By: Rosanne Simunovic
The Top 7 singers performed exceptionally well this week, and, on a couple of occasions, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the performances. I thought Mariah Carey was absolutely wonderful with the singers, providing constructive and positive support to all of them.
It cannot be easy to work with this year’s crop of vocalists -they are so diverse in style and substance. So I highly commend Mariah Carey for her fine work with these singers. I think that all of them flourished under her guidance and advice
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.
BROOKE WHITE: HERO
Strengths: Brooke- first of all, I absolutely loved your song choice. I have coached a few singers over the years in the preparation of this song and have always found the lyrical and melodic elements of this song to be very challenging for the artists. I think that we take for granted how truly talented a singer must be to correctly interpret this inspiring song classic.
Generally, I felt that the emotional elements of the song beautifully complimented your sincere and genuine demeanour. I always enjoy watching you perform at the piano – I feel that the combination of piano and vocals lies in your veritable comfort zone.
Additionally, the key selection of this song highlighted the strength and presence of your mid and lower range. You have always been very meticulous in ensuring that the melody line is absolutely perfect for the inherent strength of your singing range. Good for you!
This was a lovely performance, Brooke. Thank you for singing one of my favourite “Mariah” songs.
Critique: Brooke – oh dear, where to begin. Well, I guess at the beginning, where I noticed that your breathing was extremely shallow and very emaciated. The audible gasps for air accentuated the fact that you were inhaling in an ineffectual manner, not allowing the diaphragmatic breathing to take full effect.
Therefore, because the diaphragmatic breathing muscles were not properly accessed, you exhibited extreme tension in the throat, signifying that your vocal projection was being controlled from the muscles in your upper body rather than the stronger and more effective support from the diaphragmatic breathing system located within your rib cage and back muscles
In addition to and because of the ineffective breathing process, I could hear a strong push from the throat in the vocalization process. This problem continued throughout the song, actually worsening as the song progressed because of other problems that you encountered during this performance.
Then, when you hit the bridge of this song, you ran into greater difficulty. As you were vocalizing into your upper singing range, the lack of technical support became more evident. Where you needed to access the pure, pitch-centered ring of head voice in this area of your singing range, you were forced –literally and figuratively-to carry the full complement of chest voice.
The result was a reedy, poorly focused vocal, one that did not in any way resemble the natural timbre of your lyrical singing voice.
Add to this, the problematic incidents in your piano accompaniment (misplaced chords and incorrect notation) and the combination noticeably increased your anxiety level to the max. Your panic was evident in the increased tempo of the song, a sort of “I want to get this over with” decision that overtook your thought process. This accelerated tempo caused the final portion of the song to unravel and that was truly a shame.
Always remember to remain calm and “in the moment” – because mistakes inevitably happen in any performance; you have to make split second decisions on how to handle the faux-pas – and then move past it. As a performer, you must remember to stay in control and just perform. It’s not easy, but meticulous attention to detail in the rehearsal process will tremendously heighten the confidence level.
And speaking of the piano accompaniment, I noticed that you were playing block chords throughout the entire song. I think this stilted piano accompaniment impeded the natural flow of this song. It would have been more beneficial to adopt an arpeggio-like style in the piano accompaniment, thus initiating a forward momentum to the entire song presentation.
If an orchestra was supporting you, then, perhaps, the linear chord progression would have been fine, as the orchestral background would have filled in the musical gaps.
However, with a pure acoustic piano accompaniment, you needed to adopt a rhythmically fluid arrangement on the keyboard, one that would have also encouraged and inspired you to sing with creative passion and artistry.
Also, I was also wondering if you devoted a generous block of rehearsal time on the technical support of your vocals? Apart from your work with Mariah Carey, did you practice this song away from the piano or did you always rehearse while seated the piano? I suspect the latter statement was true.
Both instruments – voice and piano – needed your undivided attention – so that you could focus on the areas of difficulty that need to be refined and/or corrected. Always remember that excellence is in the details and there is a plentiful supply of details in any song performance.
Preparation is key here Brooke, as it will allow you to approach your future performances with confidence and assurance. You have much to offer as an artist, but you must make certain that you are adopting a structured approach in your rehearsal regime. This will allow your vocal artistry to grow as it should.
