You haven't been watching The X Factor USA? Don't panic!! This quick and easy guide will give you all the nuggets you need to make sure you're not left out when you hear someone say, 'OMG did you see Astro last night? Man he was sick'
Summer 2011 saw the infamous-high-trouser-wearing-hedgehog-hair-sporting-not-yet-outed-music-mogul Simon Cowell take The X Factor state side and give American's another global platform to show off how much more talented they are at singing than us. Well... there's that, and the fact it will make him millions of dollars. The familiar tale of everything being bigger and better in America is truly embodied in this show from the powerhouse judges to the huge $5m recording contract for the winner. If you choose to watch the US version in line with the current UK season, I can assure you that you will be embarrassed to be English. There is simply no comparison between the talent they have over the pond and 'Two Shoes.' Granted they have a few more gazillion people to choose from, but we're still way behind.
The judges are made up of Simon Cowell, LA Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. The calibre of judges on the US show also surpasses that of the UK version. Cowell needs no introduction, he simply is 'The X Factor,' hence why the UK version is struggling massively without him. LA Reid was chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group and he's basically one of the key influencers in the music industry of our generation. He's signed everyone from Jay-Z and Mariah Carey to Bon Jovi and The Killers. We also have him to blame for Justin Bieber. Abdul found fame in the 1980's as a choreographer who also had her own successful singing career. I've got one of her albums on cassette somewhere, you remember, the one where she sang with that cartoon cat. Ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Schzerzinger is the final judge who replaced Cheryl Cole after Simon let her try and play with the big boys, and fail miserably.
All of the judges are so passionate and excited by their groups, they see nothing wrong with getting up and dancing and cheering along. There is a great respect between the judges and although there's competitive banter it is never catty or bitchy like we have to witness in the UK show. LA Reid's spectacular facial expressions are on of my favourite parts. They are so animated I truly feel the show should be made compulsory viewing for everyone. He looks like he's been smelling shit for the past 6 weeks. It's a tell tale sign now that if he starts looking like his senses are being violated when you're singing to him, you know you're doing a good job. I'm not going to talk about the presenter Steve Jones. Not because he's Welsh but because he's very good looking with no personality. That to me is the worse kind of person. EVER.
If you choose to watch the US version in line with the current UK season, I can assure you that you will be embarrassed to be English.
Onto the contestants;
LA Reid and the boys.
Astro aka Brian Bradley
This little dude is straight out of Brooklyn. He's a mere 15 years old but he has an ego the size of someone far exceeding his years. I'd go as far to say that if you added Kanye West's, Simon Cowell's and Louise Mensch's egos together you still wouldn't come close. The self-professed composer/writer/rapper is the first hip-hop artist to get through the live stages of a talent contest like this. His first audition was so compelling and catchy that the rap he performed was being rapped back to him by the end of his song. Granted the lyrics, 'stop looking at my mom' sound stupid out of context and aren't particularly difficult to remember, but honestly... this kid is good. Annoyingly good. So good that a few weeks into this competition it's clear to see he has massive huge talent and he can back up his over-confidence with his talent. He also writes all of his own lyrics and he delivers them with the ease and swagger of his idols like Jay-Z who are over twice his age. It is important to point out however that he has been, 'doing hip-hop music since he was a baby' so I guess he's got an unfair advantage.
Chris Rene is the contestant that's 'keepin it real' and according to LA Reid, Rene's 'the truth.' A lot of these assumptions are based purely on the fact that he is a recovering junkie and has been 'clean' for a few weeks. I'm not saying not doing drugs is 'wrong' or 'boring' but it's nice to see a little destructive behaviour and substance abuse in music artists, the kind of addictions that build character. All I'm saying is it didn't do Kurt Cobain any harm. Rene has one of those I'm-a-rapper-but-I'm-gonna-sing-a-bit voices. Just think Nelly, but much worse. His musical influences are listed as, 'real musicians from all different eras, such as Mozart and Jimi Hendrix.' You don't have to watch the show to know one thing, that is total bollocks. Rene won't last much longer in the competition as his voice is clearly weaker than the other guys. That's ok though as I predict big things for him. He'll get kicked off, get upset, go on a bender, go back to rehab, meet Lindsay Lohan, make a sex tape and then be in January's Celebrity Big Brother. Dude's gonna be fine.
Similarly to Marcus from the UK show, Marcus Canty is the cute cheeky chappy with the soulful voice. You will largely see him singing 1990's Bobby Brown style songs and wiggling his hips in shiny clothes. Marcus is a great singer but he's a little outdated, I'd like to say retro but I think you have to be a good few decades passed the era you're mimicking for retro to mean 'cool.' So for now, 'he's the cute archaic one.' He doesn't really have a story apart from the standard 'this is his last chance.' Yep, the old man's just turned 20 years old. If he fails at The X Factor US his mother has said something that all teenagers dread to hear, HE HAS TO GET A REAL JOB. It's heartbreaking stuff really. This fear has obviously encouraged him and he has great stage presence. He is a little vacant in person though and when asked how he got into singing he proudly said, 'my mom was a singer and she heard me.' Wow Marcus, that's umm, that's enthralling stuff. Why ruin a great story with adjectives.
