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'The X Factor' U.K. 2014: Simon Cowell says he prefers personality over talent

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Simon Cowell has confirmed reports that novelty acts are going to be a big part of "The X Factor" U.K.'s 11th season, which premieres on ITV on Aug. 30, 2014. The show has often been criticized for choosing contestants who have more style than substance. In a Daily Mirror article published on Aug. 26, 2014, Cowell defended these choices by saying, "I’d rather have someone with personality than a boring person with a good voice. One thing I like about the show is it does make crazy mistakes, but in the end, the right people normally win. Most of the time."

"The X Factor" U.K.'s judging panel of 2014 reunites three-fourths of the judging panel that the show had from 2008 to 2010: Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly known as Cheryl Cole) and Louis Walsh.

In 2011, Cowell and Cole left "The X Factor" U.K. judging panel to become judges on "The X Factor" U.S., but Cole was notoriously fired from the U.S. show after just a few weeks on the job. After "The X Factor" U.S. was cancelled February 2014, Cowell announced that he was returning to the judging panel on "The X Factor" U.K.

Walsh has been a judge on "The X Factor" U.K. since its 2004 debut. The fourth "X Factor" U.K. judge of 2014 is Mel B, also known as Scary Spice of the Spice Girls. She was a judge on "The X Factor" Australia in 2011 and 2012. Mel B became a judge on "America's Got Talent" in 2013 and a judge on "The Voice Kids" Australia in 2014.

Behind the scenes, "The X Factor" U.K. has made another change in 2014: The show has hired Ben Winston as an executive producer. Winston is best known for his association with One Direction, the world's biggest -selling act to emerge from "The X Factor." (One Direction came in third place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010.) Winston has directed several of One Direction's videos, including "Best Song Ever," "Story of My Life," "Midnight Memories" and "You & I." Winston also directed and is one of the producers of the 2014 concert film "One Direction: Where We Are," and he is a producer of the 2013 concert film "One Direction: This Is Us."

As previously reported, "The X Factor" U.K. arrives for the first time in 2014 on U.S. television on AXS TV, which televises new episodes of the show the night after they are televised in the U.K.

As for what Cowell is looking for in "X Factor" contestants this year, he told the Daily Mirror: "I’m not interested in a sob story, I mean seriously, I’m just so over them ... You’ve got to want to be a star. You’ve got to have that hunger. That’s what I’ve seen over the years with contestants – why certain people don’t do well and why certain people do really well."

Although Cowell says he's "over" contestant sob stories, the reality is that these sob stories will always be part of "The X Factor." The only question is how much the show chooses to exploit these stories and give them air time. Despite what Cowell says, sob stories will definitely televised because "The X Factor" depends on these stories to reel in viewers on an emotional level.

As for the chemistry between "The X Factor" U.K. judges of 2014, so far, they say they are getting along well together. But tension and arguments between the judges really start to increase during the live episodes that begin in October, so well see how long this camaraderie will last.

For now, the judges seem to be having a PR spin that they're one big happy family and are playing down any conflicts. According to the Daily Mirror, Fernandez-Versini said about Mel B: "She’s a girl’s girl like that so I’ve enjoyed working with her ... I think it would be uninteresting and not real if we didn’t disagree. Obviously it’s human nature and you feel different things for different people. So there’s been different points of view and disagreements."

Mel B added, "For a start, I absolutely adore Cheryl. She’s gorgeous, she’s an artist, she’s confident, she’s strong, everything I love in a woman, she is fabulous. What would her Spice Girl name be? Probably something obvious like Geordie Spice."

Cowell and Fernandez-Versini were estranged for several months in 2011 after she was fired from "The X Factor" U.S., but Cowell says that they have put that bad blood behind them: "She’s been on good form. It’s almost like the last four years disappeared. We just picked it up straight away. She’s been fun and annoying, but good to be with.

"We had a lot of conversations before Cheryl agreed to come back. But what was interesting, was that once we got past whatever we had to get past, we then started talking about the show and we reminded ourselves of the past series we made which was a great series. It’s how we wanted to recapture that again, and make a show which is fun, big and most importantly find a star, or maybe more than one star."

In 2014, the judges are mentoring these contestant categories:

  • Boys (male solo singers ages 16 to 24) — mentored by Mel B
  • Girls (female solo singers ages 16 to 24) — mentored by Cheryl Fernandez-Versini
  • Overs (solo contestants ages 25 and over) — mentored by Simon Cowell
  • Groups — mentored by Louis Walsh

Fernandez-Versini has revealed to the Daily Mirror, "I have been moved in the auditions this series; it’s impossible to not feel human emotion where you’re that close to somebody. I was reunited with somebody I had on the first series I did (in 2008), and it was an emotional experience."

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