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Top 11 American Idol Season 8 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Grand Ole Opry


American Idol
By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week’s theme show focused on the music catalogue from the Grand Ole Opry. Generally, given my classical and musical theatre background, I hold little interest in this particular theme night; however, I do respect that there is an enormous audience for this music and that spells ratings!

Performance-wise, this was a splendid showcase for the singers. The straightforward musical structure  of the selected songs generally encouraged the singers to apply a distinct, innovative approach to these often-performed numbers.

As a  result,  we were treated to some refreshing and modern twists on the original cover songs.  This is what I was listening for and the singers that succeeded in this artistic task gave the strongest and most memorable performances.

Randy Travis was a superb guest mentor and he patiently guided these singers through the rehearsal process.

Now, let us move forward to my Vocal Masterclass evaluations and I welcome your commentary and suggestions after the read!

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.

Adam Lambert,  Alexis Grace,  Allison Iraheta,

Anoop Desai,  Danny Gokey,  Kris Allen,

Lil Rounds,  Matt Giraud,  Megan Joy,

Michael Sarver,  Scott MacIntyre

ADAM LAMBERT 27-years-old: “Ring Of Fire”

Strengths: Adam-well, that was one, sexy, take on this signature Johnny Cash number!  And the Cabaret Idol becomes even more evident with every passing week!  This week, another piece of the Lambert musical puzzle was revealed and it is shaping up to be a good one.

Your Middle Eastern interpretation of this song was quite the inventive arrangement.  Your eyes really connected with the television camera, bringing all of us along for this very unique musical ride.  However, I do have to say that the first part of this song was lost on me, but then, as the song progressed, Cabaret Adam kicked in and I loved it! Loved! It!

Your head voice was gorgeous and you effortlessly accessed this area of your range with the support of  your advanced technical skills.  The beauty of your head voice accented the fact that you have the  range of a counter-tenor, but I think you already know this.   The beauty and the clarity of your upper range is really remarkable – so transparent and true.

I also loved the dramatic hand, arm and head movement; they strengthened the visual components of this number and beautifully complimented the aural experience. You were totally immersed in this song and your artistic focus throughout this number was exceptional. 

Paula was so correct when she said:  “You are raising your own bar each week”. In essence, you think like an athlete and are competing against yourself.  That signifies confidence and a promise of creatively exciting showcases in the coming weeks.

Bravo Adam!

Critique: Adam-you need to adopt a more vigilant approach to the production of  you lower range. At the  beginning of this song., I felt that your voice lacked true focus.  Part of me thinks that it was due to nerves.  There was a bit of a quiver in your voice, which signaled to me that the diaphragmragmatic breathing muscles were not fully engaged during the supportive process. 

Breathe deeply and dig into those lower notes and make sure you create a cohesive blend of chest and head voice in that part of your range.  You need depth and clarity in this part of your range, so that your baritone voice sounds seamless when you move into your stellar upper range. 

Propel your voice to your vocal masque and make certain that the lower end of your voice is brimming with head resonance. Otherwise,  your baritone voice will continue to sound vague and ambiguous.

Also, from an artistic standpoint, always know that I have deep admiration for everything you have to offer to the American Idol viewers each week.  However, I feel that you are going to have to “reel it in a bit” and create performances that touch Middle America.   You can still be “artsy” over the long term, but, in the next couple of weeks, we need to see and hear performances that will grab the voters, performances with which they can identify.

You are intelligent enough to do both at the same time and, from watching your pre-Idol videos, I know you can do this. Just stand there and sing your heart out – be one of us and let your vocals shine in a way that will rock this competition out of the water. 

Presently, the theatrical aspects of your performances are masking the stellar beauty of your voice. I can appreciate it, but, I am not too sure if the general audience is on the same page as me.

However, when all is said and done, you are a consummate performer, the likes of which we have never seen on American Idol. You take artistic risks and I truly admire your creative tenacity.  The show is fortunate to have discovered you, as your performances are truly distinctive and absolutely unique.

ALEXIS GRACE 21-years-old: “Jolene”

Strengths: Alexis- you selected  one of my favorite Dolly Parton songs.    You looked and sounded radiant and it was such a pleasure to hear you sing such a sensitive ballad. In fact, I would like to hear more in the future.  You certainly highlighted your sensitive and expressive persona with this stellar song choice.

I would like to congratulate you on the melancholy flavor your incorporated into this signature Country classic. I thought it was well-formulated and complimented your natural style and ability.

Additionally, your exposed the beauty and ring of your pure head voice midway through this song  and, in doing so, provided a wonderful contrast to the full sound of your  natural singing range.  Generally, your vocal timbre is brimming with head resonance, thus rendering clarity and transparency throughout your entire vocal range.

Technically, you on the correct pathway; you generally apply a cohesive approach to your pure vowels, sustaining them through the support from the diaphragm.

Also, your stage demeanor reflected the angst emotion in the song lyrics – you felt and communicated this song extremely effectively to  the audience and in  a genuine manner. Good for you!

Good work, Alexis!

Critique: Alexis-make certain that you sustain your falsetto with even stronger diaphragmatic support. I felt that, overall, the vocal sound was beautiful, but was starting to go astray because of lack of continued support. Make certain that you grab the pure vowels and flex those muscles so that the support is consistent and true.

Also, as I said last week,  keep working on a more consistent approach to your mouth formation when sustaining your pure vowels. Presently, your mouth is still somewhat horizontal when you sing through your melodic line, thus allowing some tension and negative pressure to prevail in your overall vocal timbre.

You need to relax that jaw and allow the diaphragmatic muscles to guide and focus your voice in your vocal mask. Also,  a proper technical approach will keep the chest resonance “in check” – something that was a bit too prevalent in your voice this week.

As a result, when you did access your falsetto range, I detected a bit of an unsteady timbre in your vocal sound. The head resonance, not being at the core of your natural range, lost its center.  Your support muscles were not as elevated and energetic as should have been the case, so you had to quickly make an adjustment. And you did!    You worked it out as the song moved forward and you corrected the problem toward the end of the falsetto passage. 

