By: Rosanne Simunovic
Well, I am back once again and I thank all my readers for their “get well” wishes. I thoroughly appreciated your feedback and comments after Neil Diamond week. That was a great show, wasn’t it? Great performances and Neil Diamond was THE MAN on the Results show last week. Brilliant performance!
However, this week, we are concentrating on our diverse Group of Four in their interpretation of two song selections from the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. I thought that this was a good showcase and there were some performances that, to me, were the best I have ever seen on this stage.
Agree or disagree? Read on and feel free to comment. But, remember, I am still recuperating, so please be nice! (smile)
Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome.
Strengths:David A. –this was an absolutely exquisite duel showcase this week. Your artistic forte reached fruition for a variety of significant reasons, centering on the essential fact that you are indeed a vocal prodigy, blessed with superior vocal gifts far surpassing your young age.
Both song selections were impeccably selected to suit every attribute of your performing style. The variation between the mood and emotional tone of each song was well- formulated indeed.
During your performance of ”Stand By Me”, you highlighted your increased ability to encompass a mid- tempo rock selection into your showcase, allowing yourself to effortlessly establish contact with your audience. Your hand movements and your forward body language unobtrusively complimented the solid vocal delivery of this very complex number.
Also, although no one made any mention of this during the judging segment that followed this performance, I should draw attention to the fact that you flawlessly performed an a cappella version of this number, accompanied only by back-up vocalists and percussion. Therefore, the listener was able to fully connect with the lyrics and the brilliantly focused tonal quality of your soulful singing style.
Your pitch was beautifully centered throughout the sustained and scale-like portions of this song, indicating, once again, the depth of preparation that you continue to bring to this competition.
And, that beautiful falsetto note at the end on the word stand? It was clear as a bell and was only surpassed by that surprise dip into your lower register on the word “by”. The clarity of this final melisma, especially since it was preceded by a sustained upper note, was nothing short of breathtaking.
Your well- crafted diaphragmatic breath control allowed you to render a seamless, uncluttered vocal texture through every area of your vocal range. And, given the fact that you chose the a cappella route for this song, you not only established the freedom to select the perfect key selection for this performance, but also further highlighted your undeniable strengths as a vocal artist.
Then you offered us a poignant – yet singular – performance of the Elvis Presley classic, Love Me Tender. Oh my, what more is there to say here! The camera never left your face, thus providing emphasis to the visual and aural expressiveness in your performance. It was heartfelt and sincere and every word in this tender love ballad was articulated with impeccable inflection and nuance.
The melodic variations you incorporated throughout this number were musically inspired – yet, thankfully, not overdone. The emotional core of the song remained intact, as you singularly interpreted this number in a way that will certainly raise the eyebrows and perk the ear lobes of record producers around the world. Pure brilliance
Also, once again, you were musically naked on that stage, backed only by a beautiful piano accompaniment. Therefore, the beauty and magic of your incredible singing voice was once again firmly established in the ears of the listener.
There was no clutter, no distraction, no smoke and mirrors with either performance. All the focus was directed to what this singing competition is all about – creating phenomenally strong and memorable vocal performances with sincerity and with love and with passion. And nobody delivered this “package” as well as did you, young David.
You did indeed capture not one, but two moments on stage this week.
Bravo, David. Somehow, I knew this would be your week. Kudos times a zillion.
Critique:David – once again, I can’t offer any suggestions on how to make two perfectly secure performances more perfect. Except for the minor vocal crack on the second last note, probably from a glitch in the air supply, every aspect of both performances was smooth as silk.
And, actually, that vocal glitch was a neat inflection to insert at this point of the song – it sounded appropriate given the final emotional message of this song.
Also, despite the slight and inconsequential break in the vocal armor, the last note was strong and true, once again indicating your proficiency in making certain that the last note was projected and sustained in the proper technical fashion. Nothing flusters you. I love it! Three cheers for strong technical skills!
See you next week, tiger!
Strengths: David C. –once again you selected songs that thoroughly reflected the artistic strengths you bring to this competition. Your outstanding classical technique, coupled with the natural raw intensity of your rock- generated performances, have resulted in extremely memorable and distinct showcases throughout the entire season.
