by Rosanne Simunovic
Well, after a two year hiatus, I will be here periodically to lend Vocal Masterclass evaluations to this year’s Top 10 singers of Canadian Idol Season Five.
Next week, I am on holidays and will not be able to comment on the singers’ performances.
However, this week’s Top 10 performances nourished this article with what I hope will be enough material to carry over for two weeks. It was an excellent beginning to the fifth season of Canadian Idol and I intuitively feel that many stars will be born and mentored before the end of this season’s run.
Have a good read everybody!
The Top 10 will be evaluated each week according to performance order.
However, to quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.
Dwight D’Eon : “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty/Rob Thomas
Strengths: Dwight- for the second week in a row, you treated us to a Matchbox 20 number, while still providing ambient contrast to last week’s performance. I loved your black outfit as it complimented your intense and powerful demeanour throughout this number.
Vocally, I felt that your voice gained power and presence when you vocalized the upbeat portion of this song. This is understandable, as the quicker tempo and louder dynamic allowed you to energetically support your voice in a technically more efficient manner. I have come to appreciate your ability to add dynamic contrast in your performances, Dwight, and this lends a multi-layered aspect to your vocal presentation.
Even though you stayed glued behind the mike stand, you attempted to establish strong communication with your audience. You are such an eager beaver on that stage and I know that your listeners value this characteristic in your performing style. You are a performer that truly respects his music and his audience.
Great work, Dwight!
Critique: Now Dwight – you must continue to work hard to increase the level of your diaphragmatic breath support. Presently, your natural vocal talent is carrying you through each performance, however strong technical skills will intensify the capabilities within your vocal gift.
As I mentioned last week, you must make certain that the diaphragmatic support is at the core of your vocal production. In so doing, this will encourage you to keep your throat open and free, allowing the vocal sound to maintain a pitch centered and ringing vocal timbre. Presently, you are carrying too much chest voice into your upper register and this creates a less than acceptable and aesthetically pleasing vocal sound.
The delivery at the beginning of this song experienced a less focused and less confident vocal. It was lower in range and quieter in dynamics, and so it encouraged you to add an insufficient amount of buoyant energy from the lower half of your body. Your technical skills have to be a constant entity throughout your performance – don’t save them for the power vocals. It is within the softer passages that one notices whether a singer has good vocal control, as you are more exposed in these areas of your melodic line.
Also, make certain that your key selection is “spot on”. I felt that, perhaps, it could have been a semi-tone or tone higher. I felt that you were singing in the most uncomfortable part of your range for the majority of this song and this substantially hindered the overall vocal performance.
Good luck next week, Dwight. You are a determined performer and I suspect that you have much to offer in this competition
Kahlila Glanville: “Killing Me Softly” originally performed by Roberta Flack
Strengths: Kahlila –as always, you looked absolutely radiant on the stage this week and exuded a lovely charisma throughout this performance.
Vocally you provided wonderful vocal contrast throughout this song, starting with the hushed vocals at the beginning of the number and building to a mezzo forte level later on in the song.
You have a beautiful voice and you are pretty diligent in allowing your technical development to mold and shape your vocal projection. I appreciated the circular mouth formation on the pure vowels – so important in creating a seamless, pure and pitch-centered vocal line.
Critique: Kahlila – now, left up to me, I would have selected a different song or I would have encouraged you to be more inventive with the melodic line. The song just never seemed to progress and then became so predictable that it really left the listener a little flat and deflated
I was waiting for you to add a more creative approach to the melodic line, but it just never happened. In addition, your pedantic approach to this song hindered your stage presentation. You appeared quite stiff and detached throughout this number. It was as if song and singer were in a straightjacket. This is really unfortunate, Kahlila, because you have revealed evidence in past performances that you are miles above this kind of “safe” sort of performance we experienced this week.
I would encourage you to impeccably and creatively research your song material and, when rehearsing to create a vocal presentation that grabs your audience. Add more nuances and speech like inflection and work on the choreographic stage elements – in short – create a multi-dimensional level to your showcase. All of this could be done in a simple and, yet effective, manner.
For example, at the beginning of this song, a seated position on the edge of the stage would have captured the mood more effectively and then, as the song progressed, you could have moved to a standing position – thus creating as stronger visual effect.
This show – and performing in general – is all about taking creative risks and adding unique artistic elements in your musical approach. Be courageous, Kahlila, as you have an enormous vocal gift that needs to be nourished in a more substantial and inventive manner.