However, when all is said and done, you want to mainitain a seamless continuity throughout your entire range, so that the melodic line sounds smooth and effortless throughout the entire song.

However, I still loved your artistic approach to this song Alexis! Very well done!

ALLISON IRAHETA 16 -years old: “Blame It On Your Heart”  Studio Version

Strengths: Allison- you selected a less familiar song to my ears, so I could sit back and fully appreciate your interpretation in a truly unbiased fashion.  My goodness, you have  a voice, girl! And you have a confident stance when you are on that Idol stage – like you truly belong there and you do!

You even added a country flare to this song – diverting from the customary rock  flavor in your vocals.  It was a rock-country sound in every sense of the word and I was loving it.  Your voice sounded energized and vibrant, brimming with artistic confidence and musicality.

Also, you worked the stage like a pro and, given your young age, your stage skills were truly impressive. You effortlessly navigated the perimeter of the stage, establishing a strong bond with your live audience.

This wa s great performance, Allison. Kudos!

Critique: Allison- as I said last week, be very careful that you do not push those vocals into pure chest resonance. Do not leave the head resonance behind. I love your voice when you sing through your lower range- it is  wonderfully low and sultry; however, the upper vocals are lacking the ringing  presence of necessary head resonance and, as a result, your vocal range sounds uneven and disjointed.

Also, I felt that your throat was so constricted and, as a result, there was  a discernible “push” in the overall quality of your voice. Like some of the other singers in this competition, you are struggling to maintain a circular position to your mouth when grabbing the pure vowels in your lyrics. And your jaw is noticeably tight, thus impeding the proper support from the diaphragm.

I think what is saving your voice right now is the key selection of your songs. Both last week and this week, the key selection highlighted your naural singing range – not too high, not too low, but just right! Smart lady.

However, at some point, you will need to expand the boundaries of your natural singing range if you want to grow as an artist. Therefore, keep working on the expansion of your technical resources.

Also, in future performances, I hope to hear you sing a slower-paced song, one that would demonstrate your softer, vulnerable side. Up until now, all of your songs have been quite identical, so it is imperative that you change your selection focus and opt for a ballad in the near future.

Good luck, Allison

ANOOP DESAI 22-years-old: “You Were Always On My Mind”

Strengths: Anoop- this was  a great, great song choice, one that lends itself to different styles of singing – even classical.    In fact, you adopted a classical “bel canto “approach and, in doing so, demonstrated to everyone  that a classical technical approach to other genres of music actually works.

You sounded absolutely spectacular this week and your improvement level was enormous. Huge, in fact! You did not sound like the Anoop I heard in past weeks. This week, you looked and sounded like a refined, charismatic performer and I applaud you immensely for your hard work and determination to elevate your craft.

I  loved the hushed intensity at the beginning of this song; it perfectly established the romatic mood of this number. And kudos to the pianist, who added some neat chords to compliment this wonderful arrangement, thus elevating the musical dimension of this song performance.  

Your vocals were beautifully sustained on the pure vowel and your mouth was  perfectly round and that jaw extremely relaxed.  As a result, because the resonating areas behind your vocal masque were open and free, your voice exhibited a centered focus and ring .  It sounded seamless and pure from top to bottom

Additionally, you added some wonderful vocal variation to the original melodic structure, distinguishing it from so many of the other covers of this song.   You poured every ounce of your heart and soul into this number, Anoop, and, through your natural sensitivity and musical skills, established an even closer bond with your growing fanbase. 

Bravo and standing ovation!

Critique: Anoop-I can”t add anything in this critique because you improved in such a monumental way. The way you performed this song was so perfect and when you added the passionate riffs toward the end of this song, then that solidified this expessive performance as a “slam-dunk”.

Hopefully, you will continue to grow as a vocalist and create memorable, noteworthy performances!  Somehow, I have no doubt that you will. Excellent work! :)

DANNY GOKEY 28- years old : “Jesus Take The Wheel”  Studio Version

Strengths: Danny -you tackled  Carrie Underwood’s first successful single with soulful artistry. You looked and sounded sincere and you communicated this song to the audience with clarity and authenticity. Just beautiful! All lyrics were crystal clear.

That is one round mouth for someone that apparently has never taken a voice lesson.  Maybe you are a little bit British? :)  Whatever the reason, the relaxation in the lower half of your face really harnesses the pure quality in your vocal presence.

Additionally, your rhythmic presence on stage was spectacular. What a great, innovative approach to this signature song. Totally Danny all the way. Where does this musical depth come from?  It is just outstanding.  This was a wonderfully nuanced approach – from the soft dynamic at the beginning of the song to the slow, determined build-up to the passionate vocals during the second half of the song.  Simon calls it “light and shade” – good one, Simon!

A well-paced and well-rehearsed performance.

 Critique: Danny -make certain that you are consistently supporting your voice in the lower range – think higher when you sing lower. The voice needs to have a lift in the lower range, otherwise it will fall flat. I didn’t feel that it was a major problem in this song, as you have a naturally resonant vocal instrument.

However, it could become increasingly more problematic over the course of time. You want to deepen and strengthen tyour lower range, so that it mirrors  the ringing presence and potency of  your upper range.

And speaking of your upper range, be very careful that you do not push the chest resonance into your tenor range. You have a very rich instrument, so it can fool the listeners, but do not trade solid technical skills for forced potency in your upper vocals.  If you do, you will over-extend your vocal cords and run the risk of permanently injuring the muscle.

Make sure that all the strength and power for your vocal sound is emanating from your diaphragmatic breathing muscles. Breathe deeply and let the rib cage and back muscles guide the air to achieve whatever dynamic level you wish to attain.  And always center your power vocals with head resonance – this element always has to be at the core of your vocal sound, high or low, loud or soft.

Great work, Danny!

