By: Rosanne Simunovic
Disco night! Time for the remaining seven singers to create a festive ambience and connect with the audience. But did they?
For the most part, I found this show confusing and not at all what I was expecting. This statement has both a positive and negative vibe attached to it in that, sometimes, the unexpected was a most pleasant surprise and at other times the reverse effect occurred.
As always, I am running late because there are only 24 hours in a day! (tee hee). Therefore, I am anxious to share my views on the performances from Disco Night, so here we go! And please 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- first of all, what a look! I was not expecting the Glambert look for Disco Week, but then, with you, the credo is always “expect the unexpected“, isn’t it? Whatever anyone else does, you do the opposite, don’t you?
Last week, you were the only singer who did not sing a ballad, thus distinguishing your performance in both tempo and style. This week, however, while the other singers sang upbeat numbers, you did quite the opposite and toned down your approach. How you manage to stay one step ahead of everyone is quite another story and I would love to hear it some day. It is true genius on your part.
What an inspired modification of this classic number! And, although I am certain that you were responsible for the initial idea, how classy of you to extend credit to American Idol arranger extraordinaire, Michael Orland, for his contribution to this finalized masterpiece.
Throughout this number, your voice sounded so controlled and so resonant, at times ringing with head voice clarity and other times reverberating with dynamically strong, muscular vocals. You are so knowledgeable in the manner in which you blend your head/chest mix – it allows you to explore vocal terrain rarely explored by other singers because you possess stellar technical accuity. You are a tremendously refined singer and your hard work and diligence is truly something special.
The emotion and the angst that you rendered throughout this number was so real, so genuine. We could hear it through your animated voice, especially when you expressed grief and unhappiness through your lamenting upper range vocals . For me, this was the highlight of the entire song. Your voice sounded so open and free, moving from pure head voice into a richer, fuller vocal sound. Ah – it was just so, so beautiful.
You can’t teach this -the technique perhaps – but not the emotion. It has to come from within the heart of a true artist who is not afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve. All singers must learn that they must emotionally deliver a vocal number in the same manner as you would speak it; this is the way you extablish a powerful connection with your audience – by grabbing their hearts, their souls with their vocal passion and sensitivity.
Technique allows singers to stretch their voice and truly use it as a powerful communicative instrument. And, throughout your tenure on American Idol, Adam, you have never ever disappointed us in this respect. You are a sensitive, emotionally driven and, yet, extremely intelligent artist – exceptionally creative and unique.
In closing, I would like to highlight the little flirting you accomplished with your lower range – it was wonderful to hear the resonant depth and beauty in this area of your vocal range, as it provided such wonderful contrast to the ringing presence of your upper range. Next time, treat us to even more – your bottom voice is gorgeous, like velvet!
And, thank you so much for supporting your lower range -oftentimes this is not the case with singers. However, by accessing your diphragmatic support in a continuous manner, you were capable of creating a seamless segue in to your upper range. Your melodic line was flawless and centered throughout this number – sheer perfection, really!
Congratulations and standing ovation from MCL! Brilliant showcase!
Critique: Adam – you are released from a critique this week. You mouth was round, your jaw was relaxed, the emotional artistry was impeccable and the whole performance was a magnificent adventure. I think this means that it was an A+++++++, wouldn’t you agree? Bravo and congratulations on a phenomenal showcase.
Strengths: Allison -that was one sultry performance, young lady! Your vocals sounded resplendent in this number, a mixture of rasp meets head resonance. I feel that you are back on track with your technical skills. Good for you!
Your voice sounded very secure and clear in the more subdued opening section of this number and this signaled to me that you were accessing the powerful support existing in your diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Then, once you moved into the faster tempo and louder dynamic portion of this number, your diaphragmatic muscles were already in motion and so you were most capable of adding punch and pizzazz to the remainder of this number with the correct technical support.
As a result, you gauged this number extremely well, never sounding breathless or thirsting for more air. Hurray for the diaphragm!
