One of the improvements that Fox’s “The X Factor” has offered over “American Idol” in its first month on the air is its two alpha male judges. Simon Cowell, we already know about, from his acerbic take on talent assessment he exhibited on “Idol,” but veteran performer/producer turned record company executive Antonio “L.A.” Reid has been a revelation, with a sense of gravitas that only comes from having been the one to launch into stardom the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, OutKast, TLC, Usher, Pink, Ne-Yo and Jeezy, among many others.
As mentor for the Boys Under 30, he will be guiding rehabbing hip-hop crooner Chris Rene, 14-year-old tyro rapper Brian “Astro” Bradley, Usher/Bobby Brown acolyte Marcus Canty and Sinatra fan Phillip Lomax through their paces in the quest for the $5 million first prize. As well as engaging in what may well be “The X Factor”’s most heated competition—that with the man who hired him, Cowell.
Watch The Mentors Talk About Their “X Factor” Gigs:
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Reid met with the press Thursday on a wide range of topics, and more than held his own.
On working with Chris Rene and his issues with drug addiction: He has been one of the most popular contestants on the show. The only problem was his category had so many guys I liked, and some really incredible talent. Narrowing it down to four was difficult. But he was a standout from the very first audition, and I’m really happy to have him.
On the show failing to match Simon’s prediction it would attract 20 million viewers: The fact of the matter is, we have a very successful show, with an average of more than 12 million viewers. I’d like to hit 30 million and sweep it. But that’s not important to me. That’s a statement Simon put out there, and I think it was aspirational. I’m not disappointed that we’re not there.
On trash-talking Simon Cowell’s picks in the Girls category: I won’t do that, but I have a very different take than Simon. I might have made different choices, but Simon is incredible, the most experienced guy at doing what we’re doing here, which is a televised talent competition show. I’m actually here to learn and watch exactly what Simon does.
On what Chris Rene has to do to win: He’s a very unique talent, somewhere between a singer and a rapper. He has to find the right material, and give a compelling performance. If he gets into the moment, and feels comfortable with it, like he did with his own song in the original audition, he’s going to be fine. Chris gave us his word he’s going to stay straight. I’m going to take him at his word. Every time I see him, he looks amazing. Whatever he’s doing, in his own time, it appears to be working. I have faith in Chris. I think he’s going to emerge as an amazing star, and a man we can be proud of, who does has the strength to overcome his illness, and the disease he calls addiction.
On Nicole’s selection of Dexter Haygood to move on: I like Dexter a lot, and I respect Nicole’s decision. He’s clearly an artist, performer and contestant who has gone through some very, very tough times in his life. I think it was more believing someone and giving them the chance to rebound, to get their life back on track. He’s clearly talented, and yes, he’s a showman, but I don’t think it was a decision based on spectacle, as much as one based on opening a door and giving someone an opportunity to straighten up. And that’s something I support 100%.
On whether shows like this replace the label A&R process: Between “X Factor” and other talent competitions, along with YouTube, it offers that many more opportunities to discover talent, but it’s clearly an enhancement, not a replacement.
On whether Justin Bieber has said anything about Drew Ryniewicz: I think she’s amazing, a real competitive talent and a contender here. I have not spoken to Justin about Drew, though. He’s a good sport. He doesn’t take it seriously when someone says they want to beat him at what he does.
On whether “The X Factor” will produce a superstar: Any time you sign a talent, it’s a roll of the dice. If there were a crystal ball, then this would be a very simple job. The fact is, it’s trial and error, and will continue to be. We will make every effort to turn some of these contestants into global stars. But it’s gonna be a crapshoot. I see talent that I think has the ability to go the distance, but it will ultimately be up to the public to decide.
On how the $5 million prize affects their judgment of the talent: It’s first and foremost about the talent, and the uniqueness, their reach and appeal and ability to deliver material, showing their range and diversity. That’s a lot of money… but the most important emphasis is the talent itself.
On if Brian Bradley can attract a following: We’ll just have to see. He’s popular on YouTube, a million and a half hits, which is a great indicator. I really like him, even though I make comments that go back and forth. Thast’s just me voicing my concerns. I voice my concerns about superstars like Mariah Carey. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the public.