American Idol Season 7 Top 2 Vocal Masterclass: David Cook, American Idol and David Archuleta,Runner-up


American IdolBy: Rosanne Simunovic
And so we come to the end of another great and emotional season of American Idol. I have to say that the judges and the producers did an excellent job of harnessing the very best hidden talent in the Country.

Even though the singers brought an assorted range of musical experiences to the competition, in the end, this is what made this year’s Top 24 and Top 12 line up so diverse and so interesting to watch. It was an eclectic mix of styles and genres that was truly special and one that, hopefully, will continue in the future.

And to American Idol Season 7 winner, David Cook and his worthy runner-up, David Archuleta, I would like go on record by saying that the two of you will continue on the road to superstardom. Also, looking back on past articles, I almost forgot that I had eerily predicted the two of you as the frontrunners in this competition. Have a look!
Agree or disagree? Read on and feel free to comment. But, remember, please be nice!

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

DAVID ARCHULETA: “DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME”, “IN THIS MOMENT” and “IMAGINE”

Strengths:David A. –my oh my oh my! You are relentless in the high standard of musical excellence you set for yourself week after week. This week, I felt that you broke a personal record through your momentous performances. You were determined to hit three home runs and so you did. However, what was so remarkable, was your ability to sing, not only with technical brilliance, but also with sensitive artistry and refinement.

I don’t think I need to accent the technical strengths of your vocal proficiency, as we have all witnessed your omnipresent technical ability each week. You, more than any other performer on American Idol over the years, adhere to the bel canto principal of singing with consistency and determination and this technical approach has allowed you to achieve vocal objectives of the highest quality and standard.

Like a trained athlete, you have set your personal yardstick from which you gauge your past, present and future performances. This is what has determined the successful progression and advancement of your performances throughout this momentous season of American Idol.

This week, as in past, your mouth continuously maintained that all important circular formation and your jaw was relaxed and free as you moved into your outstanding upper range vocals. This allowed the diaphragmatic breathing muscles to direct your sound to your vocal masque, thus ensuring the cohesive quality of the pure vowels within your lyrics. As a result, not only did your melodic line enjoy the benefits of your seamless and pure vocal timbre, but also it accented the musical and astonishing components of your phrasing ability.

Your first number, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was a brilliant performance, overflowing with style and substance. I have heard this song performed many times and performed well, I might add! However, your interpretation was, for me, the pinnacle of all past performances of this number. It left me in tears – first time all season!

I loved the opening ambience of this number, a sole spotlight on you seated at center stage on the stairs. It not only created a relaxed mood, but also the measured and unhurried pace allowed you to ease into this song. By doing so, you were conserving your adrenaline for the dynamic vocals that were to follow and, boy, did they ever!

However, before we move there, I should applaud you on your excellent posture while seated on stage. Your elevated rib cage provided consistent support to your resounding baritone vocals.

You even had one foot ahead of the other – one foot on one stair and the other on the stair above it -which all singers should freely adopt, particularly while standing. This allowed you to establish a forward position with your body, thus assisting you to generate a forward momentum within your phrase lines. Additionally, you were primed to move easily off the stairs when you changed positions and walked to the front of the stage.

Additionally, your hands and arms were relaxed and free – no tension there whatsoever. You were primed and ready to hit a home run and so you did as the song moved effortlessly and with astonishing artistry to home plate.

I loved that determined walk to center stage, as your pitch perfect vocals started their crescendo toward the climactic end of this song. You added some exciting new soulful elements to this song, gently but distinctly bending the melodic line with passionate artistry and sensitivity.

And, I am almost tempted to cut and paste my comments for Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me and include them in my comments for your next two songs. You just kept up the pace young David – you are truly the personification of the big things coming in small packages. You just kept pumping out those songs with inspiring artistry and technical brilliance.

Your second number, In This Moment, was your personal choice from the American Idol song writing competition. This song truly identified who you are as an artist and as a person and, like the your first number, was performed with poise, passion and power.

Additionally, your diction was impeccable, something that was thankfully a ubiquitous element in all three songs. However, because this was the premiere of this song composition, clear articulation of the words was tantamount in this performance. The words were new to all of us, as was the music.

Therefore, it was imperative that the emotional core of this song be represented through crystal clear articulation of the poetic text. You understood this David and made sure that both the music and the lyrics remained indelible in the hearts and minds of the listeners. You demonstrated such respect for the musical composer and the lyricist and I applaud you for this. Oftentimes, in today’s pop music, the lyrics get left behind. What a shame!

