On Thursday (Feb. 18, 2010) Simon Cowell held a wide-ranging conference call re. his future and several facets of American Idol. Following is Part II of a three-part series of that conference call:
Q: Yes. Really quickly, what does it feel like for the whole nation to kind of say, “This guy is pretty much irreplaceable on the show? We don’t know who we would replace him with.”
Cowell: “It’s very, very flattering. I really do appreciate it. Like I’ve said before, the show goes on. I’m going to feel sad when it all ends, but look, it’s much nicer to be popular than unpopular, so I do appreciate it.”
Q: You just made a comment earlier about the qualifications that a judge should have, kind of knowing what they’re talking about. This is something that Howard has been going on and on about, about his qualifications. I’m wondering if you could be a little more specific about how much music experience is really required for the job.
Cowell: “Well, I think it’s really important. It’s interesting that when we first started we had a record producer, an artist and an A&R man, so you’ve covered pretty much everything you need to do. I would say somebody who’s had managerial experience is always very helpful, but in simplistic terms it’s not if you judge the ice skating at The Olympics; you’re going to give a score. You genuinely need to know what you’re talking about. I think over the years judges have been replaced by personalities. That, in the long-term, will create problems because you have to be able to spot a star. So whoever replaces me, my advice has always been to find somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about and has actually experienced success in the music business.”
Q: How does that apply to Howard?
Cowell: “As I was saying that I thought, ‘He doesn’t seem to fit any of these criteria.’ He’s played records. Maybe that’s a good qualification, that he’s played records. He’s a DJ.”
Answer: Got you.
Cowell: “But he obviously wants the job. Good luck to him.”
Q: Simon, what can you tell us about what happened with Chris Golightly? How did he do? What do you remember from him in Hollywood Week?
Cowell: “I remember Chris’s first audition very well because Kara was completely and utterly besotted with him. I wasn’t quite so keen on him and then the second time we saw him – the second or third time, whatever it was – in Hollywood week he wasn’t as strong as he was on his first audition. I really honestly don’t have a clue why he’s been removed from the competition. I’m guessing it’s some sort of technical reason. It’s a shame for him. He needed this opportunity.”
Q: Would you let him audition on X-Factor?
Cowell: “I have to find out what the reason is, first of all. It was something like a technical reason, yes, of course he could.”
Q: Since this is your last year, I’m wondering what mentors are you hoping to work with, if there’s anyone that you haven’t gotten to work with yet or have on the show that you’re just dying to have on.
Cowell: “That’s a good question. Who comes to mind? We’ve had some pretty good people haven’t we? I think we should have Lady GaGa because she is the most relevant pop artist in the world at the moment. I think she should be number one. I’ve met her and she’s very smart. I like her.”
Q: Obviously, there are some really good singers this year. You guys did a good job picking them, but obviously some have less than what you would call Hollywood looks. So how do you balance what’s good for the TV show with what’s good for the music industry?
Cowell: “Again, it’s a good question. I mean, the reason we put a variety of people through is I think primarily on talent and interest in them as people. I think if you just pick everybody because they look the way you think they should look – it happened a few years ago. I remember every blond girl in the competition looked identical; I couldn’t tell one from the other. I think it’s important that you can recognize talent, personalities, so I think it’s good that we have a mixed bag this year.”
Q: The sob stories, do those have any impact on the judges?
Cowell: “Not really. Not on me. I’ve heard so many of them over the years. It’s about remembering people. Part of the problem when you do this show, from the auditions to the Hollywood round, is that most people you can’t remember. If you can remember somebody, it’s a good place to start.”
Q: Atlanta is the home to General Larry “Pants on the Ground” …
Cowell: “Give him my regards.”
Q: Yes. I wanted to get your take on the whole phenomenon. It just sort of blew out into this worldwide thing.
Cowell: “You know, it’s an interesting thing because when he came on the show, it’s one of the reasons why on X-Factor we didn’t put an age cap on the show. I always found a lot of these older contestants really funny, interesting, whether it’s him or somebody like Susan Boyle. So I have to tell you, for him, I’m absolutely thrilled that all this has happened for him because he needed the break. I’m glad it’s worked out well.”
Q: Simon, you’ve said a couple of times in talking about a potential replacement that they need experience in the music business, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and who’s had success in the music business. Are those comments directed at Ellen? Do you feel that she -?
Cowell: “Funnily enough, I was thinking that as I was saying this that people are going to misinterpret what I am saying. No. I’ll tell you why I think Ellen was a good choice. She actually is very responsible for people she has performing on her own show. I know that for a fact because I’ve dealt with her as a record label. And she loves music and she’s been an artist, so no, it wasn’t meant to diss her credentials; it was specifically talking about my replacement because my roll on the show was somebody who has run a successful record label. So it was really specifically towards my replacement.”