Is there a more exciting way to begin the much anticipated Top 12 performances of American Idol Season Seven than with performances from the legendary songbook of John Lennon and John Paul McCartney? What a night!
Welcome everyone to another Vocal Masterclass season of American Idol. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be able to critique the vocal performances of these very talented 12 singers and, when you add the Lennon-McCartney musical element to this mix, then the experience is all the more delectable. I cannot for the life of me even fathom that these singers would have a difficult time finding a song to suit their vocal style and substance. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote music of consequence – extremely melodic, musically contagious and very sophisticated (classical orchestras around the world have showcased their music)
So, let`s move forward and examine if these singers did indeed grab the reins and score a surprise or a curve ball this week in their race toward the Idol crown.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.
AMANDA OVERMEYER: YOU CAN’T DO THAT
Strengths: Here comes our rocker chick –Ms. Amanda. I loved your raw, earthy voice during this number and I did indeed hear some head voice in the mix which really centered your pitch beautifully.
You maintained a circular mouth formation and relaxed jaw and throat, evidence perhaps that, behind the gritty vocals, there was some technical assistance from below the waist aka the diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Certainly your ubiquitous knee bends were an asset to your vocal production, allowing your soft palate to be raised and your throat less constrained by closure.
Your energy was contagious throughout this song and you brought an individual artistry to this week’s showcase. Your communication skills were excellent, as you energetically took your audience on one wild ride.
The Southern take on this song was a good call and highlighted your ability to pattern songs to suit your genuine persona, while still maintaining the emotional and melodic core of the original composition.
Critique: Amanda – as Simon correctly noted, your words were intermittently incoherent throughout this number. However, as much as I am a stickler for crisp articulation of the consonants, you have to tread a fine line between allowing your words to be clearly understood and adopting a too classical approach in the enunciation process.
Try to pronounce your vowels in a purer fashion. When you adopted the Southern drawl in this number, the diphthongs in your words really obliterated the clear communication of the lyrics. Add to this the less than clean articulation of the consonants and it is no surprise that the pronunciation of the text was less coherent.
Also, as you sing with a ton of chest voice throughout your vocal range, be mindful to continue to blend the appropriate amount of head tone to ensure a beautifully focused and even vocal timbre throughout your vocal registers. This will ensure good vocal health throughout this competition.
Good work, Amanda!
Strengths: Brooke- yours was a beautiful and poignant interpretation of this Lennon-McCartney classic. As you accompanied yourself at the piano, your quiet and sincere demeanor never detracted from the emotional intensity of this number. In fact, the harmonic build as the number moved forward was just lovely and added to the dynamic variation within this showcase. It was just the perfect mix of acoustic piano and orchestral accompaniment – so beautiful in its simplicity.
You sang in a very real and very raw manner. Your voice had a sweet tender quality that, not only complimented your charming and genuine persona, but also spoke to the emotional core of this song.
It doesn’t get better than this. Your voice was seamless throughout this song and I fully appreciated the fact that you did not attempt to over sing or overstate the original melodic and lyrical line.
You exhibited flawless phrasing throughout this number, breathing in comfortable areas within the melody so as not to disturb the natural flow of the gentle rhythm. And the execution of that pitch centered head tone note at the end of this number was a perfect way to finalize a stellar and heartfelt performance.
Excellent work, Brooke!
Critique: Brooke – I should caution you to make certain that you are fully accessing your diaphragmatic breathing skills in a more systematic fashion. You had a full plate –playing the piano and singing – but make certain that you breathe deeply from the diaphragm so that your voice can be further stabilized in future performances.
Once in a while, throughout this performance, I heard a discernible crack in your vocal veneer and, although it added an organic dimension to the song that seemed to work, part of me was wondering if you were having problems with the sustaining process of your vocal sound.
Inflection is important when singing, but always if there is a technical support system in place to assist the process. So, keep that throat open and relaxed and curve the mouth in a circular fashion when you grab and sustain those pure vowels.
Great work, Brooke.
Strengths: Carly – you have an absolutely beautiful voice, so resonant and so secure. You exhibited stellar vocal and stage technique, moving and singing with ease and security throughout this song. The rhythmic and melodic elements of this song were wonderfully cohesive.
You truly lived your lyrics and I loved your free and creative style throughout this funky number. Additionally, your vocal arrangement was brilliant – good for you for re-inventing the wheel. Brava in fact!
You appeared to be having the time of your life, just moving about the stage in an effortless and free manner. The full power of your talent was reinforced with this new and improved American Idol stage – just a joy to behold.
