By: Rosanne Simunovic
What an opening week for the 12 ladies of American Idol Season Six. I can’t remember seeing so many outstanding performances in one evening during the first round of semi-finals. I could have listened to these talented females for hours: they were extremely unique and, generally, very well prepared. Many stars were born this week yet some need to work much harder to move up to the bar set by 50 % of these female singers. Next week should be an interesting show, but, for now, these are my evaluations of this week’s Top 12 showcase. The singers are listed in performance order.
STEPHANIE EDWARDS: HOW COME YOU DON’T CALL ME ANYMORE
Stephanie – what an absolutely remarkable performance. This was truly a star search moment, from the hushed intensity in your opening segment to the dynamic powerhouse segments later on in this number. I loved your “down on your knees” moment – truly inspired.
You exhibited a relaxed jazz-infused style that never relented. You were in total control throughout this number and it was very obvious that your song was meticulously rehearsed. Yet, at the same time, everything looked and appeared so effortless and natural.
Your voice was technically and artistically brilliant. I love that you used a variety of nuances so effectively throughout this song. You have great instincts as a singing artist and your success throughout this show is evident indeed.
AMY KREBS: I CAN’T MAKE YOU LOVE ME
Amy- you had a beautiful presence when you performed this week. However, you must work on furthering your technical development, as your lack thereof truly affected your overall vocal sound.
Presently, you sing with little diaphragmatic breath support and, as a result, your vocal sound throughout your register was very spread, lacking focus and adequate resonation in your vocal masque (facial features).
Proper vocal technique will most certainly assist you in developing a richer, pitch centered vocal timbre. You are adding too much chest voice to your vocal sound and this is creating a poorly pitched, less pure vocal timbre. Head voice is necessary throughout your range, as it adds a ringing, vibrant sound throughout your vocal range. The key is to correctly blend chest voice and head voice in every part of your vocal range.
Finally, I felt that you were extremely detached from this poignant song selection. You must live within the moment when you perform and internalize the emotion of the song lyrics. By doing so, you would not only communicate the song lyrics more efficiently, but also many of your technical problems would be partially resolved.
LESLIE HUNT: YOU MAKE ME FEEL (LIKE NATURAL WOMAN)
Leslie – it was such a pleasure to finally see you perform for a full 90 seconds. You performed with excellent artistry and vocal control throughout this showcase. I loved your open and expressive facial features. This allowed you to not only communicate effectively with your audience, but also to focus and place your vocal sound freely in your vocal masque.
Your camera work was spot on and your sultry, confident style was utterly convincing. Your phrasing abilities were just beautiful, allowing you to maintain a forward momentum as the song progressed. All of these positive aspects addressed your intelligent, authentic musicianship.
However, I have to side with the judges on one aspect: your song selection was not appropriate for your lighter, lyrical vocal sound. You performed the song well and didn’t force your voice to create a louder dynamic and all of this is good news indeed.
However, this song requires a bigger, perhaps richer sound and you would have been wise to choose a number that addressed your individual vocal talent – music by Karen Carpenter, Carole King, Norah Jones and so on.
SABRINA SLOAN: I NEVER LOVED A MAN (THE WAY I LOVE YOU)
Sabrina – you began this number with a powerful vocal and physical presence and never relented. You voice had a wonderful soulful sound that complimented your fiery and passionate persona. This was an excellent and well-rehearsed song choice. Just perfect!
Additionally, your voice was clear and resonant, as you navigated your extensive vocal range with ease and technical assurance. I loved your impeccably sustained head tone at the end of this number; it was the bomb!
Your dynamic range (loud and soft singing) was excellent and you added a variety of nuances throughout this number. This is imperative to really superb singing: it’s not about singing loud, it’s about singing with feeling, adding inflections as you would if you were speaking the lyrics. I am glad that you understand this, Sabrina.
Additionally, your confidence level and professionalism throughout this number was palpable. This was a very memorable initial performance. A strong performance from a strong performer.
ANTONELLA BARBA: I DON’T WANNA MISS A THING
Antonella – you were a beautiful presence on stage. I loved the hushed intensity at the beginning of your number. It was just lovely.
Unfortunately, your lack of proper vocal technique allowed the remaining elements of your showcase to unravel. Pitch problems were prevalent throughout this number, indicating the absence of solid diaphragmatic breath support. Additionally, there was considerable tension in your facial and throat muscles, thus inhibiting the proper placement and focus for a completely free, uninhibited vocal sound.
However, during various sections of your song, you showed evidence of a beautiful head tone element in your voice. You need to incorporate this element in every aspect of your dynamic and vocal range, as presently you are singing with too much chest voice. Too much chest voice encourages a poorly pitched, constricted vocal timbre.
Emotionally, like Amy, you were very detached from the emotional aspect of your song and thus your overall vocal delivery was extremely tentative. Live the moment – this is the number one rule for singers.
JORDIN SPARKS: GIVE ME ONE REASON
Jordin – you may be the baby of the group, but, as a performer, you are artistically wise and talented beyond your years. Your song choice was impeccable and you performed with outstanding showmanship and professionalism. All the choreographic elements beautifully complimented the vocal elements of this exceptional performance.
You moved effortlessly and seamlessly throughout your vocal range – from the pitch perfect sustained head tone sections and into the mid to lower range, your voice never faltered or lacked focus. Your vocal technique was absolutely brilliant.
However, be ever so careful when you sing into your upper range, as intermittently, there was some tension and push from the throat. All of this could have been the result of nerves, because, quite honestly, I could find very little to critique in this initial performance. It was first class all the way.
NICOLE TRANQUILLO: STAY
Nicole – you have a beautifully trained contralto voice and the opening bars of your song selection highlighted this area of your vocal range to full effect.
