USA

The X Factor USA: Top 16 Evaluation

The X Factor USA’s live shows are rolling around in just two weeks and given the rapidly declining standards of my country’s edition, I am truly grateful. Once more, the Stateside version has produced 16 top class acts. Here is how they are shaping up going in to the final rounds.

Kelly’s Over 25s

Rachel Potter

Can she sing?
Yes, very well in fact. Rachel surprised everyone at her first audition with her impeccable high notes. The Four Chair Challenge didn’t go as well for her and she was put through based on her first audition.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Hmm… this is debatable. She can definitely sing and she was likeable in her first audition and the country market in the US is huge but she did herself no favours by rattling off excuses in her second performance. I think Victoria Carriger would have been better received by voters.

Jeff Gutt

Can he sing?
He’s actually got a great voice. It’s very much suited to rock ballads but he can sing, he was unlucky not to have made it to the live shows the season before.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

James Kenney

Can he sing?
Another yes, here. He’s not a strong a singer as Jeff but his voice is soulful and unique within the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

Lillie McCloud

Can they sing?
Can she ever! Vocally, Lillie is a cut above the rest of the competition. It says a lot that she is the only act to have received two standing ovations so far this season.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
You may think a 54-year-old grandmother has little to offer mainstream music but the stage presence she carries is that of a seasoned veteran. She has the look, she has the talent. Can she connect with a younger audience? Maybe not but with a voice like hers, that shouldn’t be problematic.

 

Demi’s Girls

Khaya Cohen

Can they sing?
Vocally, she’s arguably the strongest in Demi’s category.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Meh, probably not. She’s enthusiastic and likeable but does she stand-out? Not really.  That’s why I’ve just used those generic terms to describe her.

Ellona Santiago

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Simon picked her out as the star singer when she was part of Season 1 group InTENsity.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Again, she’s very forgettable. She’s just your average girl. She’s yet to show anything that sets her apart from any other female singer with a good voice.

Danie Geimer

Can they sing?
Again, she is a very good singer with amazing control for a 15-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Thankfully, she may do. She’s certainly more memorable than her two predecessors. She’s the geeky girl at school that no one pays attention to, until they realise how talented she is. I bet that story will resonate with many of the show’s younger voters.

Rion Paige

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Excellently, in fact, for a 13-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
She’s arguably the most likeable contestant in the whole competition, her resolute positivity in the face of her disability is simply inspiring. I almost want to see her succeed more for her mum than herself.

Paulina’s Boys

 

Carlito Olivero

Can they sing?
He can but he’s definitely one of the weaker singers in the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Sort of. He’ll appeal to certain audiences but he’s nothing special.

Carlos Guevara

Can they sing?
He can, very well in fact. One of Paula’s strongest singers.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
He’s certainly likeable given his triumph over Tourettes Syndrome whenever he sings, but he isn’t the most charismatic.

Tim Olstad

Can they sing?
Yes, he is a very good singer. That’s about all he is.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not all. He is easily the dullest contestant left. Simon was spot on when he said he’d only appeal to older audiences.

Josh Levi

Can they sing?
There are better singers in the competition, but yes he can sing.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. The girls seem to love him, he’s confident without being arrogant and his stage presence is impressive. There’s no reason he can’t go far.

Simon’s Groups

 

Sweet Suspense

Can they sing?
As they’re a manufactured group they can all sing equally well. Well, there’s one stronger singer but…

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Potentially. They’re fairly likeable and will probably be popular with young teenage girls.

Restless Road

Can they sing?
Very well, particularly together.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Absolutely, it was a genius move of Simon’s to put together a group of three young male country singers. I’m certain they’ll do well.

Alex and Sierra

Can they sing?
They have unique voices. They’re not powerful but good, no doubt.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. They have a unique style and are actually likeable as a couple, you want them to succeed because of how down-to-earth they are. I love them.

RoXxy Montana

Can they sing?
You bet they can. Coming from a gospel choir, their voices are very soulful too.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
They could be the new Destiny’s Child. They’re very talented, great performers but they’re not necessarily as likeable and charismatic as the other acts. They might not do as well as predicted.

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Culture Clash : Things Americans do that Brits hate

To start, let me say that Britain and America are bezzie mates, at least politically. We like you, we really do, I mean we don’t like you as much as your cooler Northern neighbours but that’s a different story. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this post is purely for fun and nothing is really meant by it. Please still be our friends. 

