music was named the No.1 A&R label in the UK, for both singles and albums. To date, Cowell has worked with artists who have sold more than 350 million records.

So Simon how does it feel to be back in the UK for this series?
It actually feels really good to be back in the UK. I think in a weird way it’s good I’ve had a break from the show, I’ve watched the show from a distance and now I feel like I’m back in control again. I like it.

What are you most excited about?
There’s always that feeling when you’re on the panel that you’re going to find a new star. I don’t know who they’re going be, where they’re going to come from but it’s that that excites me the most.

What did you miss most about the show while you were away?
You miss British contestants. I’ve always thought on these shows, for whatever reason, the best people have come from Britain. You can take people like Leona Lewis or One Direction or Olly Murs, JLS, Ella Henderson, Cher Lloyd, they’ve all come from the show and gone on to have big careers. So we’re lucky the show does attract people who do want to be big recording artists, rather than wanting to win a singing competition – there is a difference.

What’s going to be different about this year?
I think you’re going to hear a different kind of singer this year. The show is going to look different in terms of the line up. I’ve done the small room auditions already, and then we’re going back to arenas, which is the real test. I’ve already seen 5 or 6 people that have got massive potential. Some of these people, when you put them in front of the big crowds, they fall apart. And on the show this year there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. You’ve got to go from the small room to the arena to the six chair challenge, which I think is a great addition. Then you’ve got to do the judges’ houses visit, then you make it on the live shows. So anyone who gets to the live shows, they’ve earned their spot.

How competitive are you and the other judges feeling this year?
You don’t get competitive until you get your category. At that point, for whatever reason, you almost forget about the artists at that point – it’s so much about you winning. Or so much about someone else not winning – it’s about your competitive nature, which is why you put competitive people on the show because if you don’t want to win, it’s kind of a boring show.

How does it feel to be reunited with Cheryl?
It feels good to be reunited with Cheryl, I’ll be honest with you. She’s been on good form. It’s almost like the last four years disappeared. We just picked it up straight away. She’s been fun and annoying, but good to be with.

Cheryl said she came back after a lot of grovelling. What did you say to persuade her to come back?
We had a lot of conversations before Cheryl agreed to come back. But what was interesting, was that once we got past whatever we had to get past, we then started talking about the show and we reminded ourselves of the past series we made which was a great series. It’s how we wanted to recapture that again, and make a show which is fun, big and most importantly find a star, or maybe more than one star.

Is there a particular type of contestant you’re looking for this year; a specific genre or category?
I’m not interested in a sob-story, I mean seriously, I’m just so over them. I always say the same thing. I want someone who can become a star in this country, but just as importantly, can become a star in other countries. You want somebody who’s different, you don’t want a second rate version of someone who’s already out there, but you want somebody who’s different from anyone else in the charts at the moment.

You’ve brought Louis back to the show for his 11th consecutive series. What do you think he brings to the show that nobody else does?
Louis brings madness to the show. I’ve known Louis for about 15 years, he’s a nutcase, and he has a very different view of the world than I do. But that’s what I find interesting about Louis; he is an optimist, whereas I can be a bit cynical. But he loves music. He loves doing the show; I mean if he had a tail he’d be wagging it. And the one thing you forget about Louis is that he is a really good manager. I mean he’s sold over 100 million records – you don’t do that with luck, you do it because you’re smart.

And what’s it like working with Mel, what kind of judge is she?
I wasn’t sure whether Mel was going to fit in or not, but within 5 minutes I got her. She brings an incredible energy to the show. She isn’t a judge for hire, which a lot of people are nowadays. She loves the show and is really interested in the mentoring aspect of the show, because she did the show in Australia where she did a good job. Plus she’s really fun to be around, although I get why she’s called Scary!

What’s your biggest audition turn off?
I think it’s normally a boyband that’s been put together by a manager, and told what to wear, what to say, they all come running in and everything they say is scripted, and they pretend to laugh at each other’s jokes, I hate that. I’d rather find something much more raw – like we had with One Direction.

The age limit’s been lowered to 14 this year. Do you think that someone this young can cope with the pressure of being on the show?
On Britain’s Got Talent we’ve had no age limits, we’ve had really young people do well on the show. You have to make a judgement call before you put teenagers in front of us, about whether they can cope with it or not. When they come to see us, we can make a pretty good call as to whether we think they’re too young or too inexperienced. On the other hand we’ve had really good 14 / 15 year olds, who are better and more assured than some of the 30 year olds.

