L.A. Reid on Being an 'X Factor' Judge: I'm 'Looking for Crazy'
Last month, L.A. Reid surprised his staff and the industry as a whole when he announced his departure as chairman of Island Def Jam Records to secure a judging gig for the U.S. edition of Simon Cowell's reality singing competition 'The X Factor,' which is scheduled to premiere in September.
While he won't be working on forthcoming albums from Rihanna and Kanye West any longer, Reid will take his knack for handpicking luminaries and showcase it in front of millions on network television. Contestants on the show will surely demonstrate resolve and vigor in an effort to win him over, but he's looking for "crazy" as well.
The Boombox: Why did you decide to leave Def Jam to join 'The X Factor'?
L.A. Reid: Well, I decided to do 'The X Factor' largely because of Simon Cowell and my admiration for Simon and how he's developed this show, how he's developed this format of music television, and how he's developed his own career. I really admire Simon. When he called me it was a no-brainer because I admire him that much.
And the second reason was I love artists and I love music. I love the excitement of entertainment and I love 'The X Factor' as a platform to discover the next generation of superstar talent.
What are you bringing to the judging panel that's different from what another judge could ultimately showcase?
When we sit down and we start to work, I'll know better what I'm bringing. I'm going to bring honesty, I'm going to bring passion. I don't know who I'm gonna be. I'm a Gemini; I have too many personalities. [Laughs] I never know when they go in and out of character. I think I'm always the same. Then I read later or I hear later that I was this guy or that guy. I don't know which character will make it to 'The X Factor.'
Have auditions begun yet?
The first audition was in Los Angeles. The show drew over 15,000 contestants. We have more of them coming up. We [had] Miami on April 7, Newark on April 14, [then we have] Seattle on Wednesday, April 20, Chicago on Wednesday, April 27, and then it's Dallas on May 26. I'm not personally at every single audition. The first round of auditions are actually for the producers of the show. Then we'll have a second round for the judges.
You're not at liberty to speak about the other judges but there are a lot of rumors circulating that Nicki Minaj is to be a judge. If she's chosen, why do you think she'd make a good judge?
Well, I have to answer it this way. There have been many names that have come up and there have been many names that have been mentioned in the press. It's a long process. Simon has been processing this for quite some time. He knows better than I do; I don't know how to cast television, right. I know music fairly well, I know artistry fairly well. He knows music, artistry and television. So whatever he decides I'm sure it's going to be fascinating and exciting.
What are you looking for when it comes to a winning 'X Factor' contestant?
I'm looking for artists who are exciting. I'm looking for artists that know how to fascinate the public, that know how to give their all. They have the eye of the tiger. They can evoke passion in people. They can evoke fun in people. The thing that music and entertainment is supposed to do, it's supposed to cause a reaction. If you're bored watching someone that's not what we're looking for. We're not looking for boring, we're looking for exciting. We're looking for fun, we're looking for passion, we're looking for crazy. We're looking for people to go all out. Make us believe that you're a star.
What could a contestant do that would cause them to lose points in your book?
I don't know if there's anything. I don't have a checklist of things that you shouldn't do. I'm fairly open, right. I'm just looking to be impressed. I want to be knocked off my feet when someone performs for me. Once, an artist came into my office and stood on my desk with spiked heels and really put dents all in my desk. That was a no-no. [Laughs] That didn't go over so well. Other than that I don't have any no-no's. And I hate being touched. I remember a girl came in to sing for me and she thought it would be really seductive to get really close to me and I got so turned off by it. She may have been really talented but it just turned me off so badly. I really don't have a long checklist but those are probably the two things that I can remember that didn't work for me.
You've signed a wealth of superstars during your career. So we get an idea of the kind of talent you're looking for now, can you choose one or two artists from your days working as a record label executive that you felt had the "X factor" back then?
Oh, yes! Every one of them, honestly, of the ones that we know. All of them have it. Mariah Carey has the "X factor." Justin Bieber has the "x factor." They all do. Rihanna really has the "x factor." Pink has it. Usher has it. Avril Lavigne has it. Babyface has it. Toni Braxton has it. TLC has it. I could just go on and on and on. Young Jeezy has it. Rick Ross has it. The Killers have it. Fall Out Boy has it. Jay-Z has it. Kanye West. They all have the "X factor." And those are the people that the contestants are being measured against. The competition isn't really the other contestants; the competition is the great superstars on the planet right now.