9:02am PT by Shirley Halperin
'X Factor' Redux: Simon Cowell, LA Reid, Paula Abdul Break Down Elimination Night
In what was probably the most emotional episode of X Factor yet -- for contestants, host and judges alike -- the competition’s two 15-year-olds were sent home on Thursday night following less than stellar renditions of Michael Jackson classics. Astro, who delivered another original rap on top of “Black or White,” was the lowest vote-getter and dismissed outright, although he handled the rejection far better than the close call from two weeks ago, exhibiting humility and a positive attitude.
That left Drew and Marcus Canty to battle it out in the bottom two. The former chose Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart" for her sing-off number, while Canty went with the more contemporary “Lighters.” The judges had their say -- L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger chose to send Drew home, Simon Cowell to keep his girl and the deciding vote was left to Paula Abdul, who sealed Drew’s fate.
What came next was a look of absolute fury as Cowell made a beeline for the stage where he consoled his bawling team member and her mother. He proceeded to take out his rage on host Steve Jones, who both in an effort to gauge the head judge’s reaction, tried (and failed) to elicit a single comment. Instead, Cowell scowled and said, “I'm not saying anything.” After a minute or so, he added, "I don't think she deserved to go home. I think she's a little star."
An hour later, with their emotions in check and thoughts collected, Jones and three of the judges spoke with reporters about the dramatic evening, revealing moments of confusion, empathy, pride, anger and solidarity. Read on for a post-mortem from multiple viewpoints, compiled by The Hollywood Reporter.
Steve Jones: “There is no protocol for these situations because nobody knows what's going to happen. You can comfort the act, but ultimately we need answers. People are invested in the show, they watch to support these people and they want to know what Astro thinks about leaving or how Drew feels about the judges who just voted her out. They want to hear from Simon Cowell. People value the words he says, so when he refuses to speak, it kind of doesn't make any sense.”
Simon Cowell: “On a scale of one to 10, I’d put my anger at 11. That chair is going to be chopped and I'm doing the chopping.”
Jones: “He was pissed as you would say in this country. Simon was very very annoyed and I love him, but I got a little frustrated and said, ‘Why aren't you speaking? That's what people watching show want to hear. I wanted to hear!’ So I got annoyed by that and then annoyed with myself because I'm trying to drag information out of poor Drew and I take no joy in making a 14-year-old girl cry.”
Paula Adbul: “At times, all three of us were saying [to Simon], ‘You need to show diversity with Drew. Drew has beautiful voice, the quality of her voice is recognizable, but in these competitions, playing it safe doesn't always pan out. You have to show the audience that you can do other things -- that you can entertain in ways that make them take notice.”
Cowell: “It felt personal, because it was like I let Drew down. It's hard, I just don't think she deserved to go.”
Abdul: “I said it was the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard in this competition, but it’s Michael Jackson week and there’s nothing visual going on. To me, it made it look like Simon forgot what this show is about -- it's not about a chair, it's all about show biz. I felt like he didn't do the week justice. I'm a stager, choreographer, producer, I understand lighting… you could black out the whole stage and do a dramatic theatrical thin spotlight. There are ways where less is more.”
Cowell: “You learn from this. I didn't do a good enough job, and that's the problem. I've gotta do better.”
L.A. Reid: “I was completely prepared to vote for whoever was the best in the sing-off, even if that person was on my team. I wasn't going to stand by somebody because I'm their mentor. I’m really here to help the collective of X Factor find a star, I'm not only here to win my category. If Drew had been better, I would have put her through. It's not an LA team thing; it’s an X Factor thing.”
Abdul: “As the impartial judge, I take [the voting] very seriously. I'm emotionally involved in these contestants, but when they switched up the order for the judges, I didn’t realize that I was the one [with the deciding vote].”
Cowell: “I don't want to talk to Paula or Nicole right now. I'll see how I feel in the morning.”
Reid: “People took Astro’s attitude two weeks ago as menacing, mean, ungrateful and bratty, when in fact it was just pain. He's 15 years old and he was dealing with the hurt of being potentially eliminated and he didn't smart off on anyone, he didn't say anything out of place and I thinks it was blown out of proportion because hip hop in and of itself can feel menacing at times. Meanwhile, Simon acted exactly the way he accused Astro of acting two weeks ago -- bratty and inappropriate.”
Cowell: “I said to Astro, he walked out like a man, compared to what happened two weeks ago, at least he walked out with some dignity. That’s important for him, particularly when they're that young.”
Reid: “When you're a rapper, you're not trained to be apologetic and sappy. The conversations we had [with Astro] were more generally about how you handle wins and losses. It was never, ‘I want you to go out and be apologetic. I wanted him to be exactly who he is... I think that for a 14-year-old kid to enter a major singing competition as a rapper and make it into the top 7 is a massive success and the elimination doesn't actually bother me because he came so far. I'm happy for him. He handled the elimination with great attitude great poise and I have no sadness about it. ”
Abdul: “It didn't matter where he fared in the competition, the kid is genius and he is going to one of the biggest stars.”
Cowell: “He'll get a record deal, I'm sure of that.”
Reid: “We've never had that [signing] conversation, and there are no arrangements or anything like that. Do I love him as a talent? Yes. Am I in the business of signing stars? Absolutely. Is he a star? Without a shadow of a doubt.”
On Marcus Canty:
Abdul: “Last week, I did what I thought. I was transparent and present in the moment and, to me, Marcus didn't deliver. And as much as it pained me, Leroy killed it so I sent Marcus home. I don't think about, ‘Play it LA’s side or Simon's side, but I wasn't thinking I was the deciding vote, either. I was honest with what happened -- they both delivered beautiful performances, but...”
Cowell: “To be fair to Marcus, he was better on the sing-off than I've seen him before. It really looked like he cared and he's a nice kid, but just the way it happened, I suppose it was frustrating.”
Reid: “I'm happy for Marcus that he's continuing to make it through. He’s been in the bottom twice, so I don't think he's walking away feeling like he's on solid ground, but there are times when you get knocked down twice and you're able to get back off the canvas. Strange things have happened. He may get crowned a champion as a result of this. He may gain some love, some voters and get some believers.”