Your first selection, Hungry Like A Wolf was very good indeed. Actually, the first thing that struck me – since I am such a stickler for articulation –was the crispy crunch quality of your “t’ and “”d” consonants. Would that more singers could adopt this approach when enunciating the lyrics!
The decisive articulation of your consonants easily propelled your voice in a forward fashion onto those pure vowels. As a result, your pure voice, when mixed with your rustic vocals, maintained a powerful resonating presence throughout this showcase.
During the first part of the song, you mingled as best you could with your audience and part of me was hoping that you would leap forward, “like a wolf”, and capture their enthusiastic response with more intimacy. However, whether on or off stage, you have unbridled, natural enthusiasm when you perform, always making certain that the emotional mood of the song is front and center in every one of your performances.
In your second song, Baba O’Riley, I absolutely loved the variety of nuances you incorporated into your personal interpretation. You have a pretty predictable formula that seems to work for you David – vocalizing in a teasingly soft manner in the opening segment of your song that easily crescendos to the muscular power vocals in the second half of your song. It’s part of your style – your signature, if you may – and I like it very much!
Finding a stylistic or artistic formula that works for you is an important performing component to achieve, as it distinguishes you from other musical artists of the same genre.
And yet, you are not a one- trick pony, as was evidenced during Andrew Lloyd Webber night. You do indeed have many layers to your performing ability. However, I think that, in order to establish strong performances in such a constricted time frame as 1:30, you long ago arrived at a formulaic decision at how best to achieve this. And it does work! So kudos to you for maintaining this intelligent and disciplined approach to your showcases each and every week!
As was the case in your first song, you made certain that the technical elements were channelling the vocal dynamics you brilliantly sustained throughout this number. You paced this number extremely well, indicating to me that every turning point in the song had been meticulously rehearsed and seamlessly connected.
This was wonderful work, David C! Congratulations!
Critique: David C. –although you arranged these numbers utilizing a very careful thought process, I think the abbreviated time frame for both song selections hindered the overall lasting impression of these numbers. It seemed that the songs were just beginning – and then they were over! The climax came a little too late in the 90- second time frame.
This was especially true in your strongest number, Baba O’Riley. As good as this song was, you were just getting warmed up, ready to rock it out and then –poof – it was over. Would that you could have subtracted some bars from the beginning of this song! Then, perhaps, the performance would have left a stronger impression.
So, I suppose what I am trying to say is that the song selection and/or arrangement were not the very best fit at this stage of the competition. The performance – yes! But not the song!
The better of your two songs – in terms of selection – was Hungry Like A Wolf. However, the performance aspects fell a little flat and, midway through this song, you seemed detached or distracted.
Also, as I said above, this would have been a wonderful opportunity to jump off the stage and grab your audience at their level, like a wolf.
In fact, the recap – taped during the dress rehearsal- at the end of the show, showed you stalking crouched- style on the stage toward your audience. That was perfect! Why did you not do this during the live televised performance? Perhaps that would explain your detachment in this song? Did something hinder you from performing this wolf-like manoeuvre? Ah –so many questions, so little time! (smile)
Also, I should caution you on that elevated head position when you sing through your upper range. It wasn’t too bad this week, but that upward tilt was still pretty obvious. Because of this, we lost the very important contact with your eyes and this not only creates a less confident stage demeanour but also it generates a level of tension in the vocalization process. The stretching of the neck muscles constricts the throat and, therefore, the free resonance of the singing voice.
Also remember to sing over the notes when moving through your upper range. Never reach for those notes, as it will cause you to deliver a more pinched, less efficient vocal timbre in this area of your range.
And bend those knees and squeeze that butt! The bending will keep the soft palate properly elevated and the butt squeeze will access the powerful back and rib cage muscles, thus solidifying the full extent of your diaphragmatic breath support.
However, never fear, you are David Cook and you are still a fascinating and charismatic performer to watch on stage. Your level of musical sophistication is a refreshing breath of fresh air and you have created many exciting performing moments over the past two months.
See you next week! Bravo David!
Strengths: Jason–well this was more like it! I thought both song selections this week reflected the authentic vibe you have been trying to achieve all season on this show. The laidback, folksy nature of these numbers were absolutely the perfect fit for you and, as a result, you came alive on stage like never before.