This was a very well -rehearsed and well- paced showcase. Both the performing and vocal elements were perfectly synchronized and you truly looked like a star on that stage.
Excellent work, Carly
Critique: Carly – a word of caution. Although your vocal technique is quite solid, you must be very careful not to spread your mouth when vocalizing through your upper range This is something I noticed, not only this week, but also within your Top 24 performances.
A round and relaxed mouth on all the vowels is the way to go, as this will avoid undue stress on your vocal cords. Let the air do the work and let head tone rule the day as you move into your upper range.
Also make certain that your facial features, also known as your vocal masque, are open and relaxed throughout your range. Your face became more constricted and your jaw was very tense when you sang through your upper range toward the end of this song. This diminished the ringing presence of your upper voice, as it is presently hiding within the confines of your constricted throat.
You need to work on accessing your upper range in an aesthetically resonant manner, thus challenging your vocal potential to new heights.
Strengths:Chikezie – this was one smokin’ performance and I have to admit I did not see this one coming. How I love breakout performances like this! You were just fantastic, Chikezie, and, because of your talented determination and hard work, your Top 12 performance was one of the highlights of this very competitive Top 12 showcase.
There was so much to love about this song – from the folksy beginning, where you were seated with three bluegrass musicians, to the segue where you “funked it up” big time with your rich vocals and inspired stage antics, finally ending with a strong and visible vocal presence, worthy of a standing ovation.
Your upper vocal range was produced with fine technical aplomb, reinforced by the pitch centered purity of your ubiquitous falsetto.
Now the question is: how did you come up with this entertaining choreographic and vocal arrangement? Like, Carly, it seemed like this newly formatted stage allowed you to fully expose the depth and maturity of your talent. The transformation was unbelievable.
Critique:Chikezie – there is nothing to critique this time around, as the performance aspects of this song actually accelerated the technical process. The well paced, well rehearsed performing elements of this song gave way to an energetic support system from the lower body.
Now, you must carry this level of energy over to your ballads, allowing the voice to soar on the pure vowels with the same level of intensity. Your voice is a beautiful instrument and you need to ensure that you are always working to ensure that the technical process is always at the core.
Good work, Chikezie!
Strengths:David A. – your impeccable vocal technique is absolutely so impressive. You are so young and, yet, seem to have grasped every important element that is technically conducive to superior singing.
Add to this your innate stylistic approach to your soulful rendition of this Lennon-McCartney classic song and I felt that your performance was extremely good.
Also, I have to say that I am at odds with the judges. Even though you had problems remembering your lyrics, you moved past those moments and really worked hard to maintain focus throughout the remainder of the song.
I thought the arrangement was an excellent choice for you; it was merely compromised by the nervous tension at the beginning of the number. The evidence was still there that this was a good song choice, good rendition, good everything. I think that, under less stressful circumstances, your personal interpretation would have worked just fine.
Critique:David A. – so you forgot your words Big woop! You hopped back on the horse and really “worked it out” throughout this song. Good for you, David.
Always remember, you are not a vocal machine, you are a living breathing human being, perfectly capable of human error. The important thing is that you managed to stay in control as best you could and the second half of the song ended in a powerful manner.
So, hats off to you, and, as you work toward next week’s performance, remember to pace yourself judiciously and allow yourself the odd mistake or two. Work to the best of your ability and do not – DO NOT – allow the pressure of this competition to interfere with the art of pure entertainment.
Allow yourself to have fun on that stage. Here’s to next week and the following week and the week after that…:) Bravo David A.!
Strengths: David C. –well, the lights started flashing, so I knew that David Cook was in the house.:)
I absolutely had goose bumps throughout this song. From the quiet intensity at the beginning, to the soaring vocal energy when you entered the chorus of this song, it was an absolutely inspiring, star-making performance. You were “cook”ing, David.
The dynamic contrast provided such an element of surprise and this is why your song was such a success. You provided us with a real, genuine multi-dimensional interpretation of this great song classic and, in doing so, the song came alive. It lived and breathed.
Your superb raw rock vocals enhanced and complimented the emotional core of this song, but, still you maintained a solid technical approach. Your circular mouth formation, relaxed jaw and open facial features were impeccable and it also highlighted the confidence and determination in your face and body.
I have a feeling that you just created another live recording to compliment last week’s performance of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”.
Excellent, stellar work David C! Bravo!
Critique: David C. – this performance was brilliant and, apart from reminding you to keep on utilizing your rock-infused vocals in harmony with a consistently technical approach, I could not find any problem with your inspiring performance!
This is as good as it gets on this show – supreme artistry in combination with stellar vocals. Bravo.