Best of luck next week, Brooke!
Strengths: Carly – I thought this was an exceptional song choice for you and I loved and appreciated the breathtaking nuances you vocalized throughout this lovely performances. You produced a crisp, resonant timbre throughout your range and this important vocal aspect, combined with your outstanding technical ability, allowed you to present an exciting showcase that glimmered with vibrant scope and dimension.
The gentle bending of the melodic line in the opening section of this song was just beautiful and added to the depth and beauty of your lower and softer vocals at this stage of the song.
Additionally, your vocal artistry was further punctuated by the brilliant 8ve jump in the melodic line when you sang the heartfelt refrain: “Can’t live, if living is without you etc.” It colourfully highlighted both the seamless, even quality of your vocal range from top to bottom, as well as your exceptional ability to retain the head voice component throughout your extensive vocal range. As a result, your pitch was immaculate and centered. Good for you!
As observed in last week’s performance, I noticed that your mouth retained an increased circular position, coupled with a relaxed jaw, when you vocalized through your upper range– a technical element that is showing vast improvement with each passing week.
This signifies that you have been working very hard to refine this technical component and, boy, does it ever make a difference in the timbre of your upper vocals! The clarity and transparency is significant. Gone is the strident and abrasive vocal sound from previous weeks.
And the purity of your vocal timbre beautifully complimented the pure, raw emotion you displayed during this performance. It was heartfelt and real and you exceptionally demonstrated that you are more than capable of internalizing the emotional components of this- or any –song. The communicative elements in this number were stellar.
Also, your fashion makeover appearance was more refined this week and I cannot tell you how much of a difference it made in the overall presentation of this performance. You exuded star-quality and professionalism all in one lump sum. It was quite the transformation, so do not modify this new stylistic direction. It was just perfect!
Brava on a brilliant and well rehearsed performance!
Critique: Carly –last week, I wrote a detailed critique for you but you flipped it around on me this week! It just goes to show how things change on this show, depending on song choice, level of fatigue and stress, technical advancement, correct stylistic choices – physically and vocally etc.
I thought this was a gorgeous performance and, apart from the fact that, yes, your mouth did wander over to the horizontal side at times, you truly presented a strong showcase brimming with artistic style and substance.
I hope that you continue to rehearse in this meticulous manner and I suspect that you most definitely will. You have a strong and powerful career ahead of you and a voice that will lend itself to a variety of musical styles.
Strengths:David A. – the first thing I noticed when you began this song was your strong and distinct articulation skills. Even while singing within the restricted confines of your lower register, you made absolutely certain that the words were clearly understood. The consonants were crisply articulated, allowing you to initiate a springboard motion toward the purely sustained vowels. This was an important technical component that never faltered throughout this showcase.
And what a showcase! You planted your feet firmly on the stage, one foot slightly ahead of the other, and made certain that your knees were very relaxed, especially for the more dynamic singing that was yet to come. And, when that moment did arrive, your high range once again sounded so fortified, so brilliant, indicating the proper resonation of your voice in the masque (facial features).
And need I say anything more about your stellar mouth formation? It is a constant in each of your performances, always round and ready to grab and sustain those beautifully pure bel canto vowels.
I also liked the fact that you walked forward in a relaxed manner while singing the opening strains of this number. Not only did this increase the communicative aspects of this performance, but also the gentle movement energized and freed your body. This is a great technique that all singers should utilize. It prevents the occurrence of a stiff and rigid deportment that can, obviously, hinder the correct vocal projection.
And where did that falsetto come from? Thank you Mariah Carey! It was wonderfully supported –crystal clear, similar to the vocal sound you would hear in a young treble voice. Never lose this pure head tone element, David. It furnishes your voice with its distinguishing ring and clarity, while at the same time ensuring that your pitch is beautifully centered and true.
This was such a multi-dimensional performance in so many ways. Your ability to alternate the sustaining elements with the outstanding classical runs highlighted the depth of your technical skills and demonstrated your flawless, meticulously rehearsed ability to incorporate a multi –layered texture to this song.
