American Idol Season 7 Top 4 Vocal Masterclass: Capturing The Rock And Roll Moment


American IdolBy: 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.

To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.
David Archuleta, David Cook
Jason Castro, Syesha Mercado

DAVID ARCHULETA: “LOVE ME TENDER” and “STAND BY ME”

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!

DAVID COOK: “HUNGRY LIKE A WOLF” and “BABA O’RILEY”

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!

JASON CASTRO: “I SHOT THE SHERRIFF” and “MR. TAMBOURINE MAN”

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!

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SYESHA MERCADO: “PROUD MARY” and “A CHANGE IS GONNA COME”

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!

For all the latest American Idol News, visit SirLinksalot: American Idol or the American Idol Official Site

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About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

68 Responses to “American Idol Season 7 Top 4 Vocal Masterclass: Capturing The Rock And Roll Moment”

  1. MCL, Your review of David A. brought tears to my eyes, as did his performance. It’s been a weepy week! I was hoping he would perform a cappella, as I agree this allows him to truly shine. Breathtaking, indeed.

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  2. I agree with you…

    I can’t help but to wonder where in the heck are these AI vocal coaches at though!!!

    I know it takes a long time to develop great technique. But some of these people that have been on this show could’ve given so much better performances with just some minor adjustments and fixes.

    I guess there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes though, we don’t know the full story to everything.

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  3. You should be one of the coaches for AI MCL because I know you would be on them ike white on rice.

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  4. *like

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  5. Yes – I am a bit of a stickler. But, it is a two way street. The singer and coach have to establish a trustworthy rapport. Sometimes, singers tend not to take direction. Old habits die hard with singers – more than any other type of musician.

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  6. Oh, but MCL, being a stickler is a compliment! I learned that with martial arts (I’m a student of t’ai chi)–you only get criticized if the teacher thinks you are good enough to bother with. Alas, in a traditional-type dojo, that’s pretty much all the “praise” you get most of the time–I like your way MUCH better! Not just because it feels good (important!) but because how else to know if you’re doing something right…

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  7. Did anybody catch the Phone call part of the show. What did they talk about in that portion? I missed that part.

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  8. Dad, I recall a gal in her mid-20s calling to ask Cookie to go on a date during the Pittsburgh stop of the tour (he looked mortified!), someone asked Simon why he hasn’t been knighted (he told the Queen he’s available) and another female asked Simon why he can’t be James Bond since he’s cute, suave and mysterious (he told the production company he’s available).
    Ryan noted that Simon’s head was bigger, even though he got a haircut! LOL!
    A girl asked what was challenging to all, David A said he didn’t know, Jason said to remember anything and I can’t recall what Syesha said (Cookie didn’t get asked by Ryan).

    Anyone else?!

    Anite

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  9. Thanks Rereader. I suspect you would be a model student. And, yea – you are a tai-chi expert? Good for you.

    Hey, I just received your emails – I will respond ASAP. I am just a little busy here

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  10. @dadmonson, one of the callers asked syesha: “How does it feel to be the only girl on the show?” She said she is proud to be the only girl left standing. She once had an uncomfortable moment on the commercial shoot, but chooses not to go into details cause the boys were laughing. But she also said that the guys are very funny to be with.

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  11. @masterclasslady, IMO, a stickler coach and self-discipline is exactly what they need, if they want to succeed. hehe

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  12. Do the Idols actually read your reports MCL??? Because your word them like they do.

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  13. I know that I had been in touch with Phil Stacey’s father last year and sent a portion of your comments and the link to your blog. He responded favorably and passed along the link to Phil. I believe a good portion of the Idols do read the comments.

    MCL, you are so helpful to us! Thank you for all you do. I appreciate your insight on Jason Castro. I miss him already. The remaining Idols are all talented and I will continue to watch the show, but no more voting from me.

    icezorg, I would love to know what Syesha was talking about!

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  14. A question for MCL. Will your review of the final two appear before the results show? Just curious…

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  15. This is fun … and some hard choices! http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20007164_20171835_20197948,00.html

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  16. Yes – some singers do read these articles and I have received correspondence from some family members.

    Bo Bice’s father wrote me a lovely note once. And then, several relatives and friends of other singers have indicated that they have sent my articles to the contestants.

    Thank you Kariann for sending my link to Phil Stacey’s Dad. And yes, I will miss sweet Jason.

