“The Voice” U.S. coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine have taken aim at “The X Factor” executive producer Simon Cowell for making big business out of a style of judging that humiliates and insults contestants. Levine also blasted “The X Factor” for having “premeditated, scripted” content that he described as, “Let’s get ratings by doing some stupid sh*t.” Their remarks come just days before the U.S. versions of “The Voice” and “The X Factor” do battle again in the same time slot on the same nights.
Because of Election Day in the U.S. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, “The Voice” (which normally airs on Monday and Tuesday nights) will not be televised that night. Instead, “The Voice” will be on three times that week: November 5, 2012, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time; November 7, 2012, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time; and November 8, 2012, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. “The X Factor” U.S. will have the same time slots on November 7 and November 8, since the show is regularly televised during those time slots on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Although Cowell has said in many interviews that he wants “The X Factor” U.S. to “destroy the competition,” in reality, “The Voice” U.S. has been giving “The X Factor” U.S. a beat-down in the ratings. The Election Week battle between the two shows will no doubt result in “The Voice” once again having a ratings victory over “The X Factor.”
Cowell became world-famous as a judge on “American Idol,” and he quickly got a reputation for being the toughest talent-show judge on TV. Cowell was on “American Idol” from 2002 to 2010. He launched “The X Factor” in the U.K. in 2004, and the franchise has since expanded to several countries with their own versions of “The X Factor.” Cowell is an executive producer and co-owner of all “X Factor” shows around the world. He left “The X Factor” U.K. judging panel to become a judge on “The X Factor” U.S., which premiered in 2011.
Fox is the U.S. network of “American Idol” and “The X Factor” U.S., while NBC is the U.S. network for the U.S. version of “The Voice.”
Aguilera said, “I’ve not actually seen a full episode of any of the other music shows. I saw the commercials early on of ‘American Idol’ of Simon being a dick. I was like, ‘Man, that’s not what it’s about!’ I didn’t want to treat people like that. I wanted to do ‘The Voice’ to show that we can be positive. We don’t have to knock people down.” Aguilera made the remarks on October 25, 20012, when she did a keynote Q&A at the 2012 Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference in Los Angeles.
Aguilera and Levine (who is lead singer of Maroon 5) have each won multiple Grammys and sold millions of records around the world.
At a New York City press conference for “The Voice” on October 26, 2012, Levine was asked to compare “The Voice” and “The X Factor.” He replied: “I think that they’re extremely different in their presentations … Well first, let me go back a couple of years. When I sat down with [‘The Voice’ executive producer] Mark Burnett and he pitched me the idea of the show, the first question I had — well, not a question, more of a demand — was, ‘We’re not going to make fun of these people [contestants]. We’re not going to sit there and criticize them in a mean way, in a nasty way. We’re not going to make people feel bad about themselves. There’s no point.’
“It doesn’t make any sense to us to ever intentionally hurt somebody’s feelings. That’s not the business that we’re in. I think the main thing that sets us apart is we’re not there to laugh [at people] and make people feel stupid. That’s the biggest difference … I think there’s just a really good, genuine, positive feeling that the show exudes that people really respond to.
“And by the way, another thing that makes our show different is that nothing is scripted. There are no gags. There are no premeditated ‘Let’s get ratings by doing some stupid sh*t.’ That doesn’t happen on our show. Every single word that I say I’ve been very sure, very careful — all of us have — from the very beginning, those are really words that we say because we feel we want to say them. No one ever feels like we’re putting on a show. We just feel like we’re coaching these amazing singers and having a lot of fun. I think not just the positivity but the chemistry between all of us is kind of infectious. I really, genuinely believe that’s why people respond to the show so well.”
(Click here to read the entire Q&A with Levine.)
The other coaches on “The Voice” U.S. are Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton. Because of their touring schedules in 2013, Green and Aguilera will be temporarily replaced for one season by Usher and Shakira, who have already become filming “The Voice” U.S. Season 4 auditions with Levine and Shelton.
On “The X Factor” U.S., the judging panel consists of Cowell, Britney Spears, L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato.
Cowell isn’t exactly a defenseless victim in this war of words, since he has lashed out and criticized “The Voice” in many interviews. His biggest complaint about “The Voice” is that he thinks it’s a poor imitation of “The X Factor.”