Finally, I loved the arrangement of this song, as it so beautifully fortified the “believe” emotion, thus encouraging you to be fully immersed in the soul of this song. You displayed the most passionate singing to date, adding a rawness and grit that I haven’t seen in previous performances.
Through this performance, your technical skills were only surpassed by your genuine and heartfelt emotion – and that is saying a lot! You took quite the artistic risk with this song and it paid off in a huge way.
The final result truly resembled a classical-pop style of vocalization that afforded an exciting glimpse of what the future holds in your development as a vocal artist.
Bravo David and congratulations on a stellar artistic showcase!
Critique:David – as I mentioned last week, you still possess a youthful airiness to your sound when vocalizing in your baritone range – all within the normal developmental limitations for a young male voice.
This vocal problem will diminish with time and practice; as your body develops, so will your voice. Your vocal instrument will grow with you and the natural timbre of your voice will become deeper, more resonant and lush.
However, at the beginning of this song, your breathing was more audible than in previous weeks, indicating that your air intake was not as deep as it should be. It appeared that you were inhaling from your chest cavity instead of utilizing the proper diaphragmatic breathing apparatus located below your waist.
Perhaps the airiness in your lower range was compromised because the air was escaping with the vocals instead of supporting the vocalization process. Only when the diaphragmatic breathing muscles are properly inflated and then slowly released will the support process be truly effective.
Shallow breathing from the chest will not only close the throat cavity but also will result in wasted air, so be careful that you consistently access the diaphragm for the lower and/or softer sections of your song material.
However, overall this was an absolutely stellar, consummate performance. Kudos once again, David!
Strengths: David C. –as I listened to and watch you deliver another distinctively stellar performance, I came to a sudden realization: You always manage to harness the emotional center of a song and then musically expand from this center to find exciting new dynamic levels in the song’s basic harmonic and melodic structure.
You took this Mariah Carey song and artistically shaped the original musical sculpture, creating a 21st century replication of the original model. This requires intelligence, creativity and, most of all, courage, because an artist is at definite risk when he takes on the challenge of arranging an original song by an extremely famous artist like Mariah.
Nevertheless, the song gained new life through your superb interpretive ability and was delivered in a confidently passionate and expressive singing style. This was indeed a significant performance and the technical pros or cons became less important as the song progressed. This performance was about creating a musical memory that could and would stand the test of time.
However, this week your vocals were indeed back on track and I could see and hear the open quality of your vocal projection. Back in full force were the relaxed jaw and circular mouth formation, as you grabbed the vowels in your lyrics with a renewed sense of tenacity. Good for you!
The vocal technique was superb and it honed and crafted your voice to achieve remarkable depth in this performance. Your voice still had traces of fatigue when you were singing, but your technical foundation was your saving grace. I suspect that, like so many of the other singers, last week’s Idol Gives Back three-day extravaganza greatly exhausted your natural resources.
Hopefully, you will be able to pace yourself more evenly as this season quickly approaches its final weeks. Bravo, kudos, bravissimo and more, David Cook!
Critique: David C. – I am pleased and proud to grant you a critique-free Vocal Masterclass evaluation. I thought the artistry far surpassed any vocal flaws that were evident in this week’s performance.
I felt very comfortable knowing that you were vocalizing with a more disciplined and accurate technical approach. However, watch that fatigue does not impede the energy necessary for powerful and consistent support from the diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Warm-up your entire body before you sing. Sit-ups to strengthen the abdominal muscles are extremely beneficial, as is some kind of aerobic activity, such as running, power walking, cycling or swimming (the absolute best)
I do look forward to your performance from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songbook. There is a plentiful supply of musical goodies from which to choose, so enjoy the ride and see you next week.
In closing, I have to say that I was deeply and enormously touched by the poignant vision of your courageous and loving brother in the audience. What a special memory for the entire Cook family. Please know that my thoughts and my prayers go with you at this very difficult time.
Strengths: Jason–you are full of surprises aren’t you? Technical issues aside, I thought this was an extremely good performance this week. I loved the relaxed calypso-styled vibe in the arrangement of this stellar song choice. It encouraged you to perform with a comfortable and genuine demeanour, thus creating a more pronounced visual and aural presence throughout this showcase.