Unfortunately, the song selection was your downfall; it was totally unsuitable and did nothing to draw attention to the inherent beauty of your vocal timbre. Always remember that what sounds fantastic on one singer could sound disastrous on another. Your voice, with its lighter timbre, was aching for a different song, one that required you to sing with more of the beautiful head tone that you certainly do possess.
Additionally, you did not articulate your consonants clearly and, as a result, your lyrics were incoherent. Always remember that, yes, the vowels are the backbone of a seamless legato line; however, without the quick articulation of the consonants, the words lose meaning and, additionally, your voice loses energy and focus. Perfect articulation utilizes the tongue, teeth, lips, jaw and mouth – all areas that are situated in the front of your vocal masque where vocal sound should resonate.
Finally, I felt that your pacing was off throughout this number. It appeared very frantic and, at times, almost too complicated. You would be wise to simplify your stage movements and practice the vocals and stage choreography very slowly, making certain that both elements are evenly balanced.
HALEY SCARNATO: IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW
Haley – you do indeed have a Broadway sound and, as I love that genre of music, it certainly works for me. However, be ever so careful that you do control the vibrato when you sustain your longer notes in the pop genre. Sometimes, I felt that the vibrations were too large, reminding me of a type of vocal sound that is common to the belting sound of Broadway singers. Always keep the breath support a viable presence when you sing through a louder dynamic range.
That being said, you exhibited a sweet, genuine charisma when you performed this week and the overall impression of your performance was a positive one. Your vocal sound had a seamless quality and you sustained your vocal sound on the pure vowels in an impeccable manner. Your melded your head tone wonderfully throughout your vocal range, giving evidence to the fact that your vocal technique is very developed. Your vocal timbre sounded pure and pitch-centered throughout your performance.
Finally, be careful not to raise your head when you sing into your upper range; it causes undue vocal tension and diminishes your communicative abilities.
MELINDA DOOLITTLE: SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE
Melinda – say goodbye to the life of a background singer because you are now in the foreground, young lady. This performance was one of the highlights of the evening. You took my breath away with your exquisite vocal gifts and passionate artistry.
Does anything more need to be said? Well, I will try. You have an authentic soulful voice that is a gift to the music world. You most certainly have trained and refined your voice throughout the years and have proven that staying I the background was not a bad thing. Not at all! It helped you to grow into the self assured, sweet, genuine and superbly talented young artist that you are today.
Everyone has his or her time to shine and, Melinda, this is your time –indeed. Your patience and hard work has paid off and you are truly one of the stars of this year’s American Idol season.
I cannot close without pointing out to the readers that wonderful, pitch centered, beautifully supported descending melisma (vocal scale) you blessed us with at the end of your song. Talk about seamless, even tone. You have it, lady! Brava!
ALAINA ALEXANDER: BRASS IN POCKET
Alaina- you are a beautiful young performer with a lovely voice, but there were many elements that needed attention in this week’s performance.
First of all, your vocal technique was quite limited throughout this number and it became evident in the manner in which you produced your vocal sound. You vocalized in a very unfocused, poorly resonant manner; your mouth was shaped horizontally instead of the correct circular formation that is necessary for correct vowel placement. Therefore, your voice didn’t enjoy a ringing pitch centered vocal quality throughout this number; instead it sounded very strident and, at times, emaciated.
Additionally, your stage movements were not fluid and they, unfortunately, did not assist you in creating a confident and professional persona on stage.
You truly need to research proper vocal and stage technique and work on developing an extensive repertoire list that will compliment your innate vocal abilities. I cannot emphasize the importance of surrounding yourself with mentors and teachers who can guide you on the correct path to a satisfying and successful career as a vocalist.
GINA GLOCKSEN: ALL BY MYSELF
Gina- you have a lovely lower register that you should strive to showcase in the future selection of your vocal repertoire. Herein lies the secret of your beautiful voice – that warm contralto range. It was just lovely.
However, when you navigated your higher register, your voice lacked the beauty and intensity of your lower range for a couple of reasons. First of all, you carried too much of your chest voice into your higher register, forgetting that head tone is a vital component of upper level singing. Head tone adds luster and shine to the upper notes and ensures pitch- centered purity. Additionally, your throat and facial features were visibly tense in your upper register and this, as well, created a less attractive vocal sound.
Always remember that your vocal sound needs to be focused in your facial features for proper resonation; additionally your facial features must remain open and expressive, the mouth circular on all the vowels and the jaw thoroughly relaxed. This will ensure that you are correctly supporting your vocal sound from the diaphragm. You will have no choice but to access those strong rib cage muscles.
LAKISHA JONES: AND I’M TELLING YOU (I’M NOT GOING)
Lakisha – what can I say in this brief critique that hasn’t already been said by the judges, fans, media and more.
In a night of unbelievable star search moments, you performed a song that is the talk of this year’s Academy Awards, thanks to Idol Alumnus Jennifer Hudson’s brilliant performance in “Dreamgirls”. That took talent and brains, young lady. Now, everyone in the entertainment establishment knows that Jennifer Hudson has a vocal soul sister.
Your voice and your talent is truly a gift from God and the training you have received, especially through your musical experiences within your Church, is exceptional and extraordinary.
Everything worked for you this week, Lakisha. Your technique was impeccable – the circular mouth, your wonderfully focused vocal sound, the purity of your vowels, your highly developed diaphragmatic breathing skills – I could go on and on.
Add to this, your believable and passionate performance delivery of this extremely difficult song and the result was pure magic. You lived and breathed this song throughout your showcase and the communicative aspects of the song lyrics were conveyed with conviction and authenticity. You told your story and this is what true singing is all about. It was, indeed, the most memorable initial showcase I have every witnessed on any Idol show from any season. Brava!
Your comments are always welcome. Have a great weekend everybody.