Also, you made certain that the key selection for this song was appropriate for your natural singing range. Once again we heard the resonating magic and beauty of your lower vocal range throughout the majority of this number. As this is the most comfortable area of your voice, you were able to perform with ease and effortlessness. Good for you!
Visually and aurally, there was great dimension throughout this performance showcase. By starting slowly, seated on the stairs, you were able to establish perfect pacing, so that once the faster, more aggressive tempo kicked in, your focus was secure, allowing you to move about the stage with control and confidence.
I loved the syncopated arrangement of this song. It was a wonderfully conceived arrangement and your performing skills reinforced the strong rhythmic aspects of this song performance.
Additionally, I have to applaud that circular mouth formation and the manner in which you grabbed and sustained your pure vowels. This makes such a difference in the aesthetic timbre of your voice, as we hear less of the rasp and more of the inherent beauty of your natural vocal instrument.
However, by the same token, I loved the rock-edged vocal inflections you used throughout this number – lots of raw, energetic vocal power that was managed through the proper technical regimen.
This was an excellent performance, Allison! Just super! Congratulations!
Critique: Allison-be careful that you do not push your chest voice. Every so often I could hear a gulping sound from your throat and that signaled to me that you were pressing your voice through the constriction of your throat muscles, thus adding more chest and less head resonance.
Granted, this was an intermittent problem throughout your performance this week, but still you must make absolutely sure that you continuously keep your throat relaxed and free. Trust your diaphramtic muscles to do the work! Concentrate your athletic energy in the direction of those muscles, making certain that you have inhaled enough air to complete the technical production of your voice.
Also, you need to work on your articulation skills, Allison. You do have a slight tendency to mumble and, thus, your words never fully resonate on the ears of the listener. Also, once you learn to articulate the consonants with crisp precision, your voice will enjoy more presence, more energy and even greater focus.
Articulation actually increases the resonating power of the human voice, as along as the mouth remains circular. The jaw most only move upward to quickly grab the consonant and then return to a vertical, relaxed position. This way, the diaphragmatic support will remain intact.
However, overall, this was a strong showcase and your confident artistry, especially given your young age, was just exceptional! Great work, Allison!
Strengths: Anoop -I loved the fact that, like Allison, you started with a slow sustained tempo then segued into an uptempo groove. This is my favorite combo, not only for disco music, but also for many genres of music. Think of Michael Buble’s “Feelin Good” arrangement – it starts slow and easy and then we are hit with that hot, sultry, up-tempo music that continues for the remainder of the song.
It’s this particular element of surprise that adds aural and visual dimension to these numbers and this is what I felt when I watched you perform this week.
Once again, I was so impressed with the sustaining power of your voice throughout this number. However, it was particularly apparent in the beginning stages of this song – the slow, dreamy tempo allowed you to wrap your voice around the melodic line in seamless “bel canto” fashion. Your voice sounded so immaculate and the clarity and pitch-perfect focus was just sublime.
You have worked extremely hard to refine your technical skills, Anoop, and the improvement you have shown throughout this competition has been a joy to behold! As a result, your phrasing was musical and flowing and you made absolutely certain that the diaphragmatic breath support remained central to your performance.
And how about those clean, pristine, pure vowels, particularly when you vocalize the word “lights’? You successfully avoided the horrible diphthong in that word and focused your voice on the pure “ah” vowel. Kudos! That’s the way to do it – the pure vowel approach lends depth, ring and clarity to a singer’s voice because of the presence of head resonance in the vocal mix.
I also loved your precise articulation skills – you communicated your words so clearly and, yet, at the same time did not allow yourself to “chew the lyrics”. The vowels were always front and center, yet the crisp articulation contributed additional energy and focus to your melodic line.
As a result, Anoop, your voice sounded centered and uncluttered. And I loved the bend in your knees when you accessed your upper range. Good for you! This slight bending movement opens the throat and raises the soft palate, thus allowing the voice to flow freely from your mouth and into the hearts of the listeners.