Dermot O’Leary talks X Factor

September 24, 2014 by  
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Dermot O’Leary’s television and radio work has made him a household name. He has been at the helm of The X Factor since 2007 and also hosts his own award-winning BBC Radio 2 show every Saturday, which has won three Sony Radio Awards. Dermot has also chaired the debate and interviewed party leaders for First Time Voters Question Time on BBC Three, presents Unicef’s SoccerAid, and is host of the National Television Awards. In March 2014 Dermot hosted the ground-breaking ‘Live from Space’ season on Channel 4.

What do you think the new panel each bring to the table?
Mel for me is almost like a mini Sharon Osbourne, in that she is kind of un-produceable, which I love. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to her, she knows her own mind. Cheryl is incredibly insightful, and emotionally engaging, and really intelligent. Simon brings brutal honesty and you need that, because this is an audition process. Louis for me brings an encyclopaedic music knowledge, and say what you want about him but he knows how to put a band together. Also, he’s not afraid of making decisions that won’t make him popular with the people.

How often do you find yourself disagreeing with the judges’ decisions?
I’m a soft touch; I wouldn’t say I’d put everyone through, but you get to know people and you get to know their families and the fact that they do jobs that they don’t particularly want to do and they have a fair degree of talent. So when you see someone whose audition doesn’t go that well I do feel quite bad for them.

I can’t wait for the live shows, because I like it when the panel has disagreements, and when it kicks off, because that’s what I’m there for. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it when they go below the belt, or they start saying nasty things to each other, or they have disagreements in the press, I’m not a big fan of any of that. But I like it in studio when all’s fair in love and war, and then when it finishes, we have a drink together.

What’s the overall dynamic between them?
It’s really early doors in terms of dynamic; Mel B and Cheryl have a great understanding and get on very well at the moment. But they all work very well as a team – Mel B has a clear definition as to what she wants and Louis is
brilliant because you can put him with anyone.

Which judges are you expecting to clash the most, have you noticed any disagreements yet?
I think Simon and Cheryl will clash a fair bit in studio, and I think Mel B will clash with anyone. Louis digs his heels in about the strangest things – it could be an outfit, a song choice, someone’s hair, it’s never something
particularly controversial.

You’re first on hand to console the acts who don’t make it through – Would you say that’s the hardest part of your role on the show?
At the moment the hardest part of my role on the show is definitely when the acts come off and they haven’t done too well. But then it’s quite hard because they’re not really listening, all they’re doing is mulling over their
audition. Sometimes you can have a good conversation with someone, and try to contextualise it, and other times you could be saying anything to them.

Do a lot of the contestants come to you for advice once the show is underway?
I always do a pep talk before we start. People that get to the last three in this show are the hardest working, the most talented, and the most honest. There’s nothing that drives me nuts more than when someone gives me the
answer they think I want rather than how they’re feeling; and people worry about how they’re going to be perceived. There’s nothing worse than being perceived in any other way than being honest and who you are. The people that do well in this show are the people that are true to themselves.

This is your eighth series on the show – what are your favourite memories from throughout the years?
I love those moments in studio where you’re not quite entirely sure something has happened – it invariably involves more colourful contestants, so Wagner doing Love Shack, Jedward doing Ghostbusters. But then I love the moments where someone will just pick up an audition song and absolutely sing. For me, it’s about seeing an Ella Henderson, seeing a James Arthur, seeing an Olly Murs, come on and blow an audience away.

Mel B Spices Up The X Factor!

July 1, 2014 by  
Filed under News

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Spice Girl Melanie B is becoming the fourth and final judge of X Factor.

As part of the biggest selling female group of all time and the cultural phenomenon, which was The Spice Girls, Mel B has notched up a stunning 80 million record sales worldwide, including nine UK No.1s. She also has five prestigious BRIT Awards to her name.

Mel’s signing comes after she appeared as a guest judge on The X Factor in 2012, where she lived up to her scary nickname with her straight talking approach.

Talking about joining the panel Mel B says: “I’m so excited to be joining The X Factor – I loved being a guest judge back in 2012. I’ve always thought honesty is the best policy when being a judge and that’s what I’m going to bring more of this year – whether it’s spotting an incredible singer, giving someone a reality check or debating with Simon over who’s got it wrong! Now I can’t wait to get started and find some amazing talent.”

The X Factor creator, Simon Cowell, says: “I am thrilled that Mel B has agreed to be a judge on The X Factor this year. I thought she was fantastic as a guest judge a couple of years ago. She is feisty, opinionated and, I believe, will be a great mentor.”

