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In 1970, Janis Joplin sang, “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedez Benz.” Some 41 years later, X Factor judge L.A. Reid has upped the automobile ante significantly — to the tune of $200,000. That’s the average price for a 2012 Bentley, which is what the Epic Records chairman said he’d personally buy for finalist Marcus Canty if the 20-year-old R&B singer wins the competition.
“I haven’t given a Bentley away in a long time,” Reid tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But I told Marcus’ mom, ‘If he wins, you get a Bentley.’” (One can only assume the gift would come on top of the $5 million X Factor prize.)
A sweet gesture no doubt, but at the same time one that lends credence to Reid’s reputation for being one of the industry’s biggest spenders. In his own defense, Reid notes that back when such extravagant gifts were commonplace was a different time. “When I was in Atlanta and the cost of living was lower and I made more money, I would do this: if the producers made me a platinum album, I would buy them an expensive watch. If my artists made something phenomenal, I bought them all cars. I bought Dallas Austin a Range Rover, I bought both Usher and Toni Braxton Porsches. I put a movie theatre in [TLC’s] Chili‘s house. It was the 90s and the record industry was insane. There was so much money.”
Reid also recalled the days in the 1980s and 1990s when he and LaFace Records partner Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds “would take separate private jets from the same location to the same destination. We owned the label so we paid for it ourselves. We were just doing it for fun, like, ‘Let’s see who gets their first. Go, jetstream!’”
Times have certainly changed but not where the winner’s X Factor contract is concerned and $5 million waits in the wings. As for the rest of the Top 10 finalists, Reid says he’d like “to sign every one of them,” so the plan is for an extensive post-mortem after the show wraps. “I told Lakoda Rayne if they walked in my office, I’d sign them, same for Chris Rene, so I’ll sit down with Simon [Cowell] and others and discuss it,” says Reid, while acknowledging that he may lose a couple acts to other labels. “I don’t want anybody else to get any talent from this show but that’s not reality.”
Indeed, reality is that after last week’s double elimination, during which Canty barely survived as the third lowest vote-getter, two more contestants will be saying goodbye on Thursday. Tune in to Fox tonight as the final 7 take on the songs of Michael Jackson.
Update: a previous version of this story misspelled Lakoda Rayne as Dakota Rayne.
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