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  17. Skidster – I will try to review the singers before the Results show. It is difficult because of my teaching schedule on Wednesday – very busy. Well, actually, everyday is busy around here, but I promise I will do my best. :)

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  18. Thank you for the response, MCL. It isn’t imperative that you write your review before the results show, but IMO, it would be nice to read your thoughts on the performances before they reveal the winner.

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  19. MasterClassLady can you delete my comments on this report please?

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  20. And my comments in the discussion section.

    Thanks

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  21. I mean my comments in the who will capture the moment section.

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  22. Dadmonson – why do you wish to do this?

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  23. Hi, MCL!

    *blushes* I don’t know that I’m a model student–I’m certainly a diligent one, and I love learning new things–one reason I love your site! My faith holds that anyone who teaches you deserves the same respect as parents, who gave you life. The older I get, the better I understand that.

    I’d like to become a t’ai chi expert, but I’ve only been studying 10 years, I’m just a student still! (Of course, like any discipline, it’s something one can study for a lifetime and still find new things to learn about it!)

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  24. MCL, I am again mentioning you on the Idol Forum. One poster wrore:

    “He (Jason) needs to stay away from vocal coaches,,,,,he has a beautiful untrained voice and that is why he is so compelling to hear…..a voice coach would ruin that….he just needs to keep singing and gain experience…..confidence will come quickly.”

    HERE IS MY RESPONSE:

    I am so sorry you have had this terrible experience with a voice coach(s) but you really are wrong. I will say this in the kindest way, vocal coaching (training) helps a singer in so many ways, not just how to learn to develop your voice, but how to preserve it, proper posture, exercises to be done before performing, what to do when you have a cold or cough, special preparations to sooth your throat, etc.
    Are you aware that Madonna worked with a vocal coach when preparing for her role in “Evita”? The list is endless. I believe Clay Aiken mentioned vocal training after he left American Idol.

    Please check out the MasterClass Lady for the advice she has given Jason. It is excellent!

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  25. Oh my goodness, I left out the most important thing! SELF-DISCIPLINE. MCL, did I forget anything else a vocal coach does or the training received?

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  26. Kariann – I think you covered all the basics. Thank you for assisting Jason’s fans in understanding how important it is to care for your voice by using the correct technical approach.

    Also, I think a good vocal coach should guide singers in their choice of repertoire. At least, give them an idea where their strengths – both in style and substance.

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  27. MCL – apparently Simon has chosen “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack for David Cook to sing this week. I think he expects another “Billie Jean” or “Always Be My Baby” moment from him, because that song is about as far from his genre of music as possible. Hopefully we get another moment like that!

    Randy has chosen “If I Ain’t Got You” for Syesha. I’m not as excited about that one – just because I feel there are better, less predictable choices – not to mention she sang it on “The One”, and that show wasn’t too good. On the other hand, she’ll probably do better than the others who have covered this song in previous seasons.

    Paula has chosen “And So It Goes” for David Archuleta. I like that choice – it’s just the type of sincere ballad that he can nail.

    Your opinion would be greatly appreciated, MCL, and have a great weekend!

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  28. MCL, would you mind if I ask you, who were your favorites throughout season 7?

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  29. Thank you, again, MCL, I learn so much here and I gain such a finer appreciation of the performances when I replay them.

    If I didn’t know or had seen any of the contestants, read this post and then saw last week, I would rank them Archuleta first, Syesha second, and Cook third in SINGING but my favorite is still COOK in overall image and personality, talent and performing. My opinion.

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  30. Here is Syesha singing a little bit at her homecoming

    MCL I would appreciated if you did not post what you think of her technically on this please. It was a whirlwind day for her and she was pretty tired. She was at her school and whole bunch of old people would come up to talk to her and they didn’t even know who she was!!!

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  31. David A. is blowing the roof off with this one singing the National Anthem…

    http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=OR0tyxBO9o8

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  32. katherinesmom May 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Although I thought Syesha’s “Proud Mary” was performed well, I thought her vocals suffered a little with all the dancing, mainly towards the end. Somewhere I read a vocal coach’s advice that the best thing for a singer to do was to NOT dance and sing at the same time. He seemed to think that you developed bad habits or something. Have you ever heard anything like this, MCL?

