American Idol Season 6 Vocal Masterclass For The Top 6 Performances


By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week, our Top 6 performers inspired the American Idol viewing audience with “life anthem” songs that signified the humanitarian values of hope and compassion. This theme paralleled the huge Idol Gives Back Performance Gala that was to follow the next evening. This unprecedented event drew some of the world’s biggest entertainment and music stars, all in support for children and young people from the USA and Africa who are living with extreme poverty and endless suffering.

Blake, Chris, Jordin, Lakisha, Melinda and Phil gave absolutely wonderful performances and the format of the show added a very special and meaningful dimension to the entire program. Intermingled with the singer’s performances were heartbreaking, mind and soul-altering video footage, emphasizing everything that many of us take for granted in our daily lives. Simple, yet crucial things like food, water, a clean and healthy environment, good health and peace of mind.

Somewhere during the presentation of this program the performances receded in my mind, as I became extremely pre-occupied by the message delivered through this very unique and very timely show. Priorities were reversed. However, here is what I do remember from these performances.

Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome.

To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.

Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson,
Jordin Sparks, Lakisha Jones,
Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey,

Blake Lewis: “Imagine” by John Lennon

Strengths: Blake – I absolutely loved the opening strains of this song which included the lovely acoustic guitar accompaniment accompanied by your quiet, yet passionate vocal and visual demeanor. It firmly established the emotional mood and texture of this wonderful song classic. Additionally, I loved the added reverberation in the microphone; it was the perfect touch and it added depth and resonance to your clean, pitch perfect tenor voice.

Once again, that circular mouth on those sustained pure vowels were a welcome presence throughout this song, and rendered a cohesive, smooth approach to your melodic line. Your refined, bel canto approach when vocalizing this song allowed your voice to have presence and ring, as it encouraged you to center and place your voice in your vocal masque. Also, it drew attention to the fact that you were, indeed, exercising a high degree of diaphragmatic breath support in the vocalization process.

That being said, your vocal range sounded quite secure throughout this song, save for one misstep that I will discuss in the “critique” portion of this article. Also, the 2nd time you sang through your falsetto line you exhibited wonderful control and you moved effortlessly from your natural tenor range into this lighter, headier quality of your voice.

Also, I really felt that you were attempting to keep that head level with the camera and with your audience. Yes, every so often we would lose your eyes, but you quickly maneuvered your head back to the proper position. This is really a difficult habit to lose, but with time and patience that problematic elevated head position will be a distant memory.

The key selection for the performance of this song was “right on the money”. Any higher and you would have encountered some serious vocal issues with your upper range.

Also, the tonality of the song allowed you to highlight the beauty and depth of your gorgeous baritone range. Your voice sounded velvety and creamy in texture when you entered this area of your range, providing beautiful contrast with the light, ringing quality of your tenor range. Again, you moved with ease into the lower register, incorporating the essential “head tone” element to render a ringing baritone sound.

Please give us more “baritone treats” in your future performances, Blake. To me, your voice sounded the most natural and free in the lower part of your range. Just a little something to consider in your future song selections!

This was, all in all, a solid and moving performance. Kudos!

Critique: Blake – you encountered a problem with the first area of falsetto singing in this song. For whatever reason, it seemed to take you by surprise and, as a result, your diaphragmatic support system failed you.

Sometimes, if the voice is tired or dry, then this can affect the upper range – almost cause a delay in the manifestation of the sound. This may have been the problem and it is to your credit that you have the technical prowess to assist you when problems like this occur on stage. Obviously you do, as the second falsetto portion of this song was absolutely flawless.

Also, echoing the statements of the judges, I have to agree that, although the song was beautifully sung, you could have, perhaps, been more inventive when phrasing the melodic line. At times, I felt that you were taking a fragmented approach to this song, breathing in all the predictable places instead of carrying your breathing a little longer through the phrases in the melodic line.

For instance, you did breathe in the normal breath spot after the words: “It’s easy if you try”. It would have been more interesting if you had carried the phrase further into the next line: “No hell below us” without a breath, allowing the voice to crescendo and move toward the 2nd line. I hope I am making myself clear here, Blake.

As beautiful as this song is, it is one of those songs that can fall into the dumpster unless you add something new and interesting that has not been heard before. The song still needs to attain the correct level of simplicity so as not to deter the emotional and poignant message it conveys. However, inventive phrasing combined with dynamic variety would have added increased dimension to this song.

Hope this assists you, Blake. And –where oh where did the beat boxing go? This is what defined you as a unique artist. We know you can sing, now let’s try to combine the two in at least one of your future performances.

Share your comments about Blake’s performance

Blake Edward’s Idolforums.Com Masterclass Discussion

Chris Richardson : “If I Could Change The World” by Eric Clapton

Strengths: Chris – the opening strains of this song were just beautiful and that lovely, understated guitar accompaniment enhanced the initial artistic effect of this number. Additionally, your voice had a more refined structure in the early moments of this song presentation – your vocal timbre sounded clear and transparent, less reedy than in previous weeks.

