by Rosanne Simunovic
The music of the legendary rock group, Queen, was showcased this week and I wondered how well our young singers would fare with this very difficult, extremely intense and distinctly theatrical music.
This is serious music, my fellow readers, and it separates the true artist from the karaoke singer. Individuality and creativity is the name of the game and, unless you are Freddie Mercury’s incarnate, you better come up with something truly exciting and inspiring.
Queen band members, Roger Taylor and Brian May, gave timely and inspiring advice to our Top 7 and appeared to be a wonderfully supportive and gifted team of mentors.
Let’s have a Masterclass peek or two at the Queen love fest shall we?
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.
Brian Melo: “Too Much Love Will Kill You”
Strengths: Brian –where did this voice come from? Your upper range was so clear and so focused, that you sounded like my man, Freddie. The song choice was a superb one and you obviously worked tremendously hard on your vocals to create this vocally solid showcase.
You initiated some wonderful phrasing elements during the performance of this song and it emphasized the formidable level of diaphragmatic breath control that grounded your vocal projection. I loved the alternate use of pure vocals and rustic vocals. This was so important in the communicative aspects of this number. The inflection in a singer’s voice is imperative in solidifying the conversational elements of any song and you captured this performing element exceptionally well.
You are probably the only performer this year that can stand in one position and grasp the emotional essence of a song. This is a huge performing plus, as it emphasizes that you are in total harmony with the emotional core of the song. You don’t need to run around and keep busy with stage movements; the passion in your voice says it all.
You have been absolutely consistent throughout this competition and I feel that, each week, you reveal another layer to your performing skills. You diversify, but do so in a very subtle and extremely well rehearsed manner.
Somehow I knew that the theatrical song elements in Queen’s music would showcase all that you have to offer as a performer. As I said last week: “You are an “in the moment” performer. Nothing exists before or beyond the song – except thunderous applause”
This was an authentically performed showcase- emphasizing the seamless, compelling vocals and powerful emotion that is identifiable with Queen’s music.
Bravo Brian. Just outstanding!
Critique: Brian – you encountered a technical glitch toward the end of this number. It appeared that your air supply was depleted and you were not able to hold your phrase for the full count. And your face mimicked your problem. This happens all the time, especially when a singer is nervous and/or overestimates how much air is remaining to complete a phrase line in one breath.
I think your problem – and this was a consistent problem throughout –was the fact that you utilized too much chest voice throughout this song. Yes, there was some beautiful head tone in the vocal mix, but, overall, the chest voice overwhelmed your vocal sound. In doing so, you were depleting your air supply and/or not using it correctly.
Also, this problem affected the centered pitch perfect sound in your singing- especially in the middle section of this number. I could see that you were really trying to keep that mouth circular and, indeed, the vowels were beautifully focused and pure. However, that darn chest voice was too prevalent and, as a result, you were vocalizing under the note at times instead of over the note.
Furthermore, your elevated head position emphasized this fact. Always remember to avoid reaching for the upper notes. Sing over those notes and bend slightly to access the power and support of your diaphragmatic rib cage muscles. And adding a “butt squeeze” here and there can’t hurt. It really works.
However, this was a veritable performance of Queen’s music and you vocally and artistically identified with their style of music in an authentic manner. Your demeanour on stage was absolutely genuine. This was the performance that defined the high level of your artistry and I congratulate you on your meticulous preparation of your song material.
Greg Neufeld: “We Are the Champions”
Strengths: Greg- you looked terrific tonight and you exhibited such a sincere and genuine demeanour when you performed. Although not the perfect song choice for you, you sang this great classic with appropriate passion and verve. I also enjoyed your more soulful interpretation of this song. It was quite good and you worked extremely hard to accommodate the slower background arrangement of this number.
As always, your technical advancement was evident in the knee bends. How I love this technical trick, especially when one sings through the upper range. You have adopted this technical element quite consistently, Greg, allowing you to sing with consistently more power and projection.
Critique: Greg- your downfall was twofold. So let’s analyze and correct these problems as we move ahead in this competition.
First of all, your song choice, although instantly recognizable, did not suit your voice at all. Your voice has a mellow, smooth quality and this song required more vocal energy than you were capable of giving. You seemed to be wrestling with the vocal line throughout this song and your facial expression mirrored your inner struggle.