Throughout your performance of “I Shot The Sherriff”, you established a strong connection with your audience. Your arms, when not playing the guitar, were moving with ease and comfort to compliment the rhythmic and lyrical flow of this song. I was very much hoping that you would “rock it out” on this stage this week, Jason, and you certainly did with this number. You looked relaxed and, more important, you looked like you were enjoying yourself.
Therefore, without that sense of trepidation and tentativeness that permeated so many of your other performances from previous weeks, we were finally able to recognize and appreciate the distinctive style that you have generated in this competition.
Your particular style of singing is better suited to a smaller, more ambient setting and, although the Idol environment is certainly not that, you did try very hard to create a communicative intimacy that could work so well, given the proper circumstances.
Also, the heightened physical energy you exerted during this number was transferred to your singing voice. Your vocals sounded more muscular and resonant and, even more important, extremely expressive.
Oh the miracles that will happen when a singer just “throws caution to the wind”! Even though your technical skills were still lacking, your buoyancy and resilience throughout this performance actually assisted the resonating presence of your voice.
Moving on to your second number, Mr. Tambourine Man, I felt that the less than stellar reviews from the judges after your first number truly affected the overall positive impression of this performance. However, as mentioned above, I did like the song choice very much
Once again, your voice maintained a wonderful presence throughout. Your timbre was crystal clear and extremely transparent. I am hoping – although it was hard to determine with that guitar in front of your body – that the diaphragmatic breathing process was assisting you to achieve this end. Your shoulders looked pretty relaxed, so that is always a good sign! It indicates that there was less tension in the upper body.
Also, this was a true acoustic performance – just you and the guitar – and I applaud your courage in taking this route. It shows that you are a performer who is truly comfortable in his own skin and prefers to focus on the communicative elements of a song at his own discretion. This element is always at the core of folk-generated music – creating an intimate and comfortable performing environment for the singer and his audience.
And, yes, you had the memory lapse, but, to your credit, you handled it perfectly. You have such a laidback personality and, although this laidback style quite possibly hinders a more disciplined approach in the preparation of your songs, it actually is a plus on stage. Nothing fazes you and this is a very strong component to possess as a performer. You are there to entertain –and, during live performances –all sorts of glitches do happen, even to the most seasoned professional. No one stays in the moment better than you Jason! Good for you!
Critique: Jason – as mentioned above, you ran into some performance issues during your second number, Mr. Tambourine Man. Perhaps your confidence was deflated after the judges’ comments following your first number, “I Shot The Sherriff”? Was it lack of preparation?
On the other hand, some of the other performers in Round One received lukewarm reviews as well and they managed to render quite strong performances in their second number. However, I will agree that your reviews were the most abrasive, but I sensed that the judges have reached a personal level of frustration with your general performance history.
Whatever the case, always remember that your audience comes first. Critics and judges and reviewers mean nothing in the end – it is your fan base that counts and you obviously have a very strong group of fans to have reached this stage of the competition. So I hope you find comfort and gain confidence in this fact alone. You do have an audience out there that truly love the gentle, relaxed performing style you have brought to this competition.
So, unfortunately, when you began Mr. Tambourine Man, you started out with a twinkle in your eyes, that very quickly disappeared after the memory lapse. I could almost read your mind during the remainder of your song: “Oh boy, am I going to get ripped by the judges!”. Wrong approach, Jason! You have to fight harder at this point – pull out all the stops! I mean – everyone has memory lapses, right? The last time I looked around, we were all still human, correct?
Vocally, you still have some issues to correct, the most important of which is that very tight, horizontal mouth position. I hope you will continue to work hard on the relaxation of your facial muscles – particularly your lower facial muscles.
You need to circulate the mouth as you grab the pure vowels within your lyrics and allow the jaw to gently extend as you sing though your upper range. Only then will your voice enjoy the freedom that comes with the proper placement in your vocal masque.
Also, remember to elevate your posture when seated with the guitar. During your first number, you were standing and this technical glitch was not problematic.
However, it is only natural to slump over the guitar when seated and this is what happened during your second number, Mr. Tambourine Man. Therefore, the breathing muscles were slightly more deflated and were not able to work as efficiently or with as much buoyancy as was the fashion in I Shot The Sherriff.