Strengths:David H. – I am not certain how much pre-Idol vocal training you have experienced, but whether nature or nurture was involved with the process, you have managed to adopt a very good technical approach to your vocal production.
Your circular mouth formation, coupled with you relaxed jaw and open facial features, stabilized the even legato quality of your vocal production. As a result, your voice enjoyed a rich and resonant presence throughout the showcase.
This was a super song selection –upbeat and fun –and I thought that the song suited your personal vocal style extremely well.
Good work, David H.!
Critique: David H. – although you adopted a nice edgy approach to this song, I thought that your mannerisms suggested that you were over-pumped from the start of the song, resulting in a very forced and almost anxious performance.
I love to see intensity in a performance at every level –fast or slow, sad or happy – but, in your case, the intensity was on overdrive. As a result you lost control of the showcase and, at times, your communicative efforts seemed less than genuine. This is through no fault of your own. I think that your nerves just did you in and that is quite understandable.
Also, the extra tension translated to your vocal projection and, as a result, your voice was poorly pitched and focused throughout this song. When a singer is anxious, it is almost a given that chest voice pushes the ringing presence of head voice off kilter and the result is a less centered, less pure vocal timbre.
Additionally, the aggressive choreographic movements superseded the vocals and, actually, pushed the vocals off balance. Always remember to practice the vocal and stage techniques slowly and judiciously, so that both compliment rather than detract from the overall performance. You must ease into a quick- paced performance and not give away too much too soon.
Hope this helps you in the future, David.
Strengths: Jason– this was a beautiful song choice for your personal vocal style and presence. I loved the fact that you accompanied yourself on guitar, as it was very reminiscent of the original cover. Good call, Jason!
There was a lovely hushed intensity throughout this song, emphasizing that you sing from an emotional core that is real and genuine. As well, you exuded a naturally charismatic presence when you performed, allowing your audience to truly believe what you were communicating through your song lyrics.
Critique: Jason – more than any other singer in this competition, you truly need to hone some serious technical skills in order to stabilize and challenge the breathing process when you sing. The song did become more secure as it moved forward, but your voice was suffering from some serious technical issues.
You looked nervous and 99% of this was the result of a lack of confidence in your vocal performance, stemming from little or no technical skills. I would be nervous too if I didn’t know how my voice was going to react from one note to the next. Technique gives you this security blanket plus ensures the longevity of your vocal gifts.
Presently, you sing with a horizontal rather than circular mouth position and there is no sustaining regimen happening when you approach the pure vowels within your lyrics. Additionally, your throat was tense – so of course your voice was not going to project as it should.
And breathe from the diaphragm – you need air to properly accomplish all of the above this. Keep your rib cage area expanded and elevated and, even if you plan to use the guitar, practice the song in a standing position, making certain that the lower body muscles are pumping and flexing the air in appropriate amounts toward your vocal cords.
I feel that you have much to offer this competition, but we are not going to see or appreciate your inherent artistry unless you hone and cultivate you vocal skills.
Strengths: Kristy Lee –you exuded a lovely presence on stage and I did appreciate the fact that you attempted to stay true to your country flavoured style of singing. You lend diversity and interest to this competition and this is extremely important for the success of the show.
Your overall vocals were lovely and the head tone ending was just great. You looked like you were having a blast on stage and, given a different arrangement and different set of circumstances, this could have been a star- making moment for you.
Critique: Kristy-Lee – it was very difficult to get past the obtrusively bizarre, country-style arrangement of this song classic. The change from the original cover was just too radical and did not suit this song by any stretch of the imagination.
And that irritating percussive beat was so distracting and so wrong. It was like I was hearing a Lennon-McCartney arrangement in the bizarro world. I was in some kind of shock and denial for half of the number, then realizing that this arrangement was a “keeper”, I shook my head in disbelief.
I would be interested to know how you felt about this song arrangement. Perhaps you felt that you were lending a new twist to an old favourite, but sometimes, less is more. I feel that singing the song at the original speed, but with your own personal style, would have sufficed and certainly would have been a more credible performance.
Best of luck to you in your future performances, Kristy.
Strengths: Michael- it seems to me that you are a very sensitive and caring vocal artist. I absolutely loved everything about this performance. You sang this beautiful number with a quiet dignity and with sincerity; no flashing lights or fancy stage moves – just a lovely and heartfelt performance.Your superior vocal talent effortlessly embraced the haunting melodic line of this song and highlighted the superior technical and artistic skills that your bring to this competition.
Vocally, you used all the correct technical skills to augment and center your voice –cementing your melodic line on the pure vowels and avoiding those messy diphthongs, maintaining a circular mouth formation and relaxed jaw and, finally, accessing the depth of your diaphragmatic breathing skills.
