By: Rosanne Simunovic
This Top 3 show’s theme should have be named “A-Cappella Madness” , because, in varying degrees, all three singers were determined to strut their acoustic voices this week.
However, overall, it was an uneven showcase of performances, but the technical glitch during one singer’s performance made for some great live television. We can laugh at this now, since that performer has moved on to the Top 2 Finale next week, but it was quite the disturbing spectacle at the time.
So, let’s have a look at my thoughts on the Top 3 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!
Update: Special thanks to Minna for her editing advice. Please visit her wonderful David Archuleta site at DaBuzzing.Org
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- I was extremely excited to hear that Simon personally cleared U2′s song, “One” for this week’s Top 3 performance. And was it worth the effort? It most certainly was!
You began this song, in front of the microphone stand, exuding a quiet and extremely vulnerable demeanor, your voice sounding absolutely magnificent. The relaxed, yet expressive tone of your pure vocals set against the backdrop of a sensitively induced acoustic piano accompaniment, was one of the truly special moments from this week’s show. I could listen to you sing like this all night, Adam – your voice is truly, truly beautiful!
However, you are a master of nuance and inflection and I knew there was more to come as the song progressed. And slowly, yet meaningfully, the song unfolded as the gentle introduction of the string orchestra meshed their lovely sound with the piano, thus encouraging you to generate an increased dynamic level in your voice.
At this point in the number, you visually added more dimension by releasing the mike from the stand, moving forward to the perimeter of the stage. Perfect! How I wish more singers would do this in a performance. Not only does it add variety to a performance, but also it releases tension and adds buoyancy to the lower half of a singer’s body. The physical pacing encourages further relaxation in the knees and added energy from the diaphragm.
At this point, the fiery, expressive vocals “kicked in” and there you were – at the front of the stage – to passionately drive your sensitive vocals into the hearts of your audience. Wonderful timing and so well formulated!
And when you moved to that sustained upper register – changing the melodic line with musical professionalism and confidence – I truly marveled at the high level of your technical development. Your stellar vocal technique allowed you to release all the passion of your soul in a truly remarkable way while your physical movements so perfectly mirrored the emotional core of this song. It was exhilirating to hear and see, Adam!
How you managed to seamlessly segue from controlled “piano” (soft) level of sound to passionately “forte” (loud)level as you ascended your vocal range and, then quietly end this number softly, was a musical testament to your brilliant strength as an artist and your determination to achieve the absolute best in each and everyone of your performances.
Most people may not realize and/or take for granted the skill and stamina it takes to achieve such a quick turnaround in the dynamic level in a performance, especially when the performance timeline is so condensed. And yet you did so flawlessly – with composure and self-assurance. Just wonderful!
This was indeed an exceptional and memorable performing experience – unique and extarordinary.
And, I should draw attention to your physical stance. In both numbers, it was technically perfect – the elevated upper body, relaxed shoulders and curved knees – and contributed to the confident presentation of both songs.
Moving on to your personal song choice, “Cryin” by Aerosmith, I have to say that, given the audio problems you were experiencing on stage, it was still a very strong performance. It is almost hard to critique this performance because you were having so many issues with the balance betweeen you and the back-up singers, but I will do my best here.
The song started strongly enough and then – well, you know what happened. You had competition for the lead vocal from the back-up singer. However, I applaud you for removing the earphone and carrying on like the true professional that I have come to know and love over the course of this show.
Physically, you moved about the stage with ease and confidence and, given the audio difficulties during this number, the increased visual aspect of this performance was most welcome.
Also, that round mouth and extended tonque was just the ticket for those upper vocals. And when you executed that vocal slide up to “dyin’” it was, well, “to die for”. The intensity that you maintained throughout this number was exceptional – you perfectly captured the angst and anger depicted through the lyrics.
Also, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between your first and second number. It was reminiscent of two different performers – you have so many artistic sides and I hope this is the road you will travel as your career unfolds and reaches stellar heights.
Congratulations and bravo and a standing “O” for your dual showcase this week, Adam!
Critique: Adam – you looked so bewildered after your second song and I expect that this was not the performance you had rehearsed or had envisioned at this point in the competition. But, I am so glad that you removed the earphones so that you would no longer be distracted by the dissonance in the background vocals.
However, that being said, I was jolted from my typing by the primal scream projected by your back-up gal. Wow! What a mess!
Then, at some point, the band hopped on the atonal bridge to nowhere and sounded poorly tuned. But, given the edgy nature of this song, maybe this was the intention. Whatever the reason, everthing seemed strangely disconnected during this song – you, the band, the back-up singers. However, I will give you credit for holding this performance together until the end with professionalism and artistry. Any other singer would have crumbled.
Also, technically, Adam, this song didn’t resonate as perfectly as your first and, yes, I know that you were probably experiencing a great deal of anxiety given the audio difficulties during this number.
However, over the past few weeks, I have cautioned you about the momentary spread in your mouth position during some of your performances. This became problematic during “Cryin“ and the prevalent “eye” diphthong added to the source of the problem. You have to remember to grab the first pure vowel in that diphthong -”ah” -and fully sustain your voice in that vowel.