As with all of your songs, your communicative skills were heartfelt and passionate. You created a strong visual impact by subtly moving forward toward the end of this song. This also assisted the freedom in your body, encouraging you to adopt an even more buoyant approach in your technique as the song resoundingly moved to a strong conclusion.

Also, the soft head tone component you added in the final moments of this song were just beautiful and provided exciting dynamic contrast at this point in the song. Also, I might add this is so difficult to achieve, especially after singing with a louder dynamic for a stretch of time. It requires tremendous control on the singer’s part and is one the hardest technical components to achieve. However, you were flawless and secure and the head tone quality of your voice was ringing and centered.

Also, the depth of your breath control was staggering. You effortlessly connected that Perfect 5th interval jump on the word “I” with strong diaphragmatic support and carried some remarkably long phrases through in one breath. Beautiful work, David!

You ended your Top 2 showcase with a reprise of Imagine and, once again, you performed this number with perceptive artistry. It was just so beautiful and the words poured from your mouth through your expressive vocals and genuine charisma.

I loved the acoustic ambience of the musical background, as it allowed us to truly hear the beauty of your voice and your heartfelt delivery of the words. What a gentle and inspiring way to end the entire Top 2 showcase. Gorgeous!

You are a star! Congratulations, standing ovation, kudos, bravo and so much more!

Critique:David –I have absolutely nothing to critique this week. You worked so hard and prepared your songs so well that the performances were virtually flawless.

Yes, I know, the eyes! But, that is something you can work on over the course of time. And yet, many times I loved watching you close your eyes while singing, as I feel that is how you truly connected with a song – technically and artistically.

Also, overall, the closure of the eyes only became evident when you performed songs at a slower tempo. You became totally lost in the music and that is certainly not an uncommon trait to see in many performers. George Michael closed his eyes on the Finale and he’s a superstar. Oh, and by the way, that song, Praying For Time would be perfect for you. Perfect!

Finally, I would like to add that you were an extremely gracious runner-up, just a joy to behold. It has been an absolute pleasure to write these Vocal Masterclass articles for you. You have created many exceptional performances that will always remain indelible in my mind and heart.

I cannot wait to purchase you CD, which I am most certain will be a runaway success. I am sure that many record producers and agents are salivating to have the opportunity to work with your calibre of artistry and dedication. As the years go by, it will be very exciting to watch and hear the development and direction of your musical goals and achievements.

However, never lose that inner child, David. This is what makes you so special, as an artist and as a person. Stay true to yourself and live well, cherishing the wonderful support of your family, friends and mentors.

DAVID COOK: “I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR”, “DREAM BIG” and “THE WORLD I KNOW”

Strengths: David C. –as I sit here writing your last Vocal Masterclass evaluation, it has been a little over 12 hours since your American Idol coronation. The new American Idol! How does it feel?
Well, let me tell you how I feel? Excited and elated that a truly deserving artist and person has reached this extremely important milestone in his musical career. Yes, you had an equally deserving opponent in David Archuleta, but, in the end, your musical sophistication, intelligence and dogged determination propelled you to the top of the pack.

In every competition, everyone loves a dark horse and no one came with more cards stacked against him than you. By now, everyone is fully aware of the personal, professional and health issues that were determined to block you every step of the way. However, like an exemplary track athlete you cleared those hurdles and knocked down those blockades by establishing yourself as a uniquely interpretive artist.

Although your final trio of songs, perhaps, did not resonate as profoundly with the general listening audience, I do applaud you for taking unbelievable risks by showcasing a musical style with which you connect in a very deep way and one for which you have great respect. That takes courage and confidence and shows that you absolutely understand the direction in which you wish to take your music.

Your first number, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was brilliantly and intuitively selected by Clive Davis. This song highlighted the enormous strengths of your vocal and performing ability. Your voice sounded gloriously focused and clearly centered throughout this song.

Also, you kept the correct technical approach at the forefront of this performance and, as a result, your movements, both on and off stage, appeared effortless and relaxed. You didn’t move too quickly off the stage – so smart! You decelerated the whole process in your mind and that is why this performance maintained a sense of control and composure. The pacing was absolutely perfect! Perfect!

