Famously known for criticising American Idol contestants.
Never slow to recognise a bright young talent, by 1989 BMG had offered Simon a position as A&R Consultant. It was a relationship which would prove to be hugely successful, profitable and enduring. In fact, last year Cowell set up his own label through BMG, S Records, reflecting the success and vision he has manifested. Simon's roster of signing reads like a who's who of pop success stories over the last decade (including some seemingly unlikely ones). Highlights include, Curiosity Killed The Cat, Sonia and, cornering the boy band market, Bad Boys of Pop Five (who disbanded last year) and the global multi-platinum phenomenon, Westlife. Always pop but never predictable, Simon has enjoyed some of his most successful signings by always keeping an eye firmly on the TV world, sensing a public following and always being the first knocking on the door. The Power Rangers, World Wrestling Federation, Zig & Zag and the Xmas Number 1 smash Teletubbies moved from the small box to the airwaves because of Simon, although he claims that his biggest shock success camein the form of Robson & Jerome.
After convincing the unassuming TV actors that they had what it takes, Cowell and BMG watched Robson & Jerome notch up an incredible string of hit singles, holding the record for being the first act to debut with three consecutive Number 1 singles - ironically they were later to lose this record to Westlife who hold the record for seven consecutive Number 1 singles and now famously have achieved a staggering ten Number 1's.
Making records and breaking them, in the last 10 years, Cowell has achieved sales of over 25 million albums, over 70 top 30 records and 17 Number 1 singles.
The key to a successful A&R career is of course always keeping one eye on the 'next big thing', and now Cowell, along with Simon Fuller, another of the music industry's most talented and innovative stars, are doing just that. Having seen the amazing success which the 'Popstars' series achieved and the level to which the public got involved, Cowell and Fuller wanted to go one step further and let the public choose who would be the biggest solo star in the UK. Thus, the conception of Pop Idols in Autumn. "I thought the Popstars series was just brilliant and was amazed by the level of public interest and involvement but I think, in many cases, the public would enjoy a project of this type even more if they got to choose who wins. It's like the ultimate in interactive television and of course by the time we have a winner, the record buying public will already feel that they have a vested interest in the artist. There's so much raw talent out there, Popstars certainly proved that, but that show was about putting together a band which looked right together. We're purely concerned with the talent of the entrants and I'm absolutely convinced that we're going to find a future superstar."
In the wings for the nation's Pop Idol was an album deal with BMG, teamed with the priceless advice of Cowell and Fuller's management and A&R expertise. In other words, the person whom the public chooses has the guarantee of a very exciting future in music, which explains the audition figures of 10,000; the most extensive auditions ever to be staged.
And the public did choose. Pop Idols became compulsive viewing on a Saturday for television audiences over a staggering 11 million. The public voted by their millions and felt compelled to have their say (more so than a governmental election.) The standard of contestants were impeccable and consequently more than one winning talent was signed to BMG.
As the winner Will Young registered a mind blowing 4.6 million votes and the runner-up Gareth Gates registered a similarly impressive figure of 4.1 million. Other Pop Idols who captured the eye and ear of Cowell included Sarah Whatmore. Each individual having that certain 'je ne sais quoi' with the talent, power and conviction to ensure that their bright future would be a long standing one. With the debut release of Will Young's double A-side, 'Evergreen'/'Anything Is Possible', records were broken for the biggest single ever with sales nearing an unbelievable 2 million (1.8 to be exact!) Will Young occupied the top spot for 3 weeks stepping down 4 weeks later for Gareth Gates, who consequently is now the youngest British male to get a solo Number 1. With his debut single, 'Unchained Melody', Gareth Gates shifted an amazing 1 million records in the first week (not bad for a runner up, hey!) and also became the second fastest-selling debut of all time.
With the success of this single S Records/RCA went on to secure its third successive Number 1 with three different artists (Westlife, Will Young and Gareth Gates.) This was last achieved in October 1999, again with RCA (Christina Aguilera) and S Records (Westlife and Five.)
Pop Idol was that launch pad for Will Young and Gareth Gates whose talents were deservedly unleashed by the public. With Cowell's direction and expertise expect more records to be broken and both Will Young's and Gareth Gates metamorphosis as two of the biggest British solo artists for today.
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