KRIS ALLEN 23- years old: “To Make You Feel My Love”   Studio Version

Strengths: Kris – you totally captivated me this week with your sensitivity and emotion. The lovely ballad that you selected for this week’s performance was perfect, as we were able to appreciate your sensitive and gentle artistry. Good for you! I was waiting for this!

Also, I enjoyed the fact that you performed without your guitar, as it allowed you to focus your energy on your vocals. This decision paid off in major dividends.

Seated on a stool, you established a quiet, romantic mood and a confident, accommodating demeanor. Additionally, your voice was beautifully resonant and pure this week. The circular formation of your mouth and the relaxation of your jaw was an obvious technical improvement and, for this reason, your voice sounded absolutely gorgeous. It had presence and focus! 

Also, you exhibited great posture – a nice high rib cage, signaling to me that the diaphragmatic  breathing muscles were able to work in a very consistent fashion. It also accentuated your confident stage demeanor, allowing you to communicate your words with confidence and sensitivity

Artistically, this was a sensitive and heartwarming performance. And, yes, I was waiting for the head voice on your final note and you delivered! A little crack in the veneer, but you added some more breath from the diaphragm and sustained the pitch beautifully in the end.

This was a superb performance Kris! I loved  it!

Critique: Kris -keep working on that mouth position and relax that jaw. Trust the diaphragm to do the work.  Your voice is so naturally pure and clear, that once you become more comfortable with the circular mouth position on all the vowels, you will be astounded at the additional depth and resonance in your vocal timbre. It just does the trick – trust me!

However, overall, like Anoop, I felt that your performance and vocal skills improved in a monumental way and this indicated to me that you are working extremely hard at honing and refining your technical skills. What more can Masterclass Lady ask for, right?   Keep up the great work, Kris and best of luck with your rehearsals for next week’s showcase. 

LIL ROUNDS: 24- years old “Independence Day”  Studio Version

Strengths: Lil -you looked absolutely radiant this week.  That red dress was beautiful – it added to the visual aspect of this wonderful performance of Martina McBride’s song.  Throughout this song, you generally retained the perfect “bel canto” mouth position and this resulted in a seamless vocal quality throughout your vocal and dynamic range.

I also appreciated the  slight bend in your knees, as it allowed your soft palate to remain elevated and your throat open and free. As a result your voice always sounded resonant and focused in your vocal masque (facial features)

And speaking of  facial features, every feature was fully relaxed and liberated throughout this anthem song. I especially noted the  beautiful implementation of head resonance in your soft and louder dynamic levels.  Once again, this signaled to me that your technical resources were in full swing in the lower half of your body, guiding and focusing your sound consistently and evenly in your vocal masque.

And, more than any other singer in this competition, you understand the importance of maintaining a circular mouth position on all of the pure vowels. You do try to avoid the messy diphthongs at all cost and, as a result, your voice sounds beautifully centered and true.

For example, you sustained the “ay” diphthong” in the final word  -“day” – on the “eh” vowel and made certain that the circular formation of your mouth assisted the process.  That was super to see and hear – almost a mini-Masterclass moment for the readers at the close of your song.

Brava Lil!  You are a tremendous singer!

Critique: Lil – I would have loved to see you take advantage of the stage area to a greater extent.  The vocals were spectacular, but the performing skills seemed very restrained this week. As you yourself said, this was quite a departure from your R&B roots, so this fact quite possibly hindered the stylistic aspects of your performance.

You need to maintain confidence in your natural artistry and allow your creative juices to spin any song to reflect your personal style. Don’t let the song rule you – you must rule the song. 

Also, make absolutely certain that you support your lower range (I feel that I am typing the same advice for all the singers this week) as consistently as you do the upper!  I felt that your support was not as strong in the lower end of your voice and, at times, you gave into the messy diphthongs in your words. 

It wasn’t as problematic as when I listened to some of the others this week, but, the tendency to become lax in the lower end was still visible to the eye, if not to the ear.  

You  are fortunate that you have a naturally resonant vocal instrument that resonates with relative ease and freedom. However, make certain that you harness this natural energy with consistently applied technical resources.

Great work, nonetheless, Lil.

MATT GIRAUD  23-years-old:” So Small”

Strengths: Matt -once again, we saw and heard you seamlessly connect your vocal and instrumental skills in a monumental way.  Seated at the piano, you appeared very immersed in your comfort zone.  You adopted a very personal approach to this song, distinguishing it from the original Carrie Underwood cover.

Therefore, for this reason alone, your performance deserves the highest praise. You reinvented the song and arranged it to suit your style.  You grabbed control of the artistic reins and guided the listener down a new and exciting musical path.  Bravo!  For all of these above reasons, I found this performance to be spectacular.

Also your piano abilities are brilliant. Brilliant!   You really know how to create a full orchestral accompaniment with that piano. You fingers don’t just “tickle the ivories” – they dig deep into the keys and create gorgeous shading and nuance to mirror the same effect in your stellar vocals.

And speaking of your voice,  you projected a more resonant and confident vocal sound  than in previous weeks,  looking and sounding  like a softer version of  The Buble.   Did the judges just notice this?  It was pretty transparent from the minute I saw you in the semi-final rounds.

Your voice has a husky quality mixed in with a lighter “head voice” texture and, although your technique is not as solidified as I would like it to be, you most certainly made advances in this respect during this week’s showcase. 

Your final note was testament to this: sustaining the word “all” in pure head voice with that ever-important circular mouth and relaxed jaw. You even managed a slight crescendo (gradually louder) on this sustained note, by pushing some air from your diaphragm to achieve a forward momentum. Good for you, Matt!

Great, great performance! I was truly impressed!

Critique: Matt- keep on working to consistently achieve a  circular mouth formation . Presently, the horizontal placement of your mouth is “winning the day” in this respect. Vertical is the way to go!

Also, make certain that you grab those pure vowels and focus your voice on the vowels for as long as possible. Do not let the consonants interfere with the process; they are meant to be vertically articulated in a  crisp, clean and expedient fashion.