I thought your singing was extremely expressive, brimming with a variety of nuances and speech-like inflection. There was a wonderful forward momentum to the entire performance – a comfortable ebb and flow within the melodic structure – that accented your high degree of relaxation throughout this showcase.
Visually, you were absolutely “in the moment” and, while watching you, I sensed the direction that your musical inclination will follow as the years unfold. You are truly a throw-back to a simpler time in musical history, very acoustic and intimate in your artistic delivery.
Quite frankly, I welcome and embrace this folk-style revival, simply because the musical center embraces the pure vocals of the singer and his or her ability to establish a strong rapport with his or her audience.
You established this palpable connection with the audience this week, Jason, and in doing so, many of your vocal deficiencies became blurred in the process. This is not to say that you should ignore the technical development of your singing voice –on the contrary.
However, in the end, a memorable showcase always boils down to the art of performing with sincere conviction, one that establishes strong communication with and respect for your audience. Therefore, in this respect, you were truly successful and I congratulate you on your excellent work with Mariah Carey this week. Kudos!
Critique: Jason –last week, I gave you a plethora of technical advice for you to follow. So, I welcome you to click back to last week’s performance and continue to refine the technical problems that are adversely affecting the full extent of your vocal ability.
As you are presently immobilized in the earliest stages of your vocal development, I sincerely hope that you do yourself the important favor of finding a strong vocal technician to harness the true potential of your singing ability. You have a very good vocal instrument living inside your young body, but it needs to be developed and protected as methodically as an athlete would do if he or she wished to expand his or her potential as a runner or swimmer.
Natural talent will only take you so far. You need to develop a more disciplined and structured approach in the development of your vocal range. By doing so, you will increase the possibilities of your vocal artistry, creating more expansion and diversity in your stylistic approach.
Presently, your biggest problem lies in your poorly defined breathing skills and this is being further aggravated from the tension in your mouth and jaw. Only when your mouth retains a circular position and the jaw feels relaxed and free, will you be encouraged to breathe more effectively from the diaphragm.
Until then, you will continue on your rocky road in your vocal approach, pushing the vocal sound forward from your upper body muscles – particularly your throat – thus increasing your chances of causing permanent harm to your vocal cords.
Once you sense the liberating effects of supporting your vocal sound from the diaphragm, you will kick yourself for not pursuing this approach earlier in your career.
However, you are still young, Jason, so make certain that you attempt to open up your vocal sound in the correct fashion – if not during a performance, then in the rehearsal process.
It takes a long time for the technique to become ingrained in any singer, so be patient and continue to work hard. The more diligent you become in breaking those bad habits, the more progress you will notice in the coming weeks.
Good luck next week, Jason and, as I said last week, drop your jaw!
Strengths: Kristy Lee –once again, you selected the perfect song for this performance, highlighting the unique strengths in your vocal delivery. This song contained an anthem-like component in the lyrical and melodic structure, something that has worked so well for you in past weeks.
Throughout this compelling performance, I became conscious of the fact that you are exceptional at delivering the powerful musical statement behind these signature songs –from God Bless the USA to Martina McBride’s Anyway and, presently, to Mariah Carey’s Forever.
As in previous weeks, you transmitted this song with conviction, lending credibility to the fact that you are a very intelligent young performer with strong musical instincts, very much in touch with the emotional core of each and every song you perform.
Vocally, you exhibited a wide range of dynamics throughout this song. It was beautifully expressive and meaningful.
And again, your consistently elevated posture not only complimented the strong delivery of this performance, but also assisted you in accessing the full extent of your diaphragmatic breathing skills. Your exceptional breathing skills were wholly accented toward the end of this song, when you carried your final phrase with sustaining brilliance, allowing your voice to freely resonate in your vocal masque.
To me, this was the highlight of the entire performance – it took me by surprise, but what a pleasant surprise to receive at the close of this song. You left nothing on the stage when this showcase was completed – you sang with passion, with stellar vocal ability, with sensitivity and with grace.
This was just a beautiful showcase, Kristy. Congratulations!
