By: Rosanne Simunovic
I loved this theme, but Quentin Tarantino truly scares me. That face means business and some of the Idols were ready for him and others were intimidated by him. It was also great to see and hear the American Idol band under Rickey Minor on stage, front and center, as they should be.
And because the judges were so loquacious last week, only two judges per contestant were judging the performances. Weird, really weird! I always want to hear what Simon has to say, don’t you? I wonder how they decided which judges would speak to which contestants. That must have been a political minefield!
Also, I was expecting a more diverse collection of songs – why couldn’t someone do Judy Garland’s fabulous rendition of “Singing In the Rain”? It’s rhythmically and melodically challenging -really neat. How do I know? I worked on this song with one of my students a couple of years ago and it was a blast from the past!
Overall, I thought some singers dramatically improved this week and the rest sort of fell apart. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to spew the same technical comments week after week to some of these singers. No matter how I spin it, it still sounds repetitive – like a broken record that will never get fixed.
(Sigh) Okay -lets’ see how the Top 7 fared this week and you may be surprised at the results via my perspective.
And keep checking my Twitter updates so we can stay in closer touch!
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.
Strengths: Adam-sock it to us once again! This was another entertaining showcase, full of twists and turns via your innovative choreographic and vocal skills. Right off the bat, you established a strong connection with the crowd – reaching out to those lucky people in the front row for a friendly and all too quick “meet and greet.”
And I loved the interaction you demonstrated with the band – first boogeying to one side and then the other. The keyboardist and the backup vocalists established great rhythmic rapport with you in what was probably the most meticulous rehearsed performance of the evening.
And your backward run as you approached them was rhythmic and precise, never shadowing your vocals, but, rather, augmenting them. That’s the way you balance the choreography and vocals – with solid pacing and technical accuity.
The clarity of your head voice was spectacular this week – like give. me. a. break! You are something else! And when you added some chest resonance in the more powerful sections of this song, you made certain that the purity of your head voice was not compromised. Perfect!
Loved the long, sustained clarity of your final note that alternated with wonderfully executed ascending and descending runs. Someone practices his vocalises and classical exercises! Your artistry is innate, but your naturally gifted voice has been cultivated and refined through the correct technical process.
You really squeezed every ounce of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic energy out of that song. At one point, you went into theatrical/cabaret mode (in the “fly so high” section at 1:55 point in your number), subtly changing up the rhythmn and adding some dramatic movements outside of the obvious rock approach to this song.
As a result this song was loaded with a plethora of visual and aural dimension – a roller coaster ride chock full of artistic surprises and revelations. Incredible performance once again, Adam! Bravo!
Critique: Adam -be ever so careful that you watch that intermittent spread in your mouth line when you navigate your upper range. For the most part, your throat is open and free, but always make absolutely certain that every dynamic level of your sound is being controlled via your diaphragm.
I suspect that it is, but, I just want to make absolutely certain that your voice is receiving the care and the support necassry to sustain you as an artist for the rest of your life.
Standing ovation, Adam! You are -simply put- a stellar artist, a truly exceptional talent.
Strengths: Allison -this was a powerful song choice. I loved the arrangement – this is the one that David Cook used last year! I also enjoyed this song because of the passionate blend of lyrics and music. The romantic core of the song is such a potent showcase for a singer and, appropriately enough, it demonstrated the rustic, raw essence of your rock-inspired vocal style.
On the whole, I felt that this was a remarkable performance and there were stellar moments in this song that registered high on the goosebump scale. The true range and power of your voice was wonderfully highlighted in this song and the expressive passion you emitted throughout was enormous.
This week, you undoubtedly challenged your dynamic range. From the quiet, subdued beginning of this song, building toward the powerful ending, I felt that the communicative elements were incredibly persuasive and real.
Your also exhibited confident and intuitive stage skills and this visual aspect coupled with your strong performance skills resulted in a memorable and, what I feel was your strongest, showcase to date.
I also loved the wonderful variation you incorporated into the vocal line and doubly loved the fact that your voice exhibited the ringing presence of head voice resonance throughout your range. Finally, you liberated your voice and allowed the diaphragm to direct your sound toward your vocal masque. Through the circular formation of you mouth, you cohesively sustained your voice on the pure vowels, thus ensuring that the disphragmatic breathing process was coherent and solid.
Your lower range, at the beginning of this song sounded like chocolate. Mmm! Mmm! It signaled to me that you were generally establishing good connection with your diaphragmatic support and, as a result, you seamlessly segued into your upper range with ease and refinement.
Finally, I heard a ringing presence in your voice and the fact that you accessed your technical skills to challenge your vocal range is something to be applauded.
This was a very dramatic stage presentation, Allison. Brava!
Critique: Allison-please be careful that you don’t push! Sometimes your voice moved off-center because of the inclusion of too much chest voice in the vocal mix. You are such an aggressive singer – you have to learn to adopt a more relaxed approach in your singing style. We need the punch, the muscular vocals, but you tend to cross the line and, at times, exaggerate the process.
As I said above, you generally exhibited solid technical skills in the performance of this song; however, at times, your voice withdrew from its proper focus and negatively affected the pitch.
