By: Rosanne Simunovic
Well, first of all, I have to say this music is a blessing for every type of singer. Classic melodies intertwined with meaningful lyrics is always a win-win situation.
This week, the Top 5 were allowed to shine through the talented efforts of Oscar recipient Jamie Foxx and the superb sound of Rickey Minor’s band. It does not get much better than this, folks!
However, some of the vocalists gave more style than substance this week and, for the most part, a few sounded enormously tired.
So, let’s have a look at my thoughts on the Top 5 performances this week and please feel free to share your comments after the read.
Also, 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- you performed Muse’s version of Feeling Good - excellent call! However, when you walked down the stairs at the beginning of this absolutely stellar performance, you were channeling some Michael Buble as well. This is the same entrance he uses with this song at the opening of some of his shows and it is wonderfully effective.
What a performance, Adam! For me, this performance absolutely confirmed the outstanding technical foundation that is at the core of each and every one of your showcases. That feelin’ upper note - perfectly sustained for what seemed like an eternity -was blanket evidence of this fact. That tongue ( how could we miss the tongue?) – was lying flat and relaxed in the front of your mouth, thus freeing any constriction in your throat and adding rise to the soft palate as well.
As a result, you were more than capable of applying strong support from your diaphragmatic muscles when sustaining the “i” vowel in the second syllable of the word “feelin“. And, of course, you made absolutely certain that your jaw was relaxed and free, thus liberating your vocal sound even further so that it could resonate perfectly in your vocal masque.
And that downward vocal spiral after you held this note, flawlessly executed without a breath or even the remotest facial evidence of concern, was testament to your highly refined technical skills. The descending scale was seamless, pure and centered.
It actually reminded me of the technical strength and power of classical artist, Cecilia Bartoli, who is, to my mind, the best classical singer in the world today. I saw her execute the same vocal feat, but, obviously in her case, it was during a classical number. I can’t remember the name of the song, but I do remember the moment and you brought it all back to me with your enormous talent and skill during this week’s Top 5 showcase.
Also, the wonderfully sustained pianissimo note on the final word “good” was just beautiful. Your muscles have to make the necessary adjustments so that the pianissimo vocal sound remains steady and pure, while at the same time projecting with subdued confidence and intensity. And, Adam, for me this was the icing on the cake, further highlighting the extraordinary depth and dimension in your vocal ability.
Finally, on a humorous note, there was definitely no flirting with that lower range, as I so teasingly pointed out in last week’s Vocal Masterclass evaluation. The first half of this song, wonderfully demonstrating the absolute beauty and depth of your baritone voice, provided superb dimension and contrast when you accessed your upper range later on in this number.
Additionally, the clarity and transparency of your voice during the quiet opening section of this number was absolutely gorgeous.
Congratulations on another multi-dimensional performance, Adam! This was a meticulously prepared showcase! Bravo!
Critique: Adam – once again, I can find little to critique in this performance. It was just a brilliantly executed vocal masterpiece!
The only thing that I would draw caution to is the tension in your eyes when holding that prolonged upper note at the end of the song. Make sure you keep the eyes open and free so as to completely liberate and deepen the full potential of your upper range. By closing and/or tensing the eyes, you diminish the full effect of the resonating areas in your facial features.
Also, as difficult as this is to do, refrain from raising your head when accessing your upper range. All this does is create more tension in your neck muscles which will create havoc on the overall quality of the vocal sound. I still feel that there is some level of head resonance that could be more central to your upper register sound; presently I hear a bit too much chest resonance in the vocal mix and this may have to do with some of the tension in your upper body.
However, given the depth of your technical skills, I would think these small adjustments will be very easy for you. You are such a determined and meticulous artist, bringing a great deal of musical intelligence and artistic passion to the Idol table each and every week. Bravo once again, Adam!
Strengths: Allison -you looked so beautiful this week – wholesome and naive. This was the perfect look for this song and, one, I might add, that I hope you adopt in the future. It suits your young age and effervescent personality and, additionally, heightens so many positive physical attributes that go unnoticed when you dress in a more austere fashion.
Also, I am glad that you challenged your vocal skills with a strong, powerful ballad. Although I wasn’t particularly fond of this song choice for your vocal style and strength, I thought that you really attempted to achieve a variety of nuance throughout this number.
Additionally, I did so appreciate your ability to inject your rock-inspired vocals within the song structure – it demonstrated how thoroughly focused you are as a budding rock star and your ability to transfer your style to a completely distant genre of music.
Good work, Allison!
Critique: Allison- as I said above, I felt that this song was not the perfect fit for you – at least, not yet. This song presents enormous challenges for the singer and technical landmines exist at every turn of the phrase or page.
The ascending line during the opening section of this song requires powerful sustaining power and pure, seamless vocal sound as you move through the registers. You employed far too much chest voice – pushing, rather than releasing, your voice on the word ”longing“.
And this constant push and drive from your throat just never relented throughout this song, causing you to abandon the proper diaphragmatic support necessary to sustain the melodic line of this difficult number.
