Wondering who will replace Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones on "The X Factor"? Well, despite rumors that Britney Spears, LeAnn Rimes or Janet Jackson might be stepping in, Simon Cowell and fellow judge L.A. Reid are staying mum about the top candidates. "This happened last year," Cowell told reporters in a conference call. "There's loads of speculation, some true, some not true. It's true to say a lot more people are interested. We're waiting to see who contacts us... which is a good place to be in." According to Cowell, possible replacements are still up in the air. "We will be meeting with people over the next few weeks, mainly to explain that this is a big commitment with the mentoring."
Reid would confirm one detail about the new judges, though. "The only thing you would count on is that we will likely have two girls."
Cowell added, "Other than that, there will be lots of twists and turns in things we're going to announce in the coming weeks. From 'American Idol' I've learned a big lesson -- keep your mouth shut."
As for rumors that the late Whitney Houston might have been up for the job, Cowell tossed the ball to Reid to address. "You know what? We love Whitney and we would have certainly considered her. It never quite came to that. We never had meetings about it. We're very sad about the loss of Whitney, but it never really got that far, so it's not really proper to comment on that."
Reid is interested in paying tribute to the late singer, though how that will be addressed is still unclear. "I was going to recommend a Whitney segment," Reid said, only for Cowell to jump in.
"I think you'll see it on 'The Voice' and 'Idol' before us," he said. "We'd have to do it in a different way. But we love her and love her songs."
One of the moments on last season's show that upset fans (and turned some against Scherzinger) was the elimination of Rachel Crow, bringing up the question as to whether to keep the sing-off for next season. Cowell is ready to make many changes to "The X Factor," but getting rid of the sing-off isn't one of them. "Essentially this sing-off was really intended to save somebody who should stay in, but just had a bad night that night. It didn't work according to plan with Rachel," he says. "In defense of Nicole, I don't think she thought for one second Rachel would be in the bottom. But I think it's very important we retain this, [because] it adds a bit of drama to the results show, and we call it the Jennifer Hudson save. If it had been in ["American Idol"] at that point, she would have stayed... it is meant to save the better artist."
Cowell also discussed Abdul as well as the others ousted from the show. "I spoke to her on the night it was announced, and to Steve. They've all been incredibly gracious and respectful," Cowell said. "They're friends... [but] there were certain reasons why the changes were made, and this particular time it was decided to do it sooner rather than later. I think there are huge opportunities to work with all of them over the years."
Cowell confirmed that, though there will be two female judges, he has something different in mind for the open hosting gig. "It will be two [hosts]. What we've learnt on the show is that you have so much information to relay it's almost impossible to have one person hosting. The telephone lines, the integration of the sponsors, they're like newscasters now. It's a more fun way of doing it with two people and you can see a different chemistry. I've always wanted a boy and a girl to host the show, and I think that's going to happen now." He also hinted that he might be looking for fresh blood, at least from a hosting background. "The people we are hiring now might not be current hosts, they might come from different backgrounds."
But he isn't holding his breath that he'll be able to get Ryan Seacrest. "I think Ryan's brilliant at what he does and he's also a very good negotiator. He'll stay on 'Idol.'" Not that he's looking for someone to do what Seacrest does in any case. "It's time for a change. We've been doing this for 11 years; we can't keep doing the same things. The traditional role of the host on the show has to change, and it will look different . And I think we need more Americans on the show. I have to be careful I don't talk myself out of a job."
Reid laughed. "We're not letting you talk yourself out of a job, because we're not letting you go." Well, at least one thing on "The X Factor" will stay the same.