    Thanks for the link, dadsmonson. Here’s one to David A. singing at the Jazz game last night. He did a great job! I’m amazed that his voice doesn’t sound tired at all.

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  33. “my favorite is still COOK in overall image and personality, talent and performing.”

    Yeah, that is your opinion because they are all pretty dang talented to make it this far in this competition.

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  34. katherinesmom May 10, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    LOL, dadmonson, you beat me to it!

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  35. Well I know you are a huge David A. fan so I decided to post it for you.

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  36. katherinesmom May 10, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Beat me to posting Davd A.’s national anthem, I mean :)

    Syesha sounded good in her clip. There must be one to David C. somewhere, right? Both David and Syesha sounded great acappella. No wonder they are in the top 3. I hope all the idols do well this week. Three songs is a lot to master especially with the added business of the hometown visits.

    MCL, we have talked about the fact that the songs suffer a little with the cuts. Is it difficult to have a natural build to a climatic point in the song in such a short time? Or does it just depend on the song? Does this make song selection even more critical at this point?

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  37. Katherine – singing and dancing is all they do on Broadway. Seems like a strange comment from a voal coach. Also, I thought Syesha handled the duel performing elements very well.

    Great performance of the anthem by David. Just beautiful.

    Have yet to listen to Syesha. will do so now.

    Thanks everyone.

    Like

  38. Thanks for another week of wonderful critiques for the singers, MCL! I’ve been reading here since Season 2 and always enjoy what you have to say.

    I will miss Jason a lot but since he is happy, I’m happy too. :) On Idol Extra they did a segment with him and the shows vocal coach, Debra Byrd, and he said that she had helped him with his breathing, etc. I’m sure due to time constraints and having to work with all the contestants there’s not a lot she can do to help them but she does try. She said she goes through a lot of emotion when they sing – especially if they mess up somehow. It was an interesting segment. At any rate hopefully he will get a coach and continue to improve on his technique.

    As you know I am a big Clay Aiken fan – have you had the opportunity to listen to his new CD yet? What a gorgeous CD it is. Finally he’s able to sing songs HE wants to sing instead of Clive Davis mandates. Well worth the listen.

    Take care, have a great weekend and will look forward to hearing about the final 3! :P
    Terry

    Like

  39. Syesha sounded tired but still, you have to appreciate the natural beauty of her vocal talent and persona.

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  40. Here is for all the Syesha fans. It’s a radio interview of her

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  41. ok, since i’m going to be the only one to say this:
    david a has been singing since he was in nappies. he has no stage presence at all. he does not use the stage, at all. he sticks out one hand for some reason and it looks ridiculous. all the tongue baths of this kid are totally ridiculous. can he sing-yes, but is he boring-oh yes. he does the same thing week in and week out. he does nothing new except put in a line this week that didn’t belong there and now AI will have to pay for it even though they emailed his father and said take it out. i’m also going to state that having someone else older and more versed in the music business behind the scenes making all your decisions for you is not a level playing field. his father does all his chosing and arranging. not fair at all. if you are old enough to be a contestant, you need to step up and make your own choices and perform your own choice. There doesn’t seem to be any critique of this boys poor breathing technique, his cracking voice, forgotten lyrics, or inability to work the stage. just sayin’. glad to see his father is banned but it sure did take a long time for it to happen. the other contestants are doing their own work, and he should to.

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  42. Interesting choices the judges made for the three of them. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”–I’m wondering whether David C. will sing it straight or rock it up, either way will be interesting, anyway, and that’s not a bad thing at all. “If I Ain’t Got You”–well, it’s a typical Randy choice, that’s the kind of song he likes. It’s well within Syesha’s comfort zone, but I don’t know that it will stand out much because of that. “And So It Goes”–…I don’t see that as so great for David A., because it’s a song that gets most of its power from it’s simplicity, and that’s not his thing.

    I wonder what the producer choices will be? Anyone see any spoilers for those? And I’ve only seen one spoiler for the contestant choices, for David Cook–“The World I Know” by Collective Soul, with which I am totally unfamiliar.