However, the first problem would have been less obvious if the second problem had been avoided: song arrangement. Good heavens, could this song move any slower? A snail moves faster than the tempo of this song. There was no sense of flow, no forward momentum, no build – nada! The song arrangement had as much excitement as a lullaby.
So, unfortunately, this pedantic tempo wreaked havoc with your breathing skills. You were losing a great deal of air in an effort to move this song along and exerting too much energy in an effort to make this number sound exciting. Did the musicians fall asleep at the wheel?
Therefore, you looked increasingly nervous as this song progressed – and I use this word lightly – as you instinctively knew that this number was not rising to meet the unique intentions and expectations of the originating artist.
Additionally, this nervousness exaggerated all the technical deficiencies: the elevation of your head when singing through your upper range, the tight throat muscles, thus creating a less than perfect pitch-centered vocal sound and the fragmented phrasing. All of this could have been avoided if you had selected another song and another arrangement.
This song is best left to a group performance. I heard this song performed by a soloist on “Rockstar” I believe and it didn’t work there either. So, it’s not just you, Greg, it’s the song choice. Great song, wrong vocal vehicle.
Please research your song material judiciously. And keep refining your vocal skills. Your lower body seems to be advancing in this regard, but your upper body is still not as relaxed and as free as it could and should be.
Your elevated head position is working against your diaphragmatic breath support, causing and accentuating extreme tension in your upper body. Additionally, we lose valuable eye contact with you and a singer’s eyes are tantamount for expressive vocalization.
Next week, Maroon Five takes center stage. Now, we are entering Greg Neufeld territory, so I suspect that you will hit one out of the ballpark. Good luck, Greg!
Carly Rae Jepsen: “Killer Queen”
Strengths: Carly Rae –you were one of two people that captured the Queen “vibe” this week, the other being Brian Melo. Queen is larger than life and so theatrical, that singers must remember this when singing their music. Therefore, this was an inspired song choice and you were able to add your campy, dramatic persona to this song, thus rendering a unique, refreshing and artistically correct interpretation of this superb number.
I loved your upper vocal interval on the word “Queen”; it was spot on! You sing with beautiful head tone; in fact, your natural voice is all head tone and that is a very good thing indeed. However, chest voice does have its place, as I will demonstrate in the “critique” portion of this evaluation.
What I love about you, Carly, is you are not afraid to experiment with your voice. You take chances and close your eyes to the artistic risks, allowing the emotion of the song to dictate how you will perform this number. And your choreographic elements were superb. You utilized the whole stage, even involving the pianist, thus showcasing the campy, cabaret aspects of Queen’s music.
Congratulations on presenting such an entertaining showcase.
Critique: Carly- as I mentioned last week, you have some serious issues regarding the clarity of your diction. Generally your words were very garbled, mainly because you produced subtle manipulations in your vowel formation, thus distorting the true meaning of the words. Additionally, the consonants were once again poorly articulated and the listeners could not enjoy the communicative aspects of the song.
Yes, you moved with energy and purpose, but the choreographic elements needed to compliment, not hinder the vocal elements. Further to this, your high-energy stage movements impeded the consistent diaphragmatic breath support and, therefore, your voice sounded less focused and poorly tuned than in previous weeks.
It is imperative that you pay as much attention to your vocal technique as you do to your stage technique. One cannot be sacrificed for the other. Both performing elements must be meticulously balanced. Slow practice is key here, especially when you are performing a number that requires a great deal of energy and presence on stage. The slower, more methodical rehearsal method will give you time to focus on the balance between strongly produced vocals and smooth stage skills.
To my mind, you were attempting to mask some of your vocal misgivings through your strong physical performance. Sometimes this works, but this week, it did not. Your voice sounded poorly focused, lacking in a proper mix of chest voice to enhance and add dynamic sound to your vocal timbre. Your focus was on the stage skills and, although you created the perfect ambiance for this style of music, you must remember that Freddie Mercury could also sing and sing phenomenally well.
Vocalize your technical scales and chords singing on the pure vowels and making sure that you are balancing chest and head voice throughout your range. Chest voice is necessary to increase the dynamic possibilities in your voice, so balance it judiciously with the pitch perfect clarity of your head voice.
Good luck, Carly.