Also, remember that beautiful head voice at the end of your song? Always remember to incorporate some of this crucial vocal element into every area of your range, thus ensuring the ringing presence of your voice throughout your range.  Presently, I feel that your voice is lying back in your throat; I need to hear and feel it more forward in placement, resonating freely in your vocal masque.

However, you need to make certain that your intake of air is efficient and deep, allowing your elevated ribcage muscles and back muscles to expand in the process. Then, when you begin to sing, the reverse effect takes place – similar to slowly letting air out of a balloon -and the muscles begin the flexing process that is so important to the perfect vibration of the vocal cords.

This requires slow, consistent practice, but something tells me you are a quick study – and a determined one as well – and you will make inroads in your technical growth at a faster rate than most.

Hope all of this helps Matt! You are an outstanding artist and I look forward to all you have to offer in the coming weeks.

MEGAN JOY years-old : ” Walking After Midnight”   Studio Version

Strengths: Megan- as you said in your brief interview, you changed this song to be comfortable and it really worked.  I loved your quirky, almost throwback persona. It rings very true in my heart and I feel that you are not playing a part on stage – you are being Megan – and I like what I see.

I loved the bluesy, relaxed, laidback style when you performed this song. It was superbly suited to the lyrics and, as a result, the communication level of this song was very strong indeed.

And I did notice that you did refine your excessive body movement, but I found it adorable how every now and then it “kicked back in”.  As I said last week, I actually enjoy some of these atypical and unusual movements, so just streamline them a bit and work them out so that they do not interfere with your vocal line.

Also, I have to applaud you and give you a rousing standing “O” on your outstanding vocal performance, given the fact that you were extremely ill with Influenza B. Wow! And to think of how beautiful those upper notes would have sounded if you had not been so ill? You went for them anyway and they were crystal clear – like a bell! One could hear the congestion in your voice and, yet, still, you were confident and determined enough to sing this song to the very best of your ability. And you did!

Critique: Megan – be very careful of your mouth formation when you enunciate the “ee” vowel. In this week’s performance, your mouth adopted a horizontal spread and you would be wise to maintain a circular position with your mouth on this vowel. You do so with the rounder vowels, like “ah, “oh” and “oo”, but now you need to focus on a consistently circular approach to all your vowels.

Also, watch those hand movements – they sometimes seemed a little bit “out of sync” with the rhythmic flow of the song. A mirror is a singer’s best friend, so, from time to time, make sure you rehearse your song in front of a mirror to correct any excessive or incorrect body movements.

However, because you have been so ill this week, the best advice I have to offer you right now is to rest with a capital “R”!  We want to see a healthy Megan in the coming weeks. Get well soon, Megan and be proud of what you did accomplish on stage this week. Kudos!!!!

MICHAEL SARVER: “Ain’t Goin’ Down Till the Sun Comes Up”

Strengths: Michael – this was  a really good song choice and extremely “lyric-friendly” Generally, I thought you communicated the lyrics quite well and did not hesitate to spin those words out of your mouth. All the words were fairly coherent and, in this respect, the song was communicated very well. Great memory work!

I loved the vocal slide on “oh” midway through this song and you negotiated key change very well. You also acknowledged the “entertainment aspect” of this song, moving quite effortlessly on and off the stage in order to fully engage your audience.  This song requires showmanship and, as a result,  encouraged you to highlight this natural performing aspect in your stage persona.

Good work, Michael!

Critique: Michael -you had a very spread, horizontal mouth position throughout this performance and this detracted from your vocal energy. The voice never moved forward – never truly projected.  I found your facial muscles extremely tense due to the lack of a vertical mouth position  on your pure, uncluttered vowels. Additionally, your throat was extremely constricted, thus deterring the natural resonating presence of your vocal timbre.

Be very careful when rehearsing songs with a verbose, cyclic pattern in the lyrical content. You have to make sure that the vowels are cohesively and continuously attached to the notation in the melodic line. I felt that you were, in essence, “chewing the words” and not allowing the vowels to assist you in the forward focus of your melodic line. The consonants are important – but need to be articulated quickly with a vertical mouth formation.

Also, you tend to sustain your words on multiple vowels or diphthongs, thus diminishing the natural essence of your vocal timbre.  Make absolutely certain that you grab the pure vowel in your words and ignore the diphthongs at all cost.

Finally, when you are rehearsing a fast-paced song, it always helps to slow down the tempo in the rehearsal process. This allows you to deliberately focus on the proper placement of the vowels, making certain that you are diaphragmatically supporting the melodic line in a way that establishes clear focus of the melody in the vocal masque.

Best of luck next week, Michael!

SCOTT MACINTYRE 23-years-old: “Wild Angels”   Studio Version

Strengths: Scott -you exuded an extremely peaceful  presence during this exquisite showcase this week.  Seated at the piano, you communicated this song with passion and musical sensitivity.  It was a superb performance!

And, like Matt, your pianos skills are outstanding. For me, there is nothing greater than watching a vocalist seated at the piano – totally immersed in his element.

I also loved listening to the refined approach you applied to your lyrics:  e.g “perfect world” – relaxed “r” consonant, and uncluttered, “British-style” vowels.  You really grabbed your pure vowels, as evidenced in your vocal sound during the “wild angels’ segment – lots of pure vowel sustaining ability and a supreme effort to avoid the messy diphthongs in both words.

And without stopping the compliments here, I applaud you on mastering the circular mouth formation when sustaining the   “ee” vowel in the word “be” – it was absolutely perfect and, as a result,  your voice sounded centered and clear.

Your voice sounded so transparent throughout this song and, because of your stellar technical efforts, your vocal timbre had presence and ring throughout this showcase. Gorgeous!

What a phenomenal performance!  Your musical honesty was absolutely inspirational and, as Kara said you bring class and poise to the stage each and every week.

Critique: Scott- you experienced some problems with your falsetto passage. Always remember to  trust your diaphragmatic support system and focus the sound through this technical resource.  You needed to access your pure head voice and, if you wanted to increase the dynamic level, then apply the appropriate amount of support from the diaphragm to achieve the desired result.  