1. Aggressive patriotism

Now, don’t misunderstand. Most Britons love their country. In fact, patriotism was at an all-time high during the Olympics and the Queen’s jubilee celebrations last year but Americans’ love for their country is a different kettle of fish. The average Brit won’t take kindly to you using phrases such as ‘greatest nation on earth’, ‘God bless, America’ or chanting ‘USA! USA! USA!’ repeatedly. In the States, you see the star-spangled banner hung from every other building. Here, you’ll only find a Union Jack on the beach front of Skegness. Maybe, we’re just jealous of how much pride you have for your country. Or maybe, we still feel a little awkward about the whole ‘Empire’ thing.

Proud… Your love for your country upstages ours.

2. Mispronunciation of UK place names

Get an American to look at these two place names; Leicester and Loughborough and then ask them to pronounce them. They probably will be unable too. While we know they’re pronounced as LES-STER and LUFF-BROH, some and I stress some Americans have been known to refer to them as LAY-SESS-TER and LOO-GUH-BUH-ROO-GUH. I suppose we can’t be too hard on you though, we do like to pronounce things completely differently to how they’re spelt. And in fairness, I’d imagine those from the north-eastern states are quite apt at interpreting the pronunciation of British place names, seeing as we creatively named every bleeding town up there after one of our own.

Sad… I wish everyone knew how to pronounce the name of my hometown

3. Therapy 

Americans love their therapy. They use it liberally and why not? It’s an effective way of raising issues with a mediator to allow all parties the chance to voice concerns. Us Brits don’t understand this, we’re more for repressing our issues and deep-seeded anger and letting it bubble up later in the form of sarcastic quipping.

Open… Even America’s favourite family uses therapy

4. The hatred of ‘Jaywalking’

This is more of a personal one. When I went to America last summer, there was nothing the average pedestrian was called up on more than ‘jaywalking’. For those of you that don’t know; ‘Jaywalking’ is walking to the other side of the street when the road is clear but traffic has not been halted by a red light. In the UK, it is called crossing the road.

Absurd… Americans like to make crossing the road a difficult experience

5. American Sports

People of all nations will be reading this bit and in their head shouting ‘YES!’. We hate your sports and everything about them. We hate the cheerleaders, the pop stars doing the half-time show, the silly commercialised names, I mean what is with the ‘New York Red Bulls’? The local derbies of the MLS are even sponsored by car manufacturers, for goodness sake! We hate the paegantry, sports in the UK are for getting merry and singing amusingly hurtful songs to the other team not for catching a sneak preview of Miley Cyrus’ latest single. We’re driven insane by the fact baseball’s prime competition is called the ‘World Series’ despite the fact all but two of the world’s nations don’t bother to compete. But, most of all we hate what you call ‘football’. You have tainted our favourite creation. This will always be a blip in American-British relationships, one for which we will probably NEVER forgive you.

Pageantry… Brits dislike the showbiz nature of US sports

6. How much you love our accent

At first, we have to admit, it’s very flattering when you compliment us on our accents. In Britain, we aren’t very complimentary to each other’s dulcet tones. But you lot seem to love it – if you head Stateside you’ll be greeted by people asking ‘where is that accent from?’ before they politely pretend to have heard of a small commuter village outside of Huddersfield. But it does go a bit far when you then reel off lists of phrases that you want us to say in ‘British’, which isn’t a language by the way, nor an accent. In fact, some of our accents are as audibly offensive as some of yours. Also, do we always have to be the bad guys in movies? We’re not all evil.

Diverse… For a small country, we have many accents.

7. Geographical ignorance

Again, I think this annoys me more than most Brits. I like to know about geography and I’m sure many of you are very knowledgeable too but a lot of Americans seem to think that London is the be all and end all of old Blighty. You don’t know the names of our counties but I can name all fifty of your states (I’ve done it many times). Maybe, we don’t like that you don’t reciprocate our appreciation of your country’s geography.  Then again, if I’m honest, I’d probably be as ignorant as many of you, if my country had the wonderfully varied landscape yours has. Just know this, at least. We don’t all live in London and whilst we’re on the subject, we’ve never met the Queen either.

Ignored… There are more places in the UK than London

8. Taking credit for others work

Americans and Brits have learnt to avoid certain topics of conversation over the years and at the top of that list are the events of World War II. A tip for all of you, never say to a Briton that you ‘saved our ass in World War II’ or that we’d ‘be speaking German now if it wasn’t for you’. We appreciate your help and over the years, we’ve been great allies to each other but Brits see these sorts of comments as a huge mark of disrespect to our armed forces. We also don’t really appreciate your tardiness in said events either but hey ho. Another thing that grinds our gears is when the American flag appears next to the ‘English’ option on a language selector – we would probably settle for the bisecting half-flags of the States and the UK but ignore our flag altogether and we are not amused.

