'X Factor' Brutality at Auditions: 'L.A.' Reid Meaner Than Simon Cowell; Audience Urged Not to Boo

Antonio "L.A." Reid
Antonio "L.A." Reid
 Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Simon Cowell is known for his harsh criticism of aspiring singers on American Idol, but it seems he might have competition for the title of "meanest judge" on The X Factor in music industry veteran and table-mate Antonio "L.A." Reid.

Judges' round tryouts for Fox's new singing competition show got under way Sunday afternoon at USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles, with the second auditioner of the day, a 52-year-old divorcee. It didn't go well.

She first sang Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," which judge Paula Adbul interrupted to ask if she could perform another song.

The woman then launched into Martina McBride's "Independence Day" -- after debating with Cowell, who thought she should sing Mariah Carey's "Hero" -- before asking if she could start over because the music was too loud. The audience, who had been encouraged by Cowell before auditions started to express their opinions about the auditioners, started booing and yelling "next!"

She then said she would sing "Hero" but instead switched back to "Independence Day."

"I'd finish one," Abdul told her. "You've got 10 seconds, pick the song you want."

The audience started counting back from 10 and then booed throughout her entire performance.

The aspiring singer prompted harsh criticism, especially from Reid.

"When was the last time you performed? Eighteen years ago?" Reid asked. "Whatever made you stop then, you should've stuck with that decision."

That was arguably harsher than Cowell's take: "It's very brave, and I don't mean this disrespectfully, but you're someone who should be singing at home."

Incidentally, Jimmy Iovine -- who, like Reid, is a record label executive -- is considered to deliver the most biting criticism on Idol. (It should be noted that it's still early on in the judges rounds of X Factor's audition process.)

Before auditions started, Cowell had made a plea to the audience.

"The idea is we're trying to find a superstar. ... And you're our fifth judge," he said. "Basically you're here to tell us who you like. You can be as badly behaved as you want, actually. The whole reason for doing this is I trust you guys for being able to judge this process. There's $5 million at stake."

But it seems the audience may have taken Cowell's advice one step too far for producers' liking. After the audition, they were asked not to boo; according to the person in charge of warming up the audience, producers want to temper negativity on the show.

X Factor debuts in September.

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