Mel B will join renowned music manager Louis Walsh, who returns for another series. As previously announced, they are joining Simon and pop princess Cheryl Cole, who both make a celebrated return to the show for the first time since 2010.

The judges will be joined by award-winning broadcaster and presenter Dermot O’Leary, who is back to preside over the talent, tears and drama, while providing support to the aspiring stars.

Louis Walsh says, “It should be a fun year this year with both Simon and Cheryl returning and I think Mel will keep us all on our toes, she is Scary Spice after all.”

Dermot O’Leary says, “Mel was great as a guest judge a couple of years ago and she certainly doesn’t mince her words. With Mel on the panel, along with Simon, Cheryl and Louis, I’ll have my hands full – we’re going to be in for an exciting year.”

Fan Favourite Returning To X Factor

March 26, 2014 by  
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Pop sensation Cheryl Cole is to return to The X Factor judging panel, reuniting her with her ‘frenemy’, X Factor creator Simon Cowell.

One of the UK’s most successful female recording artists, Cheryl has notched up an impressive three number one singles, two number one albums, and a sold out arena tour. As a member of Girls Aloud, Cheryl achieved 20 top ten singles, four number ones and five platinum albums as well as winning a BRIT award.

Cheryl was a judge on The X Factor from series five to series seven, winning the nation over with her heartfelt and honest style, whilst securing victory in two consecutive years – in 2008 with Alexandra Burke and 2009 with Joe McElderry.

Speaking of her return Cheryl Cole said, “I’m very happy and excited to be returning to The X Factor. I’m inspired and ready to find new talent and potential pop stars. It’s going to be a fun series.”

Simon Cowell, who confirmed his return to the UK show last month, said, “I am so happy that Cheryl has agreed to join The X Factor again. The last time we worked together in the UK was incredible and produced some really successful artists. Obviously the plan is to do the same again… so it’s back to work!”

A Decade In TV: Yesterday’s Babies

March 3, 2014 by  
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It feels only yesterday that we were in the year 2004; a time that saw television in a separate landscape than it’s in today. BBC iPlayer was something of a fantasy, digital television was still a work in progress and broadcast networks in America ruled television with an iron fist.

This time ten years ago, American network ABC took the first steps in reversing their fledging fortunes with new ground-breaking shows, a cult British actor made the jump to a television superstar, and an emerging media mogul launched a television phenomenon that revolutionized British television for the rest of the decade.

These are just some of the shows launched ten years ago which went on to make an immediate impact in British & American television. I’ll be taking a look at five unique shows that are still having an influence on television minds today.

(1) The X Factor – ITV – 2004-Present
Simon Cowell took a personal risk in late 2003 to bring in a new music show, in his bid to wipe the smile off Simon Fuller’s face, following their unhappy time working together on Pop Idol. The result made Simon Cowell one of the biggest and most famous media moguls of the 21st century. The X Factor has been at the centre of Cowell’s personal music revolution across the world, creating new stars such as Leona Lewis & One Direction.

(2) Strictly Come Dancing – BBC One – 2004-Present
ITV weren’t the only channel taking risks in 2004. BBC One took on one too, reviving the age old ballroom dancing format with a selection of changes to guarantee a new audience for the show. Bruce Forsyth signified his career re-emergence by hosting the show, as well as providing a fresh challenge for a variety of celebrities in Britain and abroad.

(3) The Apprentice – NBC/BBC One – 2004-Present
Billed in the U.S as “The Ultimate Job Interview”, Donald Trump’s business reality show launched a new sub-genre in reality television, making the format a fortune around the world, and making Sir Alan Sugar a household name in the process. It also spun a spin off entitled Junior Apprentice, but sadly did not match The Apprentice’s huge following.

(4) Lost/Desperate Housewives – ABC – 2004-2010/2012
Prior to 2004, American network ABC was trailing behind in 4th place behind competing networks FOX, CBS & NBC in both ratings and popular programming. Through clever scheduling and commissioning of major new pilots, fall 2004 saw ABC bounce back with major new offerings such as Ugly Betty & Grey’s Anatomy. But it was JJ Abrams’s Lost & Marc Cherry’s Desperate Housewives that helped ABC bounce back in ratings and made worldwide stars out of Matthew Fox & Evangeline Lily, as well as reigniting Teri Hatcher’s career.