Irritating… It was our language first

9. Your chocolate

I think you’ll agree with us – our chocolate is better than yours. In honesty, ours isn’t even that good but at least it’s not Hershey’s! I’m not being melodramatic here, I once tasted a Hershey’s kiss and it tasted like vomit. Chocolate stateside generally tastes burnt and bland, not velvety smooth and sweet like we’re used to over here. Many Brits were actually appalled when Kraft bought Cadbury’s a few years back, I was simply happy for you.

Vile… There’s a reason they’re shaped like turds.

10. Your spelling

No surprises here. We hate the way you spell words. Why do you hate the letter ‘U’ and why do you love Zs (Zeds) so much? If we’re honest, this is one of the few reasons we prefer Canada. Although, they’ve fallen victim to your movement for excessive usage of the alphabet’s 26th letter, they at least know how to spell ‘centre’ eh?

Different… Americans have mutated the English language.

11. Your interest in our dental hygiene

Our teeth are not that bad. Yes, some of us have some dental issues but we’re not that bothered. You seemed to be more concerned about the alignment of our gnashers than we are! We care more about bad breath. I’m not really sure where this stereotype started – I for one don’t know anyone with horrible teeth. Maybe you’ve been watching too much of the Jeremy Kyle show? In fact, speaking of trashy talk shows, we get the Jerry Springer show here, we know your teeth aren’t always perfect either!

False… I don’t mean the teeth

12. Your politeness

Okay, we don’t actually dislike this, it just baffles us. It genuinely confuses the average Briton when in the US, a stranger stops to say hello or help you take a picture or carry something. When Americans in restaurants or shops are polite and compliment us for being good customers, or if any American compliments us in general, we immediately think to scour your face for traces of sarcasm and when we find nothing, our brains nearly explode. Your politeness is so wonderfully genuine that our overly cynical mindset simply cannot cope.

Okay… Google thinks this is a picture of ‘friendly Americans’

That completes my list. I hope nobody was too offended and thus, I invite any American to do the same thing for us Britons – we love to put ourselves down.

Time for Change : America’s Gun Laws

In the wake of another firearm tragedy in the States, the contentious issue of American gun policy is being more keenly discussed than ever before. Begging the question, why something wasn’t done sooner.

Last Friday, twenty six people of which twenty were aged between six and seven years old, were gunned down by one Adam Lanza in

the sleepy town of Newtown, Connecticut. Unfortunately, events such as this are not uncommon in the United States with several mass shooting occurring across the pond with the last fifteen or so years, including a massacre in a movie theatre in Colorado earlier this year. So what more will it take for the American people to forfeit the second amendment in favour for a bit of sanity.

Many Americans will argue that the problem isn’t the widespread possession of firearms but the mental well-being of the perpetrators. The opposition want free mental health care in order to decrease the likelihood of this happening. Others will argue with the frequency of these shootings increasing in the past few years that residents require firearms in order to protect themselves. However, when similar shootings happened in the UK, the government cracked down on gun possession and fire arm homicide rate is 0.1 in 100,000 across England and Wales.

Culture

Some say tightening gun laws will have minimal effect on gun violence in the short-term because the weapons are already out there. However crack downs on illegal weapons and enforced psychological testing and licensing for gun owners is easy enough to introduce. Michael Moore argued on Twitter that murder is ingrained in American culture, deriving from the execution of the native Americans all the way to the invasion of Iraq.

While that may be true, it is wrong to adopt the mentality that because of this changes shouldn’t be made. Racism and homophobia are prime examples of social wrongs that are gradually being faded out and if action isn’t taken sooner rather than later then gun culture is an evil that will afflict the United States for generations to come.

The Stats

  • The United States are 12th in the world for firearm-related deaths.
  • Per capita, The USA’s homicide rate is 4 times higher than the United Kingdom and Australia, where there is significant gun control.
  • Americans own the most firearms per capita in the world.
  • 8,583 people were killed by firearms in the United States in 2011.
  • There are 89 firearms for every 100 Americans.
  • You are 36 times more likely to be killed by gun fire in the United States than the United Kingdom, again per capita.
  • Over 100,000 people were killed by firearms in the United States between 1998 and 2009. The equivalent of the population of Exeter.
  • 13 – Number of mass shootings in the USA during 2012.

Twenty children and six adults have been robbed of  a future, a chance for freedom. They’ve been robbed of the ‘American dream’ that the United States prides itself on being able to provide. The time is now for change. You can restrict the number of perpetrators through better mental health care but you can also restrict the tools they have access too. Anybody saying that guns aren’t the problem are kidding themselves. How many more innocent people have to die before the American people see sense?