Carly Rae Jepsen: “Inside And Out” by The Bee Gees
Strengths: Carly Rae – you have a wonderful knack for choosing songs that are familiar and yet have rarely been considered by other singers from past Idol shows. Therefore, your song choices have a refreshing and invigorating vibe that compliments and augments your unique performing style.
That being said, I loved this song selection – that’s a “no brainer”. Also, you added some wonderfully paced and rehearsed choreographic elements that provided punch and pizzazz to the musical style of this number.
The Bee Gees composed songs that were one gigantic “hook” throughout the entire number – songs that you could dance to and hum along with. These songs have pure entertainment value and you captured the entertainment aspects of this song so very well, Carly. I felt that you rendered an exuberant and buoyant performance and embraced the style of this musical era so well.
Once again, your strong and rhythmic choreographic elements perfectly complimented your fabulous and enthusiastic vocals. Your vocal timbre had a lovely natural ring that mirrored your sparkling personality. Also, I appreciated the inflection that you added in this number, as it emphasized that the lyrical elements were totally internalized during this performance. You are an emotional singer and varied nuances are so much a part of your performing style. How I value this technical component in a singer!
You have a strong technical basis that centers and projects your voice and, yet, you never sound like a technical singer. This is a huge plus, as you must allow the technique to expand your vocal capability without diminishing your stage persona.
Excellent work, Carly!
Critique: Carly- I didn’t have any major issues to demonstrate in the critique portion of this evaluation. Periodically, your voice moved a little “off center” in the melodic line, but it certainly didn’t encumber your performance in a huge way.
Just make certain that, in rehearsing the choreographic elements of your song, that your technical support remains a constant entity throughout your showcase. The stage movements must synchronize easily with the vocals.
I always tell performers that, particularly when singing upbeat numbers, to slow the tempo down during the rehearsal process, making certain that both the vocal and choreographic elements are in perfect balance. It will also assist you in the sustaining process when you vocalize, as the slower pace will encourage you to support with increased efficiency and consistency.
However, this was a strong performance and you maintained an element of control and professionalism throughout the showcase. Brava!
Brian Melo: “If You Could Only See” by Tonic
Strengths: Brian – once again you exhibited that mesmerizing stage presence that cannot be taught or trained. It just “is”! You appear to be a very genuine and sincere performer and this translates beautifully across the airwaves. The camera sure loves you – no argument there. Your accommodating personality allowed you to establish significant communication and rapport with your studio and television audience.
I loved your song choice and you performed this song with great energy and conviction, consistently drawing your audience in throughout the performance process. Vocally, you added a neat gravelly aspect to your vocal timbre that accentuated the conversational aspect of this song, drawing evidence to the fact that you understand the importance of conveying emotion, not only through your stage movements, but also, through your vocal inflection.
This was generally a strong and powerful performance and, despite a few vocal issues that I will address below, emphasized the importance of your professional presence in this competition.
Very good work indeed, Brian!
Critique: Brian – as I mentioned last week, you must continue to work on your vocal technique or lack thereof. I felt there was an audible “push” from the throat muscles that was impeding the ringing sensation that is so important in establishing resonant vocals. The throat must remain open and free – as should your facial muscles – so that the diaphragmatic breathing muscles can focus and resonate your voice in your vocal masque (face).
Presently you are carrying too much chest voice throughout every area of your range and, when you move into your upper range, it is so important to add head voice to the vocal mix so your vocal sound can enjoy a more aesthetically pleasing, pitch centered presence.
Also, remember to keep your mouth round and the jaw relaxed, allowing the jaw to descend as you ascend in pitch. You need this space in your mouth so that the upper notes can vibrate efficiently. Also it will encourage you to sustain your vocal sound on the pure vowels within your lyrics, thus allowing your voice to gain depth and resonance.
Also, make sure you are rehearsing you stage movements in a way that does not impede the vocal production: both should compliment each other. There has to be a sense of purpose and rationale when you work on your stage movements, especially when you are faced with a 90 second time frame.
However, I felt that, overall, your voice was less reedy than previous weeks. Hopefully, you are slowly internalizing the technical process to achieving superb vocal production,
Mila Miller: “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
Strengths: Mila – you have a wonderful vocal ability that cannot be denied. You have enormous untapped star power and, although, this was not your strongest performance to date, I did appreciate your effort to establish communication with your audience. You moved effortlessly around the stage and attempted to bring the audience closer to this performance.
