by Rosanne Simunovic
I bet you didn’t think that I would write an article for the Top 5 performances, did you? Well, neither did I but I finally had a moment to myself and this is the result!
However, before you start the read, I have to say that I absolutely adored Kelly Clarkson’s input and interaction with the Top 5 singers. She is such a genuine and real person and I am sure that her experience as an American Idol must have been very beneficial to the mentoring process for the remaining five singers: Brian, Carly Rae, Dwight, Jaydee and Matt.
So kudos to Kelly! What a doll!
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.
Matt Rapley: “Higher Ground”
Strengths: Matt – once again you struck gold with your song choice this week. I thought that the style and the mood of the song thoroughly highlighted the special vocal and performing skills that you bring to this competition. You believably incorporated the inherent soul and passion of this song in your vocal delivery.
Added to this, your emerging stage presence became more pronounced this week and it signified that you are really working very hard to refine your stage skills. Therefore, the communicative aspects of this song were excellent; you captured the essence of this song extremely well, creating a memorable and real performance
Also, I loved the relaxed manner in which you beckoned the background vocalists to sing along with you in the refrain, even though I found that the background vocalists were a little foreground this week. They were too prominent, visually and vocally, in many of the performances.
However, back to you Matt! I cannot emphasize enough the stylistic improvement in your performance this week. I congratulate you for heeding Kelly Clarkson’s advice to become more expressive in the vocal delivery of this very dynamic song. As a result, you exhibited superb stage presence, rendering a heartfelt and genuine performance.
Critique:Matt – I felt that, overall, your vocals experienced some unfortunate technical problems. I think that, in your effort to create a dynamic and memorable performance, the vocal technical skills suffered some neglect. As you are only 18 years old, you have yet to discover and refine a proper balance between the choreographic and vocal elements. This will all come with time and training, but, for the most part, this week’s showcase was all about your performance and not your vocals.
Your major problem was the key selection of this song. It sat very high in your vocal register and I felt that you were truly struggling to produce those upper notes. I think that if you had selected a lower key – perhaps down a half tone or full tone – your comfort level would have been more noticeably pronounced.
I sensed and almost felt that you were pushing those upper notes from your throat while not allowing the diaphragmatic support to freely work its magic. Those repetitive upper notes sounded so strained and poorly focused. Additionally you were raising your head while singing through your upper register – a huge “no –no” as a vocalist. This only added to your vocal discomfort.
Always remember to sing over the upper notes and initiate some relaxed knee bending and butt squeezing to solidify the technical process. And keep that mouth consistently circular, allowing the jaw to freely relax and drop as you sing through your upper range. This will assist the lower body in the supportive process.
This week, your vocal projection was being produced from your upper body – tense throat and less relaxed facial muscles – and added to the unfortunate key selection problem, the vocals really suffered in the end. By the close the song, your voice sounded fatigued and, as a result, you had a crack or two in your vocal armour.
However, Matt, given your young age and experience level, I thought that the growth level you experienced throughout this competition was quite remarkable. I look forward to seeing your further development as a musician post-Idol. You are extremely gifted and I know that you will be very successful in your musical career.
It has been an enormous pleasure to evaluate you throughout this competition. Here’s to the future!
Dwight D’Eon : “Bed Of Roses”
Strengths: Dwight- this was an absolutely spectacular and very surprising vocal performance. I thought that your vocal technical skills took a giant leap forward. Finally, your facial features were wonderfully open and relaxed and this was especially evident when you vocalized through the refrain containing the words “bed of roses”. Your mouth was circular and relaxed as you sustained and focused your vowels in your vocal masque!
Therefore, the phrasing elements were extremely musical throughout this song and I felt that you were finally understanding and using a highly consistent level of diaphragmatic support. As a result, the tuning was pitch centered because you were utilizing the strength of your lower body and focusing your vocal sound with a forward momentum.
Also, I very much appreciated the clarity of your diction. This added to the strong communicative element of this performance. There is nothing more frustrating than sloppy diction. How can an audience relate to the emotion of the song if the lyrics are incoherent? So thank you Dwight for making certain that the poetry was front and center along with the seamless flow of the musical line.
I also loved the multi-dimensional aspect to this performance, beginning softly as you accompanied yourself at the piano, then moving toward a crescendo and, therefore louder dynamic, in the middle portion of this song. It was at this point that you commanded the stage with a power and passion that was first rate. The strength of character and meaningful drama permeating from your vocal delivery was mesmerizing
This was a signature performance – it really accentuated all of the special gifts that you have brought to this competition. You are a consummate performer – singer, pianist, and guitarist – and all of these elements have allowed you to expand and stretch your musical abilities on this show.
Kudos for an exceptional performance in every sense of the word!
Critique: Dwight – I have very little to critique this week, as so many technical issues from previous weeks disappeared with this outstanding performance. My only hope is that you continue to refine and further develop your vocal ability through the correct technical process.
You have a very muscular and robust vocal timbre, which I love, but, in weeks previous, I became frustrated because the technical skills lay dormant in your vocalization process. Thus your vocal potential was not realized – until the Top 5 showcase. So good on you for making such tremendous progress in your technical development in such a short time span – and on live TV no less! Bravissimo!
Jaydee Bixby: “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
Strengths: Jaydee- this was another great song choice and it fully emphasized your musical commitment to your career as a Country artist. I thought this showcase had great entertainment value and I marveled at the maturity you exhibited as a performer. You are an impressively confident singer given your young age and I can only imagine the wonderful development in your performing and vocal skills as the years unfold.
Once again you exhibited your signature stage presence and that exceptional star quality that is naturally inbred in your performing style. You have a wonderful “look” as a Country artist, a charisma that is as much a gift as is your vocal talent.