Great work, Anoop! Congratulations!
Critique: Anoop – you exhibited a great deal of vocal substance in this performance, but the vocal style was extremely restrained. Personally, I would have accelerated the up-tempo portion of this song and encouraged you to add some simple choreography.
It seemed to me that there was not too much differentiation between the slow and fast portions of this song and, as a result, your voice sounded extremely one-dimensional throughout this showcase. I was waiting for a more buoyant and energetic sound in the second half of this song and was disappointed that it never happened.
Therefore, the performance crescendo that we always look for during a number never occurred, causing the song to end almost abruptly, lacking style and panache. Always remember that how you end – or begin – a number is as important as the central portion of a song.
However, in your case, the final moments of the song lacked drive and purpose and the audience was left with a less than satisfied perception of the overall performance. And that was really too bad because your vocals were truly quite wonderful.
Also, you did not appear as relaxed and liberated as I have seen in the past. Is the pressure getting to you? I know how hard this must be for you and for the other singers but always remember that you must sing each song as if it were your last.
You want the song to permanently resonate in the eyes and ears of the listeners in a strong and memorable fashion. Even if you were feeling some level of discomfort with song, you must find the strength and tenacity to make the song arrangement work, never allowing the audience to sense your level of unease or trepidation.
Good luck Anoop! You are an extremely talented, hard-working young man and I appreciate and applaud your enormous work ethic. Bravo!
DANNY GOKEY 28- years old : “September” by Earth, Wind And Fire
Strengths: Danny -this was another full-scale and vigorous performance. You poured your whole body and soul into this showcase, working extremely hard to establish strong connection with your audience. This is the one factor that I fully do appreciate in all your performances – your respect for your audience. You are an entertainer and a confident one at that, generously inviting your listeners to participate in your musical ride each and every week.
In this showcase this week, you came out of the gate fighting strong and hard, but in an entertaining way. Love the smile, Danny! I’m a big fan of the smile! And the confident presence you exuded throughout this performance was just wonderful. You lived your song and remained emotionally connected to the positive tone of the lyrics.
And, by the way, this was one of my favorite song choices of the entire evening. It was perfect for you -the mood, the key, the soulful vibe -all of these elements allowed you to effortlessly glide through this performance with rhythmic ease and abandon.
Technically there were some wonderful moments. I saw your determination to maintain a circular mouth position and relaxed jaw when sustaining the rounder vowels, such as “ah“, “oh” and oo“. That is when your voice sounded truly liberated and free. The resonance was so perfect and we gained a glimpse into the rich timbre of your natural singing voice. When you allowed the head resonance to remain at the core of your vocal sound, your voice radiated a sparkling ring – one that was free from tension in your neck and throat.
And, I loved how you used the stage as your personal dance floor! That’s what it’s there for and the right amount of movement is an important aspect to a solid vocal performance. Not only does this add visual dimension to the number, but also, it enables the singer to sing without tension in his or her body. And, I think, for the most part, this I what I most enjoyed in your number this week – the look and feel of pure joy and exhiliration emanating from your persona.
Good work, Danny. Bravo!
Critique: Danny – you must learn to relax those facial muscles. For the most part, you exhibited a great deal of upper body tension and this truly hindered the clarity in your vocal timbre. The facial tension was the most obvious – your jaw was tight, your eyes were constrained, your mouth was horizontal and all these factors diminished the full resonating power of your voice.
You tend to add too much chest resonance into every area of your voice, almost punching out the sound from your throat muscles, rather than allowing the correct muscles -the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles – to project and focus your voice.
For example, in the inital stages of this song, your pitch on the word “away” was poorly centered, suffering from lack of diaphragmatic support and poor usage of the “ay” diphthong.
Instead of grabbing the purer “eh” vowel” and sustaining your voice on this one pure vowel, you vocalized through all the vowels, thus rendering less vocal stability to the melodic line. Your pitch wavered and was totally unsupported. There were many, many instances of this problem in your performance this week Danny.