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  43. Here’s the link to the Jeff Archuleta being banned story, in case you missed it:

    http://www.tmz.com/2008/05/10/archuletas-dad-banished-from-idol/

    And the AP is backing it up with their own sources: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080510/ap_en_tv/american_idol

    On the flip side, Simon says he has no problem with Jeff, and that nobody is angry that Archie twisted the lyrics http://www.tmz.com/2008/05/10/simon-didnt-vote-off-archuletas-dad/

    And Jason says he has no clue what anyone would think is wrong with Jeff http://www.tmz.com/2008/05/10/j-casto-speaks-on-dreaded-stage-dad-drama/

    Go figure!

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  44. MCL, Can you respond to the post by weelassie? I hoped this forum was one of encouragement and technical critique. All of the contestants are superb and and giving it their very best. There is much to enjoy from all their performances.

    Like

  45. I wanted to share this with you, in case you weren’t aware – MTV has 4 soldiers in Iraq that are reviewing Idol each week, when possible! It’s an online blog called Idols in Iraq http://newsroom.mtv.com/?s=idol+in+iraq (start from the bottom up) and click on the headline of each entry for the full review and the comments. I was really touched when, in the ‘behind the scenes’ info (at the top of the page) the MTV News writer says that AI is one of the ways the kids in Iraq stay in contact with their families … it gives them something in common to talk/type about with their families. Very cool!

    Enjoy!
    Anita

    Like

  46. MCL, I posted another message just prior to the one above (about MTV) and it isn’t showing. Could you check the trash please?! =)

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  47. WeeLassie -I don’t care what is happening behind stage.

    All I know is that David A. delivers week after week.

    How many 17 year old guys are capable of selecting songs, arranging them, making sure their young – still developing – voices are capable of technically handling the stress of this competition? Not too many, I’m sure.

    The best artists in the world – at any age – are surrounded by “people” who do everything for them.

    This is a competition and he wants to win. The others are certainly more than free to hire a “specialist” to assist them. If they don’t, then they shouldn’t complain and neither should we.

    Like

  48. MCL, I was just reading your review again and laughed out loud. “And bend those knees and squeeze that butt!” It’s Mother’s Day; I am allowed to be silly.

    Someone asked who your favorite Idol is this season? Your critique on David Archuleta seemed to answer the question. ;0)

    Like

  49. Actually, I truly do not have a favorite this year. I think each singer in the Top 3 offer excitingly distinct performances each week and I wish all of them the very best in their careers.

    I merely judge the singers from performance to performance and, although it seems that I offer more critical evaluation for David Cook and Syesha Mercado, it isn’t because I do not value their important contribution to this competition.

    On the other hand, David Archuleta is a prodigy – he really is. He was born with the gift and whether it was highly nurtured through family or teachers is not the point. The point is – he responds to the musical guidance and runs with it.

    I coach singers every day – have been doing this for 30 plus years and I can honestly say that I have only seen a handful of singers with the star factor walk through my studio. And, of this handful, only a half a handful followed my advice and have managed to cultivate a wonderful career in music.

    True stars are more rare than one would think. And I don’t mean the present stars of today’s “popsicle”era of music – all sugar and little substance. The real stars who can sing with excellent artistry.

    Like

  50. I’ve been out of the loop this week…very busy for one me. I coach soccer which is now beginning to take over my life…just returned from an awesome tournament where my girls played fantastic–one point away from going to the semis :)!

    Anyway, the discussion this week is interesting and I would just like to comment on your last comment, MCL. I completely agree that many singers today just do not have that “star” factor; sure they can sing and do so beautifully, but there needs to be this factor present in order for many singers to be truly loved by an audience.

    I just watched David A’s performance of the national anthem….gorgeous…I think he is going to win it all…and if he does that will be two 17 year olds in the past two years. To me that means, it doesn’t matter about your age, if you are vocally mature enough, than one can achieve great things.

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  51. Thank you for your comments MCL. Guidance does seem to be the key for the success that will come David A’s way. A good album that will appeal to more than the tweens and teens would work. Even though it use to be a curse to go on Broadway, I would not be surprised if that will be his ultimate success.

    Dance lessons along his journey will be an asset. I hope he can pull all of this together, and then we can say we “met” this prodigy and saw his development into a major star.

    Like

  52. MCL
    All I know is that David A. delivers week after week.

    How many 17 year old guys are capable of selecting songs, arranging them, making sure their young – still developing – voices are capable of technically handling the stress of this competition? Not too many, I’m sure.