Critique: Kristy-Lee –thanks to the excellent observation of one of my faithful readers (thanks KatharinesMom), I noticed that you maintained a slight elevation of your chin when you performed this week and in weeks past.
Therefore, make absolutely certain that you keep your chin level with the audience. By raising your chin, you are actually causing tension in your throat muscles, which is never good of course, and, additionally, we lose eye contact with you while you are singing. A singer communicates with her/his eyes, so we need to fully distinguish the emotion in your eyes when you sing.
Also, by elevating the chin/head, you diminish the forward projection of your voice, as some of the vocalizing moves upward instead of forward toward your audience.
Also, as I said last week, make absolutely certain that you are enunciating you consonants and supporting your voice with energy and momentum when vocalizing within the softer/lower part of your vocal range.
If I may quote from last week’s critique: Don’t save your energy for the louder and higher dynamics, Kristy. You have to ensure that the diaphragmatic support is as energetic and as buoyant in the softer/lower sections of your melodic line as in the louder/higher segments.
Additionally, you have to spin those consonants crisply and cleanly on to the vowels, thus ensuring that the words are understood and/or expressive at every dynamic level.
Also continue working on the correct position of your mouth when you sing. You possess a very bright vocal timbre, one that allows you to sing with pitch-centered security. Lots of head voice in your vocal mix, so you are one lucky lady! However, the circular formation of your mouth will add necessary depth and color to your voice, allowing you to discover further nuances when you explore the dynamics of your voice.
Additionally, the round mouth and relaxed jaw combo will allow your breath support to work to full efficiency. Your voice will enjoy even more freedom than you are currently experiencing.
However, I was still so moved by this wonderful performance, Kristy. I wish you only the very best in your musical career. It has been an immense pleasure to evaluate your performances each week!
Strengths:Syesha –you presented a very sophisticated and complex bluesy rendition of this Mariah Carey classic. As always, you challenged your vocal gift to go to places that were truly remarkable. Your vocal delivery was exceptional and you beautifully instilled a multi-dimensional format throughout this showcase.
No one can challenge you on the high standards you have generated in the artistic components of any of your songs. This week, as in past, you established yourself as a consummate artist, bringing impeccably rehearsed musical and stage skills to this performance.
Your upper level vocal turns on the word “vanishing” were brilliantly executed and were truly the highlight of the song for me. It was different from the usual ascending and descending runs we normally hear from singers and, therefore, added an element of artistic surprise to the entire performance. I loved it! Do it again! (smile)
However, the relaxed and haunting mood you established at the beginning of this song was just perfect and provided such an unbelievable contrast to the louder, passionate dynamic vocals midway through the song. You paced this number extraordinarily well, Syesha, and I always sensed that you had full control of the many musical components in this number.
I also loved the controlled intensity you established when singing within your lower range. Unlike some of the other singers this week, you managed to support this area of your range extremely well, while, at the same time, to articulate the lyrics with clarity and sensitivity. Good for you!
Once again, this was a strong visual and aural performance. Congratulations once again. Bravissima!
Critique: Syesha– as I said last week, you must be very careful to maintain a circular mouth formation. This week, especially when you increased the dynamic level in your voice, your mouth position moved to that extremely inefficient horizontal position. As a result, I thought that your upper level singing was compromised.
Spreading the mouth only encouraged you to add far too much chest voice into your vocal mix and your overall upper level vocals sounded less centered, lacking clarity of focus. Additionally, you lost full support from the diaphragm, as the throat muscles were far too active in the vocalization process.
You really have to make certain that you ease into those dynamically strong phrases – allowing the head tone to center and purify your vocal sound. Otherwise, you will encounter pitch problems and lose the inherent beauty of your natural vocal timbre.
However, I did detect a hint of vocal fatigue, very understandable of course, and this aspect quite possibly hindered you in accessing the full support system located in your diaphragmatic breathing muscles. You need energy to sing with true efficiency and, under these very stressful circumstances, it would seem like an impossible situation to overcome.
In the end, though, the artistic merit of this performance truly impressed me. Hopefully, you can power nap in between rehearsal sessions and refuel your energy resources to the max! Good luck next week, Syesha!