I thought your natural voice moved easily through the melodic line of this wonderful song selection, signifying that you chose the perfect key for your light tenor range.

Visually, you moved with your signature rhythmic intensity throughout this number and I appreciated your earnest and honest approach in the performance of this song.

Critique: Chris – what am I going to do with you? That mouth formation is driving me crazy. As in previous weeks, you adopted a “smiling” position with your mouth formation, encouraging you to vocalize with a less efficient technical regime. If you had adopted a more circular formation with your mouth position, your vocal timbre would have enjoyed a greater sense of depth and ring that, presently, is a non- entity in your vocal production.

To add fuel to the fire, the less relaxed position of the mouth and jaw caused you to tighten and constrict your throat muscles and, as a result, you encountered a few “cracks” in your vocal armor along the way to securing an aesthetically pleasing performance. You were squeezing out your vocal sound, not allowing it to flow free from an open and non-constricted throat.

As I have said numerous times in these evaluations, you are presently producing your vocal sound with little to no technical support and this is causing you to delay the process of developing a dynamically rich and exciting vocal sound. Your voice sounded emaciated and, although you have the passion of a singer, you still do not have enough vocal dimension to deliver a truly exciting and memorable vocal performance.

Also, as much as I love the earnest and relaxed rhythmic energy you exude throughout your performances, part of me is wondering if you do so in an effort to detach yourself from really secure technical singing. It takes energy and discipline to sing technically well and move at the same time. Both the choreographic and vocal elements have to be carefully balanced throughout a performance so that each compliments the other.

You should try practicing your songs while keeping your body perfectly still, yet relaxed. This would allow you time to focus on the areas of tension throughout your body and give you time to work on accessing the proper breathing technique.

You need to develop the security and the confidence that comes from superb diaphragmatic breath support when you sing. It’s the only way to go, Chris and I hope that you will someday allow the technique to enhance and craft the true potential in your voice.

Presently, your voice is “hiding under the covers”; it’s time to waken up your vocal sound with stellar vocal training and start a new day in your life as a vocalist. I promise you, you’ll never look back. Good luck, Chris!

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JORDIN SPARKS: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Strengths: Jordin – this is a song classic and I am glad that someone decided to choose this song. You were obviously transported into another dimension while singing this song, as the emotional impact of the song’s message really spoke to your innate sensitivity and compassion as an artist and as a person.

You set the mood beautifully from the beginning of this song and that breathless quality actually contributed to the initial strains of this number. If anyone has seen the musical, “Carousel”, the opening segment of the song is sung with hesitancy and trepidation, mirroring the heartbreaking context in which this song is performed.

Then, as the song progresses, strength, determination and hope take over and the singer, along with the chorus, sounds more resonant and powerful in vocal stature. It really is a wonderful and poignant transformation and adds such impact as the song moves toward the climactic ending.

Therefore, whether intentional or not, I thought that you, Jordin, really performed this song in character and, as a result, the message of the song was delivered loud and clear. It made me listen and this is so important in the successful communication of any storyline behind a song.

Vocally, your voice gained strength toward the middle and end of the song and your long sustained phrasing was a joy to behold. You have it happening in your diaphragm, Jordin; if not, you would not have been able to sustain that powerful, upper register note at the end of this song. However, what was even more important to me was the fact that I felt what you felt when you performed this song. The artistry and the passion were just outstanding, young lady! Brava!

Critique: Jordin – as in last week’s performance, you really have to watch that horizontal mouth position, especially when you enter your upper register. As in last week’s performance, it encouraged you to tighten and constrict your facial and throat muscles, allowing you to carry way too much chest voice into this area of your range. There was little or no head voice in this area of your range and, as a result, your overall vocal timbre was less resonant and had little ring or transparency.

Also, that shallow breathing was a ubiquitous element throughout this performance and there are many reasons in my mind why this has become problematic in a couple of other performances as well.

First of all, your posture was not elevated as it should be and therefore your rib cage muscles were not fully expanding with the intake of air. Additionally, this collapsed support system allowed your air supply to be released with your vocal sound, rather than controlled to produce a clear vocal sound. The support was not consistent or cohesive. It was there for the louder dynamic – to a certain extent – but certainly not a viable presence for the softer dynamic and lower range vocals.

Also, it made me wonder whether you suffer from allergies or a mild form of asthma. I have taught some students with similar problems who have experienced the same difficulties you encountered with your breathing in this performance.

Because of the congestion in their chest, it requires great effort to support and control the air regulation in the production of their vocal sound. The result is a cloudy vocal texture that is really beyond their control on any particular day. It requires unbelievable stamina from the singer to sing efficiently, more so than when the singer is having a healthy, allergy free day.