Also, you intermittently  constricted your  facial features, thus closing off the resonating areas in your vocal masque. Remember to  keep your facial features open and relaxed and allow your voice to be guided toward your vocal masque through the breathing process.

Also, we need to hear an upbeat song from you in the very near future. It really doesn’t matter to me whether or not you leave the piano –  I would just love for you to expose a fun-loving, entertaining side to your stage persona.

 It will also diminish some of the pressure that comes from singing musically expressive and sustaining ballads each week  and I will bet your voice will take on a revitalization process.

Also, and this is an aesthetic piece of advice, you might consider donning sunglasses.  It might add a “cool” element to your stage persona and, given your visual impairment, take the focus away from your eyes.  This advice is coming not only from me, but also from several of my artistic friends, who felt this might enhance your stage persona in a positive way.

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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

59 Responses to “Top 11 American Idol Season 8 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Grand Ole Opry”

  1. MCL,
    It is really wonderful that you take time to write such constructive critiques of each contestant’s performance. I know nothing about the technical aspects of singing, so it’s always interesting to read your critiques. These contestants really are an especially talented group, don’t you think?

    The buzz yesterday was mostly about Adam’s performance, and while I don’t mean to diminish it, there were several other really outstanding performances too. I’m glad to see that you agree with this novice’s interpretations.

    I’m looking forward to Motown week–can’t wait to see what they’ll sing. It will be good for them to have an extra day to practice.

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  2. MCL,I really appreciate your in-depth and constructive critiques of all he perfomances. While I am an Adam Lambert lover and was mesmerized by his performance this week, I was so impressed with Anoop,Matt and Megan (who was obviously so under the weather)as well. Country seems to be a difficult week season after season, but I was very pleasantly surprised by almost all of the performances.
    Now it’s on to Motown! Thank you so much.

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  3. I’ve got a question. What happens if/when the judges use their save? Would the show go a week longer this season? I don’t quite get all the details. I was thinking last night and now I’m really curious. Enlighten me!

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  4. I think they said that the next week after a “save,” two contestants would be eliminated. Does anyone else remember if that’s correct?

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  5. Once again, I have to thank you, MCL–I love how much I am learning by reading your critiques, and I hope the singers are reading them, too, you are so generous with your assistance!

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  6. Another nice one MCL. :)

    You are always so fair to the contestants.

    Like

  7. I just want to add that I completely agree with you on Adam. LOL. The head voice is so so pretty. MCL, you MUST listen to the studio recording of this song. The head tone is just so beautiful and gets you from the first note.
    :)

    Like

  8. MCL, I’ve enjoyed reading your critiques since season five,though this is my first time posting here.What I love about your critiques is that you always accentuate the positive first, building the person’s self esteem.This will be an interesting season since the group is so diverse,I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

    Like

  9. *nods* That’s right; two contestants will be eliminated the week after the judges’ save.

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  10. MCL, Just to reference Adam’s stunning head voice….In the studio version it’s even more salient. It’s seriously so clear and beautiful that it’s almost like it’s floating. It’s the kind of voice that captures the imagination. MCL, if you get a chance to listen to the Studio version, please let us know what you think (especially the head voice)!

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  11. Agree re Adam’s studio version. His vocals are just gorgeous, although it lacks some of the edginess of the live version.
    His sound on studio version is so pure.

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  12. MCL,
    What is the difference between the head voice and chest voice? Also, I have never heard of a counter-tenor…..can you explain it so it will be understandable to someone with little technical understanding.
    I love your critiques and look forward to them every week. Thank you.

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  13. As always, excellent critique, MCL! I agreed with nearly everything you said. I am just curious, MCL, do you ever listen to the Studio versions of the songs you can download off of iTunes? I have listened to a singer perform live on the show and just though their performance was “good.” Then, when I download the studio version off of iTunes, I am positively blown away! For instance, though Danny is my favorite contestant this year, I didn’t think his song choice was excellent this week (though I dearly love the song and its message). However, when I downloaded it off iTunes, Danny sounded absolutely amazing! I am so thankful that you can download studio versions off iTunes. It gives you a taste of how that contestant will sound on a bona fide CD! I love it! When it is all said and done, my favorite four performers this week in order were:

    1. Danny
    2. Matt
    3. Scott
    4. Anoop

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  14. Your technical assesment of the contestants all these years have always intrigued me.
    I can’t say I completely understand what you are saying but it may inspire me to take vocal lessons to find out one day.
    In the meantime, write on and I will definitely read on.
    On Adam, his rendition of Is Anybody Listening? from the Ten Commandments on You Tube is breathtaking. Have you seen it? What do you think?

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  15. Your critique articles are very extensive and shed a lot of light to viewers with no musical experience (such as I).

    Adam is really the star that stands out to me in season 8. I actually do not like his style and genre of music. But there’s something about his voice and his untouchable vocal ability that really draws me. Unique feels like an understatement. His ROF performance was laudable though I was initially bewildered, but if one can put aside bias and not question the strangeness of the song arrangement- he or she will definitely appreciate the vocals.

    But I am so glad that Adam knows EXACTLY who he is. What he wants to do, what he plans to do. That is exactly the right thing- don’t conform to the social or AI norms. That is why everyone outside of US will know Adam Lambert.

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  16. Hey Lakhesis:

    I agree that Adam Lambert is the star of Season 8, and perhaps across all seasons. I have been watching Idol since season 1 and have never seen a contestant get so much attention, love him or hate him. The reality is that his vocal ability is outstandingly good, so whether you like his style or not, he gets respect. If Adam was merely something different without the vocal ability, no one would be talking about him. It’s that combination of bringing something fresh to the table, star power, and killer vocals that have everyone buzzing. It’s the package.

    He totally has that thang. Whenever I look at him I hum the song “that thing, that thing, that thiiiing”. Forget who sings it. LOL.

    I have never seen a kid like this, and to me, that’s a very very good thing.

    Some of the stuff on You Tube is crazy good too. He does a song by 4 Non Blondes that has me smiling from beginning to end (What’s up).