However, this performance lacked the luster that we so enjoyed in last week’s sassy performance. Factor in a case of nerves and faulty song selection and the reason for this less effective performance becomes very clear indeed. So, on with the critique portion of this article!
Critique: Mila – based on song selection alone, this was not a formidable Top 10 performance. I felt that you needed to step out of your boundaries and really embrace a more creative approach in all elements of your showcase –starting with song selection and working through to the more dynamic aspects of the vocal and stage performance.
And, we know you can do this because last week’s Top 14 song was a joy to behold. You created a strong visual and audible performance, but this week, it was a different story. You appeared very tentative on stage, almost “sleepwalking” through your motions and the result was a less than memorable performance.
However, the problem rested in the song choice itself and how you interpreted this song. First of, it has been performed innumerable times on previous Idol shows and, quite frankly, everyone is tired of it.
Secondly, the verbose and cyclic nature of the lyrical and melodic line of the song becomes very tedious unless the singer adds her own distinctive style or twist to the original composition. Unfortunately, this never happened and so the song fell flat and left us with a sense of artistic vacancy. Where was the Mila that I so enjoyed last week, lying across the piano and having the time of her life? I was hoping that you would lend a creative approach to this song, but it just never happened.
Thirdly, the repetitive nature of the song encouraged you to sing with a less efficient technical base, as you pushed your chest voice incessantly throughout the melodic line. Therefore, your vocal sound had a diminished sparkle and ring that comes from a free and uninhibited vocal sound, possessing the purity of the head voice component. You experienced this problem last week, but the wonderful performance aspects of last week’s song overrode the lack of technical security.
Therefore, make certain that you are researching your songs thoroughly and be meticulous and diligent during the rehearsal process. More important, allow your creative juices to flow freely and bring back the inner child that I know is inside your soul.
Jaydee Bixby: “It’s Only Make Believe” by Conway Twitty
Strengths: Jaydee- this was a superb song selection and it beautifully accented another side to your musical and stage persona. Previous to this performance, we saw and thoroughly enjoyed the “rockabilly” Jaydee; however, this week, you took it down a few notches and we were treated to the “balladeer” Jaydee! You rendered a heartwarming ballad that highlighted the enormous depth and power of your singing talent.
And how appropriate was Zack’s comment when he said: “You are going to be the Michael Buble of retro country”. That statement absolutely describes the enormous talent and unique style that you bring to this competition.
Your whole performance was inspired – from the new matinee idol hairstyle, to the meticulous performance and vocal aspects of this showcase, to the power and beauty of you emerging baritone voice.
And you rehearsed this song with impeccable attention to detail. I loved that you varied your stage position, moving up from a seated position at the beginning of this song to a standing position. It provided visual interest and variety to this performance.
However, it was the outstanding vocals that stole the day. Your ability to seamlessly ascend throughout the melodic line, from a deep baritone range up to your tenor range, was nothing short of remarkable, especially given the fact that you are only 16 years old. When did your voice change, Jaydee? It must have been a quick change, because you have quite the resonant vocal timbre for your stage of development
However, visually, you look and act like a young adolescent – so refreshing and so entertaining. This visual presence, when combined with your audible presence and your dedication to the older age of country really creates a neat little package for managers, mentors and A&R people who will, undoubtedly, be part of your future. Even your name is memorable. It’s just too much and I am loving it!
You are a genuine, intelligent, savvy performer who respects his music and respects his audience. This was one of those rare Idol moments that captivated and surprised this writer. It was truly memorable! Congratulations and bravo!
Critique: Jaydee – just be very careful with the manner in which you vocalize your upper range. I felt that, at times, there was a bit too much chest voice in the vocal mix. Although your mouth was round and relaxed, I could still sense a push from the throat, rather than the diaphragm.
However, some of this might have to do with the fact that your voice is still developing and it is difficult to achieve a free and secure upper range vocal sound even when employing the correct technical process. Make sure you are vocalizing techncial exercises using only your head tone, so that you never lose touch with this important and crucial element of your vocal development.
Never abandon your vocal technique as you have a vocal gift that will carry you unbelievably far in the music business. You want to make certain that you not only have longevity as a performer, but also as a vocalist.