Lastly, the fact that you were so emotionally involved with the song may have compromised the full compliment of your breathing capability. You were in tears after this song performance, so I suspect that the emotion overrode some level of technical security during this song’s performance.

Also, I was hoping that you would have performed a gospel version of this song. I have done so with my choir and it is to die for. I actually prefer it to the original version and I think it would have better suited your youthful personality.

However, this was still a meaningful and professionally mature performance, Jordin. Great work, once again.

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Lakisha Jones: “I Believe”, originally recorded by Fantasia

Strengths: Lakisha – I thought you rendered a thoroughly believable and vocally compelling performance this week. As always, the lyrics were central to your theatrical style of vocal delivery and well they should be. You have an innate ability, Lakisha, to communicate the storyline with absolute clarity and conviction.

Now, let me draw some attention to the so- called “shouting” issue perpetrated by the judges during this week and last week’s performance. First of all, I think everyone is confusing shouting with natural vocal power. To say that you were shouting is to say that classical singer Montserrat Caballe or Jesse Norman “shout” or “scream” when performing their enviable range of vocal repertoire.

Both of these internationally renowned artists are known for the strength of their natural singing voices and have carved an exciting career based on their enormous vocal gifts. What constitutes one singer’s forte (loud) singing may be another singer’s mezzo forte singing and so on. It’s all relative to the innate strength and vocal resonance of the individual voice and its owner.

Therefore, you, Lakisha, with that disciplined circular mouth position, relaxed jaw and open and expressive features vocalized the louder dynamic levels of this beautiful song with what I believe to be excellent and finely honed technical skills. And, quite honestly, if anyone shouted this song it was the song’s original recording artist, Fantasia. In fact, she was screaming to the point that her vocal sound was absolutely grating and difficult to listen to.

However, before the numerous Fantasia fans throw something at the computer screen and send harassing emails, I want to further say that I am a big fan of Fantasia and am really tickled pink to see that she landed a coveted role in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple”. Further to this, she has obviously worked hard to develop and strengthen her considerable vocal skills through the proper technical process and her current voice sounds healthy and renewed. Good on you, Fantasia.

However, getting back to Lakisha, I want to emphasize that this was a solid, concrete performance in both style and substance. I loved it very much and just have tremendous respect for the level of vocal and performing discipline that you bring to the Idol stage each week.

Brava Queen Lakisha!

Critique: Lakisha –why are you selecting songs that are blatantly identifiable with other Idols? You perform them brilliantly – no question – but you are inviting subjective comparison that, so far, has obviously worked against you save for your initial Top 24 performance of “And I Am Telling You”.

Your song selection process over the past couple of weeks has been a worrisome trend and I hope you are given an opportunity to showcase a song that allows you to distance yourself –and your audience -from the original artist.

Also, perhaps, in an effort to relax the powerful dynamic level in your voice, you can work to more effectively pace yourself in your future song performances, adding more nuance and color to your vocal production. In other words, do not give away too much vocal power too soon; keep some in reserve, so as to add increased interest and dimension to your song performance.

I thought your Top 12 performance of “God Bless The Child” was absolutely brilliant, in that it was an understated, vocally creative showcase, where you permitted yourself to add color and dimension to your vocal timbre. You proved that you are an artist with the technical and artistic gifts to color and craft your voice through a vast spectrum of possibilities and I would love to see you approach this level of artistry again, Lakisha.

However, this was still a beautifully rendered performance and it would be foolish and dishonest to suggest otherwise. Congratulations on a stellar showcase, Lakisha! Bravissima!

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MELINDA DOOLITTLE:
“There Will Come A Day” by Faith Hill

Strengths:Melinda –how I loved this brilliantly performed song selection. I think that you could give a Vocal Masterclass in the importance of programming song selections that truly speak to the emotional, physical and vocal strengths of an artist. You have “mastered” this important component consistently well throughout this competition. Additionally, your impeccably rehearsed performing and vocal elements have not only showcased songs that were convincing and memorable, but also songs that defined you as an artist and as a person.

This was a heartfelt performance, Melinda and your voice sounded radiant and secure throughout the showcase. Also, more than any other week, I thought your upper register incorporated more of the ringing “head tone” element that is so important in creating an aesthetically pleasing and transparent vocal sound in this area of your range.

This was a very strong and believable visual performance as well. Your voice mirrored your very animated facial features – sometimes poignant and heart wrenching and other times echoing the virtues of faith and hope that this song embodied. As a result, your singing voice had a wonderful array of speech like inflection when you sang this number and the words were communicated with ease and expressivity.

I always tell my singers to create a picture or situation in their mind when performing a song, because singing is all about telling a story. How can it not be, right? You have to connect with the lyrics and then be generous and vulnerable enough to allow the lyrics to connect with the listener. This is what elevates a song to a level that resonates in a memorable and inspiring way in the minds and hearts of the audience.

