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Simon Cowell Promises A Better "Idol" Season Than Last

Of the Oakland Press

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In anticipation of ďAmerican IdolísĒ seventh season, starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 15) on Fox, famously acerbic judge Simon Cowell ó on his best and most charming behavior ó fi elded questions from the press about everything from whatís new on the show to his advice for Britney Spears ...

What can we expect from this season?

Cowell: 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 am pretty certain that weíve got that this year. Thatís the most important thing. So thatís what I think youíre going to get this year ó an improved show with much, much better singers and more interesting contestants.

It sounds like you concur that Season 6 was not ďIdolísĒ best.

Cowell: Look, we are completely and utterly reliant on what walks in the door in terms of quality of the contestants, and thereís nothing much we can do about that. But after having gone through ... six months of auditions, Hollywood rounds, narrowing down the field, I think weíre going to be in a much better place in six months than we were last year at the same time.

Are you disappointed that the albums by Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis have not done well?

Cowell: Well, naturally Iím disappointed that they didnít sell more copies or that neither artist has caught on fire. You want something like a Carrie (Underwood) or a (Chris) Daughtry or a Kelly Clarkson, where theyíre competing with the Mariahs and everything else. It didnít happen. Am I surprised, not particularly.

Do you have any personal favorites yet for this yearís show?

Cowell: Iím not going to name any names ícause I always get into trouble for doing that. There are, luckily, three or very, very strong guys and three or four very strong girls this year. Itís probably going to be one of the most open competitions weíve had. I canít call out a winner at this stage; in my mind I think Iíve got an idea who can make the finals, but Iím not going to give anything away at the moment.

Fantasiaís brother auditioned this year. How was he?

Cowell: He was terrible, absolutely dreadful. He canít sing. I remember, ďOh, great, Fantasiaís brother!Ē ó it was all fantastic until he started singing. Then we disputed the fact he was Fantasiaís brother ícause he hasnít got his sisterís talent.

Are all those auditions and bad performances you sit through worth it in the end?

Cowell: The answer is yes, it is worthwhile. Is it fun doing it? No. It is becoming increasingly like torture. Itís fun for me to watch. It is torture for me to do it. And whatís amazing is after seven seasons, and weíve had some shockingly bad people this year, is how much they still believe that theyíre right and Iím wrong, and they got more argumentative with me this year. And all Iím trying to do is help them.

There are seven Idols up for Grammys this year, and two (subsequently three) just dropped by their labels. How do you feel about this disparity?

Cowell: I think itís a reflection on the unpredictability of the record business. Ruben (Studdard) certainly wouldíve been one of the ones you would have thought at the beginning to be on his third or fourth album now, and it just didnít work out and thereís no scientific or logical way to explain what happened. We are a reality show, and what happens in the end is also reality and youíve got to take the knocks with the good things. Fortunately weíve got it right more times than weíve got it wrong.

If Britney Spears were to come to you for advice, what would you say to her?

Cowell: I genuinely think if I sat down with Britney I would, number one, remind her of all the good things in her life, which are her kids, her money, her success ... everything. So Iíd try to give her a sense of perspective. And then Iíd take her out of where sheís living at the moment and ask her to go and live with her family and live normal for six months, ícause if you live normally and do normal things youíll suddenly find the paparazzi arenít camped outside of your door every day. It looks to me at the moment that sheís out of control, and sheís got to have someone in her life sheíll listen to. Sheís welcome to call me any time.

Randy (Jackson) is making an album this year. Are you going to be on it?

Cowell: (laughs) You probably know more about it than I do. I think he made a record with Paula, which should be interesting. I havenít been asked to be on the album; if I was asked, I definitely wouldnít go on it. But good luck to him.

Do you foresee an exit date on the show, and can it go on without you?

Cowell: Well, nothingís going to last forever. I think the exit point, to a point, is determined by the public, who eventually are going to get sick to death of me ó if they arenít already. Iíve always in my mind thought Iíd go up until the end of my contract, which would mean two more seasons after this one ó nine in total. Nine years is probably enough to inflict on anyone. So thatís what Iíve sort of got in my mind. Can the show exist without me? Absolutely. Itíll probably get better! ó

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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