(5) House – FOX – 2004-2012
Before this show, Hugh Laurie was only known for his comedy and family roles, with a small niche audience mainly in Britain. But his role as Dr.Gregory House gained him a new legion of fans, and started the idea that anyone from the acting world in Britain could gain success in the States, whether it was only small TV roles, or the lead in a Shakespearian play. Following its debut, House became an international success for FOX and took Hugh Laurie’s career into an entirely new direction.

Cowell Back To Terrorise Wannabes

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under News

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ITV and Simon Cowell are delighted to announce that he is to return to the UK X Factor in Autumn 2014. Cowell will lead the judging panel for its 11th series later this year.

Simon, the creator of The X Factor, returns to the UK X Factor after three years in the US working on the American version of the hit worldwide show.

The record label executive says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to The X Factor UK. It’s been three years since I last judged the competition and I’m excited to find a global superstar again.”

“The UK X Factor has set the benchmark in finding worldwide superstars over the years – including One Direction, Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd, Olly Murs , JLS and Little Mix.” Simon continued: “Despite all the rumours, ITV and the producers have not decided on the rest of the judging panel quite yet. You’ll just have to wait and see…”

The rest of the UK X Factor judging panel will be announced in the coming months and the judges auditions are due to start in June.

X Factor Fact: Stars that have emerged from the X Factor have sold more than 150 million records to date, making the show incomparable in its success versus rival talent shows.

I Can’t Sing – featuring Simon Cowell

December 18, 2013 by  
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I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical

Featuring a host of characters who may seem oddly familiar, this brand new production looks like it could be something for both X Factor lovers and haters.

Olivier Award-winner Nigel Harman will play X Factor supremo Simon, with Cynthia Erivo and Alan Morrissey as lovestruck contestants Chenice and Max. Joining Nigel on the judging panel will be Ashley Knight as the ever-positive boyband manager Louis and Victoria Elliot as pop queen Jordy. Simon Bailey will play the overly affectionate X Factor host Liam O’Deary, with Billy Carter as Executive Producer and Simon’s right hand man, Gerard Smalls. Simon Lipkin plays Chenice’s faithful canine sidekick Barlow and Joe Speare is her iron-lung bound Grandad.

Written by BAFTA award-winning comedian Harry Hill and with music and lyrics by Steve Brown (Spend, Spend, Spend; Spitting Image; TV Burp), I Can’t Sing! is co-produced by the patron saint of fame himself, Simon Cowell.

Harry Hill said “I worked with a lot of our cast in the workshops for I Can’t Sing! and we have some brilliant new faces too. I’m thrilled with the acting company we have on board – and it’s a coup to have Nigel Harman as Simon. He was so funny in Shrek the Musical – not so much in Downton. With the wig and teeth he looks more like Simon, than Simon.”

Opening at the London Palladium on Wednesday 26 March 2014, with previews from Thursday 27 February 2014

See more at: www.icantsingthemusical.com/news/

Historical figures who’d make great X Factor Judges.

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

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As The X Factor goes the way of every reality TV show before it, maybe it’s time to inject some new blood into its stiffening corpse. The format has become a parody of itself, the acts are getting worse, and the quality of the judges has never recovered since Cowell ordered Louis Walsh’s assassination.

At this rate, even the presence of long-dead historical figures on the panel would liven things up. Here’s our choice of the best three candidates.

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Vlad The Impaler

Proud wearer of a natty moustache and scraggly black hair, he’s easily mistaken for Russell Brand by channel-hoppers, something that’ll surely bring in a few thousand more viewers every week.

The real draw, however, is his exceptional cruelty. An anti-Vlad pamphlet from 1521 warns readers, “He let children be roasted; those, their mothers were forced to eat. And (he) cut off the breasts of women; those, their husbands were forced to eat. After that, he had them all impaled”.

Now, who doesn’t want to see an off-key boyband from Milton Keynes forced to cannibalise each other on a Saturday night? His penchant for murder might be an issue when the show progresses into the later rounds, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

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Oscar Wilde

Britain’s Got Talent has already shown that having a verbose camp guy on the panel is a good thing – Walliams has been a huge hit for the show’s ratings. And in the increasingly plaigarised format changes that the two shows are going through, Wilde would fit right in. But probably not next to Louis Walsh.

Audiences used to love Cowell’s funny put-downs – imagine how they’d react to the biting insults of Victorian London’s greatest wits. At the very least, it would add a bit of culture to the ITV Saturday night schedule.

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Aleister Crowley

18th century occultist and opium-eater Crowley would fill the ‘bad guy’ hole in the panel left by Simon Cowell perfectly. Gary Barlow’s making a decent effort, but it’s just not the same. Contestants are going to be far more intimidated by a man who was often called “the wickedest man in the world” than an ex-boyband member who looks like a fat Northern baby.

