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Whether you love or hate him, you can’t deny that Simon Cowell has had a huge influence on the music industry in the past decade. The man behind some of TV’s most addictive shows (American Idol, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent) has discovered, managed and signed some of the biggest artists on the charts and we have plenty of artists to thank him for. He may not say nice things, but he does have an incredible ear for good music.
Here are the top 10 artists Simon Cowell is responsible for.
All Directioners can probably agree that this is one of Simon Cowell’s biggest achievements to date. During the seventh season of British singing competition show, The X Factor, Cowell put rejected contestants Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis together and formed a boy band. And not just any boy band, one of the world’s biggest acts today. Since that fateful day, Cowell has signed One Direction to his Syco record label and has continued to be an integral part of the band’s success.
Back in the late ’90s/early 2000s, Westlife were so big that they were in direct competition with their American counterparts, Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC, and who do we have to thank for that? Simon Cowell, of course. The record exec turned them down at first and even had some harsh words for them calling them the “ugliest boy band in the world,” but later reconsidered and signed them after a little makeover. Look, we never said Cowell was nice, we just said he had a good ear for music.
One season after One Direction, girl group Little Mix were formed for the eighth season of The X Factor and went on to do something their predecessors couldn’t do: win. Little Mix were the first group to win the competition and Cowell immediately signed them to Syco following the show. Since then, Perrie, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Jade have gone on to tour with Demi Lovato and Cher Lloyd, and have sold over two million albums worldwide.
Winner of the third season of The X Factor, Leona Lewis was once heralded as Cowell’s superstar protege. And she did do that: her single, Bleeding Love topped charts worldwide and she sold millions of albums. But after seven years on Syco Music, she left, telling fans “I was asked to make a record that would not have been true to myself […] I could no longer compromise myself, and so I decided to leave.” She has since signed a new record deal with Island Records. Cowell took to Twitter to congratulate Lewis. He adds: “You put X Factor on the map. X”
Another product of The X Factor, Olly Murs was the runner-up in the sixth season and went on to become a star in not just music, but TV and fashion. Murs has toured with Robbie Williams and One Direction and has successfully released three albums with a fourth entitled Never Been Better coming out next month.
The X Factor wasn’t only beneficial for its contestants in the UK; the show (and Cowell) also spawned a few successes Stateside, most notably Fifth Harmony. The girl group was formed on the second season of the show and even thought they only finished in third place (hey, 1D also finished third), they went on to sign a joint record deal with Syco Music and L.A. Reid’s Epic Records. Just this year, they performed on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Award and even won the award for MTV’s Artist To Watch.
Simon Cowell’s musical prowess extends outside the world of pop music. Case in point: operatic group, Il Divo. Cowell created Il Divo after another opera group called G4 came in second on the first season of The X Factor. After a worldwide search, Cowell found members Urs, Sebastien, Carlos and David and formed and signed the group to his record label. They have gone on to sell more than 26 million albums worldwide.
When Susan Boyle appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, she rendered Cowell speechless. Although she came in second place, Cowell signed her to Syco Music. The day after the show’s finale, Boyle was admitted to a psychiatric clinic and in an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight, Cowell admits that he felt responsible for the singer’s wellbeing. He has continued to help manage and coach Boyle through her career.
Ella Henderson is the latest star to rise out of The X Factor. The British singer only placed sixth in the competition, but is gaining lots of attention post-show with the release of her debut album, Chapter One, which came out last week on Cowell’s Syco Music. Her first single Ghost went to number one in UK and is bound to follow similarly successful career paths as the artists before her.
Alex & Sierra
Alex & Sierra were the winners of the final season of The X Factor USA. The duo (who is also a couple) were mentored by Cowell and were the only group to ever win on the Stateside version of the show. Since winning, the two have signed to Syco and released their debut album, It’s About Us earlier this month. On the album, they got to team up with some of music’s biggest names including Jason Mraz, John Legend and Harry Styles who wrote a song on the couple’s album. Expect to hear way more from this dynamic duo.