And, speaking of your vocals, your voice sounded beautifully even and seamless from top to bottom and, thankfully, that twang was not as evident this week. The absence of the twanging inflection allowed your voice to enjoy a resonating and powerful presence.
I felt there were strong communicative elements throughout this number and you effortlessly engaged your audience with your very genuine and thoroughly accommodating personality. And, believe it or not, even the rhythmically busy right side of your body was less distracting than in previous weeks. In fact, it added to the whole performance – it almost energized you and made you seem all the more determined to present this number in a powerfully musical fashion
This was a highly enjoyable, well-formulated performance. I just loved it. Great work, Jaydee!
Critique: Jaydee – you still need to be reminded to avoid pushing your vocal sound from your throat, especially when entering the upper echelons of your vocal range. I felt that, by releasing the twang element, you did accomplish this technical element this week, thus allowing you to further refine the pronunciation and placement of your vowels.
However, you will have to continue to make a conscious attempt at rectifying the palpable tension in your facial muscles. As I said last week, “the circular mouth formation will automatically add a ringing and focused quality to your voice that will assist you in creating a pitch centered vocal sound.”. Also, make sure that you have a natural bend in the knees, especially when moving through the upper range, as this will fortify those diaphragmatic breathing muscles to full effect.
Also, I am glad that you selected a key that was more appropriate and comfortable for your natural singing range. You have a beautiful, warm, velvety baritone range that, when coupled with your fresh-faced physical appearance, creates a very interesting and marketable package.
Always keep this in mind, Jaydee, when selecting your songs. Your upper range will develop with time and proper technical study, but, for now, use the lower end of your voice as much as possible. Herein lies the magic, the secret potion, of your vocal gift.
However, I congratulate you on this excellent performance this week. Very good work indeed and even better, a noticeably improved vocal showcase.
Carly Rae Jepsen: “Chuck E’s In Love”
Strengths: Carly Rae –oh my , what a gem you created this week. And such a delightful song choice! True inspiration and creative talent lead you in the direction of this showcased selection. This was a sparkling, vivacious and real performance that celebrated the joy and unbridled enthusiasm that encompasses the musical core of a your distinct talents.
This performance emphasized your innate ability to live your showcases in a manner that is positively contagious and an absolute joy to behold. No one can ever teach what you do, Carly Rae, as so many of your performing qualities are inbred, natural gifts. And your lovely personality is just the icing on the cake.
Throughout this song, your voice radiated personality and sounded so energized. You were pumped, young lady! I always refer to the importance of adding a speech like inflection to one’s singing style and this was a song chock full of inflection and spontaneous expression.
Additionally, you have always possessed a natural amount of head tone clarity in your vocal timbre and this special vocal element allowed you to sing with natural ease and simplicity. Therefore, your overall vocal sound was pitch centered and pure. There was a sense of purpose when you performed this song and the narrative aspects of this performance were exceptional. Pure and utter entertainment for the masses!
From a technical angle, all was well in the Carly Rae world of vocalization. Your relaxed and open facial features, circular mouth position, and superb breathing skills formed the vocal foundation throughout this showcase. Additionally, you freely utilized the stage extremely well, even venturing a little stroll off stage, thus creating a multi dimensional visual aspect to your performance that easily complimented the multi dimensional audio aspect of this performance.
This was an absolutely stellar and memorable performance. The best of the week! Bravissima Carly Rae!
Critique: Carly- once again I am speechless in the critique portion of this Masterclass article. You seem to have discovered your artistic “center” over the last few weeks and are creating meaningful, refreshing and singular performances on that Idol stage. Kudos!
Brian Melo: “Karma Police”
Strengths: Brian – I have never heard this song, but I could absolutely appreciate and admire the consummate amount of energy and passion you incorporated into this number. You are always so immersed in the emotion of all your songs and this week was no exception. You established and maintained the dark atmospheric quality of this song throughout your performance.
Additionally, I realized in this, more than any other number that you have showcased over the last few weeks, that you are a very current, very evocative performer who knows who he is as an artist and as a musician.
Although you displayed more of the raspy, rather than the pure, vocal quality in your vocal production, I felt that it was very warranted, as it complimented the intense poetic nature of the song. You truly lived your lyrics to create another dramatic and memorable performance to add to your Canadian Idol resume. The words were spun with absolute clarity and nuance and, even though the genre may not have suited every listener, one could not help but be moved by the powerful manner in which you delivered the message.
As always, your movements on stage were thoroughly relaxed and believable, easily complimenting the vocals. This was a well-paced and well-rehearsed performance, Brian! Kudos, my man! You nave earned it!
Critique: Brian – as much as I loved the performance of this song, I felt that the vocals fell a little short for me this week. Sometimes, the rasp-tinged vocals needed more diaphragmatic “kick” as I felt the pitch suffered at many points within this song. There is a way to sing with expression and nuance in a technically correct way. You should always feel the vocal sound resonating in your vocal masque(face) and that throat must remain open and free. Otherwise, you will risk the chance of permanently harming your vocal cords.
And so I caution you, Brian, as I have done so in the past, “to make certain that every expressive element in your voice is grounded through the correct technical process. Even rock singers have to learn how to preserve their voice and you would be wise to equip yourself with some really sound technical exercises that will assist you in developing and refining the depth of your vocal and dynamic range.”
However, I suspect you will have a swinging good time during Standards night, given your theatrical ability on stage in other genres. You are the Jacob Hoggard (Season 2 Top 3 finalist) of this competition and I remember that he was outstanding during his first and last (smile) Big Band showcase. Have a blast!
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