I was wondering if your stage movements were, perhaps, diminishing consistent energy from your technical support. Although, I loved your self-assured presence on and off stage, it really is imperative that you make absolutely certain that it does not interfere with the projection and focus of your voice.
Also, when you sing through your lower range, remember to use your diaphragmatic breath support in a consistent manner. At times, your voice did lack stability during the opening segments of this song where your lower range was very exposed. Feel those muscles flexing, directing the air to vibrate your vocal cords to full effect.
However, that being said, I loved the timbre of your voice throughout this song – it just sounded more lucid and ringing than in previous weeks and, even though there were some pitch problems, I still felt that you were making a concerted effort to use your voice in the proper technical fashion.
Excellent work, Allison, however, take care of that voice and be cautious about that inherent raspy quality in your voice. It worries me. I don’t want you traveling on the road to future nodule problems.
Strengths: Anoop -at the beginning of this song, there was a gorgeous clarity to your voice that never relented. And this ringing clarity combined with the enormous expressive elements in your voice were musically and artistically formulated. You prepared this song meticulously well and I applaud your superb work ethic this week and throughout this competition.
Your interpretation of this song was such a refreshing change from Bryan Adam’s rock-inspired approach. He adds more rasp, more intensity in his vocal arrangement and I think this what Quentin Tarantino was aiming for!
However, your approach was tender and heartfelt and the simplicity of your vocal delivery highlighted the inherent beauty of your vocal gift. It was interesting to hear the difference, realizing that both approaches actually work.
Your phrasing was very musical, Anoop, and the long sustained lines with beautifully shaped vowels increased the refined flow of the melodic component in this song. Additionally, your consonants were crystal clear and very precise. You voiced your words distinctly, yet, never allowed the consonants to diminish the full sustaining power of the pure vowels. Wonderfully done! This supplemented the forward momentum of this beautiful song performance.
This was such a strong showcase and it was so obvious that you had deeply internalized the emotional core of the song. You were a sensitive and soulful presence on the stage this week and, more important, extremely believeable and genuine.
Outstanding work, Anoop! Congratulations!
Critique: Anoop -you encountered few problems this week. Generally, your vocal control was absolutely stellar.
However, be ever so careful that you consistently maintain a circular mouth position when grabbing those vowels. A couple of times, I noticed that you were spreading your mouth, thus adding some pressure and tension to the vocal cords.
Also, never raise your head when singing through your upper range. Once again, this increases tension in the vocal production and it also separates your visual connection with your listeners. We can’t see your eyes and the singer’s eyes are most definitely the windows into a singer’s soul. So much emotion is displayed through a singer’s expressive eyes and a face looking at the ceiling hinders the process.
Think over you upper notes, mentally and physically moving down as you ascend vocally. Slightly bend your knees and squeeze your butt (ha!), but make sure you have deeply inhaled diaphragmatic air to work with or these tricks will be of no use.
Once again, high Masterclass praise for a very poignant and musical showcase!
DANNY GOKEY 28- years old : “Endless Love” by Diana Ross
Strengths: Danny -I love this song. The words, the music, the passion speak and connect wonderfully to the listeners. I loved how you increased your dynamics throughout this song – it was like building blocks of vocal nuance and depth. When you added your muscular vocals to your more subdued voice, the rich, robust, soulful quality of your timbre truly shimmered.
The phrasing was so musical and you made certain that the inherent drive and power of this slow ballad never relented. This allowed the slow tempo of this number to remain fluid and effortless. You sang the song as you would speak it and therefore added much inflection and modulation to this passionate number.
You sang this song from your heart, Danny and I appreciated the message that you were delivering so very much. Hey, and that gorgeous head voice on the word “love” was signature! Excellent work once again!
Critique: Danny – you exhibited some facial strain on the upper notes intermittently, so be careful. Boy -that raspy quality in your vocal mix still concerns me, although it was not as problematic for you this week, as last. However, you need to make certain that your vocal cords are healthy, so hopefully, you have a wonderful ENT specialist to assist you with any problems you may be experiencing.
Also, the “heave-ho” approach with your breathing was really disconcerting. What I mean is this – those shoulders and chest heaving up and down when you breathed worked against the proper breathing regimen for efficient vocalization. The breathing has to be diaphragmatic and the upper body should remain relaxed and free.
When you breath in such a shallow, inefficient manner, you are wasting air, causing tension in your throat and diminishing the visual strength and dimension of your performance. Also, that horizontal mouth position on some of your vowels increased the level of tension in your vocal timbre, subtracting the full complement of the inherent beauty of your vocal timbre.
As I have said often to many singers, you included, never reach for your notes, Think over the notes – like spiking a volleyball downward! Visualization is a wonderful technique for singers to use and I have many more up my sleeve. But, since everyone at one time or another has played volleyball or basketball, this one seems to work really well.
Great work, nonetheless, Danny! Good luck next week!
Strengths: Kris -this was a perfect song choice for you. I loved and breathed it, as did you. I so appreciated the beauty and tranquillity of your lower range in the first half of this song. It provided beautiful contrast to the ringing presence of your upper vocals.