Also, I can’t recall your tenor register sounding so beautiful and ringing with head tone clarity. This signaled to me that the key selection was perfect, for the general melodic structure was a perfect fit for your natural singing range.

And, oh, how I loved that bel canto circular mouth position. Although you sing with a raw emotional intensity, you still remain true to the correct production of your voice, sustaining your voice by accessing the pure vowels within your lyrics.

Also, your diction was crystal clear, so precise and extremely expressive. I was happy to see and hear that the sound technicians achieved the perfect balance between the background accompaniment and soloist. This allowed the full complement of your vocal gifts to shine through – as it should in all of your songs. I actually think it encouraged you to sing better, as your voice was not so apt to become lost in the sometimes edgy chaos of the background music. There was more vocal transparency in this number, something that I was longing for in past performances.

And, by the way, that upward glissando at the end of this number – on the word “for” – was superbly done. It was smooth and even from bottom to top and I sensed that your diaphragm was guiding this glissando every step of the way. Great way to end this very strong opening number!

Moving on to your second number from the American Idol Songwriting Competition, you chose Dream Big, a rock- inspired song composition. This is actually a good song if you mentally strip away all the heavy handed background music and just listen to the strength of your upper vocals. I think that the busy melodic line and the strong instrumental line, on first listen, were a bit distracting because everyone was unfamiliar with the song. However, this was a strong, confident performance, communicated with great style and finesse.

Once again you remained absolutely true to your sound vocal technique but yet allowed the organic rock vocals to add the appropriate inflection in this style of music. And there was some heavy duty sustaining happening in your upper range that, perhaps because of the musical intensity in the song arrangement, was lost on the listener. But, I heard it! Your head voice remained a vital component throughout this song, allowing your upper range to shine with clarity and precision.

And those wicked Perfect 5th interval jumps at the beginning of the first two lines of the chorus were technically secure and certainly not easy to manoeuver. However, it demonstrated that you had rehearsed this song extremely well, avoiding all the technical pitfalls that could have ensued throughout the course of this performance. Very good work indeed!

Then you closed your excellent showcase with your personal choice, The World I Know. Throughout this performance, you visually portrayed a sense of intense purpose and intent – it was just so obvious that this song meant a great deal to you, both as a musician and as a person. Equipped with your ubiquitous best friend – your guitar –musically exposed the emotional core of this song with sensitivity and raw passion.

This is truly your gift to this competition – your ability to transport yourself to another world wherein lies the narrative essence of your song composition. It really is quite stunning to watch –this level of charisma and magnetism is truly innate and, to my mind, a greater and more significant talent than your vocal gift. It defines you as a true star, one who is capable of moving people to tears one minute and then laughter the next.

What more is left to say? David Cook – you are a true American Idol. I applaud and congratulate you on showcasing the fact that talent, when combined with hard work and determination, can and will rise to the top! Bravo!
Critique: David C. – I have very little to critique this week David. Generally, your voice sounded quite good in all three numbers; however, as the evening progressed, I heard growing evidence of vocal fatigue and poorly refined technique.

Your first number was very good – no big issues to address there. However during your second number, you encountered problems accessing proper support for your lower register, resulting in a poorly centered vocal sound during those portions of the song.

This problem became more invasive during the third number, but accompanying this problem, was a lack of clarity and precision with your diction. It actually sounded like the wind was taken out of your sails and part of me was wondering whether the negative feedback from the judges had depleted your initial energy and enthusiasm.

And yet, this has been a problematic issue with you every week. It seems that, whenever you vocalized throughout your lower range, your voice sounded less resonant, almost lethargic and sluggish. As a result you encountered some pitch problems throughout the lower parts of the melodic line with your last two songs and your lack of clean, precise diction just aggravated the problem. Poorly tuned singing + poorly defined words = a voice without a sense of purpose or focus.

I hope you will continue to work on this problematic aspect in your vocal performances. Always remember to support your lower range as aggressively as you do when singing through your upper range.

Also the diction must be more resolute when you sing through your lower range, as it will assist the vocal process and will ensure that the words are clearly understood in this less resonant area of your vocal range. One truly will help the other. So support and spin out the consonants and allow the consonants to be the springboard for your sustained vowel placement.

In closing, I have to say that it has been an enormous privilege to write these Vocal Masterclass evaluations for you. You have been a marvel to watch each and every week and I can only envision the greatest success in the world for you as you embark on this exciting new adventure in your musical career.