A womanizer, drug addict and cult member, he’s pure tabloid fodder. A quiet night in for Crowley will give the show weeks of free publicity on MailOnline. His extensive experience with the dark arts will surely help him overcome whatever demon has possessed Nicole Scherzinger as well. Really, the perfect candidate.

Britain’s Got Talent: The Final Preview

June 3, 2013 by  
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Let’s face it people. This year’s Britain’s Got Talent final is pretty much The X Factor lite.

Out of the ten finalists through to the grand final, six of them are singers in some form of another. Only two have been voted for by the British public, whereas the other four were put through by the judges. I’m not planning to throw any ideas with this article, but given that Simon Cowell’s other television phenomenon is under ratings scrutiny, it wouldn’t be surprising to subtly use BGT as a vehicle to find his next singing sensation. I mean, this was the show that made Susan Boyle an overnight sensation after all.

The hot favourite is young comedian Jack Carroll, a wheelchair bound school pupil with a good eye for comedy. Good enough to make him popular with the public, and the judges table. While I don’t find Carroll laugh-out-loud funny, he certainly has the chops to become better in the coming years.

Impressionist Francine Lewis has also made the cut, with strong impressions of famous celebs such as Cheryl Cole & Katie Price. Nothing new and by no means the best on the show, but it’s good to have at least one impressionist in the final, instead of it being flat on comedic talent.

Something that also surprises me is the lack of dancing groups this year. Out of the potential ten in the semis, only one managed to squeeze a place in the grand final, that being the youngest of the lot: Pre Skool. A dance troupe full of toddlers with a remarkable talent that will instantly pull the cute and emotional strings of the voting public. Whether they have the potential to go all the way to the top is another story.

We then finally land on Attraction, a shadow theatre group who have truly brought something new to the BGT table. Unlike the other acts, Attraction offer a fresh new act to the show with its clever use of shadow puppetry, one act that the public and judges have eaten up massively.

Back to the singers, and the fact that only a handful of them really stand out as different in terms of personalities and vocal talent. Luminites are the strongest singing act in the final, in terms of personality and likability factor with the audience. But don’t rule out the younger contestants such as Arisxandra & Asandra Jezile, who both have strong support as well as vocals going into this final.

Richard & Adam can separate themselves entirely, given that they are opera singers. But I’ve preferred to mash them together in the singing category given that it is still singing, despite it being opera. That being said, they themselves have a strong chance at winning the show too, with their vocal power and correspondence with the voting public.

The final ace yet to be played is the wildcard, chosen exclusively by the judges. One hopes not to see another singer thrown in, and would opt for another dancing act, given that Pre Skool seem to be the only ones voted in by the public. There are a lot of far stronger acts in the competition that failed to make it past the semis. Acts like Jordan Hall or Youth Creation, who both pulled in strong performances, only to be let down by the judges during results.

With the final not until next Saturday, it’s a test to see whether ITV can hold interest for another seven days, and pull in some strong ratings before the dry months of summer roll in, bleeding TVs dry across the nation. With no major sporting event on, this may be ITV’s last chance before The X Factor kicks in, for some real ratings winners.

The X Factor Returns…With A Familiar Face

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under News

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The nation’s most talked about entertainment show is back with a bang for 2013 with a new addition to the judging panel and brand new double auditions.

Rock royalty Sharon Osbourne makes a triumphant return to the show, joining Take That superstar Gary Barlow, US pop star Nicole Scherzinger and boyband manager Louis Walsh in the search for the nation’s next big singing sensation.

Outspoken and unpredictable Sharon was one of the original X Factor judges from 2004-2007 and has more than 30 years’ experience in the music industry, managing some of the biggest bands in rock.

And in the first of an exciting range of new changes for the 10th series of The X Factor, hopefuls will – for the first time ever – have to tackle two sets of auditions. First, they will face the judges eyeball to eyeball in an intimate audition room.

If they receive three or more yeses here they will then have to perform for the judges once more, this time in an arena, to prove they can also impress an audience before securing a coveted place at the next stage in the competition.

Speaking of the new series, Simon Cowell says: “Three words I never thought I’d say…. Welcome back Sharon!”

Talking about her return Sharon Osbourne says: “I couldn’t be happier about coming back for the 10th anniversary of X factor. I can’t wait to give Gary Barlow a big hug, sit next to the gorgeous Nicole, and of course throw water on dear Louis. Yay!?

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