Also, the tension in your eyes further impeded the full resonating quality of your voice. By closing off those resonators, you prevented your voice from resonating in a complete manner and, therefore, your voice sounded very rough and irregular throughout your singing range.
This is really such a shame, Danny, as you have a beautiful and powerful vocal instrument and must learn to use it wisely or you will cause harm to the delicate vocal cord muscles.
Good luck next week, Danny, and please, practice some vocal exercises to pure vowels only. And breathe and support from the diaphragm.
Strengths: Kris – you surprised the listeners with your acoustic rendition of this well-known disco number. This refreshing twist on a classic song was just wonderful – I loved the calypso meter that formed the rhythmic pulse of this number. It was innovative, distinctive and, more important, highlighted the essence of your artistic style.
You are most comfortable when you are strumming the strings of your guitar and I envision for you a career similar to last season’s Top 4 finalist, Jason Castro. Your talent is best served in an intimate environment, surrounded by a stellar group of instrumentalists similar to what we heard in your performance this week.
I believe that you are paving the way for what I hope will be a less intrusive brand of music and one that embraces solid, meaningful lyrics and simple, yet memorable melodic song structures. And you have the perfect voice for this brand of music – it is pure, clear, extremely communicative and genuinely expressive
Additionally, the acoustic ambience of this showcase further highlighted the inherent beauty of your natural singing voice. You possess a natural head voice component throughout your range – how lucky is that? There were no loud instruments or flashing lights to hide vocal flaws and this fact alone demonstrated the confidence you have as an artist and as a musician.
Great work once again, Kris! Kudos!
Critique: Kris -your technical skills are still so green. You need to read everything that was mentioned last week and, in fact, all the weeks since this Top 13 competition began.
The tension in your face, neck and jaw is just excruciating to watch – your light voice is presently lodged in your throat and barely projecting outward to the audience. Thank heavens for microphones! However, if you want to be a truly exceptional acoustic artist, you must learn how to project your voice without the benefit of electricity.
As a result, this one-dimensional aspect in your dynamic range does not make for inspiring or memorable performances. Presently, you don’t sing with enough nuance or vocal inflection. Your dynamic range sounds very linear and, as a result, I never feel that there is beginning, middle and end to your song.
And when you did reach the finale of this song and vocalized a cappella style before the last instrumental fade out, you seemed vocally lost. This was your perfect chance to add a vocal spin or even an ascending or decending run – something! But, instead there was this awkward pause, almost like you were collecting your thoughts, between the words “treat her” and “right”.
I almost got the sense that you had, perhaps, planned to add more vocal inflection at this point and, like a skater that decides at the last minute to not do a quadruple jump, you lost your confidence. As a result, the ending was very lacklustre – it lacked excitement and power.
Solid technical skills could repair all of these vocal deficiencies, Kris and I hope that you find the motivation and opportunity to study with a teacher that can hone and develop your vocal skills to full potential. You are a talented performer and you need to ensure that your voice stays healthy and enjoys longevity.
Good luck, Kris and, remember, drop that jaw and flex those stomach muscles!
Strengths: Lil – this was a great song choice and it truly suited your distinct dimension as an singing artist. As always, you looked lovely, exuding the charisma of a star.
Your choreographic work was quite good and it was wonderful to see you establish an even closer connection with your audience. You travelled the Idol globe during this number – on stage, off stage, to the judges’ table and then into the audience. Brava!
You also worked extremely hard to emote genuine expressive elements in this performance, alternating spoken lyrics with vocalized lyrics. Double Brava!
Vocally , I felt that you sounded the most comfortable during the last portion of your song. It was during this segment that we finally heard evidence of your lovely, pure head voice and, as a result this element allowed your resilient vocals to really sparkle.
Lovely work, Lil!
Critique: Lil - the first thing I noticed was the hunched position of your shoulders and your extremely deflated rib cage. The former caused undue tension in your upper body while the latter prevented you from continuously providing strong diaphragmatic support for your voice.