Also, by allowing yourself to sing expressively, so many of the technical issues are resolved or, at the very least, tend not to be as prevalent in a performance. Words are articulated with more clarity, the voice gains dimension, there is physical buoyancy throughout the performance and more. Expressive energy and technical energy are interconnected, as you have definitely demonstrated to us through this great performance.

Once again, the visual transformation was exceptional. Keep the longer hair, Melinda. I love it and, what’s more important, your new look is heightening your sincere and radiant charisma on stage. You are looking like and sounding like a star, yet, at the same time, your sensitive and approachable persona is a joy to behold.

No matter what the outcome is from this competition, all the vital artistic elements are easily falling into place as you move ahead to creating a new direction in your performing career. Brava, once again, on another stellar performance!

Critique: Melinda – once again, I found nothing to critique this week. And, believe me, I was looking because in previous weeks when singing a ballad, you did encounter some breathing issues.

However, it is obvious that you have been working extremely hard to secure and sustain cohesive and musical phrasing within the melodic line. The forward momentum in this ballad was clearly felt, something that I felt was lacking in your previous ballads. So, once again, congratulations on your diligent and methodical effort to correct and secure a strong, technically efficient vocal performance this week.

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Phil Stacey: “The Change” by Garth Brooks

Strengths: Phil –how I “heart” this song. This was an excellent choice of song for this week’s theme and I thought that your voice and your sincere demeanor rendered artistic justice to this song’s delivery.

Also, this timely song choice reinforced your innate strength in the genre of country music, as it was originally recorded by country legend, Garth Books. And, even Garth abandoned his customary nasal twang when performing this song; his voice sounded clean and refined and his vowels were “British” pure – not a diphthong was heard throughout his original performance. Plus, like you Phil, he had a round mouth and relaxed jaw. Bel canto country style! Ha!

Therefore, your vocal style was absolutely perfect for this number. This is a potently moving song that requires real vocal pipes and committed and serious singing talent and you absolutely “fit the bill”, Phil!

You have enjoyed enormous improvement in the production of your vocal sound and style throughout this competition. Your voice is gaining in depth and resonance and developing in a technically secure way. Your hard work and determination has allowed you to “step up your game” in this competition and this is what this show is all about – watching a talent grow and emerge before our eyes on live television.

In addition to your stellar vocal ability while performing this number, I deeply appreciated the genuine vocal delivery during the performance of this song. Your subtle hand and arm gestures and the speech like inflection you incorporated into this song emphasized your commitment to the communicative aspects of this song’s delivery. You made sure that the story behind the song resonated with your audience.

In addition, there was enough dynamic variety to add dimension to this song. Again, you accomplished this in an understated and carefully rehearsed manner, making sure that the stage gestures complimented rather than detracted from the vocal potency of this song selection. I always sensed that this song was moving forward as your phrasing was accomplished in an impeccable and meaningful manner.

This was a confident and moving performance! Just excellent! Bravo!

Critique: Phil – as soon as you sang your first note I thought – this song is too high. This was my major issue this week, Phil, the key choice for this song. I felt that you were singing beyond your natural singing range and, so, at times, there was audible strain in your voice when singing in your upper register. The tonality of this song did not sit properly in your natural singing range, so, with or without technique, some audible tension was inevitable.

Key selection is tantamount when preparing and researching your songs. Even a semi-tone lower would have made a huge difference in your comfort level and your voice would have resonated with a more liberated and relaxed vocal quality.

Also, as I mentioned to Blake, do not forego the possibility of experimenting with your lower range. I have a sneaky suspicion that you have a resonantly beautiful lower range that is crying to be released from your body.

I am happy that you have another week to blossom as you should and am very anxious to hear your next song selection. Surely it will be upbeat once again. Moving toward a country gospel sound would be the correct avenue for you.

However, watch your key selection! Promise? Okay! See you next week!

Share your comments about Phil’s performance

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About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

35 Responses to “American Idol Season 6 Vocal Masterclass For The Top 6 Performances”

  1. I’m pleased to see the vocal “expert” doesn’t think Lakisha is shouting. It seems to me that every year at this stage of the competition, the judges not begin trying to influence the voting audience by criticizing the singers they don’t want to see in the finals, and by going over the top in praising the signers who they think could make the most money for Idol–they did this with Reuben, Fantasia, and Carrie and they’re never subtle about it. When they do this, it makes me want to support the person who I think is being criticized unfairly. This season, that is Lakisha. I think she’s extremely talented, although I agree that she has not made the wisest decisions in choosing songs. I’ve never actually been convinced that Lakisha could win the title of American Idol, but she doesn’t deserve to be voted off this early. In a perfect world, the judges would treat all of the contestants fairly.

    And I agree that Blake should should use his beat boxing in next week’s performance!!! Blake is another favorite of mine and I’m afraid he’s going to be voted off before he should if he doesn’t make his performance more exciting next week!

    Thanks for the great critiques.

  2. You are welcome, elaine. It is very detailed, so I appreciate that you took the time to read them.

    Those judges certainly have an agenda, don’t they? But, so do the producers. They want who they want – case closed.