You had a tendency to move your voice through all the vowels in that diphthong and, as a result, I found that your upper register voice sounded thin and poorly focused. By sustaining on one pure vowel, with a rounded mouth position, you would have achieved a higher degree of depth and intensity in your vocal production.
Also, that quivering jaw made a repeat appearance in your performance of, “Cryin“. Perhaps, the vocal vibrations, added to the passionate energy of your performance, could be factored into this. Whatever the reason, you need to pay attention to any source of tension in your jaw as this leads to tension in your throat muscles which, subsequently, leads to faulty and a less liberated vocal focus – something that I felt was problematic for you during this second performance.
But, let’s end on a positive note, shall we? Your first song was brilliantly performed – an artistic gem of the highest degree. And, given the technical issues that hindered the second song, the bottom line here is that you are an extremely strong, experienced and meticulous singer – all attributes that provide the foundation for your performances each and every week.
Congratulations once again! Exceptional work!
Strengths: Danny – first of all, let’s talk about your Top 3 performance of “Dance Little Sister”, chosen for you by Paula Abdul . What a wonderful way to “kick off” the Top 3 showcase this week. I loved the upbeat brass introduction to this song and loved even more how you grabbed the buoyant essence of this song and immediately “ran with it”. That’s the way you shake the nerves out of your system – by fully immersing your heart and mind into the rhythmic and melodic pulse of the song. Kudos, Danny!
Also, this week and throughout this show, you have been singing with some naturally established technical components. Your circular mouth and, at times, your relaxed jaw, have enabled you to draw some power – be it conscious or not – from your diaphragmatic support system. Add to this your natural tendency to sustain your voice on the first pure vowel located in your diphthongs and one can easily figure out why your voice always has such strong presence when you perform.
Also, the key selection of this song was cleverly devised, relieving some pressure and tension from your already over-extended upper range. For the majority of time, this song rested comfortably in your middle range, thus allowing you to pump out strong vocals throughout this number.
And the soulfully liberated “do do do dos ” with the saxophonist positively accented the visual presentation of this song, while at the same time, emphasized your natural penchant for the jazz idiom. Loved it!
You also engaged the audience tremendously well in this number through your animated and expressive vocal delivery and strong, rhythmic presence.
However, I fell in love with your personal song choice, “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. It was a superlative selection. This song perfectly captured your authentic soulful tone and style so well. The lyrics, combined with the beautiful melody, impeccably highlighted your sensitive, expressive persona and that husky quality in your voice worked emotionally well for this song.
And it was clearly evident that you worked very hard on establishing an innovative arrangement to this song. I adored the quasi a cappella opening in this song that segued into a lovely acoustic guitar accompaniment. This was just so beautiful and an absolutely exquisite effect, one that firmly established the tender, romantic tone for the whole number.
Your liberated vocals, the clarity of your diction, the stellar presence of your transluscent head voice was something truly special and my only regret is that you did not have the opportunity to reveal this level of nuance and inflection in some of your previous performances from past weeks.
However, as the saying goes, better late than never – perhaps you just needed the right song vehicle to drive your voice to stellar heights. If so, you found it in this beautiful song arrangement. I doesn’t get much better than this. Gorgeous! GORGEOUS!
And the ending, from the liberated soulful singing to the passionately sustained “beau -ti -ful” at a forte level followed by a tender “to me” resonating with transluscent head voice, was just remarkable and showed tremendous control. It was truly inspired, Danny, and it was blatantly obvious that your poured blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into the preparation of this song.
Excellent showcase Danny! Bravo and a standing “O” for your final number – “You Are So Beautiful“.
Critique: Danny – although “Dance Little Sister” , had great entertainment value, I found the lyrical and melodic elements of this song extremely repetitious. As a result, the full extent of your vocal gift was not realized. The melodic line of the song was very limited. I was hoping that you would add some level of variation in the melody line but it never happened.
The cyclic “dance lttle sister” segments were relentless and tedious and this problem would have been alleviated if you had incorporated some soulful riffs into the melodic mix. Creative flexibility in the melodic line would have been a very welcome addition to this song – in fact it cried for it!
Additionally, the lacklustre vocal line caused you to abandon your technical skills and your voice sounded much too linear throughout this song. I needed to hear more inflection, more nuance and it just never happened.
Also, you were punching those vocals once again from your throat and your voice sounded noticeably unhealthy and ragged. I am really concerned for your vocal health, Danny, and hope that you connect with a solid vocal technician as soon as possible from your end.
Additionally, you have to be more vigilant in maintaining that all-important circular mouth position, especially on the trickier diphthongs such as the “aye” (pure vowel -=eh) and vowels such as “ee“. Your failure to do so during this number caused constriction in your throat muscles, thus creating undue strain and pressure on your delicate vocal cords.
You must always remember to incorporate the “ah” vowel in all your vowels and then your voice will enjoy consistent clarity and ring throughout every level of your vocal and dynamic range. Certainly the pitch and control will be more even and centered.
Also, you must learn to balance the choreographic and vocal elements so as to create a seamless and fully coordinated visual and aural performing experience. You have a boundless array of energy, Danny, but you must learn to exert stronger control in how this energy is utilized in a performance.