Therefore, as your diaphragmatic support muscles did not establish powerful connection with your vocal cords, your pitch was severely compromised throughout this number. Additionally, this technical deficiency encouraged you to add far too much chest resonance throughout your range, thus rendering a less than shimmering aspect to your vocal presence.
Because you exerted so much energy throughout this song, this created a negative overall effect in your vocal performance. You have to make absolutely certain, Lil, that you balance the choreographic and vocal elements. Quite simply, your erratic movements overwhelmed your vocal presence and diminished the continuity of your vocal technical skills.
There has to be plan, a structure to your performance and it never hurts to rehearse these frantic numbers at a snail’s pace during the rehearsal process. It really works and it also serves as an opportunity to release anxiety. I call it vocal yoga and I love it! The slower pace allows you to fully isolate and correct problematic areas with your technique.
Finally, I had to agree with Simon about the lack of originality – however, in your defense, it would be difficult to imagine what more you could do with the song. Perhaps, you could have started the song at a slower tempo and then increased the pace later on in the number? Or, why not sing the whole song as a ballad ? It would be one sultry ballad, I would think!
So, I suppose, with time and effort, a new concept for this song could have been successfully conceived. Creativity and ingenuity play enormous roles in an artist’s success, so, hopefully, you will be able to develop these skills and/or surround yourself with innovative songwriters.
Good luck with your career, Lil! It’s been a pleasure to watch you every week!
Strengths: Matt -well, this was a total surprise in that everything seemed to come together for you this week. I loved your song choice and it was strongly apparent that you did so as well. You looked confident and well-prepared for this extremely energetic song, pacing your stage movements extremely well throughout this performance.
The visual and aural aspects of this performance were wonderfully blended – I thought that you had truly solidified your vocal skills before rehearsing your dancing skills and therefore the performance never looked hurried or frantic. The choreographic elements were well-conceived and I particularly loved the your playful interaction with the back-up singers. Super!
Unlike previous weeks, your vocals sounded unencumbered and carefree and, at the same time, benefited from the augmented level of diaphragmatic support. Your voice had increased presence and charisma and sounded extremely expressive and buoyant throughout this number. I also appreciated hearing the wonderful inflections you were adding throughout this song performance – they were just wonderful!
Although it may not have been an innovative take of the original cover, I still felt that you added signature style and substance to the performing and musical aspects of this song.
Also, it does not hurt to point out that this is a very difficult song composition. The musical line is extremely challenging for the singer and the lyrical line is very verbose. The singer is constantly moving from lower to upper and then back to lower voice in the blink of an eye and it takes tremendous control to administer these tricky intervals with ease and facility.
However, the naturally light quality of your voice, Matt, was a perfect canvas for managing the different melodic intervals, colors and shades that this song required. I feel that a more weighted voice would have sounded cumbersome and stiff – your voice was the perfect match for this song.
Kudos to you for finding your musical glass slipper as it were – it was a perfect fit!
Bravo and congratulations on a spectacular performance!
Critique: Matt- I have little to critique this week, as I thought both singer and song established a believable and artistically solid bond. You were obviously “in the zone” when singing this number – your head voice was clear and focused, thus rendering an uncluttered timbre throughout your entire singing range. Additionally, your pitch was wonderfully solid this week – just excellent.
However, that being said, you need to continue to work on the proper placement of your vowels in your melodic line, allowing your mouth to remain circular on all the vowels and letting the jaw relax and drop when moving through your upper range. And please, never reach for your upper notes, sing over them and bend those knees in the process.
The quicker tempo of this song was a good fit, because it did not draw attention to the problems you are currently experiencing within your technical development. So, in this respect and at this stage of the competition, it was a wise decision on your part to select this number for your performance this week.
However, I hope you will continue to work on the development and solidification of your diaphragmatic breathing skills so that you will be able to perform a wide spectrum of songs with ease and security.
Good luck next week, Matt!