Also, I might add that you were an extremely generous and gracious winner, acknowledging your little bro’, David A., and then welcoming all Top 12 singers to join you on stage as you sang your superb new Idol single, Time Of My Life. A great song for a great performer!

And hey, you are going to be Mickey Mouse’s new best friend once the American Idol exhibit opens in Disneyworld in January 2009. My favourite place in the world to visit! Disney plus American Idol! Perfect! Have a blast, David! You truly deserve it!<p.

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

20 Responses to “American Idol Season 7 Top 2 Vocal Masterclass: David Cook, American Idol and David Archuleta,Runner-up”

  1. MCL, What a wonderful critique. I also thought David A. gave stellar performances Tuesday evening. I believe they will go down in as some of the best in Idol history. He may have a few critics (hard to believe) going in but won them all over by evening’s end.

    Can you speculate on what type of material he should have on his first CD? I loved his performance with One Republic and thought that was a good, current vibe for him.

    Thank you, MCL. This was such an educational and thoughtful sight. I really appreciated your energy and compassion for all the contestants. Bravo to you, too.

  2. *sorry for the misspelling of “site”
    J.

  3. MCL: I’ve been lurking here for the past 3 months reading your wonderful reviews. Thank you so much. You’d be the perfect judge on the show! Anyway, David A’s top 2 performances compelled me to register and join in the discussion.

    You wrote:
    “Also, the depth of your breath control was staggering. You effortlessly connected that Perfect 5th interval jump on the word “I” with strong diaphragmatic
    support and carried some remarkably long phrases through in one breath.”

    I noticed that as wel, beautiful. David A totally sold the song to me. Sincere, heartfelt interpretation is what makes him special, very rare for someone so young. And, he sounds even more amazing live.

    I’m very excited about his upcoming album. I know for a fact that someone big in the music industry has written a song specifically for him.

  4. MasterClassLady,
    Your critique of Archuleta brought me to tears. Again. Although I was saddened by the results on Wednesday night, I quickly found a peace after watching David Archuleta’s response to his friend’s success. I do think David Cook deserved the win, and he’s handled the interview circuit with charm and panache. I am impressed.

    Of course, I am equally impressed with David Archuleta, who has shown in his unwavering grace (and endearing innocence) that he is a rare person. Perhaps this is why so many critics have misunderstood him. And perhaps this is why I am beginning to be glad that he took ‘second’. Perhaps the media will be more forgiving of a young man who doesn’t ‘mesh’ with the popular view of the world. Over time, he will only rise. I will be his fan forever.

    Thank you so much for helping me understand why it is that I’ve become a 48-year-old fangirl for David Archuleta. Yes, he is as cute as all get-out, but I knew there had to be more to my fascination. LOL.

  5. MCL:

    I forgot to add in my last comment that “in This Moment” needs someone with perfect pitch and heartfelt interpretation to sell the song. Archuleta did that and more imo

  6. Good morning everyone!

    As always, thanks for your generous comments. Always very much appreciated!

    I can’t wait to see the Idols on Larry King tonight. Also, David A. signed with Jive. Good for him.

    I will have to watch Cookie on Leno tonight on the Star channel. It is a rerun of last night’s episode. I’ll check to see what MJ has on her blog – it’s probably there, right?

  7. Thanks, MCL, for another great review!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s idol and am already looking forward to next years! I look forward to purchasing both David’s CDs as they both will be great!!

    Just to add a little humour to here…my friend sent me this link. It was a commerical that aired in the US, but not in Canada:

  8. it did it again…my comment is lost :( I will try again later.

  9. You are most welcome Bizzee. And I will be purchasing both Davids’ CDs as well.

    Let’s hope that Season 8 can capture the heartfelt emotion and superb artistry of Season 7. Tough act to follow!

  10. katherinesmom May 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I agree that both Davids were stellar! I was pulling for David A. to win but I think with a little more life experience, he will be a star. David C. is already there as he exhibited a more mature approach to his music. Don’t get me wrong- Arch is astoundingly mature in his vocal timbre. I’m talking about the emotional experiences which allows an artist to bring more to his interpretations. Bravo to both Davids! I can’t wait to hear their CDs.

    Ok, just a minor nitpick with both: David A. must work on his physical performance aka “the Archuleta hand” :) . (Arch called said that himself in an interview, lol!)

