By: 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
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.
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.