- 28 September 2010
- From the section Music
It's a powerful tribute to Simon Cowell and his X Factor creation that to a lot of people think winning his competition is the only route to pop stardom in 2010.
And maybe there is some truth in that. With labels counting their costs more carefully as sales waver it's probably harder to get signed now than it has been for a long time.
But are Cowell, Cole, Minogue and Walsh the only keyholders to success?
"I don't think it's sad - I just think that I understand it," says 22-year-old singer Clare Maguire.
"I understand the extreme situation that a lot of people are in. Outside of London for a lot of people there is no escape.
"You have to have that extreme nature in your personality to be able to get out of it and to be able to see a way out. It's a massive risk to take.
"It's probably a little bit easier - although it is still a huge thing - to turn up at an audition in your home town than to give it all up."
Let's explain. Clare Maguire could have so easily taken that route. She could have stood in front of the judges and relinquished control of her career.
Indeed, her friends encouraged her to do it. But she didn't. Her career would be on nobody else's terms except her own. She chose a "riskier" path instead.
Brought up in the surroundings of a musical family in Birmingham, she began singing and writing music from the age of 7.
But it wasn't until seventeen when she reached the most crucial point in her journey.
"I was at school and the teacher said, 'You've got to stop this pipe dream and get on with getting points for uni and stuff'. And I was like, 'No, I'm going to do this.'
"I went to an extreme," she says. "I was becoming slightly obsessive about having to do it.
"Every waking hour. Even in my sleep I was thinking, 'I have to do this.'"
And she did. She left school with the a focus on launching a career in music.
"Where we're from you either get a job at the yard where my dad works, or you work in a shop which is what I did," she says.
"I never consciously made a decision to become a musician - I had no choice. It was the only thing I could do and the one thing which made me feel great."
Drinking with Jay-Z
After countless trips to London the breakthrough came. After posting demos on MySpace she began being courted by a host of major labels who battled for her signature. It led to some pretty "crazy stories".
Like the time she went to Rick Rubin's studio, met the producer and listened to a set of unreleased Johnny Cash demos.
Or when she was invited to Jay-Z's restaurant to down shots with the world's richest rapper.
"I wasn't thinking about it whilst I was doing it - I was just doing it. Now I look back and think, 'That's actually mental'" she laughs.
"I said to him, 'How can you tell if somebody is a star'. And he said he can see it in their eyes. I said, 'Can you see it in my eyes?'"
Eventually she did sign. For the past year she's been in the studio with young UK producer Fraser T. Smith completing her debut album, Light After Dark, set for release in February 2011.
In her words an album of "big sounds" and "epic production".
"I've been waiting 22 years to do something - you've got to make sure it's right," she smiles.
In the immediate future she's heading out on a UK tour in October with Hurts and Plan B.
"I'm extremely passionate but my main ambition is for people to believe in what I'm doing," says Maguire, signing off.
"That's what this whole thing is. I want to create something which people genuinely understand."