Simon and the girls
Drew is the 14-year-old-girl-next-door with a set of pipes on her that can easily rival any of the big female divas. She's so young that Kelly Clarkson was her idol 'growing up' and she counts Justin Bieber (that young lesbian popstar who just got someone preggers) as one of her favourite performers. She is from a very small town and she has a very innocent edge to her that allows her to appear more vulnerable and emotional when she sings. She sounds very similar to new singer Christina Perri. Her latest performance was again perfect but she wore a hideous ensemble that looked like a school recycling project. All the judges slagged it off along with her bad dancing and Simon Cowell sat their biding his time, letting them really rip it to shreds before telling them that little Drew designed it. All on her own. Bless. You've gotta love Simon; biggest bitch in showbiz. Drew's mature for her years and criticism like that doesn't phase her as she knows she can sing and the audience love her. Enough of that though... she can't win because she's got really big teeth and she said 'singing is the only instrument I play,' and that is one of the most stupid things I've ever heard.
Melanie is one of the most incredible singers in the competition yet she wasn't in Simon's first choice of who he put through to the live shows. Don't quote me but it may be to do with the fact she looks a little bit like Miss Potato head. Cowell brought her back in one of his 'completely unplanned' dramatic episodes where he turns up at the contestant's house and exclaims that he's made a terrible mistake. I mean there is no way they knew he was coming! Yes... her dad always wears his war medals and of course they always have champagne on ice in their 2-bed-8-people apartment. God. She doesn't look like a pop star particularly but she will go far in the competition as her voice is undeniably spectacular.
This girl has got a 'Little Miss Sunshine' quality about her when she's up on stage talking, but as soon as she starts singing... she brings a whole loada' soul with her that is far beyond her years. She lists her icon as Beyoncé and she certainly has that 'extra somthing' when she sings... you can imagine her winning an argument whilst snapping her fingers and flicking her hair. Her voice is insanely strong for her mere 13 years and she has an almost incomprehensible range for her age. Her lower range in particular is very impressive... most 13 year old girls only speak 'screech' but Rachel is controlled and diverse. If I was feeling cheesy I'd describe her as a little power ball of goodness. She is truly amazing. Plus she said she wants to share her spark, 'with America and the world.' The fact she's only 13, lives in America and she's aware there are other countries outside America is enough to get my vote.
I'm not jealous by the way, I'm just saying they're all really pretty and I hate them.
Paula Abdul & the groups
One thing that is very noticeable about Simon Cowell on this show is that when he's excited he flares his nostrils... and boy do these girls get his nasal holes wide. I'd definitely take it as a compliment if someone flared at me. These girls are made up of Paige, Cari, Dani and Hayley and they were put together in one of The X Factor's 'you weren't good enough on your own but how about you sacrifice your soul and join a group of strangers and become best friends whilst we film you' deals. They are, I have no idea how, the last remaining group in the competition as similarly to the UK show, all the groups have been seen as the weakest acts and have been voted off already. These are probably the only act from the US X Factor that would lose to the UK version, girl group 'Little Mix' Lakoda Rayne are your stereotypically pretty all-American-girl group and to be honest I wouldn't be able to tell if different girls were swapped in and out the group every week. I'm not jealous by the way, I'm just saying they're all really pretty and I hate them. Sometimes they sound good, sometimes they don't. They don't stand out vocally in the competition and their 'country pop' feels a little dated, even though they do look like pop stars. Did I mention how stupid their name is too? It is. It's really stupid.
Nicole and the overs.
In The X Factor in the UK the 'overs' category is always seen as somewhat of a joke (if anyone disagrees I would like to refer you to Wagner, Tesco Mary and Johnny Robinson.) In the US, this category ain't no joke. Stacy Francis is a soul diva who takes it to church every week with her Aretha inspired screams. You can usually see Stacy singing-whilst-shutting-her-eyes-really-tightly-and-stamping-on-invisible-grapes-with-her-feet or flirting outrageously with Simon on stage. She can definitely sing but her voice is sometimes a little wild and untamed meaning she sometimes loses control of where it will go. Much like Simon's hedgehog hair. When asked what gives her the 'X Factor' she said, 'I sing from a very pure place.' I'm wondering if that's the same pure place she made her first album from. Which she denied all knowledge of, and lied to production staff about. It's unlikely she will last through to the finals as she's not got the 'je ne sais quoi' (or as the English like to call it 'X Factor') that some of the other contestants have.
Josh's day job is slinging burritos in a diner and if you saw him before you ate... you'd probably think twice about eating. He appeared at his first audition massively dishevled and looking like he would stink of old sweat, wood and beer. He then sang 'At Last' by Etta James and totally and utterly blew everyone away. I have goosebumps just writing about him as his voice is so outstanding. The closest comparable singer to him is Joe Cocker, who funnily enough sounds just like - in my head. He is not just a singer but a talented musician and song writer too and unlike Drew he can play more instruments than just his mouth. At only 30 years old you'd hope he will go on to have a full career in the music industry. I've nothing bad to say about him, apart from he looks smelly. That didn't do Kurt Cobain any harm though.
The 'overs' really do have some of the strongest singers in the whole competition and the incredible LeRoy Bell is no exception. LeRoy is 60 years old, that's right folks, 60 and Not only is he one of the best singers in the competition, he's also one of the best looking. Check him out for yourself if you're judging me on a 'grandad fetish.' I assure you, the man is hot. The show does play a little on the, 'this is his last chance' angle but at that age you can't blame them. LeRoy's voice has the rough soul of Clapton and the soft tones of my childhood idol, Labi Siffre. (I had others but he was just so cuddly looking.) He's very humble, has a very cool sleeve tattoo, great stubble and good hats. LeRoy not Labi. Plus, his name is built for headlines; he can 'LeRoy my bell any day.'
Here all week folks.
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