Additionally, you exuded a fabulous presence on stage and this, coupled with your naturally gorgeous vocal instrument, resulted in a very memorable and inspiring performance. Your vocal style, although comfortable in many genres of music, is clearly at ease when singing the classical pop genre and, given that the Lennon-McCartney music has been revered by classical musicians around the world, then you are very well suited to this style of music.
This was a superior vocal performance. Congratulations!
Critique: Michael – no critique for you. When it works, it works! Maybe a couple of the judges were bored, but I certainly was not. Your vocal gift was magnified through this song and I can only anticipate the wonderful surprises you have in store for us in the coming weeks.
Strengths:Ramiele – this is an absolutely beautiful song –one of my favourites –and, overall, I thought the song choice for your voice was a good call.
You exuded a lovely charisma on stage; the camera certainly does love you. Also, in the latter half of this song, I felt that your true vocal potential was highlighted. You have a naturally resonant voice that I feel has been generally augmented through the correct technical process.
Critique:Ramiele – be ever so careful of your key selection in future performances. In this week’s case, I felt that the tonality of this song was situated too high. The harmonic and emotional mood of this song warrants a lower key selection and a lower melodic line would have highlighted the depth and richness of your lower range. Additionally, the lower key selection would have increased the resonance of this song by complimenting the melancholy nature of the lyrics.
Also, your nervous energy hindered some important technical aspects of vocalization, thus diminishing the full extent of your vocal capabilities.
First of all, try to remember to keep your head level with the audience and the camera. In many instances, you were “reaching down” in order to access your lower range, when in fact this was creating additional tension in your upper body.
Also, the tension in your throat adversely affected the ringing quality of your middle range, thus creating a very strident and less focused vocal quality than in previous performances.
Also, the song never achieved a forward momentum and your phrasing lacked an imaginative process that was so necessary for the slower, more sustained tempo of this song.
Also, I wish you had lived the lyrics to a fuller extent, thus communicating to your audience with increased efficiency. You were very detached and this detachment resulted in a very wooden performance and less memorable performance.
Also you stage posture exhibited a less confident demeanor than in past weeks – probably due to nerves- and this aspect most definitely affected the projection of your voice. Your breathing was severely compromised, as your rib cage was totally collapsed. You needed more expansion in this area of your body, allowing deep diaphragmatic breath support to take root.
Finally, in fairness to you, Ramiele, I have to say that the pedantic, non-imaginative musical arrangement of this song did nothing to enhance or assist the vocal process. It was just awful and, to my ear, the instrumentation sounded poorly tuned and harsh.
I look forward to seeing you progress in this competition, Ramiele. Your voice is good one but could be excellent given the correct circumstances. Now remember to breathe deeply next week and, remember – key selection is tantamount. Make certain that the melodic line of the song rests naturally and easily in your vocal range.
Good luck next week!
Strengths:Syesha –this was a great song selection, but not one of the easiest. Lennon-McCartney wrote deceptively simple tunes but within this simplicity rested a level of sophistication that can create problems for the singer.
However, I am a huge fan of your vocal talent and feel that you have much to offer in this competition.
You exuded a lovely charisma on stage and you moved easily and smoothly throughout the song. You appeared to have a lovely grasp of the importance of head tone in a singer’s voice, as the ending of this song was vocally strong and showcased the perfect blend of head and chest voice.
Now, I needed more of this is in the rest of the song, so let’s jump to the “critique” portion of this article and try to sort through some of the technical problems you encountered during this number.
Critique: Syesha– right off the top, you had a great deal of trouble negotiating that wicked octave interval. And, of course, this wide interval was ever-present throughout this song and, although you did improve on handling this pitfall in the second verse, the upper note of the interval was very flat.
Your mouth was very spread when you sang the upper note on the word “there”, thus encouraging you to carry far too much chest voice into the upper part of your range. Also, the break between the lower and upper note of the octave indicated that your breathing muscles were not being accessed in the proper manner.
For future reference, try to practice these difficult intervals by connecting them through the diaphragmatic process while singing the pure vowels within your lyrics. Also, when moving toward the upper note, ease on to it very softly, making sure you are centering the pitch with crystal clear head tone and then quickly crescendo to access a louder dynamic.
Also, make sure that your mouth maintains a circular position when you sustain your melodic line on the pure vowels. This will create a seamless, even sound throughout your range and will encourage you to utilize your diaphragmatic muscles to greater effect.
See you next week, Syesha, and best of luck in the rehearsal process.