If you want to know what's right and what's wrong with "The X Factor" U.S. judging panel of 2013, then look no further than a Wall Street Journal video interview that was posted on the Wall Street Journal's website on Oct. 9, 2013. Unlike most of the media's video interviews of "X Factor" judges, this Wall Street Journal video interview has a running time of 22 minutes, which is longer than the five-minute edited soundbites that are usually offered up to the masses.
"The X Factor" U.S. judges Demi Lovato, Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland were interviewed by the Wall Street Journal's Lee Hawkins, in a chat that was at times hilarious and pathetic because of some important facts that were ignored or dismissed in the interview. Given the length of the interview, there were so many opportunities that the Wall Street Journal (which is a business-oriented newspaper) had to present a more insightful analysis of "The X Factor" U.S., but the Wall Street Journal missed the mark on so many levels. And that's disappointing, because people expect fluffy interviews from "Entertainment Tonight," "Access Hollywood" or "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," but not the Wall Street Journal.
There was no reason given for why "The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell (who is also a judge on "The X Factor" U.S.) was not part of the interview. At any rate, Cowell was barely mentioned in the Q&A, in which Rowland (who did most of the talking) did her best to answer mostly softball questions that have been asked many times before in other interviews.
Rowland came across as the most articulate and most intelligent of the three judges, as she shared some of her personal anecdotes about what she's learned in the entertainment business. She also expertly handled the questions by avoiding giving direct answers that might make "The X Factor" look bad. Instead, she talked mostly about finding and nurturing talent on the show.
When asked how "The X Factor" judges/mentors prepare contestants for possible fame and fortune, Rowland answered, "You are never prepared [for that success], but it is important to know that this is your dream, but there are things that come along with it. It's not just about a microphone. It's not just about interviews. It's not just about cute clothes. It's more. It's no sleep. It's being lonely. It's smiling when you don't feel like smiling. It's wonderful performances, having a bad performance. It's being booed, being cheered. There are so many emotions that come with this industry. You have to be ready."
That's all well and good, but the fact remains that "The X Factor" U.S. is losing millions of viewers because of so many things that the show has done wrong. If you're a regular reader of my "X Factor" blog, then you already know that I've extensively covered all of these bad business decisions and mistakes, so there's no need to rehash all of them here in this particular review of this interview. If the show was as fantastic as the judges want you to think it is, then the ratings wouldn't be dropping at such an alarming rate. In the U.S., "The Voice's" ratings have greatly increased since its first season, so that show is obviously doing something right, including winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program.
Even though Rowland stood out for doing most of the talking and for being the closest thing to an "X Factor" mascot in the interview, there were so many things wrong with the interview, starting with the intro, when Hawkins said in a voiceover that "The X Factor" U.S. is a "hit show." Huh? Has he not seen the Nielsen ratings? "The X Factor" U.S. (now in its third season) has been losing millions of viewers every season and is currently struggling at around 6.5 million U.S. viewers per episode, according to the Nielsen Company. That's about a 50 percent decrease from what the show was averaging in its first season in 2011. It's strange that the Wall Street Journal would fail to mention this huge, important fact.
In the voiceover, Hawkins said that "The X Factor" has seen "more of its artists break into the top of the charts than any of the prime-time talent shows." That's a lie if you're talking about the American charts. There's this little show called "American Idol" that has had more chart-topping stars in America than "The X Factor" U.S. ever will. And "The Voice" in the U.S. has had more contestants with hits on the American charts than "The X Factor" U.S. has had.
In the beginning of the interview, Hawkins cited statistics that are in "X Factor" press releases about the hundreds of No. 1 and Top 10 hits that "X Factor" contestants have had. However, he neglected to mention that almost all of those impressive statistics apply to "X Factor" contestants who are from countries other than the United States. And the majority of the millions of records sold by "X Factor" contestants are from the contestants who were on the British "X Factor." The fact of the matter is that none of the contestants from "The X Factor" U.S. has had a gold or platinum record in their home country. It's a huge failure that Cowell and company don't put in press releases, and they don't like the media reporting this fact, but it's a fact. You don't have to be a hard-hitting investigative journalist to know this fact. The Wall Street Journal's reporting was just so embarrassing and bad in this area.
The only time that the interview came close to asking the judges to address some of the show's disappointing results is when Hawkins noted that "The X Factor" U.S. is in the Top 10 ratings among teens but only in the Top 20 among 18-to-49-year-olds, which is the demographic that advertisers care about the most. I've said all along that "The X Factor" U.S.'s obsession with appealing mostly to teenage girls has been one of the show's biggest mistakes, and the show is paying for it dearly by alienating an older audience and losing millions of ad revenue as a result.
In a clear example of why the "teen girl appeal" marketing strategy has been a mistake, Lovato (who is 21 and whose fans are mostly pre-teen and teenage girls) flippantly responded to Hawkins' citing of these statistics by saying that it was "gibberish" and "I don't care." Hawkins answered that she should care if she cares about the show returning for another season. It was a slightly contentious moment but it was one of the few times in the interview that things got "real" instead of the usual recycled PR fluff that we see in interviews with "X Factor" judges.
Lovato later mentioned in the interview that she was hired as an "X Factor" judge so that the show would appeal to a younger audience. She then sheepishly admitted that it didn't work out too well in 2012, her first year on the show, since "I didn't win."
Because the Wall Street Journal failed to mention some important facts, let's do that here. In 2012, Lovato mentored the Young Adults category (solo singers ages 17 to 24), and her highest-ranking contestant was the controversial CeCe Frey, who came in sixth place. In addition, Lovato was the only judge on the show who didn't have a contestant in her mentor category go on to sign a major record deal. Lovato may have a great personality on the show, but her track record as a judge/mentor on "The X Factor" isn't so great. We'll see how well she does in 2013.
Lovato didn't completely embarrass herself in the interview, but she was clearly overshadowed by Rowland, who was more poised and well-spoken when answering questions. Lovato continued to pimp the girl group Fifth Harmony as a big success from "The X Factor" U.S., but the hype over Fifth Harmony is just a PR smokescreen. The fact of the matter is that Fifth Harmony's first single, "Miss Movin' On," peaked at an unimpressive No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That's far from being a No. 1 or even a Top 10 hit that many "X Factor" contestants have on the singles charts in other countries. Again, this was a fact that the Wall Street Journal either didn't know or didn't bother to point out during the interview.
As for Rubio, in the 22-minute video interview, she talked for less than five minutes, during which she had nothing substantial or new to say. She only seemed to light up when she plugged her upcoming projects. She was as useless in the interview as she is on "The X Factor."
Here is an example of what Rubio said in the interview (her bad grammar is not altered in this quote): "We are entertainers and we're here for a reason: It's entertain and give what the industry and what the public gave us. It's just a little piece. It's interesting."
It's this kind of airhead nonsense that is ruining "The X Factor" U.S., and unfortunately for the show, it's not going to get back the millions of viewers who have been turned off by this embarrassing cesspool of a TV show that has become increasingly worse. Even if the show has an articulate cheerleader like Rowland, it's like trying to use a teaspoon to save a sinking ship.