Furthermore, as you moved into the middle portion of this number, you encountered some additional technical issues. This section of the song has to be sung freely, with an increased rubato, or, otherwise, it will sound stilted and restrained. Instead of moving the song forward and, perhaps picking up the pace, you struggled along with the same slow tempo and this caused your breathing to fall apart at the seams.
As your air was poorly managed, the phrase lines became enormously fragmented. There were times when you were breathing far too often, thus creating awkward pauses throughout the song and disrupting the natural flow and intensity of the melodic line.
Also, I feel that a lower key would have been preferable. In previous performances, you always appeared and sounded most relaxed when singing through your resonant lower range. As it was, the hoarse, rough quality in your voice, particularly when you moved through your upper range, just did not suit this song. This song, by nature of the lyrics, requires a more vulnerable vocal sound to compliment the singer’s vulnerable persona. You had the look, Allison, just not the correct voice to truly enhance the emotional core of this number.
Also, your facial features were so tense, thus closing off the resonating areas in your vocal masque. At the end of the song, your jaw was so tense that it was quivering when you vocalized the word “watch”. And, your head – you must learn to sing over your upper notes and never, ever reach for them. I mentioned this fact last week and in weeks previous, so hopefully, you are working to to better solidify and strengthen your technical issues.
In closing, Allison, I would like to caution you to please take care of your voice. That huskiness in your vocal timbre is quite disconcerting and makes me wonder if you are suffering from nodule problems. The tension and strain in your voice makes me think that you will continue to have problems with your vocal health.
I would strongly advise you to (a) see an ENT specialist to out rule any possibility of nodule formation and (b) start working diligently with an extremely knowledgeable vocal technician who can set you on the correct path to complete vocal freedom.
Best of luck, Allison!
Strengths: Danny -what a performance! You grabbed all the intensity and emotion from this song and created a passionate vocal work of art that was truly exhilirating. If I can speak frankly here, I was not expecting this level of a performance from you. As always, I felt it would be good, just not excellent or downright outstanding. So, color me embarrassed – you showed me, didn’t you?
I absolutely loved the beautiful bluesy, almost gospel, feeling that you emoted and that grew in power and verve as the song unfolded. And, to add more passionate fuel to the fire, the orchestra wonderfully mirrored your vocal drive and energy. Sheer perfection! This was a brilliant performance and your voice exuded dynamic energy and unbelieveble dimension. And the layers of nuance you sprinkled throughout this song were truly exceptional!
When you kicked it up at the end, you revealed the true depth of your incredible vocals and artistic power. Your voice and body were rhythmically so connected to this song. Also, it goes without saying that the forward momentum was beautifully established. Your phrasing was impeccable and so very musical.
And, I agree with the judges, I feel we have discovered a niche for you, as this music suits you enormously well. You seemed absolutely connected to the rhythmic line of this song. It was quite the spectacle, Danny and in an “oh so good” way!
What more is there left to say except heartfelt congratulations on a truly excellent performance. Bravo Danny!
Critique: Danny -easy does it with the chest voice overload in your vocal mix! I absolutely loved the timbre of your voice at the beginning of this number – you voice was perfectly placed in your vocal masque and the head resonance was ringing with crystal clarity.
Now, what you must remember when you start injecting power vocals into your vocal delivery is to never leave your lovely head voice resonance behind in the dust. It always must be in the center of the vocal mix, strongly and consistently supported through the power and reliability of your diaphragmatic breath support. In this way, you can increase the dynamic range of your voice through the strength and support coming from your breathing muscles.
Also, watch that mouth spread on some of the trickier diphthongs, such as “ay“. Toward the end of your song, I loved the bluesy repetition of the word “rain” , but your mouth position diminished your vocal clarity and I am almost certain that your voice cracked in the process. Spreading your mouth and extending your voice on all the vowels while sustaining it on one note creates unbelievable tension in the throat, thus impeding the vocal excellence and refinement.
Remember to grab the first pure vowel in this diphthong – in this case it being the “eh” vowel -and make certain that your mouth is circular and that jaw relaxed.
However, artistically, this was just a strong performance, Danny, and probably my favorite performance from you since the beginning of American Idol Season 8. Kudos once again!
Strengths: Kris – you chose a beautiful song for this evening’s Rat Pack showcase and one that romantically connects singer to listener. You established an intimate connection with your audience by nature of the light timbre of your voice and your sincere, heartfelt aura.
Although you do not possess a large, multi-dimensional voice, you do use it wisely within the confines of your developing technical skills, allowing the emotional core of the song to regulate and heighten the successful performance of your numbers.
You have a wonderfully pure voice, Kris, and, despite all the technical problems that need correction (see your critique), you manage to center your pitch remarkably well. I almost sense that you may have perfect pitch or, at the very least, relative pitch.
Additionally the natural head resonance in your vocal timbre is also beneficial to this important element in solid vocal delivery.
Therefore, as this songs calls for a quiet, subdued approach, I felt that this classic song choice was very well suited to your vocal style and substance. The sensitivity and warmth that we felt while you performed this number is testament to the strength of your communicative skills.