However, to be fair, the main thing that “The Voice” copied from “The X Factor” is the concept of the judges also being mentors to the contestants, so that the judges also are competing against each other to win. Everything else on the two shows is different, from the contestants’ age minimums to the fact that “The Voice” does not have groups as contestants (“The X Factor” allows groups) to the way the auditions are organized, edited and televised. As for viewers being able to vote for the winner, “American Idol” (and its British inspiration “Pop Idol”) had that concept long before “The X Factor” existed. And there were TV talent shows in the 1950s that asked for viewer input in choosing the winner. In other words, viewer voting is not a concept that “The X Factor” or “American Idol” created.
However, one thing that “American Idol” did first on U.S. TV was show a lot of bad auditions. Cowell’s fame was and still is largely based on his memorable put-downs and insults of contestants who perform badly. If anything, “The X Factor” copied “American Idol” more than “The Voice” copied “The X Factor.”
Regardless of what anyone thinks of “The X Factor,” “The Voice” and “American Idol,” the ratings are proof that U.S. viewers overwhelmingly prefer “American Idol” and “The Voice” over “The X Factor.” The most recent averaged U.S. ratings for each show are 22 million viewers per episode for “American Idol,” 11 million viewers per episode for The Voice” and 9 million viewers per episode for “The X Factor.”
Cowell needs to remember that the next time he brags about “The X Factor” being better than “American Idol” and “The Voice.” Millions of viewers in the U.S. obviously disagree, based on which shows are watched by more U.S. viewers. Cowell and company seem to be somewhat in denial about what’s not working for “The X Factor” in the U.S., because he and his “X Factor” colleagues are still spewing out these laughable PR statements that Spears is a fantastic judge and an asset to the show.
“The X Factor” U.S. reportedly paid Spears $15 million to be a judge to help in the show’s ratings war against “The Voice,” and she still hasn’t brought in more viewers than the show had before she was a judge on the show. In the real world of “The X Factor” business (not dishonest PR hype), Spears is an obvious liability, not an asset. Cowell doesn’t have to trash Spears in public, but he shouldn’t be making a fool out himself by putting on this public display of pretending that the show has scored a huge competitive advantage with Spears as a judge on the show. Wrong.
It’s clearly been a mistake that “The X Factor” U.S. wasted $15 million to have Spears as a judge on the show, since ratings have gone from an average of 12 million U.S. viewers per episode in 2011 (when Spears wasn’t on the show) to 9 million U.S. viewers per episode in 2012. If Spears were such a superstar attraction for the show as Cowell and company hyped her to be, then after Spears came on board, “The X Factor” U.S.’s ratings would be higher than “The Voice” U.S.’s ratings. Instead, “The X Factor” U.S. is losing viewers.
“The X Factor” U.S. has so much potential to be a much better show than it is right now. Whether or not Cowell and company can learn from their mistakes remains to be seen. It’s not helping the show to still be in denial about the obvious problems. And it’s not just in the ratings that “The X Factor” is lagging behind “American Idol” and “The Voice.” Emmy voters have nominated “American Idol” and “The Voice” for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, which is a nomination that “The X Factor” U.S. has no chance of getting if the show continues to make bad decisions in its programming and marketing.
The war of words between the stars of these rival shows clearly is not helping either, but when Cowell trashes rival shows that are getting much better results and much more viewers than “The X Factor,” it just makes Cowell look petty and delusional. Success is the best revenge, and until “The X Factor” can have bragging rights to be the most successful TV talent show in the U.S., Cowell should just focus on fixing the show’s problems and pay attention to what the majority viewers want to see on “The X Factor” U.S.
Levine from “The Voice” has pretty much spelled out the secret to his show’s success. “The X Factor” U.S. won’t get rid of showing bad auditions and Cowell insults, but there are millions of viewers who are abandoning the show because they don’t like the big changes that have been made in Season 2. In Season 2, “The X Factor” ramped up the scripted and manufactured drama in the prerecorded episodes. Meanwhile, the judges’ chemistry has been messed up by vapid and robotic Spears, who often looks and acts like she doesn’t want to be on the show — and that awkward chemistry will become more evident in the live episodes that can’t be heavily edited. You don’t have to be a programming genius to figure out what changes have turned off viewers the most.