I also warmed to the many elements of vulnerability and sensitivity you displayed in this performance: physically, without the guitar, emotionally, sung from your heart and spiritually, establishing strong connection to your audience.
The ethereal melody of this song was so perfect for your distinct voice, as it encouraged you to bring out gorgeous elements in your voice that were not evident in previous performances. Man, when a song works, it really does so in a monumental way and this is what happened on stage with you this week, Kris. You were connected to the song and vice versa and thus musical magic was created during this lucky Top 7 performance.
Additionally, as you have a really resonant speaking voice, it was great to hear some of this resonance in your baritone singing voice. The clarity and brilliance of your lower range was to die for. Truly evocative! It accentuated the meaningful communicative aspects of this extremely memorable showcase.
And that final two-note sustained moment of pure head voice was pitch perfect, centered and heartfelt. It may not have been technically perfect in terms of how you produced it, but it worked.
Bravo, Kris! Superb work and a brilliant and inspired song selection.
Critique: Kris -technically, you were all over the map. Sometimes your mouth was round, then it was horizontal, then the jaw would tighten.
However, your artistry really enhanced the energy in your vocal sound. I always tell my students to live their song and the technical flaws will be less obvious or reach resolution through a sensitive and emotionally ingrained performance.
Yet, nothing can take the place of firmly ingrained technical skills, as it develops your voice to its full potential and expands your possibilities and dimension as a singer. So, be very careful, Kris, that you work at developing and supporting your vocal talent through the proper technical regimen. Otherwise, you will continue to experience inconsistency in your showcases from week to week.
The tension in you neck and face is still very troublesome and you need to work at maintaining relaxed facial features, a circular mouth while sustaining your vowels and empower the strength and support of your diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Good luck next week, Kris! Keep up the brilliant work and find some more stellar song selections!
Strengths: Lil -you delivered this song with exquisite artistry. I loved the gospel arrangement of this number and I feel that you were truly connected to the arrangement. As always you looked beautiful on stage, rendering great passion and finesse to this classic ballad.. Good work, Lil!
Critique: Lil – technically, I don’t know what happened to you this week. The biggest problem you encountered was your overwhelming tendency to sharpen the melodic line of this song. If I didn’t know better, it almost appeared like you could not hear the orchestra and, therefore, invented you own key.
However, I feel that there was a major technical deficiency with your diaphragmatic support – actually surprising considering how technically solid you have been over the weeks. You appeared to be experiencing major problems with your air supply, intaking air in a shallow manner and then letting it randomly scatter with your vocal sound.
As a result, your voice sound very poorly centered, the timbre vascillating between an airy almost emaciated quality during the softer dynamics to a shaky, uncontrolled tremolo during the louder passages.
I just feel that this was a case of nerves, Lil, and, although I loved the arrangement of this song, your technical problems interfered with positive outcome of your performance. Your support did not kick in the early stage of the song and that is always a bad sign. The lower, softer notes needed to be consistently supported in an efficient manner and, without that, your voice sounded vague and directionless.
Additionally, once you moved into the more powerful section of this song, you did not have a support cushion in place and your voice became uncontrollable – the tremolo just aggravated the pitch problems.
What a shame – you were just wonderful over the last few weeks. The stess of this show must be really affecting you. It’s not for the meek of heart, is it?
Better days ahead, Lil! Put this performance behind you and move forward. Good luck next week!
Strengths: Matt -it was nice to see you back at the piano. I loved you song choice and you added some dynamic vocals throughout this song. It was an expressive and heartfelt performance.
And where did that beautiful head voice come from at the end of this song? Gorgeous! I would have loved to hear more of this quality of vocal sound throughout your natural singing range.
Critique: Matt-you are still determined to sing with a horizontal mouth position, aren’t you? As I have said pretty much every week now, the absence of a circular mouth position, relaxed jaw and open facial features are encouraging you to project your voice in a very inhibited manner. Because of these technical deficiencies, your upper notes were very strained, thus rendering a vocal sound that was uneven and very poorly centered.
I never seemed to hear the natural beauty of your voice because the essence of your vocal timbre was either trapped in your throat and/or released with uncontrolled air.
Therefore, there is always a frustrating airy quality to your voice that could be eliminated if you would access the powerful support that comes from using the strength of your diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
On the other hand, you need to develop absolute trust in those muscles and believe that they will fully shape and focus your voice with confidence and continuity. And this belief will only become absolute when you have made a concerted effort to make some changes in the manner in which you produce your singing voice.
And don’t reach for those upper notes but rather sing over them. The reaching will only cause you to add more strain and tension to your voice. This week, your upper notes were really, really pinched because of this habit and you need to ground your vocal sound with support from the diaphragm or it is just not going to happen for you Matt!
Also, watch those diphthongs in your lyrics -you have to remember to sustain your voice on the pure vowel in those diphthongs. e.g. fly = flah. This will increase the depth and ringing core of your voice . And, I have to tell you, the sustaining power on one vowel coupled with strong diaphragmatic support will feel so easy and effortless you will kick yourself for not adapting to this technical advantage during the earlier stages of this competition.
Good luck next week – please work on your technical skills! Pretty please? :)