Greg Neufeld: “All These Things I’ve Done” by The Killers
Strengths: Greg- I loved this song and it was a radical change from your previous performances. I applaud and congratulate you for emerging from the confines of your comfort zone this early on in the competition. I always sense that you have a great desire and capability to expand as an artist during the course of this show and this is what will ensure your longevity in this competition.
I loved the meaty and muscular vocal power you created throughout this number and, as always, your choreographic movements were rhythmically strong and secure, complimenting and enhancing your vocal impetus. I sensed that, like some of the others this week, you had a sense of purpose and focus in the preparation and performance of your number and, being a teacher, I value and appreciate this diligent approach to your music.
You established strong and memorable communication with your audience from the moment that this song began. You appeared confident and nicely composed, although there were some physical tremors at the outset that needed to be a wee bit more restrained. But, that’s okay – to me it showed evidence of drive and determination, but make certain that you are working in front of a mirror to further refine the choreographic process.
Finally, you sang with some evidence of technical security and your voice generallysounded well focused and resonant. This was a strong visual and audible performance and I congratulate you on your hard work during this competition. Excellent job, Greg!
Critique: Greg- as I said above, make certain that you are using a mirror during the rehearsal process. Further to this, I would slow down the tempo of the song when you rehearse, as it will draw attention to the areas of tension and technical deficiencies that cannot be addressed when you perform at the faster tempo.
Practicing slowly and deliberately is an efficient, revealing way of refining your vocals and stage movements. It affords you time and patience to analyze your presentation and offers an element of control when you sing the song at the usual quick paced tempo.
Also, be careful of your head position when you navigate that upper range. Presently, you are raising your head when you sing your upper notes and that not only creates upper body tension and a less efficient vocal sound, but also, we lose contact with your eyes. Additionally, it lends an air of discomfort and anxiety to your overall performance.
Think over your upper notes – never reach for them – and bend your knees and squeeze your butt when you sing through your top range, making certain that your throat is open and free, your mouth round, your jaw relaxed and your facial features open and expressive. Also, this will encourage you to access your diaphragmatic breathing muscles with more energy and consistency.
However, this was great showcase, Greg and you are evolving into a consummate performer with each passing week! Excellent work!
Martha Joy: “Power Of Love”, originally performed by Céline Dion
Strengths: Martha – like Dwight, you selected a song recorded by one of your favorite artists for the second week in a row, but, in your case, it was Céline Dion. If any singer, young or old, should be singing Céline Dion, it should be you. You bring all the enormous “Céline- like” technical and performing skills that have distinguished her as an international star.
And, my oh my, your voice wrapped beautifully around the very difficult, very challenging vocal line of this song. Your vocal timbre was a ringing, seamless presence from top to bottom and your phrasing and control was impeccable and brilliant.
You added a consummate and magical blend of head and chest voice throughout this number and when you reached the final note on the word “love”, it was just killer! You sustained and placed and resonated this note so very well – it was the icing on the cake.
Additionally, the lighting effects added to the strong visual components of this song. It was very creative and extremely powerful, accenting the evolving emotional aspects of the composition.
You established artistic presence and professionalism from the opening strains of this number and I applaud your diligent, preparatory approach to your song selection this and every week. Brava Martha!
Critique: Martha, unfortunately, you were a victim of a poor song arrangement. Good heavens – could this song go any slower? You could almost march to it and it would have been a slow boring march! There was no sense of flow to this arrangement and it just seemed interminable at times.
Thank heavens that you provided the listener with a strong and memorable vocal performance because this arrangement did nothing to enhance or help your vocal delivery. You were singing without a net it seemed. The song should have been faster, but then, you would have finished before the 90-second timeframe so I guess this was the reasoning behind this pedantic tempo.
Therefore, be careful when choosing your songs and be absolutely resolute in insisting on strong background arrangements. Also, you would be very wise to move away from your good friend, Céline and your preference to singing power ballads. Actually, I was thinking that you could definitely hit a home run with a Barbra Streisand number or move into R&B with some Mariah or Whitney.
Also, be very careful that your technical brilliance is not overriding the emotional aspects necessary to inspire and move your audience. You are walking a fine line here and, although I suspect that you feel you are singing with passion and heart, it really is being misplaced through your studied approach to your song performance.
I think a great deal of this has to do with your age. You are quite a mature vocalist, but the performing aspects haven’t quite lined up with the vocals. This will all evolve in time, but, for the time being, you are one of the strongest singers I have ever seen on this show during any year.