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  17. Dear MCL,
    I thoroughly enjoy reading your commentary. I play the song of the singer and the commentary during my read of your commentary. It really makes good sense when I get a glimpse of the applied techniques you mention. I look forward to reading this site week after week and hope to hear of improvements the contestants may make.

    I agree with Galen that upon hearing Danny’s studio version of Jesus Take The Wheel, it is superb and it is very radio friendly, while his live performance is full of explosive flares. Very nice.

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  18. Hi Masterclasslady,

    Love your critiques. Would you be willing to tell us about each singers range? Recently someone posted that Randy and Simon were talking and it was said that Adam had a 9 octave range. Is this possible or were they just being dramatic?

    Thank you

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  19. Haha I don’t have a long idol experience.
    I have listened to some of his songs on youtube and they are masterpieces as well. Very beautiful notes and reach. With the performances there, I really do not understand the criticism that goes “He screams” or “he is an average singer”. Those phrases = bias.

    He’s proven he can sing to America. I don’t know if winning AI would be the best for his career if the rumors of AI constraints of winners and runner-ups are true. He’s at his best unbounded.

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  20. They were just being dramatic! Nine octaves would encompass almost the enitre piano keyboard – minus two octaves. It’s very misleading to the public when they say this, but I think they just mean that Adam’s vocal range is exceptional.

    Thanks for your kind comments and please drop by again.

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  21. Not sure if this is the right place to post this, so feel free to delete if you want to.

    Just wondering if you’ve seen this, MCL.

    It seems to be a newer clip of Adam singing from Brigadoon. He may not want to do musical theater, but gosh, he sounds good doing it. And I think he’s annoying musical theater people and fans by downplaying it and talking about it like it was just a job to pass the time until he could get to his real career. That’s the rumor out there, anyway.

    Like

  22. While not an Adam fan, I must admit that he does have great vocal talent. But, as a fan of musical theatre, I thought he did a tremendous job on “Is Anybody Listening”. I think I like him more when I can’t see him perform and can just hear his vocals. :-)

    Like

  23. I have read all things Adam Lambert and have NEVER seen this rumour. I have only read good things from people who used to work with him. All said he was a joy to be around.

    Like

  24. I think maybe my comment was misunderstood. All accounts from specific people he used to work with have been positive. I have just read a comment from someone on another site that mentioned that people on Broadway messageboards were upset about his comments. And I saw a comment on some article related to Broadway where a poster mentioned his/her own annoyance at Adam’s comments.

    Although I’m an Adam fan, I guess I’m annoyed by it too. I like musical theater a great deal – and he may find that if his preferred music career doesn’t work out, musical theater is still a darn good job and a good way to reach people.

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  25. In one way, I thought that Scott ought to wear shades because I am uncomfortable with his unfocused eyes. But on the other hand, I got used to them and didn’t “bother” me anymore. I like his attitude, sincerity, politeness without being pious, great gleeful humor and then the personality overcame the “eyes.” Stevie Wonder always wore shades as well as Ray Charles, I wished I had seen their eyes, and I really don’t think it adds the so called coolness or the hip look. It was more like “hiding.”

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  26. In total honesty, I think Adam actually has more going for him in the musical theater industry than he would as a contemporary recording artist. There’s nothing at all wrong with that either. I just believe his true gift is in theatre. As good as Adam’s voice may be, one must admit that his performance skills are where he really shines. I think you made a very sobering point, Kelsey. If Adam doesn’t achieve success in his current endeavor on American Idol, then he may be VERY thankful he has his theater experience to fall back on. Nothing is guaranteed or written in stone. Just because Adam seems to be the most popular thing since Hot Pockets doesn’t mean that he will be a successful contemporary artist. My advice to all of the Idol contestants is to play to their strengths and be thankful for them. If Adam is so talented at musical theater, maybe that is what he is meant to do–whether he likes it or not. Sometimes we don’t get to choose our gifts–but it is up to us to make the best of the gifts we have been given. I hope all of this year’s competitors will learn to do just that.

    Oh, and pfmont, I completely agree with you about Danny Gokey’s studio version of “Jesus Take The Wheel.” It is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs and I agree wholeheartedly that is “radio-friendly” to the max! He’s MY American Idol this season, that’s for sure!

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  27. I think sometimes Scott’s eyes can add an emotional strength to his performances. It is said that the eyes are windows to a person’s soul, so when Scott sings his heart out and puts everything he has into his song, you can tell by looking into his eyes. They seem to be very expressive at times in my opinion, and I really enjoy it.

    However, I wouldn’t mind if he shook things up one week and came out onto the stage with some cool shades! I think it would really help to show a different side of him, and I believe the viewers would enjoy it. Still, as long as he stays behind the piano (regardless of what Paula says), that is what’s most important to me!

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  28. It’s interesting that you’re discussing the theatrical side of Adam. I have a friend at work who is a fellow AI watcher and we always discuss it “the morning after”! She happens to love broadway musicals and it is for that reason that she liked Adam’s performance. She went on to mention some of the other Idol contestants from previous years who have been on broadway–namely, Diana DeGarmo, Clay Aiken, Taylor Hicks, Fantasia, etc.–and thinks that is where Adam belongs.

    Having watched AI since season 2 (except only off and on last year), the main thing I’ve learned is that anything can happen between now and the finals. One of the frontrunners can have a bad week or two, and one of the others can really begin to shine. There are too many unknowns to be wedded to a favorite at this point. And just because someone wins Idol, doesn’t mean that they’re going to be successful with the general public (including all of those people who never watch Idol)! During season 5, I was a Taylor fan and regularly visited a blog site devoted to him. People loved him so much there, that I was sure he was going to be the biggest star we’ve seen in a while. How wrong I was about that!!! I still enjoy Taylor and saw him in concert, but his audience really is limited. That may be what happens to Adam, Danny, or any of the others too. Now when I watch Idol, I try to be more objective instead of getting so caught up with only one favorite. For instance, I’d have to say at this point that Danny is my favorite, however, my favorite performance last week came from Anoop with Matt coming in second. I will eagerly be awaiting their Motown performances!!!

