Contestants hoping to snag the $5 million prize on the US version of “X Factor” should probably steer clear of R. Kelly’s hit “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The song – long an anthem of self empowerment and confidence – is among Simon Cowell’s least favorites, he says.
Also on the list: Patsy Kline’s “At Last.” “I am now allergic to that song,” the iconic singing show judge says. “And everybody seems to think ‘Unchained Melody’ is my favorite song. I think somebody said that as a joke. I can’t hear that anymore. And Jason Mraz. That hit he had a couple of years ago. I cannot listen to that anymore. And ‘Ordinary People’ by John Legend. They always try to sing it like that version and it is never as good. I have to stop it after about 5 seconds.”
Auditions have already concluded for the much hyped competition, which premieres September 21 on Fox.
Cowell – who serves as both judge and executive producer – spoke to reporters about the show many believe will define his legacy.
Were you surprised to see a few “American Idol” contestants on “X Factor”?
I think it comes back to our point about having as few rules as possible. That was the whole point of doing the show in the first place. We did expect some people who we have seen on “Idol” before to come along. So I didn’t really have a problem with that. None of them did particularly well. But it was quite nice to hear them a second time.
A lot of times on singing competitions, people get real excited about radical reinventions of songs. Will you be pushing contestants out of their comfort zones?
Oh, 100%. We want as many unique versions as possible. Otherwise it just turns into a karaoke competition. Within about 3 weeks into the show, you are going to start to hear contestants get way out of their comfort zones. Part of the reason is that you don’t want it to be a bad sound-alike. And the other part is that we are going to be selling downloads on iTunes. So you will have to come up with unique versions.
Any interest in bringing Randy Jackson over?
I miss Randy. He really is a good friend. Maybe we will just get him a couple of front row seats each week and he can just do his dog barking thing. But seriously, I really do miss him. But he is happy on “Idol.” And we hang out all the time anyway. I am probably going to meet up with him this week for dinner.
What will make the American public connect with this show?
I think it will go back to how interesting are the contestants. Can you be bothered to invest time in them. Are they different from what you have heard before. I was very aware of that when we made the show because of the obvious comparisons to other shows out there. And I always said to people “when you watch the shows, you will understand that there is more than a subtle difference between the two.” It has got to be raw. You have got to allow the viewers to see things they haven’t seen before. You have got to like or hate the contestants. If you don’t have any of that, people will switch off. I would switch off.
How is doing the American version been different from British version?
We do these auditions before a crowd of five or six thousand people in an arena. And of course, nobody has seen the show before. In a strange way, it made it more interesting because the audience didn’t know what to expect. I would say the American audiences are more vocal. When they like someone, they let you know. And they certainly let you know when they disagree with you. There were a few times we had to bring back some contestants we said no to – or I think I would have been seriously injured.
Do you think ‘American Idol” is finally going to win the reality competition Emmy this Sunday?
I would find it very amusing that after all the years that I was on the show, the year I wasn’t on it would win the Emmy. That would make me laugh. So it probably will. (But) I don’t see it as threatening. It would be more ironic. If it does win this year, it is for all the years we did before, I am going to claim the victory and replicate the Emmy and just put my name on it.