'X Factor': Simon Cowell compares Fifth Harmony to One Direction, says Demi Lovato 'wants to come back'
"My group [ Fifth Harmony]," Cowell says with his trademark sly grin. "I think they've had the hardest thing to overcome -- they weren't a group -- they've worked really, really hard. In the last two weeks I can feel a change, people suddenly got what they're about.
"We changed their name three times, they didn't know each other three months ago, so for them to gel in the way they did and perform how they performed tonight is incredible. They look like proper pop stars."
But even if Fifth Harmony doesn't win, Cowell has experience in turning a pop group manufactured for "The X Factor" into a worldwide sensation. That's what happened with current boy band phenomenon One Direction, who only became a group after each member auditioned individually for the U.K.'s "X Factor."
"They remind me of One Direction in terms of their personalities," Cowell says about the five members of Fifth Harmony. "They're fun to work with, hard working, opinionated -- but that's what you want with a group. I think there's a gap in the market for a girl group like this."
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All bragging aside, Cowell admits he can't deny that L.A. Reid's remaining contestant -- 37-year-old country singer Tate Stevens -- also has a pretty good case for the win.
"Of course [Tate] deserves it," Cowell says. "That's why we don't put an age cap on this show. It's crazy to me where people say you're only allowed to have hit records if you're aged between 16 and 30. It's rubbish. He makes our show and those rules relevant. He's what we wanted in that age range."
"I said to him a few weeks ago, I would be quite happy to write the check and put his name on it. He has deserved it and he did sing extremely well tonight ... He chose authentic country songs and he stayed true to his roots, which I think is gonna do him an awful lot of good long term. I see this guy selling a lot of records."
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With the news that Reid won't be back for Season 3, Cowell continues to face questions about who could fill the empty seat at the judges' table. But if Cowell has a wish list of contenders, he's not sharing. "Normally, I wait for people to call me rather than me call them. That's what normally happens," Cowell says.
As for whether or not his favorite sparring partner -- Demi Lovato -- will return for Season 3, Cowell seems to expect she will. "She's been great fun to work with, she's competitive and I like that," he says. And he insists Lovato isn't phased by losing all of the contestants she was mentoring before the semi-finals: "She's so competitive she wants to come back, I can feel that."