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  29. Matt Giraud is the dark horse of this competition. He is growing by leaps and bounds every week. Anoop is fighting as well. It’s not over until it’s over!

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  30. To clarify: By newer, I mean “recently released” to Youtube. It’s an old performance, I guess.

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  31. Wow = just wow! The control he exhibits in his falsetto range is perfect – almost inhuman! haha Listen at the 3:23 point in the video and watch that you don’t hurt your jaw when you drop it.

    Thanks so much, Kelsey:)

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  32. I agree, MCL. Matt Giraud never really seems to get the credit he is due. I am liking him more and more each week and predict he will go farther in this competition than most people probably think. His studio version of “So Small” is phenomenal!

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  33. Oh my gosh. That is all I can say. This kid is even more talented than I thought. Wow. Thank you for sharing that find.

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  34. Oh I don’t miss a one of your “sessions” with the contestants, lol….

    I do hope they read them. You are so kind and encouraging to all of them. I really hope Michael takes a minute to read them. Seems like such a sweetheart and I think your help could keep him in longer and maybe give him a shot at the career he so wants.

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  35. MCL your critiques are filled with wisdom and good advice! It is fun to read other articles on the performances, but for a knowledgeable resource – it is yours I enjoy the most. Thank you so much!

    I reread your critique on ANOOP six times! For me, it was the best performance of the night, and I hope he will sing that memorable song on tour. I hope he continues to do well each week.

    Everything written on Adam is interesting! He is surely one to behold. I look forward to the day that his crtics can say, “He does have a good voice!” MOTOWN Week might be the time to do it. It’s like an anticipation in opening a huge birthday present. Cool.

    Stevie without his glasses might be a little distracting, as I have seen photos and a tape. Great talent! I’d like to see Scott with glasses while singing a song that would be on the tour program.

    I grew up with the MOTOWN sound and have visited the museum three times. I am so excited to see what songs are selected!

    Welcome, Judy!

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  36. First time visitor here. Wonderful analysis all ’round, MCL! I was particularly interested in your opinion of Adam Lambert. He’s the first true countertenor I’ve heard in years. Though it’s impossible to really tell from looking at (and listening to) tape – I believe that’s all head voice he’s using. If he does dip into the chest – there’s no discernable break. He moves from one to the other with remarkable ease. I envy him that. There’s a marked difference between my head and chest voice. I did musical theatre for years – mostly getting cast in girl side-kick roles – all alto, or low mezzo. My head voice was soprano; but years of belting dropped those upper notes. I just never got cast in a role that used them.

    Adam has a beautiful instrument – but he needs that breath support you mentioned. Did you notice how he ran out at the very end of ‘Ring of Fire’? He was unable to sustain the tone. It made me wonder if he’s ever had any formal training. Singing on stage is all well and good – but you can pick up some very bad habits. If they’re not corrected – they become ingrained. He needs a primer on breathing, I think. Whatever the outcome of this show – I hope he gloms on to a good teacher or two. Every artist needs to refresh their talent. I used to work as an acting coach (back in the long ago, before a series of bad accidents made treading the boards all but impossible). I ran a theatre company with an attached school (for kids) – and I taught master classes for adults and professionals. No one ever gets to the point where there’s nothing left to learn. I took class as well. It’s how you stay fresh. I really hope Adam avails himself of what’s out there (as should they all).

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  37. Ring of Fire is amazing. Simply mesmerizing, captivating and so beautifully sung. I swear I didn’t even breath during that performance. MCL and the studio version is even better. I felt Adam deserved the same props Cook received for Billie Jean. Yet Simon was an idiot. How could he not see and hear how incredible that performance was? As far as viewers tubie viewers love ROF as it now has over 200,000 views where as most others have 40,000 or less.

    It was a travesty Alexis was sent home before the tour.

    I wish they would replace Kara with you.

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  38. Welcome TFLS!

    There are so many new visitors and I welcome all of you.

    I had to address TFLS’ comments before I head off to Church services. I agree that Adam needs to harness his breath control and I feel that will become more evident in the passing weeks. I am sure he is nervous and that might be compromising his use of the air when he sings. I felt that was a real problem in the beginning stages of his ROF performance. His lower voice didn’t “kick in”, but, man, when he hit the “highs” – pure brilliance.

    Have to run – I am late!

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  39. MCL, Adam-mania has unleashed all over the internet and on your blog. Love him or hate him, everyone is buzzing about him.

    The bottom line is that his technical ability is outrageously good. Take that away and we would not be so captivated and it would be moot to discuss him. It’s like Paula said….He’s leaving some people in the rear-view mirror.

    I echo what others are saying about the studio version of ROF. The head voice is sooooo pretty. You can find it on the Tube, but I purchased it.

    MCL, I have a question for you. What is it about a voice like Adam’s that captures the imagination? Is it the use of head voice?

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  40. Audrey, we’re in complete agreement as respects Adam’s performance of ROF. “Transfixed” was the word Paula used, most aptly in this instance. Very subjectively, I also believe he should have received accolades instead of “hideous” from Simon. Simon is spot on more often than not, but when he makes bloopers regarding a contestant they tend to be major ones, as with a young lady named Jennifer Hudson. So clear in my mind is the night where Simon told her in no uncertain terms that she was “out of her depth” and that “there were so many other singers better than she this is as far as she would get” in the music industry.Jennifer very wisely took this as a challenge, and an Oscar, a Grammy and countless awards later, I would say Simon should re-think this one, for starter.

    And they should replace Kara with MCL!

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  41. Hahahahahaha. I’m all for replacing Kara with MCL! I like Kara as a person, but she’s too safe as far as her tastes go, much like Simon is (from what I’ve seen). It seems that Paula and Randy are willing to stretch more when it comes to artistry. These 2 judges do not get enough credit.

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  42. Adam takes enormous risks with his voice and his head voice – he truly possesses the range of a Counter-tenor - and this is what allows him to transcend to unbelievable heights.

