Simon Cowell will see you now for Fox's 'The X Factor,' but don't ask about those judges
Sing for him. Go ahead, don't be shy. He won't be mean. Well, OK, he might be. But Simon Cowell swears that he really wants to hear you sing. For his Fox reality competition, "The X Factor," coming in the fall, Cowell wants to hear everyone sing.
"Even if you never wanted to enter a show like this before, this is a different type of competition, where there are effectively not really any rules at all," Cowell told Show Tracker during a stop this week in Los Angeles. "And every genre of music is welcome as well."
Offering a record $5-million cash prize and a recording contract to the winner, "X Factor" will kick off its six-city audition tour at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on March 27 (for details and to sign up for a slot, go to thexfactor.blogs.fox.com/). Contestants have to be at least 12 years old by March 1, but beyond that, there are no age restrictions. Centenarians who can still croak out a tune are welcome. The show originated in Britain, where it is already a hit and has discovered such top-selling artists as Leona Lewis.
Cowell -- the former mean judge on "American Idol" -- insists that casting a wide net is the only way he's going to find a real star in a music world that's been upended the last few years, with acts as disparate as Lady Gaga (who is 24) and Susan Boyle (49) breaking through unexpectedly and selling millions of records.
"You’ve got to see as many people as possible. Simple as that," he said, adding that contestants will be able to audition via YouTube as well, as they have on Cowell's "America's Got Talent" on NBC. "The idea that record companies [have], that if you're of a certain look, a certain age, you can't sell records -– it just doesn't apply anymore.
"Suddenly pop music's become interesting again," he added, citing performers like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. "I think it went through a very drab phase ... something happened over the last two years where artists are interesting again and it's become much more about a show."
The hardest part? Finding fellow judges to sit with Cowell. Singers Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, George Michael, Nicole Scherzinger and Jessica Simpson have all been mentioned as possible candidates, but Cowell said he still hasn't made his picks.
"I've got people I want. Whether or not they're gonna agree to do the show, I'm gonna find out," he said. But it's a hard job: Judges on "X Factor" end up mentoring contestants during the 10 weeks the show airs live. And they also have to know a thing or two about American music.
"They’ve got to help me, 'cause I'm a Brit, I'm 51 years old, and I'm auditioning 14-year-old American kids to sell to an American audience."
Photo: Simon Cowell in 2009. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press