    But, he is not selecting his songs, arranging them-his father is. That is not a level playing field and should not be permitted. Seems like this is a I love lil David blog and his mistakes do not seem to be mentioned. He has trouble with breath control, forgetting lyrics, and working the stage. I guess nothing negative can be said here about him. I posted my opinion and do not dislike lil David. I just don’t get excited by him and find him incredibly boring. He does not connect with me and I find him lacking in that respect. He is not handling all the stress of this competition, his father is shouldering a lot of the burden. Again, not fair. I didn’t realize no one can say anything that goes against all the lil david love here. what i posted is true to a lot of listeners but i guess it isn’t seen here. sad really. what is happening behind the scenes affects what is happening on the stage. sorry u do not see that. i don’t think naomi judd lied about david’s father for a second. what would be her reason? if his voice is too young for the stress, he should have waited a little longer to try out. won’t be posting here again. Mj’s site allows for all views, not just lil david lovers.

    Like

  53. weelassie, MCL gives fair comments to all the contestants: strengths and critiques

    Like

  54. weelassie,

    I think MCL does allow us to critique David A. I think he’s a good singer, but I don’t find him that exciting to watch. And I’ve probably said that before on the site.

    But I’m not trying to convince MCL to share my opinion. I read her opinion and I am respectful of it and thankful for the insight she gives.

    The comparison between this website and MJ’s website is an unfair one. The purpose of each website is different. MJ’s is more of a free for all – opinions on everything are welcome – but she does keep things moderated very well. At least to me, MCL’s site is designed to give encouragement and constructive comments to the singers and to help viewers understand the technical aspects of the performances. In my opinion, this is not the place to come with a lot of negativity.

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  55. Weelassie – Kelsey is correct. Your feedback re each of the contestants is more than welcome.

    However, “how” you word your comments are extremely important on this site and it reminds me that I should have a policy in place on another page that confirms this. I will do this ASAP.

    However, not everyone is a fan of David A. and that’s fine. However, I like to be objective about a David’s performance, not delve into his personal life with his father. That’s just me.

    Even Simon Cowell said that he wasn’t aware of any problems with David’s father. All is fine. So, who do we believe?

    However, I do welcome any news about the singers, but, only ask that you be respectful of other readers’ viewpoints.

    Like

  56. And, for the record, I am still a huge fan of the all singers in the Top 3. I think it is going to be a strong show tomorrow night and it is still anyone’s competition to win. Anyone!

    Like

  57. MCL is honest. If you sound good she’ll tell you and if you don’t she’ll tell you. She does that with David A. just like the other contestants.

    David A sounded great last week. Too be honest, I was a little surprised myself. On this show you are only as good as your last performance.

    Like

  58. Here is another clip for people that Like Syesha. Syesha is singing “Yesterday” On a News Show Friday in this clip.

    Like

  59. David Archuleta homecoming video. Includes him singing Imagine, Stand By Me and Angels…

    http://www.deseretnews.com/video/1,5563,369,00.html

    Like

  60. Thanks Dadmonson: I loved when he pulled out the earplug from his left ear. I guess it was irritating him or distorting the sound. Looks like he is more than capable of making technical decisions on his own.

    Please feel free to post all Top 3 topics in the new post at the top of this page.

    Like

  61. weelassie–kelsey put it really well, and of course so did MCL. This blog is about appreciating the good and understanding the could-use-improvement aspects of each singer, whether or not they are anyone’s particular favorite. I, myself, am not a big fan of David A.’s arrangements (I grew up on a combination of folk, musical theater, and classical (instrumental) music, so all the runs and vocal embellishments are not part of my musical aesthetic), but there’s really no denying that he has a beautiful instrument and great control over it. I very much enjoyed his version of “Imagine”, for instance.

    I think you will find (as I do) that this willingness to appreciate both the good and weaker aspects of every performer it is very refreshing–and a bracing splash of reality in a blogosphere full of blinkered, shrieking AI fandom!

    By the way, MCL–Jason performed “Daydream” on Ellen this week (clip is up on mjsbigblog; http://mjsbigblog.com/jason-castro-on-ellen-and-regis-and-kelly-video.htm#more-4821 ), and it sounds so much better to me than his original (albeit charming) performance on AI three month ago; what do you think? I hope he continues with a good vocal coach, so that I can look forward to a great CD in a year or so!

    Like

  62. Rereader – thanks for your excellent comments. I deeply appreciate it. I agree that it is a good thing to think positively about all these young singers.