    Also, he is equipped with stellar technical skills and I feel this will become even more apparent in the weeks ahead.

    Simon was totally off base in this respect and I don’t think he fully comprehends what Adam is trying to accomplish on this show. There has never been a talent quite like Adam. Not only is he extremely gifted, but he is creative and this combination is a potent recipe for success during and post Idol.

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  43. MCL- Many of us that have been watching Idol for a long time believe that Simon’s criticisms were a message *to Adam* that middle America is not quite ready to step that far out of the box. He has said many times that he favors Adam to win, and uses his comments to help guide the contestant as much as anything else.

    I found ROF to be marvelously “Cirque” and am mesmerized by it. I do believe the competition is Adam’s to win if he so chooses. He can dial it back a bit and win, or continue to push the boundaries and finish second or third.

    I do believe it is entirely in his hands at this point, though. And I also believe that Simon’s responses are very carefully crafted and directed toward the contestant as often as they are to the viewing audience.

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  44. I for one hope he doesn’t dial it back (at least not in a major way) – but I do understand your point. Doing it his way may indeed cost him the competition (a la Daugherty) – but I think Adam has a stellar career ahead no matter what. I would like him to show more facets of his talent, however. YouTube is chock-a-block with examples of how he handles a simple ballad: delicately, emotionally. The boy can tear your heart out. That’s what I’d like to see – and soon. I think that may just be the key to his overall acceptance – but you never know. Far too many people seem obsessed with his rumored sexuality – not his voice. Me? I want to hear Adam sing – not watch him in a porn film! What he does and with whom doesn’t titillate me. Hearing him nail those high noted does. He really has changed American Idol – don’t you think? Everyone from here on in will be compared to Adam Lambert. It’s like having Andrea Bocelli competing against first year music students. They’re all good – but he’s stellar. Adam is definitely in a class by himself.

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  45. There’s a wonderful dichotomy about Adam. He has this dark mysterious vibe, but he can sing like an angel (referencing the head voice here). Dust in the Wind is beautiful and haunting.

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  46. Agreed! I think Simon was really overwhelmed by the daring risk Adam did take with Ring Of Fire.

    However, I am loving the fact that Cabaret Adam is creating such a “buzz” on this site, as well as so many others.

    I know that, in the past, Simon could not stand anything remotely close to a Cabaret or Broadway style of singing. But, along comes Adam and he is just creating an enormous “buzz” and the bees they come a-flocking to the honey – Adam’s artistry. I. Love. It!

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  47. In reference to the end of TFLS’s comments above, maybe this is what bothers me about Adam. There is absolutely no denying that he is extremely talented, and has had quite a bit of performance experience. This doesn’t seem fair to me to have someone like Adam who seems quite professional competing against the others who are very talented themselves and who are just looking for a break into show biz.

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  48. I completely disagree Louise. AI is a platform to showcase undiscovered talent. Thank GOD for AI cause none of us would know who Adam is otherwise.

    Where do we draw the line? Do we disqualify Archie because he had extensive vocal training and was on Star Search? Do we disqualify David Cook because he had extensive experience with recording albums? There’s a reason he had good Itunes sales….he knew what he was doing in the studio!

    I for one am very happy that AI brought us Adam Lambert!

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  49. MCL, I think when Adam infuses the Cabaret into his performances it’s awesome and different than what other contestants have done in the past. With Adam, it’s believable. :)

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  50. haha I would love to be sitting in Kara’s seat, but, I actually do like her. I can see where she would not truly appreciate someone like Adam. She is a pop artist.

    However, many of our greatest artists were “over the top” – Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger – lots of theatrics there and they have become legends as a result.

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  51. Apparently Scott does have a bit of vision so I wonder if sunglasses might not interfere with what little sight he has?

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  52. IdolGirl, I definitely understand that it is very difficult to draw the line about previous experience on Idol and you were correct to point out David Archuleta’s win on Star Search. From what I’ve read recently, Allison won $50,000 and a recording contract in the Telemundo contest. So Adam isn’t the only person that my comment applies to. And others besides David Cook had previous albums–for instance, Taylor Hicks, Michael Johns, Carly, Kristy Lee Johns, Bo Bice, etc. Some of them were self-produced like Taylor’s and I think Bo’s so to me that’s different from having a contract with a major label.

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  53. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Anoop and Matt were the best hands down.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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  54. MCL, don’t you think Adam needs to start being more subtle & not so over-dramatic in his performances? I think he does or else he’ll start to become boring. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s great, I’m only saying if he wants to stay long on the show, he needs to start changing up his performances each week or he’ll be in danger of elimination because people will become tired of him.

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  55. I actually think that Simon likes Adam. He’s said as much. It’s puzzling because he’s criticized cabaret so much. But I’m starting to wonder if it wasn’t actually cabaret that he was criticizing – perhaps he was just criticizing singers who he thought did not fit the cabaret “mold” but sounded cabaret. Maybe he was trying to get something different out of them. That’s probably not the case, but I’m trying to reconcile his apparent appreciation for Adam with everything I’ve heard him say previously.

    I think that sometimes Simon is extra hard on those he likes the best. I think that perhaps Simon was being hard on Adam because he knew America wouldn’t “get it” and he wants Adam to do well in the competition. I’ve seen him do that with contestants before.

    But, the bottom line is – I wanted Adam to make the tour, because he deserves that. And from this point on, I want Adam to do whatever Adam wants to do. And I hope that he has the time of his life doing it.

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  56. Oh and……I am starting to feel really badly for the fans of the other singers. It seems that everywhere you go online, all anyone wants to talk about is Adam!!!

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  57. I think you’re on the right track here. With Adam, the cabaret/dramatics are believable and part of who he is when he performs. It’s why we can’t resist him. Haha.

    I think Simon LIKES when Adam is dramatic (he is always smiling when Adam performs). I think what he doesn’t like is when it gets too sexy, but he didn’t really articulate it. I think ROF bugged him b/c it was too sexy.

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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