    You are right, though, it makes for unfair and biased judging.

  3. I love your critiques as well, masterclasslady – they are such a change from the 3-4 sentence, mainly negative reviews seen all over the Web.

    LaKisha’s vocals are still good, no question, but I can’t help but wonder if her only exposure to music has been American Idol. I’ve noticed that every one of the songs she’s chosen on the show has been performed at least once on a past season – except for “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Stormy Weather.” However, the weekly schedule of the Idols has been posted online and I found out that the Idols only have half an hour to decide on their song and their key. Not an easy life.

    This overall season is improving – but I still feel there’s something missing – whether it’s a believable rocker like Bo Bice or Chris Daughtry or a wonderful entertainer like Taylor, I’m not sure. Do you still feel there’s something missing?

  4. I agree that the judges are being too harsh to Lakisha. She has never been my favorite (Melinda and Jordin are) but I think her vocals are excellent. I just think she lacks the joy and spark I see in the other two.
    The judges comments about her are unfair.

  5. Thank you for your wonderful critiques, I have learned so much about music from you.

    I have a thought about Jordin. For three performances the audience is on its feet halfway through the performance. Her voice is wonderful but I am seeing something in her I haven’t seen much, She has Judy Garlands ability to take hold of the audience and make them feel what she is singing. What power.

  6. Yes, poor Lakisha. I feel so badly for her. And Jordin really is a star in the making. She needs to strengthen her vocal skills, but she is a lovely, charismatic young lady.

  7. I think Melinda could also give a Vocal Masterclsass on how to perfectly pick songs! And I think her first student should be LaKisha!

  8. I don’t agree that Blake’s rendition of Imagine was that good. It seemed Karaoke to me, nothing new, very bland, I could have sung it like he did. He also was not in tune, sharping most notes as he moved into his falsetto. I have relative pitch and it’s honestly the most irritating part of listening to these Idol songs, when they aren’t singing in tune, especially on the glory notes..

    Regarding Lakisha.. there is just no JOY in her singing.. I see her approaching songs like a construction worker going to a job site. She punches in, does the work and punches out.. but her soul is elsewhere.. the only song she ever took me anywhere with her was “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls.

    And as a friend of mine noticed in his blog.. “It seems like LaKisha’s entire musical knowledge was gleaned from watching Idol. This is the THIRD Idolist’s song she sung (counting the Dreamgirls number). That’s three too many by my count. Anyways, this is the song that they forced Fantasia to sing as her penalty for winning Idol. Unfortunately for LaKisha, Fantasia tore this song up, so we’re left with LaKisha’s version as only the second (and hopefully last time) that I’ve heard this song. I have to say it was a big boo-boo. Although I can’t fairly compare Blake to John Lennon, I can fairly compare LaKisha to Fantasia. And LaKisha comes off a distant second to someone that won Idol. It makes it appear that she’s not up to snuff and I’m predicting she’s going home.”
    Now that’s a sentiment I agree with.

  9. It is interesting to watch as Phil and Jordin grow before our eyes. I dont feel Blake and Cris and Lakisha have gone far in their performances. Melinda has blossomed into a beautiful flower

  10. I wish Melinda would quit Idol so she can get in the studio faster and I can buy her CD sooner! Her version of “My Funny Valentine” was stunning and I was absolutely transported when she sang “As Long As He Needs Me”. Dial up YouTube and watch the video of Melinda singing “Home”.. it’s beyond stunning, powerful, dynamic, extremely emotional experience..

    I am echoing another sentiment above that the power a strong voice has over people is something to behold. Melinda has that, she’s the reason I tune in every week.

  11. I’m just wondering, MCL, if you’ve ever actually heard from Idol contestants or employees who read your critiques? I know Debra Bryd, Michael Orland, and crew do a great job prepping the kids for performances, but I think your masterclass articles would even moreso benefit the contestants.

  12. Preston – yes I have enjoyed some level of correspondence with family members of some of the Idols; however, never any direct contact from a contestant, unless they emailed me through an aol screen name or something. That’s always a possibility.

    Thank you for your kind words – I hope that some of the contestants are finding them beneficial.

    I think that a family member of Phil Stacey is emailing him the critiques – they did contact me to tell me they would do so when he was still in the Top 24 I believe.

  13. I agree with LadyLaurie, I’m waiting to buy Melinda’s first CD, and I hope it has My Funny Valentine on it!

    It’s interesting to read your technical comments.

    I love this group of 6, though I am no tough critic. My kindergartner’s judgment: “I like the guy with the red scarf on his head.” (Sanjaya) And I agree. Despite his vocal shortcomings in comparison to the group, he is enjoyable to watch. I think he could be the next David Cassidy or Davey Jones — Disney should feature him on a preteen-targeted half-hour sitcom with his sister, with some music in it, they could probably spin off recordings and do quite well.