Tara Oram: “You Win My Love”, by Shania Twain
Strengths: Tara – it was only a matter of time that you would sing Shania’s music, so let’s get to it! I thought you performed and sang this song with great conviction and you added the necessary sparkle and shine that this song emoted. I love this song, as it allowed you to really engage your audience through strong communicative and choreographic skills.
You moved about the stage with professionalism and style and effortlessly maintained a high level of entertainment value in this performance. You are a very strong entertainer and each week you are infusing your performing style with your unique personality. You are trying enormously hard to distance your self from the Carrie and Shania stereotypes and this is an excellent methodology to adopt.
Your voice sounded quite good through the course of this number. The key and range were perfect for you, so congratulations on choosing a number that celebrated your vocal gifts in such a true and honest fashion.
Good work, Tara!
Critique: Tara – similar to last week’s performance, you encountered some problems with the articulation of your consonants. In an effort to create that country-like drawl, the consonants were poorly defined and, as a result, the comprehension of your words was, albeit intermittently, difficult to comprehend.
Further to this, you adopted a habit of covering your vocal sound, falling into the diphthong style of singing that is so prevalent in this type of music. I was aching to hear a purer approach to your vowels, but it just never happened. As a result, your voice sounded garbled and muffled, as opposed to free and resonant.
I hope that, with time, you adopt a more contemporary country sound similar to Martina McBride’s. It is more technically impressive and allows you to sing with more dynamic range and nuance, adding substantial layers to your vocal delivery.
As I said last week, you need to maintain the ringing head tone component throughout your range so as to increase the naturally brilliant quality to your voice. I know you have this capability, so make certain that you utilize your technical approach in a way that will enhance and challenge your vocal ability.
However, you are a lovely, natural performer on stage and have a way of establishing genuine and real rapport with your audience. This gift alone will carry you far in the music business.
Good work, Tara!
Matt Rapley: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
Strengths: Well, Matt – you seem to be evolving more and more on the Idol stage, exposing new layers of your persona with each passing week. I thought you performed this song remarkably well and, like Tara, are surfacing as a wonderful and genuine performer.
You showed strong communicative skills on stage, but the pianist in me wanted you to sing at the piano – as you did last week. Nothing makes me happier than to watch a budding young singer/pianist do his thing at the “keys”, but I know that this competition is much more than that. It is and will always be a singing competition and you have the pipes to stand alone on stage and deliver, as evidenced in this week’s performance.
I absolutely loved the arrangement of this song classic: it added dimension and interest to your vocal delivery and your voice embraced the inventive line of the melody with ease and security. I thought the freely delivered vocal skills you added were wonderful and your voice sounded relaxed and open throughout this performance.
Like Jaydee, you have a very developed voice for your age and experience and I can only imagine how exceptional your voice is going to sound with each passing year.
Excellent work, Matt!
Matt – you have this seamless quality in your voice that is spectacular. However, be very careful to sing with ease and focus when you travel through that upper range.
Generally, you tend not to push your sound from your throat, but, this week, there was a little constriction happening in this area and your upper notes sounded less resonant than in previous weeks. Always remember to incorporate the head tone element into your vocal mix and you will be good to go.
That being said, I applaud the key selection for this song. The tonality of the melodic line rested in the most natural part of your vocal range and, as a result, your overall performance was indeed a convincing one!
I will be commenting regularly throughout this competition and will be contributing Vocal Masterclass articles for the Top 10 performances.
Please feel free to comment and become part of the vocal masterclass process.
SCHEDULE AS OF JULY 17th, 2007
Top 10 Performance Show
Tuesday, July 17 at 8pm ET, PT, MT & AT and 7:00pm CT.
Top 10 Results Show
Wednesday, July 18 from 9:30pm ET& PT, 10:30pm MT & AT and 8:30pm CT.
Top 9 Performance Show
Monday July 23 at 9pm ET, PT, MT & AT and 8pm CT.
Top 9 Results Show
Tuesday July 24 at 9:30pm ET& PT, 10:30pm MT & AT and 8:30pm CT.
Top 8 Performance Show
Monday July 30 at 9pm ET, PT, MT & AT and 8pm CT.
Top 8 Results Show
Tuesday July 31 at 8pm ET, PT, MT & AT and 7pm CT
Visit CTV.ca to confirm local broadcast times.
Visit SirLinksalot: Canadian Idol for all current Canadian Idol links.