    David C.: MCL, I can’t believe that scrunching up his eyes when he goes for big notes is good technique. I got tired of seeing picture after picture of him with his eyes tightly shut and his mouth wide open (sometimes in a round shape, sometimes not). Maybe he thinks it makes him look “angsty” and “rocker”?

    Enough with that- this season left me emotionally drained. The internet can be a pretty rough world to navigate. Next time, I’m only coming to this site! Brava to you, MCL, for balanced criticism that remained consistently and constantly positive.

  11. As always, we learn from your articles, MCL. Thank you so much!

    Did anyone noticed that David A. didn’t connect with the brief singing of “Freedom” and Larry King asked him to join in? I was wondering what happened? Was it because he was laughing? He is adorable but I was a little disappointed.

  12. Oh, I missed that “Freedom” number – I heard it, but was away from the TV. I will have to check it out on the internet. Maybe, David A was just tired? He was really giddy last night. He did well in the interview though, as did David Cook and the rest.

  13. That Larry King interview was great–at least, the top 10 were great! (Larry King appeared to never have actually watched the show.) I loved how they seemed to, by and large, like each other so much. David Cook, especially, seems (charmingly) to have taken on the Daddy role, jumping in whenever he thought someone needed defending or help.

  14. Just wanted to add–if anyone missed it, the interview is up on http://mjsbigblog.com/ in several segments.

  15. MCL,
    I have a question that I have been meaning to ask for years now and I’m sure you probably already covered it – but the issue of the “upper register” and “lower register” still escape me. Is there an easy way to explain it? I don’t think it is just high notes and low notes.
    As for the Davids-I’ve never seen so much graciousness on stage before. Watching them after the show ended has been more pleasurable to me than during the season. I would be proud to be the mother of either of these young men. David Cook was incredible gracious and inclusive to Lil David and Lil David returned the graciousness. Watching their exit interviews has been a lot of fun. David Cook is incredibly articulate and humble. Archie is sweet and will get better at interviews as he gets older. He has trouble completing his thoughts without giggling but that will come with time. I was amazed Larry King got DC to talk about his brother. That was a first. He is a fighter and I hope he can contine. Ten years with a brain tumor is a long time. I’m happy that Adam got to see his little brother on the stage. That, I’m sure, was a gift to him. David Cooks emblazoning his brother’s initials on his guitar, his jacket, and a tatoo on his arm show me what a caring and loving brother he is. Also, the orange bracelets he wears for Lily Rose and another little girl, I think her name is Bailey show again how caring he is. I hope he never changes. He is a wonderful role model and someone for Lil David to look up to. There really seems to be a bond between them and I hope that it continues throughout the tour and beyond. Lil David will only get better as he gets older and has more life experience and the tour will give him an opportunity to stetch and to grow. I was a David Cook fan since he sang Hello and showed what an incredible, magnetic artist he is. Now, watching the both of them interact with such grace, poise, dignity, and caring makes me now want to purchase both of their cd’s. It’s funny to say because I don’t personally know either of them, but they both make me proud with their actions. Congratulations Davids. I look forward to watching your post idol journeys.

  16. MCL, I went back to read what you wrote when David C. sang ‘Hello’ and found Kelsey’s post quite interesting.

    “I feel badly for David Archuleta in a way. I’m sick of all the hype about him, but that’s not his fault, you know? He’s not doing anything differently than anyone else is – the judges just happen to be heaping the praise on him, and the media decided to pick it up.”

    Kelsey opinion is reflective of what ended up happening right to the end. Seeing Randy’s jump out of his his seat after David’s last performance made me feel uncomfortable. Why continue with that kind of pressure on David A.? There were weeks when he just with overboard with the praise.

    MCL, that column proves you know your business! Brava!

  17. Oh my goodness! Please forgive my errors in the above post.

  18. Thank you Kariann. Yes, I agree – Randy was really generous with his comments after David A.’s performances.

    I’ve never seen him like that and I was often wondering if he was, perhaps, flattering him in an effort to woo him into collaborating on a CD with him. Just a fleeting thought at the time, because he has since signed with JIVE in a big way.

  19. I am so happy he signed to Jive…they know how to promote their artists very well. David A. is just one of those rare talents…to me, he is more unique than Cook, not to mention a much better singer.

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    [...] you for this. Oftentimes, in today’s pop music, the lyrics get left behind. What a shame!Please click here, to read the rest. Also, check out her entire May 2008, posts here. Posted by janey at 9:32 pmLeave [...]

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