However, it has been a great pleasure to review your performances each week, Jason. With proper guidance and mentoring plus a dash or 2 of disciplinary study, I suspect that you will enjoy a wonderful career, one that will, perhaps, extend beyond your folk -inspired musical calling! Bravo!
Strengths:Syesha –you certainly proved why you deserve to be a chosen contender at this stage of the competition. This week, you created many exciting visual moments for the Idol spectators and I was equally thrilled that you received a lot of lovin’ from the judges’ table. It was long overdue, in my opinion.
Your first number, Proud Mary was a very sexy and tantalising visual and aural experience. You created the perfect mood for this provocative song composition. You are quite the little dancer, Syesha, and the choreographic elements you added to this number looked absolutely effortless.
However, at the core of this very busy, highly energized performance was an impeccable attention to detail. You made absolutely certain that both the choreographic and vocal elements complimented each other. One never overpowered the other, as your vocals were precise, finely tuned and exquisitely positioned in your vocal masque, signifying that the rhythmic dancing steps were not hindering the correct diaphragmatic breath support
And speaking of rhythm, your dance movements provided proper accent to the rhythmic components within this song. “Rollin’ (Syesha bends), rollin’ (Syesha bends again!). And I loved the pirouettes as the band introduced the up-tempo portion of this song. They were perfectly placed and what is more astonishing was the lack of breathiness in your voice once you began to sing immediately after this choreographic element.
This signified that you paced this song extremely well and rehearsed the vocals apart from the choreography, making certain that all the important vocal components were in place and free from any discernible tension in the upper body.
What a wonderful performance of this very oft repeated classic rock song. I have heard this song many times, but never enjoyed it as much as when you performed it. And probably never will! You have the body, the voice, the look and the style for this number. Just perfect!
Then we moved on to a dramatic change in mood as you presented your interpretation of A Change Is Gonna Come. I thought that you established such presence and power during the opening lines of this glorious song and this level of momentum never relented. You performed this number with honest passion and real emotion, lending a new way of hearing and/or understanding the poignant message in the lyrics.
This was a very good Top 4 performance indeed, Syesha! Congratulations!
Critique: Syesha- as much I loved the song choice of your second number, A Change Is Gonna Come, I felt that, vocally, so many problems ensued during the performance of this song.
First of all, the background arrangement was plodding along in a tempo that had zero flexibility or animation. As a result, your phrasing elements were very mechanical and you were breathing far too often within the individual phrase lines. That all-important forward momentum that is so important to the natural ebb and flow of any song was noticeably absent.
Therefore, the song lacked a creative sense of musicality and finesse. The whole showcase appeared and sounded very one-dimensional. The variety of nuances necessary to expressively communicate the musical message was conspicuously absent. Your dynamic range was either loud or soft, with nothing in between. Therefore, your voice sounded uneven as you moved from your lower/softer vocals to the higher/power vocals.
Also, you carried far too much chest voice into the upper range and it was further aggravated with that spread mouth position. As a result, your upper vocals sounded extremely overwrought and the vocal timbre lacked clarity and focus. It signalled to me that your breath support was minimally assisting the vocalization process.
This statement was further highlighted when you vocalized into your lower range. Your lower notes sounded poorly centered and lacked ring and clarity. Also, your diction became less precise in this area of your range and this removed vital energy and comprehension from these segments of the song.
Always remember to maintain the head voice element in every part of your range, as it will allow you to sing with a more aesthetically pleasing vocal sound. And never slam on to your upper notes with full force. It is better to ease on to the notes, grabbing the head voice to center and purify your vocal sound. Then, having done that, your voice will be perfectly placed to grow in volume by utilizing the diaphragmatic breath support system.
Also, articulate at every dynamic and range level! Most singers tend to become a less vigilant with their articulation as they sing lower or softer and this is what happened with you in your second number, Syesha. Therefore, your voice lost presence and the emotional intensity during these segments of the song became less potent – almost disconnected from the power vocals in the higher portions of this song.
However, you have earned a worthy place in the Top 3 and I do look forward to your performances next week. Brava on your fine achievements during this year’s season of American Idol. You have been one of my favourite female performers throughout this competition! Kudos!