    They are all doing the very best they can given their personal circumstances and past musical experiences. All the hatred and venom is so destructive.

    It’s more conducive to a healthy lifestyle and blog to offer suggestions or intelligent commentary.

    That being said, I thought Jason’s performance on Ellen was remarkable. I, personally, will purchase his CD. But, he has to promise to take singing lessons, though! haha tit for tat!

    Like

  63. I have appreciated your professional critique of the Idol contestants, even though I’m not a fan of AI. If only the show would incorporate your high level of expertise, it would be worth the aggravation it creates.

    The reason I’ve been watching this year is because of David Archuleta. He is a true musical genius, a rare find. In a better world, such a talent would be nurtured and protected. But in these culturally deplorable times, AI offers nothing but exploitation in a TV ratings game.

    The AI judges say the show is about finding the best singer. All singers must have vocal tone, projection, breathing control, and perfect pitch. Rather than judge on these qualities, the AI judges force the contestants and the TV audience to judge song choice and song arrangement. Professional singers spend months selecting the right songs to record. Idol expects these young, non-professional singers to choose the “right song” in a day or two. It’s absurd. Professional singers also have a cadre of music specialists –producers, sound editors, arrangers, musicians — who work a long time to turn a songwriter’s tune into a masterpiece. Idol contestants have a huge time constraint and are limited by the talents of AI’s musical staff.

    AI also forces the contestants to memorize all the words. What’s wrong with using a TelePrompTer? Professionals do it, especially during a live performance. They also take the time they need to learn a song before singing in public.

    AI judges often complain that the show has devolved into a popularity contest instead of a talent show. However, the show itself has created this by allowing unlimited voting. They could simply limit the number of votes per telephone and immediately the show would be a real test of talent over popularity.

    AI fails to provide a positive work environment for the contestants. The show exploits them in its Ford commercials and sensational blogs on americanidol.com and by leaking stories elsewhere in the media. AI has tight control of the contestants’ biographies and can create a media blitz — either positive or negative — whenever the TV ratings need a boost. AI’s notorious secrecy, even over such mundane issues as Tuesday night’s song list, creates a vacuum which is filled by all manner of loonies. Much of the coverage by so-called “entertainment journalists”, biased bloggers, and rumor-mongers has been atrocious. And this year they have gone into the gutter to slander a talented teenage singer.

    This is the world of “tabloid television”. It’s a shame that the American music industry has stooped this low.

    And it’s a terrible shame that the music industry provided no other way for David Archuleta to sing.

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  64. Scripttype- you have raised many valid and timely points in your commentary.

    I found it suspect that a “source” from or close to American Idol released the story that David’s father was ousted from the Top3 rehearsals. In addition , he had been creating problems for the other contetstants.

    Why are we just hearing about this now? The ratings are low, that’s why. They want to “up the ante” at any cost.

    Also, I think it is absolutely absurd that the singers’ are expected to sing one, two or three new songs each week without the assistance of personal mentors and/or musicians.

    It is even more unrealistic to expect this from a 17-year old singer. This young man is superbly gifted and he is trying to sell his vocal package to people beyond Idol.

    Yes, American idol is an enormous stepping stone, but it is not the only stone that will pave the path to future longevity in this fickle and cutthroat industry.

    Let’s hope that someone who values art above all else will gain control of the David’s reins and steer him in a more positive and fulfilling musical direction.

    Like

  65. I am new to the blog world and it is saddening how people have become so nasty in this alternate cyber reality. I think I’ll stick with your site from now on. Constructive criticism and thoughtful praise are becoming a rare commodity and I want to give you and your site the highest marks for keeping it at the top of your priority list.
    The media twists stories to get higher ratings and everyone believes a gossip site like tmz, without question? All the contestants on AI are looking tired and it is a race to the finish. All the remaining contestants have a unique sound. That is what makes them special singers, an identifiable sound. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but remember that opinions are first and foremost subjective, not objective. And keep it positive!!! Thank you Master Class Lady…

    Like

  66. Thank you Augiedog. I appreciate your support and hope you drop by again.

    Only two more weeks of American Idol, but I am sure there will be tons of opportunity for post -Idol chatter.

    Like

  67. David A. defends his dad. For those that are interested.

    Like

  68. David A. defends his dad in this article.

    Like

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