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Q & A: The X Factor’s L.A. Reid Talks Boot Camp, Britney, and Judging vs. Mentoring

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This Wednesday and Thursday night on The X Factor, the 120 contestants that made it through the first audition round are headed to Miami, FL for the Boot Camp round, where they will be put through two more intensive audition rounds in front of the judges. Only 24 acts will move onto the Judges’ Homes round, which airs next week.

L.A. Reid Acclaimed music producer and X Factor judge L.A. Reid recently spoke to press about what boot camp is like for the contestants and if he thought his two new colleagues Britney Spears and Demi Lovato would have made the cut, his favorite moment working with Spears, and why he finds mentoring contestants harder that judging contestants.

Now that auditions are over, do you have any favorites? Do you have anyone that you think is a real frontrunner in the competition?

You know what’s interesting this year? I have many, many favorites; too many to name. Just watching the show, doing the auditions, we see so many that, honestly, it gets very confusing in my head. Watching the show and watching the contestants, watching the playbacks, so many of them are so good that I think the competition in Boot Camp is going to be so stiff. I can’t predict the outcome, because there’s so much good talent this year.

Do you think that Demi Lovato and Britney Spears would have been able to handle Boot Camp as aspiring artists?

Oh, yes. I think that both Britney and Demi would have been able to handle it. These girls are really talented and they were trained to work hard. They didn’t become a success because they were slackers. Both of them worked really, really hard coming up in the ranks.

Obviously, Demi is younger and still has a lot of work to do. Britney Spears is so accomplished, but in getting to that place, I think she toured the world so many times and went to so many rehearsals and put in the work. I think that the kids we have in Boot Camp, we’re putting them through drills that Britney Spears has gone through. I’m saying that knowing that Boot Camp is tough and we’re putting these guys through rigorous, rigorous tasks to really see if they’re qualified to go through to the next round.

What has been your favorite moment working with Britney Spears, so far?

My favorite Britney moment is really easy. The other night, a contestant performed “Ice Ice Baby,” and Britney got up and started popping off, and I’m telling you, that was the moment for me. Just watching her getting excited and watching her dance and become Britney right before my eyes. It was magical, and I loved it.

How do you think this year’s contestants stand up against last year’s? Do you think the level of talent has changed at all?

I think it’s too soon to say, because we haven’t gotten through the next round yet. We haven’t gone through all of the mentoring, so it’s a little bit too soon to really say if I think it’s better. What I can tell you is that I think there are more young people. I think that somehow it ended up with contestants that seem younger. There seem to be more teens. There seem to be more tweens, but I can’t tell you if they’re better or not. It’s too soon.

Now, The X Factor is obviously a great platform for artists to get their name out there, get a shot at their dream, but one of the big criticisms that a lot of people have for reality shows is that it puts people out there before they are ready for it, and it’s more of a test after the show with that they do with that fame. Have you been in contact with anyone from last season, and how do you see them continuing in the industry?

Yes, there’s no shortcut to success no matter whether you are on a TV talent show or whether you put your very first song out on radio. There’s no shortcut to success, and we on X Factor or any TV competition for music, our job isn’t to microwave people into success. Our job is to identify people that we believe can have success, but it doesn’t mean that we’re going to shorten the road. There’s no shortcut.

I’m in touch with many of the contestants from last year, because we signed them. We signed Melanie Amaro. We signed Marcus Canty, Astro. Rachel Crow has been signed to Columbia Records. Josh Krajcik we’re talking to right now, so yes, because they’re all very, very talented people. But make no mistake; we’re not under any allusion that we’re going to make overnight stars.

One of the most exciting things about The X Factor is how you guys have all these different stages of the season. Now, when you’re going into the Boot Camp section, it’s almost a totally different show. Do you think that those kinds of switch up might give you guys more momentum to get traction in the ratings, or are you not even thinking about that at this point?

I’m not the executive producer. I’m there for really one reason and that’s because I really love talent. I love the idea of going into Boot Camp and really turning it up for these contestants and making it even tougher for them, because on the first audition, God knows how long they’ve rehearsed for their audition.

When they get to Boot Camp, they don’t have any time to prepare. So, now it’s like we separate the boys from the men and see what they’re really made of. That’s exciting to me. And yes, it gives us a different kind of momentum, because that’s when we, the judges, are actually participating at some level. Whether we’re making recommendations of group pairings just for our sing-offs or whatever it might be.

Based on where the judges end up this year, would you like to take on the groups this year to have someone eventually counter Simon’s One Direction on the charts?

Listen, I have my favorite categories, but I’m not going to tell you what they are. I’m just going to leave it at that. What I get, I’m going to do my absolute best to win. Last year, Simon won, and I lost a lot of money, because I bet him personally. I lost and I’m going to bet again, and I’m going to win.

Justin Bieber is rumored to be making an appearance this season, and he’s currently making the transition from teen heartthrob to an adult artist. What can he learn, in your opinion, from Britney’s own transition?

Well, the one thing Britney got right, among many things, obviously, it’s a journey for anybody. Almost everybody has peaks and valleys in their career, especially if you’re around long enough. I think the greatest thing you can learn from Britney is that Britney always put out great songs. If there’s any page he can take out of Britney’s book, it’s always put out great songs.

Which is harder – judging the contestants or mentoring the contestants?

Which is harder? Mentoring. Mentoring is harder, because when you you’re judging, you’re taking what these contestants come up with, and you’re telling them that you like it or [not], and maybe you’re telling them why.

When you’re mentoring, you’re putting your own creativity on the line, as well. Now you’re going to be judged by the entire viewing world and that’s tougher. When they don’t like it, it’s not just a strike against the contestant; it’s a strike against the judge. If you’re emotional and sensitive like me, that’s very difficult. I’d say mentoring is the toughest.

Find out which contestants survive Boot Camp on The X Factor, airing Wednesday, October 3 and Thursday, October 4 at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Photo credit: Nino Munoz/FOX

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.