The hype is mounting for the U.S. launch of Simon Cowell's talent show "The X Factor," which promises to find a future superstar worthy of its unprecedented $5 million prize. But over in the U.K., Simon is dropping "X Factor" winners from his SyCo record label left and right. Does this bode badly for the "X Factor" franchise in general?
Last week it was announced that Joe McElderry, who only won two seasons ago in late 2009, has been dropped, after his first single failed to become England's all-important Christmas number one due to a Rage Against The Machine-inspired grassroots protest campaign, and his third single sold a shockingly paltry 7,000 copies. Meanwhile, Joe's Season 6 rivals, cartoonish and controversial twins John & Edward Grimes--whom Simon once accused of delivering the worst "X Factor" performance of all time--actually raked in more than $5 million last year from endorsement deals.
Then this week, SyCo also officially ditched Season 2 winner Shayne Ward. Past champs Steve Brookstein (Season 1) and Leon Jackson (Season 4) were dropped a while ago. It remains to be seen how the most recent "X Factor" winner, Season 7's Matt Cardle, will fare, but he's reportedly going the rock route, which may be a risk--and clearly male "X Factor" winners do not have a stellar track record in general.
Of all seven "X Factor U.K." winners, the two most successful, interestingly, are both female: Season 5's Alexandra Burke and Season 3's Leona Lewis. Leona, the only one who became an international star, is held up as the gold standard, the ultimate example of what Simon is looking for, but even she has lost momentum in the past couple of years, with her second album selling 4 million worldwide less than her smash debut.
So what does all this say about "The X Factor USA's" eventual champ's chances for long-term success? Simon has repeatedly insisted that he believes America has the deepest, widest talent pool, and so far "The X Factor USA" auditions have drawn record turnouts. Simon has left "American Idol," "Britain's Got Talent," and even "The X Factor U.K." to focus on this new endeavor, so I just hope it was worth it, and that his record label isn't crushing the dreams of a bunch of underselling American singers in a couple of years.
Check out videos by all of "The X Factor's" British winners, in chronological order, to gauge the caliber of talent the show has discovered so far. "The X Factor USA" debuts in September.