Matt Rapley: “Under Pressure”
Strengths: Matt – initially you sang this song with conviction and ease. I truly enjoyed and was moved by the passion exuding from your enormously gifted voice. It was like “Whipping Post” fever all over again. And, by the way, this was a fantastic song choice for you. The key was perfect, as evidenced from your strong upper endnotes when you sang the words “Under Pressure”.
Through your prodigious vocal ability, you commanded the stage like no other, but that face of yours didn’t mirror this level of security. This I will discuss in the “critique” portion of this Masterclass article.
However, your voice sounded seamless and smooth as silk from top to bottom. The diaphragmatic technique was working its magic during this very strong vocal performance. I loved how you employed those knee bends to harness and secure your diaphragmatic breathing skills. This bending technique also allowed your soft palate to remain elevated and – voila – a rich, resonant beautifully focused vocal sound was the result.
Additionally, your open and expressive facial features augmented the resonating presence of your voice. Those pure vowels were wonderfully sustained and you maintained a cohesive effect when connecting your notes in the melodic line.
This was miles above last week’s performance. Very good work indeed, Matt!
Critique:Matt – you have to stop worrying and just go for the gold. It always amazes me that the singers with astounding vocal gifts sometimes worry more than necessary while on stage.
Even if your voice cracked, it would crack with assurance and presence! Ha! As I mentioned last week, your voice is a natural entity – so, even when the technique doesn’t kick in here or there, this will not be as obvious nor as detrimental to your performance as it would be for some of the other singers.
The important thing is that you do, indeed, have a high level of technical training and now you must have fun with it and transfer this level of discipline to the performance aspects of your songs. You looked so tentative in the second half of the song, almost like you were second guessing yourself, which I’ll bet you were.
You have to stop thinking and start living while you perform. Think of the lyrics. Sing them as you would speak them, adding inflection and nuance where necessary. I feel that there is an unknown force stopping you from adopting the emotional aspects of your song and you must discard this negative force sooner than later. Try to stay in the moment and sing expressively – allowing your passion for the poetry to dictate and shape the timbre of your voice.
Good luck Matt! Great singing nonetheless.
Dwight D’Eon : “Tie Your Mother Down”
Strengths: Dwight-welcome back to this competition. This was an inspired song choice. It seems that many of the singers this week went to great lengths to find the perfect song choice and it worked. I loved the physicality and the energy you exerted throughout this performance. It was wonderfully paced and the choreographic and vocal elements were in perfect cohesion.
You looked relaxed and focused – a man on a mission to reclaim his position as a very worthy contender in this competition. You engaged your audience and managed to navigate a wide portion of the venue without compromising your vocal projection. I never detected a breathy moment in this performance. The vocal and choreographic elements were fluid and flowing, thus indicating that this number was beautifully and meticulously rehearsed.
Your vocal sound exhibited a muscular timbre – it had punch and pizzazz – so suitable for the emotional aspects of this song. Your upper body was perfectly positioned and you worked the camera angles exceedingly well. Thus your television audience could enjoy your open facial expressions, as your eyes captured the camera angles very well.
Also, your relaxed facial features encouraged you to place and resonate your vocal sound in your vocal masque ( your facial features) and, as a result, your voice had such a renewed presence this week.
You exhibited a very confident, yet thoroughly accommodating demeanor throughout this song and the audience ate it up! Great work, Dwight!
Critique: Dwight – it appears that your vocal technique has jumped forward this week. Your mouth was more relaxed and circular and the jaw extended for your upper range notes – all fundamental necessities in solid and seamless singing.
However, at times, the chest voice pushed the head voice out of balance and, therefore, the pitch was a little off center, as if you were singing under the note. Just be careful of this problem, Dwight. Elevate those upper notes into the upper portion of your face and mentally sing over the upper notes. Reaching for those higher notes can cause tension and/or the implementation of too much chest voice, so be careful.
And start employing knee bends when navigating your tenor range. Squeeze the butt and watch the magic begin. Ha!
Also, as much as I enjoyed the fact that you moved through your audience, I would have enjoyed a more theatrical approach to this number so that your vocals could have been better highlighted. A little less movement would have gone along way in this song. You must be careful not to overdo the stage movements. You walked a bit of a fine line in this regard, so be very careful in future performances.
That being said, it is obvious that you have strong performing skills and your voice is starting to gain more presence and polish. I can’t ask for more than that! Bravo!
