'The X Factor' Season 3: Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell scoot over for Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio

simon-cowell-x-factor-ratings.jpg"The X Factor," FOX's other singing competition, returns Wednesday, Sept. 11, with judges Simon Cowell, Kelly Rowland, Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio.

The show made the news months before its Season 3 premiere because of Cowell. He has what the show's contestants dream about -- the X factor, that elusive quality that intrigues people.

It is star power, and the music and TV producer has it. Perhaps it's the mix of acerbic wit and scathing honesty, but Cowell found himself outshining the show because of fathering a child with his friend's wife.

Cowell kept his own counsel about this in an interview with Zap2it and while promoting the show at the Television Critics Association. At this writing, all he'd say is he "is proud to be a father."

Talking from his boat off the coast of Sardinia, Cowell says the third season of the show is "more fun and less sob stories. It is actually a funny show, and I don't know -- there is more confidence in the team this year."

Other changes include Mario Lopez returning as the solo host, a $1 million prize, and the three women and one man at the judges table.

"I always had this feeling that me and three girls would be a good combination," Cowell says. "I get on great with girls, and I had never seen it before. How well are girls doing in the charts? It's a girl's world.

"They are great fun and gang up on me," he continues. "And, it brings about different energy. I had no idea if it would work, but I loved it. Everything is a risk. It is a really fun show to work on now. Last year could have been more fun, honestly, and that is why we changed things up. It was a risk and it is really happy now."

Though there will be four groups of singers, divided into "boys under 25, girls under 25, everyone over 25 and groups," another change is the hopefuls will not go to the judges' homes as they did the past two seasons.

"It was too slow, too confusing, and we did it two years," Cowell says. "This new section is much more exciting. We want to look different."

He would not elaborate on what that specific change would be.

"These shows all look the same," Cowell says. "For viewers, it must get boring. 'X Factor' is now 10 years old, and it has to be more fun for us as a judge and then hopefully more fun as a viewer. You have to find stars."

Rowland served as a judge with Cowell on the U.K. version of "The X Factor." And like Cowell, Rowland says she knows "once they start to sing" if applicants have what they need.

Relaxing in a hotel lobby, Rowland, who began with Destiny's Child, says she has seen her share of people deluded about their talent.

"I find a way to let them down gently," she says. "I will say, 'That wasn't for me.' Sometimes it's people's first time singing in public. I give credit to people if they are brave enough."

Still, walking into the spotlight on a huge stage and facing three famous singers and arguably the world's most famous record producer should give most people pause -- and perhaps make them think that they should have rehearsed more or learned to sing.

"I love the fact that we are all passionate," Rowland says. "Our yes or no can change the course of someone's life. One moment can. They can get up there and have a beautiful moment or fold under the pressure."

Besides Cowell, Lovato is the other returning judge to the U.S. edition.

"I guess, being 19 last year, I had a naive sense of confidence," Lovato says at a press conference. "I wasn't intimidated by him as people normally would be.

"And then this year, I'd done it all last year," she continues. "And we have such a great friendship now that it's just that's how we are with each other. And this year, I'm not the only one that does that, and that's what makes this season, I believe, stand out more, because he's up against three women that will absolutely do the same thing. So the way I like to put it is last year the banter between me and Simon times three."

The judges' main goal is finding a singer or group with the potential to be an international pop star. It's a huge business, proven by these numbers: The U.S. version airs in 205 countries. "The X Factor" artists have sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Cowell, who created the show, put together the group One Direction on "The X Factor." Leona Lewis was the U.K. show's first breakthrough star in 2006. Emblem3 peaked at No. 2 on iTunes upon the release of "Chloe (You're the One I Want)" earlier this year and is opening for Selena Gomez.

"You always want people to like the show and talk about the show," Cowell says. "But my main goal is I want to finish the series to find two or three real stars who will make it in the world."
Photo/Video credit: FOX