    I have been particularly impressed by how almost everyone in the group has improved over the season. Jordan in particular has taken the advice of the celebrity helpers and run with it. Phil finally came into his own — I listened to Where the Blacktop Ends again several times, it was great.

    That said, of the performances you critiqued, the only two I listened to again this week were Chris’s and Melinda’s. Technical issues aside, they were the most enjoyable, I thought.

    I have one disagreement with your assessments: I think you are too easy on Lakisha. I think of all the contestants, she has been the only one who hasn’t grown over the season. She came in a clear favorite on the power of her voice and technique. But there was a point, I think it was when she sang Diamond’s Are Forever, where she didn’t make the best of the advice she was given, and seemed to blame the celebrity helper. I thought Diamond’s Are Forever could have been a great song for Lakisha, but she didn’t work on it hard enough. It was such a waste. Then when Tony Bennett suggested she drop that ridiculous run at the end of the song she did that week, she just ignored his advice, to the detriment of the song. It’s like she’s got a chip on her shoulder, she isn’t working hard enough to grow and is not taking advice, and it’s coming through in her performances. She was my favorite at the start of the season, now I think based on the last several performances that she should be the next to go. Sorry to say that. I don’t think she’s doing herself any favors every week, she’s resting on her laurels instead of stretching the way everyone else has been. I still think she has a great career ahead of her, I hope she finds a good vocal coach who will help her grow and not let her slide.

  14. As always, MCL, I love reading your comments–I have excellent relative pitch but no training, so I know when something sounds wrong (or right!) but don’t know why; your analyses are teaching me a lot!

    I found it very interesting that you thought that Jordin’s performance might have been affected by her emotions–I used to edit acting books, and almost all of them warned that “If you cry, the audience doesn’t,” and one of the main reasons given for this theater cliche is that crying–or any extreme emotion–tightens the throat, cutting off range and breath!

  15. So what did you think of Jack Black? :)

  16. I was just over on YouTube, listening to performances from this week, and something struck me about Melinda’s performace. When I listened to the studio version, I was thinking how beautiful it sounded. But when I listened to the performance she gave before the live audience…it was a whole other level. Girl really shines in front of an audience, I got chills, it was gorgeous. (And I’m not Xtian, I actually thought I would be a bit offended when I heard what she was going to sing, but who could be after hearing that?!)

  17. Regarding Lakisha’s “shouting” issues, here’s what I think.

    The judges clearly have not studied voice, or they would use the correct terms.. I don’t know about all of you, but I am tired of the term “pitchy”. They recognize some of the notes are not in tune, sharp or flat, but don’t HELP the singer by specifically telling them which parts were sharp or flat. Telling them the performance was ‘pitchy’ is pretty vague and certainly not a word I ever heard in my vocal training.

    “Shouting” is another example of this. They’ve told Phil and Lakisha several times that they are shouting their songs. What they are noticing is probably the tendency of these singers to “push” too much, expecially on the glory notes. Phil in particular seems about to pop a vein when he’s wailing out a loud. long high note. Whether it’s nerves, or whatever, their throats aren’t relaxed and they are pushing the tone beyond their voices physical limits. It sounds pinched, forced and pushed (a lot of this singing produces vocal nodules, a condition cheerleaders who truly “shout” a lot deal with as well). Lakisha has a big voice, but I agree she pushes too much resulting in the “shouting” sound they are describing. I wonder if anyone has tried to teach her how to USE that big ole diaphram to breath correctly.. never mind, she’d probably just ignore the advice as she seems to do with other suggestions.
    Just my thoughts..

  18. Alex- your comments were caught in the spam program pf this blog. Sorry about that.

    There is nothing “spammy” about your comments and you are the second person that this has happened to this week. Very weird.

    I agree – the season lacks personality. I have no idea who is going to win this year.

  19. MCL, I have enjoyed your comments and constructive “ideas” since last season when someone pointed out your website. I LOVE IT! I actully come from the Classical world. I have a daughter studying the violin for 7 years. (since the age of 3), so AI is VERY interesting from that standpoint. That being said, I am a sucker for a fantastic voice and I do admittedly have some faves this season Melinda cough, cough). I have High reguard for those who have put in blood sweat and tears honing their craft , understanding their instrument, and learning how to master it. I see it every day with my young daughter. Natural talent is only part of the equation. My question to you is I feel many of the contestants (save for a few actually only one comes to mind) could have used some time really studying their vocal instrument before jumping into this contest. I wonder what the motivation would be after the fact should they cut a record to work on technique when they can just cover it up in the studio with “Magic”. I’m not talking about technical perfection, but I certainly think balancing outstanding technique, with musical interpretation, smart song choice and natural delivery just makes for an overall enjoyable performance. Obviously there will be those Magic performances that are outer earthly and even if the same singer tried to produce that moment again, with the same song it may not happen. AI is a journey and trying to string together those moments every week is next to impossible even for the most seasoned perfromer. That’s where I think spending the time getting to know your instrument becomes beneficial. Thoughts?

