Simon Cowell may have been behind many successful groups and pop stars, but the ears of the British judge have also been proved wrong. Some famous singers were told they wouldn’t make it in the music industry by Simon Cowell, like the Spice Girls, but they later proved him wrong.

The music mogul is known for his longtime career signing huge stars and being a judge in popular singing competitions, which have gone on to become global brands. The X Factor, Pop Idol and Britain’s Got Talent now have international versions across the globe.

Always on the lookout for the next big star, the 63-year-old instincts have seen artists recognized worldwide. These include One Direction, Little Mix, Fifth Harmony, James Arthur, Leona Lewis, and many more.

Nonetheless, the popular television personality has also rejected some groups and singers that went on to prove him wrong and find success without Simon Cowell.

Like, who? Keep reading to find out.

Singers Simon Cowell rejected – but they became major pop stars

Spice Girls

During an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, former Spice Girls member Mel B revealed the group once tried to impress Simon Cowell back in the 1990s. The quartet even gave him an impromptu audition in a car park in a bid to convince him to give them a chance.

“Funny story,” she explained. “He was coming out of work and we kind of hijacked the car park that he was trying to get his car out of… And just sung for him.”

Recalling the day, Mel B said the group knew they were “going to be famous one day”. The Spice Girls begged Simon Cowell to sign them, which he refused to do.

“It’s not going to work,” he told them as Mel B mimicked Simon’s dismissive hand gesture.

Despite their talented voices, the group rose above Simon’s rejection.

Years later, the Spice Girls (composed of Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, and Mel B) became the biggest girl band at the time. Selling millions of records worldwide and releasing a hit movie, they disbanded in 2001.

Britney Spears

2017 Radio Disney Music Awards
Image Group LA/Disney Channel via Getty Images

Believe it or not, Simon once attempted to buy Britney Spears‘ iconic single Baby One More Time from producer Max Martin with a Mercedes before she was handed the song. This was so he could give it to boy band Five.

As per an interview with The Sun, Simon thought the singer “would never have a hit”, but was undoubtedly proved wrong.

He revealed: “And [Max] went, ‘I can’t, I promised it to Britney Spears’. I went, ‘Who? Trust me, Max, nobody’s going to have a hit with a name like Britney Spears. Just think about it, please'”

Keeping his promise, the producer handed the song to the pop star. The track instantly became one of the biggest hits in pop history. It was also the commencement of Britney’s legendary music career.

Baby One More Time went triple-platinum, selling more than 10 million copies and topping the music charts. Ironically, Simon and Britney coincided as judges of The X Factor years later and have been friends ever since.

Tori Kelly

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Premiere Ceremony
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Some singers have been discovered by the likes of Simon Cowell and other record labels. While others had to work their way through the ups and downs on the road to fame. At the age of 16, Tori Kelly auditioned on series nine of America Idol, where Simon was on the judging panel.

Despite getting three ‘yes’ responses from the judges, including former Spice Girls member Victoria Beckham, Simon took a harsh approach.

She made it to the next round and was placed in the top 24 contestants before being eliminated. However, Simon described her voice as “downright annoying”.

Tori’s success after the singing competition brought her a nomination as a Best New Artist at the 2016 Grammys. In 2019, the young singer won a Grammy in the category of Best Gospel Album for her second studio album, Hiding Place. She was also nominated for Best Gospel Song.

Speaking to Kelly Clarkson’s talk show, she said: “I don’t regret anything and I think Simon is cool. No hard feelings. I actually should thank him because it all happened for a reason.”


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Ashley Bautista
Ashley Bautista

Ashley is a journalism graduate from Kingston University, currently writing for HITC, Reality Titbit and The Focus. She loves to travel and learn new languages and cultures. She also has an interest in celebrity news and the entertainment world. When she’s not writing, she’s on social media, watching K-dramas or shopping.

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