And I cannot tell you how much I adored the uptempo segue into the final half of this song, followed by the rallentando as you moved to close the song. This variation in tempo and mood added wonderful aural and visual dimension to the number. You moved closer to the edge of the stage, thus further solidfying your connection with the audience. Excellent call on your part and kudos to the band for creating this lovely arrangement!
Wonderful work, Kris!
Critique: Kris – drop your jaw and open your mouth, child! Once again, that mouth remained in a fixed horizontally closed position, thus disabling you from accessing the strength and power of your diaphragmatic breath support.
As a result, I felt that the phrasing was really fragmented – you were breathing far, far too often and the song lost a great deal of momentum because of this technical deficiency.
Also, as you ascended the melodic line during the opening portion of this song, you had a tendency to reach for those upper notes rather than singing over them. Mentally, you have to adopt a descending melodic line when singing an ascending melodic line, but you also need the diaphragmatic technical skills firmly in place to fully liberate and focus your voice in your vocal masque.
And, as in last week’s Top 7 showcase, the exaggerated pause at the end of this number allowed the song to lose momentum and intensity when you most definitely needed it.
It would have been a much better call to extend the sustaining process on the word “look“, perhaps adding a decorative note or two. By doing so, you would have increased the natural flow and intensity of the final phrase, making certain that the forward momentum was not compromised at this crucial point in the song.
And intensity was what I felt was missing from this performance – there was not enough nuance and inflection in your voice because you are yet so inexperienced in the proper technical delivery of your vocal sound. The full power of your natural voice was trapped in your throat and, thus, was produced in an emaciated manner.
And, it was for this very reason that you did indeed reveal a crack or two in your vocal armor as you moved through your vocal range, particularly when you moved into your head voice at the start of the uptempo portion of this song.
Also, from a visual perspective, I would have nixed the mike stand and encouraged you to travel the perimeter of the stage solely with the mike in your hand. This method would have been more conducive in heightening confidence and style in your performance.
However, the good news is that you are here for another week, so, hopefully, you will have an opportunity to strengthen and deepen your technical skills. (fingers crossed, here!)
Congratulations, Kris! Best of luck next week!
Strengths: Matt -you, thankfully, altered the key as per Jamie Foxx’s suggestion. The lower key was certainly better suited to the natural singing range of your voice.
I also appreciated some of the melodic changes you introduced into the original song, as it accented how liberated and free you are as a vocal artist. Further to this fact, in the opening section of this song, before the full band kicked it up a notch, I absolutely fell in love with your voice. Despite the full refinement of your technical skills, your voice sounded centered, pure and resplendent with hushed emotion.
And the manner in which you produced your head voice was spectacular – just perfect! It added color and dimension to the original melodic line and, at the same time, emphasized that you have the confidence and ability to disitinguish your interpretation from the other covers of this wonderful song.
Then, when the arrangement started to accelerate and expand, the song really gained in dimension and harmonic color. I loved the emotion that you injected into this song and I felt that, despite some random pitch issues, you did succeed in capturing the sultry essence of this song.
You took enormous artistic and vocal risks and, in doing so, emphasized your innate musicality and growing confidence on this show.
Excellent work, Matt!
Critique: Matt- we encountered some “iffy“pitch issues along the way. As I have mentioned in previous weeks, I wish you would develop a more circular approach to your mouth formation, as it would heighten the depth and intensity in your vocal sound.
By constantly maintaining a horizontal mouth position and avoiding the pure vowels, you are not able to access the continuity of support from your diaphragmatic breathing muscles and, as a result, your pitch vascillates.
This became a recurring problem for you this week, Matt, most noticeably when you encountered the multi-vowel component in your diphthongs, such as “ay”. When confronted with this diphthong, it would have beneficial to your vocal delivery had you sustained your voice on the primary vowel of this diphthong, the pure “eh” vowel.
However, the circular formation of the mouth is a “must” and that jaw has to be relaxed and free. By doing so, it will encourage you to breathe more deeply from the diaphragm and thus manage your breath support in a consistent and timely fashion.
Also, the placement of your voice behind your vocal masque will be fully realized and your voice will enjoy increased intensity and presence. Furthermore, the natural ebb and flow of the phrase line will be a constant.
Because of the lack of proper breath support in this week’s showcase, I felt that your phrases lacked momentum and drive. You were breathing far too often and, as a result, the overall vocal delivery sounded fragmented, particularly in the second half of this song.
Also, as much as I appreciated your jazzy riffs and runs, you have to make absolutely certain that each note is perfectly supported from the diaphragm. Your pitch really wavered during these moments in your number because your muscles were not properly trained to quickly connect with each and every note in the scale.
You would be wise to practice these scale-like passages slowly, making absolutely certain that your rib- cage muscles are focusing and centering your voice to perfection every step of the way.
Hope all of these suggestions help you Matt! It has been an immense pleasure to watch you grow and develop as a musical artist during your tenure on american Idol Season 8. Best of luck to you in the future!