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Simon Cowell Promises Idol Will Be Better This Year

Didn't love American Idol last season? Simon Cowell has a promise for you: It's going to be better this time around.

In a conference call on Wednesday, Cowell dished about some of the changes for the upcoming Idol season, which kicks off Jan. 15 with audition footage from Philadelphia. "Ninety percent of what happened on the show last year was very good," Cowell said, but "we are completely, utterly reliant on who walks in the door in terms of the quality of contestants. Most of our focus this year was to make sure we got a better top 12 and a more interesting top 12 than what we got last year, and I'm pretty certain that we've got that this year." This year, he said, the competition will be wide open, with three or four strong girls and the same number of standout guys.

Cowell admitted that last season, the show spent too much time on guest mentors and not enough on the contestants: "If you'd asked me, for instance, 'What do you know about the girl who won last year, other than the fact that she's a good singer?' I couldn't really tell you. We didn't let the audience at home know enough. Everything was about their chat with Diana Ross or J. Lo or whoever it was. I think this year there will be more focus on the contestants and less focus on the person who is mentoring them that particular week."

Cowell also turned his notoriously sharp tongue to other topics, including the success and failure of Idol winners, his own plans to leave Idol, and even the U.S. presidential race. For some excerpts, just


  • On the terrible performers in the early auditions: "Is it fun doing it? No. It is becoming increasingly like torture. I think you have to give most of the people who come in at least three or four minutes, but it has gotten harder over the years. What's amazing, even after seven seasons — and we've got some shockingly bad people this year — is how much they still believe that they're right and I'm wrong. And they got more argumentative with me this year."
  • On the success and failure of past Idols: "I think it's a reflection on the unpredictability of the record business, where fortunately we got it right more times than we got it wrong. Reuben [Studdard, who was recently dropped by his record label] is certainly one of the ones you would have backed at the beginning to be on his third or fourth album right now, but it didn't work out. There is no scientific or logical way of explaining how that happened."
  • On some of the other changes for Idol this year: "There'll be a new set, which will be good. They tried a couple of bits and pieces in the Hollywood round having people play instruments, which wasn't particularly a good thing or a bad thing. On a show like Idol, I don't think you necessarily want to make change for the sake of change."
  • On leaving Idol: "Nothing's gonna last forever. I think the exit point, to a point, is determined by the public, who eventually is going to get suck to death of me, if they haven't already. Nine years [the total when his contract is up in 2010] is probably enough to inflict on anyone, so that's what I've thought about in my mind. Can the show exist without me? Absolutely. It would probably get better."

Photo courtesy of Fox

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Jinx Jinx 9 years
I like that idea Lickety, one original and one cover. My Rock Star reference was to Rock Star INXS, they did original music on there, not all of it, but they were writing and collaborating some on original material.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
don't they each do 2 songs now? seems like they should do one of their own and one other one, at least at the end. arrangements are different, that's kind of a separate talent isn't it? what's "rock star"? auzzie idol sounds cool.
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I think that sounds correct Buzz, they can, but its unusual for them to. Alot probably aren't confident enough to, especially in that competition. I don't mind then using covers for the audition, we had a local Idol competition here, and original music was welcomed, but it was difficult to judge an original song, if that makes sense. Some of it was good, it just wasn't familiar. Instruments are definately a plus no matter the material. Once into the competition, they could do original music like on Rock Star though.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
laluna — I've always gotten the sense that if contestants want to be involved in arranging their songs, they can be, but I also think that's relatively unusual. There was a lot made last season, in particular, about how involved Blake Lewis was in arranging his own songs, as if that wasn't typical. I could be wrong about that, though.
laluna laluna 9 years
The only thing that kept me watching AUSTRALIAN Idol for the last two years was them letting the contestants use instruments and do their own material throughout the auditions and in a few shows. They haven't shown American Idol here for a while, do the contestants even do their own arrangements of the songs they choose??
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I stopped watching Idol three seasons ago, it just got too ...tedious for me to watch. The "fake" commercials, the "we will find out....after the break", The predictability of the judges comments, and behavior, Ryan Seacrests Smugness. It was fun for awhile, but my love affair has long been over.
Jinx Jinx 9 years
Totally agree Lickety. I basically feel the same about alot of "Pop Stars". Yeah, so you can sing and writhe around on stage...good for you...blah.
letsgetloud21 letsgetloud21 9 years
I actually loved Blake Lewis and his cd is pretty good too..
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
i don't see how anyone can be an "idol" if they only do covers of other people's work and don't play any instruments. otherwise it's just "really good singers in america", lol. you know?
lucyS lucyS 9 years
I won't be watching this year. I can't believe Jordin Sparks won, and most of the guest mentors were boring.
millarci millarci 9 years
I agree with Linda McP! Last year show was pretty bad. Actually I thought it was awful. I'm debating on whether or not I'm watching it this year.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
Thanks, Buzz. Hope the changes are for real; last year was not the greatest, to say the least!
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I'll believe it when I see it!
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Ha, I love that he's even honest about himself and the show. When I saw the title, my first thought was I hope they focus more on the contestants and less on the guest mentors. So, yay! Sounds like some good changes. I think the show may still have pretty much run it's course. And I have never understood why I like the show given that I hate processed, over-produced music, etc... But, sigh. I do like it.
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