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Simon Cowell is an entertainment industry icon. He's a Judge on America’s Got Talent, of course, but he's also created and produced a slew of other talent competition shows—and along the way, he's helped start the careers of some of our brightest stars.
Throughout his tenure, he's used his producing skills to discover, mentor, and collaborate with some of the most renowned musical Acts of our time. Many of them are so famous that you may forget Cowell worked with them. Here are just seven examples.
While Kelly Clarkson may be killing it on her highly-successful talk show nowadays, many may not remember that she was American Idol’s earliest success story 20 years ago. She was declared the winner of Season 1 in 2002, where Cowell was one of the iconic Judges in the original lineup.
“I actually genuinely do not believe we would be sitting here today if you hadn’t entered the show that year,” Cowell said of Clarkson’s cultural impact, also remarking that he instantly knew she’d go on to be a success during the Season 1 finale.
This country darling has won eight Grammys, but she can thank American Idol and Simon Cowell for helping launch her name into the spotlight. After her initial AI Audition, Cowell declared her as one of his favorites, and predicted that she would go on to win the fourth season. Clearly a good Judge of talent and star quality, he ended up being correct.
Cowell helped create The X-Factor, and in 2010, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson all auditioned as solo singers for the seventh season. Cowell said it took him 15 minutes to form the group that is now known as One Direction, as he saw the potential and charisma in all of the boys. “It felt like the right thing to do, and we were just lucky that we had these five guys, all with different strengths,” he said in 2020. “The chemistry was incredible.”
One Direction ultimately went on to finish in third place in the seventh season of X-Factor and signed a deal with Cowell’s major record label, Syco Music. They then released four number-one albums, which included smash hits such as “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Story of My Life,” making the band one of Cowell’s most successful projects to this date.
In the American version of The X-Factor, Cowell helped create another famous five-piece musical Act. Singers Camila Cabello (now a Coach on The Voice), Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane, and Lauren Jauregui all auditioned in 2012 and were selected by Cowell to be put in the “Groups” category. They ultimately ended up in third place that season and also went on to sign with Syco Music.“I knew from the girls’ first performance at the Judges’ homes that we’d done the right thing,” Cowell said in 2013. “The chemistry between the girls both on stage and off is fantastic, and they are incredibly talented. ”The girl group went on to release mega successful tracks such as “Work From Home” and “Worth It.”
Another Act that got her start on The X-Factor, Lewis won the third season of the British version in 2006. Like many other successful Contestants, she promptly signed to Cowell’s record label and performed hits such as “Bleeding Love” and “Better in Time.” She sold a whopping 60 million records with Syco Music, and is reportedly still close with Cowell to this day.
Lewis touched on how Cowell was there for her during her X-Factor journey. "Throughout the show, he was definitely a real mentor and really involved in helping me with song choices, arrangements. He's been a big supporter,” she said in 2021.
When Miss Boyle first auditioned for Britain's Got Talent in 2009, she shocked audiences with her hauntingly gorgeous rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream." The video quickly went viral, and she went on to release her debut album later that year with Syco Music to record-breaking sales.
Boyle went on to come in second place in the third season, with Cowell believing in her from the beginning. “You’re a champion,” he remarked to her years later when she appeared on America’s Got Talent: The Campions to re-perform the same song that established her name. "That really, really took me back, all those years.”
A Cowell collaboration that wasn’t formed through one of his competitions series, the critically-acclaimed singer songwriter Labrinth signed with Syco Music in 2011. "Syco wanted to use my services as a producer. But when I went to the office, and they heard my vocals, they thought I had something," the musician explained. He also stated that amidst his many options, he was ultimately drawn to the label due to the creative control it offered. "[Cowell's] going to take my records to where they need to go...We've created a healthy relationship." he said.
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