  20. Thank you master class lady, I am learning so much about singing from your comments and I hope the Idols are reading them. I wish when I had studied voice I had a teacher like you, I had real support problems and no one has explained this as clearly as you do.
    I do not think Lakisha is shouting, the judges do not telling Kelly Clarkson she is shouting. I am not sure what is going on with Lakisha, poor vocal choices, a chip on her shoulder…. something is not right. However , she is not shouting, I love Joan Southerland, now that was a powerhouse vocalist, and I think Lakisha has more power than she knows what to do with. I think if she got some classical training it would be of great value to her. For pure tone and feeling I adore Mirella Freni. Ella knew how to swing a song, Sarah V, had the most amazing tone, pure velvet, Billie could phrase ( that behind the beat) and take a song and break your heart with it. I think many of todays singers are lacking in the study of the greats of the past. When I was studying, I listened to jazz greats, Opera, Laura Nyro, pop idols etc. That combined with the right vocal coach can take you from “potential” to being a great singer.
    I love the improvement in Phil’s voice and I took suspect a rich baritone he has not yet found. Jordin is amazing , and yes, she doe’s have technical issues that she needs to work on breathing and support being major ones. However, she will be a big star someday. Melinda has my heart. I love her and hope she works more on her upper range. I believe she has the ability to become a huge star …MFV will live in my heart forever. The other version I love is the one done by Sarah V. Last note, this is getting to long, I do think that Fantasia was the one shouting! I hope Lakisha moves away from singing other idols songs, I hope Melinda keeps growing and letting her inner being shine through and I have no idea who will win. However, it does seem the show has an agenda who they want to win.

  21. Terri and angel – thanks for stopping by and providing such insightful commentary. I do agree that some of these singers enter Idol without a “game plan”.

    Even with my own vocal students, I have yet to find one that understands the importance of comprehensive research and study when it comes to developing a high level of artistry.

    They all work hard and the voices are amazing, but it takes more and that “more” sometimes does not materialize until the late “20’s”, if they last that long in this business.

    Plus that old standby called “experience” makes a big difference as well. You have to sing and audition for EVERYTHING.

    Auditioning – that’s a skill in itself – how you present yourself, how well you work with an accompanist(if there is one), repertoire selection, control of nerves etc.

    Is it any wonder that this year’s season is so dismal? Many of the singers are very green – lots of potential, but not quite there yet.

  22. Thought you might find this interesting…
    Here is some unconfirmed information I got on tomorrow’s possible performances:

    Top 6 Round 2 Week
    Theme:
    Bon Jovi Songs / Rock Songs
    Coach: Jon Bon Jovi

    Song Choices:
    Chris Richardson – “Daughters” (John Mayer? if so, he’ll whisper his way through it)
    Blake Lewis – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” (Makes sense, return of beatbox Blake)
    Jordin Sparks – “Ironic” (interesting; risky?)
    Lakisha Jones – “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (oops again, she probably can’t pull it off.. “every now and then..”)
    Melinda Doolittle – “I’m The Only One” (Melissa Etheridge? if so, this would be GREAT to see if she can pull out that throaty snarl and slide around those quarter tones on the high notes)
    Phil Stacey – “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” (Bon Jovi? hmmm, this song sits on one note basically and is far more country than rock, he should do fine)

    My only hope on “rock song” night is that they are true to rock style.. energy, emotion, drive, intensity. It can’t be so perfect this week if they really want to convince us. DialIdol has Chris and Lakisha in the B2 after last week. I think they’d need a miracle to survive, guess we’ll see how much they can rock (or not) tomorrow.

  23. Hay, LadyLaurie!

    Where did you get this information? From Idolforums? I hope I hear some beat boxing – Ha!

  24. I think the crtiticism Lakisha is getting from the people about NOT taking celebrity advice is a little harsh. SHE is the ONE that has to perform it NOT the CELEBRITY. Again don’t be too quick as that intro is ALWAYS EDITED. They may have eventually agreed for her to do it her way. I thought the tag on Stormy Weather was great and fitting with the song and she still hit the big note at the end. Brava Lakisha. It clear that the judges and producers are not rooting for her and I’m fine with that..it is what it is..

  25. MCL wow I just now found your blog, and man I wish I had sooner. I think I am going to send your review of Blake to everyone I know so I can stop having to spend the commercial breaks defending him.

    Regarding the shouting issue, I think the problem may lie in the time issue. The judges only have a short amount of time to get their comments out, so instead of saying that the power notes sound a bit strained, and explaining what was wrong, they just simplify it to shouting. I think thats partly where pitchy came from, along with the fact that Paula seems to be the only one who can discern what happened. Despite her shortcomings as a singer, she does seem to have a very good ear, and every once in a while she can get a good critique about what went wrong out in time. I really wich that they would give them more time to talk…well actually Randy repeats himself in the time he has so maybe just the other two.