Tara Oram: “Headlong”
Strengths: Tara – you went “headlong” into this number like there was no tomorrow. You absolutely commanded the stage with your passionate presentation of this great song choice.
This was a superbly performed number and you relentlessly commanded the stage. You are a strong and determined performer, with enormous respect and commitment to your audience. And they sensed this and embraced you as a result of your supreme efforts.
This was a wonderfully paced showcase, and the choreographic and vocal elements were synchronized with detailed perfection. The neat rhythmic elements you employed, visually and audibly, were just excellent and identified the high level of musicality in your presentation.
And your song choice was the ticket. Not only the song choice, but also how you adapted it to fit you particular style of singing. This accented your highly developed interpretive ability and your creative skills when presented with a difficult thematic song choice such as Queen.
Good work, Tara!
Critique: Tara –although the vocal and choreographic elements were nicely balanced, it was the vocal technique that left me a little deflated this week.
First of all, your vocalization was being conducted from your throat and, as a result, a high degree of dynamic vocal energy was missing from this performance. There was no evidence whatsoever of diaphragmatic breath support in the projection and placement of your vocal sound. Your voice sounded very dark and gloomy throughout the showcase and had little to no head tone ring.
As much as, perhaps, many people were entertained by your overall performance, as a pure vocal performance it just did not reach me. You have a bad habit of manipulating your vowels in a country styled manner that affects the clarity of your words. That country drawl was misused in this number, I feel, and you needed to adopt a more classic British approach to the pronunciation of your words.
Additionally, this would have added a cleaner, more refined sound to your voice and would have encouraged you to access the supportive power of your diaphragmatic breathing muscles in a more consistent manner.
A few weeks back, I mentioned that you should try to adopt Martina McBride’s singing style. She has a classical country approach that I just love and, to my mind, she is like no other in this field of music. Presently, you have adopted a Shania influenced approach – whether your realize this or not – and you should avoid this at all costs. She sings totally from the throat – not good for preserving the longevity of the voice and/or creating dynamically spectacular vocal performances.
Good luck next week, Tara
Jaydee Bixby: “I Want to Break Free”
Strengths: Jaydee- the first thing that impressed me with this song choice was the key selection. Thank heavens you selected a song that highlighted the spectacular beauty of your baritone range. Now stay on this path and make certain that you are absolutely judicious in selecting the proper key fro your natural singing range. No more tenor songs for you – at least not yet!
Additionally, the song choice, in and of itself, was an excellent one and it was communicated with sincerity and conviction. There were some breathtakingly beautiful moments in this song and you sailed throughout your vocal range in a seamless, controlled manner.
You exhibited a natural ability to phrase your melodic line in a musical and meaningful manner. Your voice wrapped easily around the melodic line, because the tonality was perfect for your voice. Song selection and key – that’s the ticket for a credible and secure performance.
Additionally, I loved how you moved easily throughout the audience, allowing your voice to maintain its focus and presence throughout your choreographic journey. You did not overdo the stage movements – that is key here- and you made sure that the vocals stayed front and center.
The resonant development of your vocal timbre – for your age and experience – is remarkable really and I hope you continue to fortify your natural vocal gift with sound and sensible vocal technique. Yours is a voice of quality and you must make certain that your God-given gift is preserved through the correct technical process.
Outstanding work this week, Jaydee! Kudos!
Critique: Jaydee – as I was watching you, I was trying not to laugh because you were obviously trying so hard not to smile as per the advice you received from Roger and Brian. This is a serious song, after all, and you understood that.
But, then again, you are 16-year-old Jaydee Bixby who is having the time of his life and has yet to experience enough of life to, perhaps, identify with the emotional core of this song. That smile seems to be part of who you are as a person and, although very endearing, you will learn, with time, to adopt and refine your expressive facial features to mirror the message in the music.
However, you ended with the correct intensity in your face and I credit you for that. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I did and I applaud you for at least taking the guidance so generously given to you by Roger Taylor and Brian May and trying to make it work properly in this number.
So keep on working on your facial expressions, remembering to stay in the moment when performing your songs. It takes time and patience, but the mirror is your friend. Use it often to make certain that your face, especially your eyes, is reflecting the lyrical content in your songs.
Bravo once again and keep up the good work!
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