'X Factor's' Simon Cowell & L.A. Reid: The Billboard Cover Story
'X Factor's' Simon Cowell & L.A. Reid: The Billboard Cover Story

Can the 'X' Men Turn the Show's Ratings Into Music Success?

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Reid approaches the matter with a little more caution. "The fact that we're releasing this music doesn't mean these artists will be microwaved into massive success," he says. "There is no shortcut. They will still have to have hit singles, still have to go out and perform to win people over beyond what they did on last season's 'X Factor.'

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"I don't expect ground-breaking results," Reid adds. "What I do expect is the artists to give their all and the label will be behind them."

Cowell spoke by phone from St. Tropez, France, where he had sailed from Sardinia during a vacation just after filming visits with contestants at his Los Angeles home. While Cowell was vacationing, Reid spent the last week of August in A&R meetings at Epic and shooting "The X Factor" for two days in Los Angeles, then flying to Atlanta, where he spent a few hours with Andre 3000 going over his next album, working in the studio with rapper Future and meeting with producers. To be effective in Atlanta, Reid says, he needs to visit the city. "I have to go and actually see people and be a part of it to find meaningful music and meaningful artists."

Earlier in the summer, Reid, Cowell, Spears and Lovato trekked to five U.S. cities to preside over the cattle-call auditions where Cowell estimates they see 650-700 performers in total. At the Miami Beach taping, Cowell was his usual stern self, constantly asking singers to deliver their all. He peppered nearly every singer with the same question: "You know this might be the last time we see you so what makes you believe you have what it takes to win 'The X Factor'?"

Taping days in the early going are lengthy-more than five hours for the judges and even longer for the crew who capture plenty of hard-luck stories, moments of rejection and elation and far too many performers forgetting lyrics. During the Miami taping, Lovato spoke regularly with Cowell; Reid and Cowell rarely talked to each another at the judges table.

Throughout several days of shooting, Cowell was clearly in charge. He was the one who broke the bad news to contestants with heartfelt apologies. On the fifth and final day of taping, they picked 32 finalists. The drawn-out announcements took their toll on the singers-one young man fell over in tears after his name was announced; another disappointed hopeful raced up a set of stairs and punched a wall before security rushed to escort him out. The four judges ended their final day in Miami with a group hug, Spears clearly appearing more worn out than the others.