    Also it’s worth noting they’re trying to explain things to a country of not-singers, so some simplification is required.

    Oh and is it just me, or does Lakisha have some problems with her voice when she’s not belting it out? She and Phil seem to have reversed, and now it’s Lakisha powering through the chorus and fumbling the verses. I found that kinda funny myself.

    Again, MCL, thanks for the blog. I’m going to keep reading this one

  26. Re: Lakisha not listening to judges.

    I believe that someone (possibly the pianist?) has said that the contestants have everything about their performances- song, choreography, everything- down pat before they see the mentor. In fact, I believe that the mentor talks to the contestants very close to the performance date.

    Lakisha attempted to change her song from “Diamonds Are Forever” after being advised to do so by Lulu, but it was in fact the producers who would not allow her to do so, citing the fact that her jewelry (diamonds, of course) had already been borrowed.

    The tag at the end of “Stormy Weather’ was rehearsed and already in place before she spoke with Tony Bennett, similarly.

    Honestly, I think that Lakisha has been treated very unfairly. Her given criticisms (shoutiness and a diva attitude) are, I feel, very far from the truth of the matter.

    And she’s not even one of my favorite contestants!

  27. Anonymous – first of all, I love your screen name – very intriguing.

    Secondly, I am glad that you have been objective enough to share your thoughts on Lakisha’s very tenuous journey on Idol.

    I feel that she came into this show a front runner, singing Jennifer Hudson’s song and this drove ratings. AI had a field day with her.

    Then, when they didn’t need her – buh bye – and they dragged out the ridiculously biased negative comments.

    The mind games they play with the viewers have become so blatantly obvious and yet they still confuse some of the experts.

    I wish people would listen to classical singer Jessye Norman – they would realize that Lakisha’s voice is very similar- powerful and radiant. Shouting? I think not.

  28. Nice to see you here Tess and deroc and, yes, I liked the endings to her songs as well. I thought they were necessary, actually.

  29. MCL, Thanks for the kind words and sorry about the typos’s :-). Just a quick note, Ellen’s guest today was Simon. She showed footage of him talking and pulling Paula’s nose during one of Phil’s songs. She told him he did not seem to be listening. He agreed that he was not really listening. That there is too much noise and the audience is too loud so he makes most of his decisions and comments based on their run through before the show. He thens gives Paula suggestions what to say and tells her silly things to say. I hope he was kidding! How can you judge on an earlier performance. Is that why he missed Jordin’s problems starting out the song and some other issues people had? I went back and listened to Jesse Norman and see what you are saying about Kiki. I also went and listened on You Tube to Sarah doing Over the Rainbow, Chaka doing Summertime and Ella doing Summertime. These kids do need to spend some time doing their history before they get to the show.
    A good bout of classical training is something they could use in addition to what they get from AI.
    Oh, last note, Simon was asked who was going home this week and he said he thought it was Chris and Phil………..interesting…..I am glad I found you!
    angel

  30. angel – I mentioned this fact (re live comments being given based on the rehearsal performances) either this year or last year, as they never made sense. I can’t remember which VM article it was, but it’s there somewhere in my files.

    And – Simon confirmed it today. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Phil and Chris leaving? Now, THAT’S strange. Looks like they are re-evaluating the remaining talent, as so they should.

    I am working with a young 16 year old singer now, that has Lakisha’s vocal pipes.

    I am on a mission to educate this young lady in achieving star quality in her vocal performances. She is working very hard on her classical technique, but let me tell you, she is a powerhouse and her voice, even when she sings softly, blows the roof off my studio.

    Lakisha has a solid technical system in place and she needs to return to the more multi layered style of singing that she achieved in her earlier performances.

  31. See, but Simon might simply be saying Chris and Phil will leave so that voters will vote more for the two. Simple, yet effective. Lakisha and someone else leagues better– Blake or Melinda, probably– will leave instead. Idol and their pension for Shocking Results strikes again.

  32. I thought Melinda did the best during the Top 6 regardless of what Randy said to Jordin. I mean, seriously, that was far from the best performance in all six seasons. Jordin had a lot of pitch problems through the song and she was very shrieky on the high notes, using way too much chest voice for them. Melinda was the best that night and that was without a doubt.

  33. This past week Melinda finally finished the vocals on her CD! All of that happens quickly then we will see her CD on shelves this Fall! Also, keep your eye out for her first official single that should be hitting airwaves in the coming weeks. Melinda is going to be throwing a lot of music at us in the coming months so get ready!
    New website to support Melinda Career. http://www.mdstreetteam.com come join us and get to the forum to read what Melinda have to say. She is a amazing singer.

  34. MCL, I am sorry but I think you overpraised Lakisha way too much. I felt her singing wasn’t anywhere near as great as you made it out to be. She has a tendency to shout at times as well. Sorry, just my opinion.

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