Ray Mickshaw/Fox
Shaunna Murphy
November 04, 2011 AT 07:00 PM EDT

America has spoken, and the massive kid-pop experiment that was InTENsity was the first sent packing from The X Factor last night. Eleven acts remain, and their mentors are going to face some tough decisions in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and even host Steve Jones spoke with EW after last night’s show to discuss the latest drama both on and off the stage. The judges weighed in on tough eliminations, contestant controversies, and what’s next for InTENsity, but poor Paula couldn’t fit a word in without Simon and L.A. breaking out into fits of giggles. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This has been a tough year for the groups. Out of the many that auditioned as original groups, only Stereo Hogzz remain. What do you think you can do next year to improve their chances?

NICOLE SCHERZINGER: I don’t know what Paula can do. I know she put her heart and soul and sweat and tears into working with these groups in the past few months. I think they’ve shown so much growth and improvement from where we saw them in the beginning.

SIMON COWELL: I’ve been there. I’ve done this show for seven or eight years. Last year in the UK, the groups just weren’t good enough. I did what I do in my day job. I put groups together. Every great pop group in the world, somebody said, “I’m going to put these individuals together.” They don’t find each other by accident, somebody has got to be the catalyst, and that’s what we did on the show. Last year this group One Direction didn’t win, but they’re going to be one of the biggest selling groups in the UK this year.”

NS: I helped with that!

SC: It’s very difficult to connect with 10 people compared to one person. But don’t rule out Lakoda Rayne. These girls, in my opinion, have got something special. If they walked into my record label — four girls like that with that talent — saying “We want to be like four Taylor Swifts,” I’d sign them on the spot.”

PAULA ABDUL: They [Lakoda Rayne] want it really bad, and they take great direction. They’re really gelling, this group. It’s gotten hard to believe now that they were just put together.

Perez Hilton has been picking on Stacy Francis for having a career in the past.

SC: I think it’s going to help her. It does feel like she’s being picked on a bit. We never said that you couldn’t have had a career in the past. It’s absurd. Many competitions I’ve done, [the contestants] have had record deals, they’ve tried musicals. She never hid it from us. I couldn’t care less.

NS: I think it’s dope that she has experience behind her, it shows that she’s been working towards this her whole life. Many people get close and they almost have their break, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the show — it gives them another shot. I mean, good for her that she’s been hustling all this time.”

PA: It’s the same thing with LeRoy [Bell]. He was upfront and told us in the audition that many, many years ago, he was songwriting and took part in a song that was a dance hit.

SC: I think this typifies her story. She’s always said somebody was always standing in her way saying, “You’re not good enough.” It’s happened all her life. The public couldn’t care less.

Can you respond to Dexter Haygood’s comments about striking a deal to leave the show early to focus on his rock n’ roll?

SC: It’s absolutely crazy.

NS: It’s simply not the case, but I’m a big fan of Dexter’s and I always will be.

SC: He said that there was a deal though, right?

L.A. REID: That’s what he said?!

SC: He never said it on the show.

STEVE JONES: Actually, it’s all true. I’m his manager.

Why did you decide to have the judges make the final decision on who goes home, instead of America?

SC: I think it gives them another shot. In the past, people have been in the bottom and we’ve kept them in, and then over the next few weeks they’ve actually delivered something. So it’s like a lifeline.

Will America ever have the final say?

SC: Probably by the semi-finals.

Is there any chance of Paula and/or Nicole performing on the show this season?

NS: Absolutely, honey. I will try to perform every week. I can’t wait! I’ve got my album coming out soon, so yes.

SC: You would actually perform on that stage to promote your record?

NS: I would perform every night.

SC: I am shocked.

Paula, how was it seeing your groups in the bottom two? How did you console them?

PA: I was always aware that it might happen. I didn’t think it would happen. However, having said that, I’ve been working with [InTENsity] steadily every single day knowing that it’s very difficult to have America connect with more than one person. My goal was to make sure that they looked great on stage, that they had a great time, that there was no regrets, and that they went out there and were bold and daring. I said backstage, “Whatever happens, you’re all winners. No matter what you’re gaining millions of fans.”

Do you agree with the bottom two?

SC: That’s a tricky question. You’ve got to trust the public.

PA: I don’t think it’s about liking and disliking. I just think people know Drew [Ryniewicz]’s name. And Rachel [Crow], and Astro, and Marcus [Canty] and LeRoy [Bell]. They don’t know the individual names of InTENsity or Lakoda or Stereo Hogzz, and that’s the big challenge.

Should InTENsity stay together, even though they’re geographically spread apart?

SC: I think there is a market for this band, I do. Tenacity is what it’s all about. I really like them. If they had stayed a little bit longer, they would have identified with the individuals [voting].

PA: I would love for that to happen, because they’re only going to get better and better, and more experienced. It just poses problems, because they’re scattered out throughout the United States.

What happens if every contestant in your group is sent home?

SC: You have an easy week.

PA: Oh my God, really?

SC: Yeah, like I used to do on Idol. You just turn up and judge, and support me. It’s not going to happen to me.

LR: Or me.

Does Paula have an advantage now that she can focus more of her attention on her remaining acts?

SC: Massively. She’s got a big advantage over us now.

PA: Oh, stop it. It’s hard with the groups, and that’s why somehow I was given that job. I can handle it.

SC: Paula, I had the groups last year. I created one of the biggest groups in the country. So, I’d be very happy to do it.

PA: I think that whatever happens with groups, they will be signed, and they will be making records. I really, truly believe it.

Read more:

inTENsity reacts to elimination

‘The X Factor’ recap: The Kids Are All Wrong

‘X Factor’: On the scene for the Nov. 3 elimination

‘The X Factor’ on the scene: 14 things you didn’t see on Top 12 performance night

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