Your buoyant physical movements did not establish proper synchronization with your vocals and, as a result, it diminished the diaphragmatic energy necessary to create an aesthetically correct vocal presence. Toward the end of this song, I saw a great deal of rhythmic bouncing mixed in with an even greater amount of vocal shouting. The whole effect looked too forced where it should have appeared fluid and effortless.
However, your performance of “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker was faultless – bar some technical issues that could not be erased in a span of fifteen minutes. However, I felt that you had more respect for and control of your technical resources and, depsite the raspy edge to your voice -which I feel actually contributed to the song -I sensed that you had meticulously paid close attention to every detail in this number.
This was a well-rehearsed and wonderfully adapted arrangement of a classic song. Also, unlike your first number, I heard nuance and inflection and a multi-tiered approach to the dynamics – all the good things that render a performance so very special.
Strengths: Kris -your first song, “Apologize“, was an absolutely inspired song choice for you. Because it requires a lighter vocal approach, it complimented your voice so much, highlighting your naturally applied head resonance. For this reason, Kara and Randy are to be applauded for choosing this number for one of your Top 3 performances this week.
Over the course of this season’s show, you have wonderfully demonstrated the depth of your musical talents -as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist. And this week, thanks to your dual performances, you were given the opportunity to showcase the full extent of your musical abilities.
While comfortably seated at the piano, you were able to fuse both the piano and vocals with an ease and simplicity which I found very impressive. Your voice exhibited a high degree of passion and verve. I loved the random melodic riff midway through this song, as it indicated to me that you were attempting to introduce your personal vocal style during this performance.
I was also extremely impressed with the clarity of your diction. I particularly appreciated your effort to enunciate the ”a” in apologize with consistent precision. In the original cover, it always sounds like “`pologize”, so when I heard the added note for the “a” vowel, it was a welcome treat.
I am a diction person -really fussy, in fact, as I feel that a singer, in order to better communicate his message to the audience, must make a determined effort to coherently project the lyrics in a song with feeling and inflection. And, to a certain degree, I felt you were successful in doing so during your first of two performances this week.
However, it was your personal selection, “Heartless” by Kanye West, that captured my eyes and ears. I thought this was an exceptional performance for a variety of reasons.
First of all, how I loved the slow a cappella opening of this song that seamlessly segued into the gentle accelerated strumming of your guitar! This was the perfect way to add aural dimension to this song. and it also signaled to me what I have suspected all along – that you have a strong sense of pitch – be it absolute or relative.
I also appreciated your personal interpretation of this Kanye West song. You “kristened” this song with new life and excitement – the “Kris vibe” - which I have come to love and appreciate so much throughout this season of American Idol. It demonstrated how fully connected you were to this song and the complete extent of your artistic skills. As a result, your vocals were brimming with expressive nuance and clarity – just outstanding.
Technically, I thought you utilized your voice in a more consistent manner than was evident when you sang “Apologize“. Your mouth maintained a circular position and you were attempting to release your jaw when you moved through your upper range. Perhaps the quicker tempo of “Heartless” more successfully minimized your still developing technical skills and/or allowed you to utilize them with increased efficiency.
And, after patiently waiting for my “Kris Allen Masterclass moment”, you finally treated me to the gorgeous timbre of your lower range for an extended period of time during this performance. Thank you so much, Kris! However, you also did yourself a favor, for, by fully navigating and releasing the depth of your vocal range, you increased the aural dimension of this number.
Also, by vocalizing through your baritone range, you relieved some pressure off the upper. You created some space for your upper voice in your vocal line and, as a result, your voice sounded more transparent and relaxed when you did indeed sing through your upper range at different points in the song.
I always talk about “pacing” – whether it involves choreographic or vocal elements - and this is how you vocally pace a performance. Even classical singers sing through the bottom of their range when performing their repertoire, as it allows the upper to sound even more beautiful and certainly more relaxed when it does appear at different points in a song. Plus it adds dimension to the melodic line!
I like to hear a song that challenges every aspect of a singer’s voice. Generally speaking, when a melody is too repetitious, centering around 4 notes in a singer’s range, it becomes tedious and uninspiring to listen to! And this song was anything but, Kris, so kudos to you for personally selecting and then conceiving your personal rendition of this well- known cover.
This was an outstanding dual showcase, Kris! Congratulations!
Critique: Kris – during “Apologize” and, to a lesser extent, “Heartless, you still encountered the usual technical problems. Your tense jaw, horizontal mouth and hunched shoulders were so detrimental in revealing the full power of your natural vocal ability.
By not releasing the tension in your upper body and face, you were inhibiting the constant and powerful support from your diaphragmatic breathing muscles. Also, that horizontal – and almost closed – mouth formation at the beginning of “Apologize” minimized the full potential of the lower end of your voice. I wanted to invisibly reach through the television screen and re-arrange your mouth and jaw position.
Your breath support was not engaged from the outset of this song and, as a result, you ran into further problems in your upper range as the song continued. You have gorgeous head voice, but without the strength and support from the diaphragm, the full potential of your head resonance remained unfocused and vague throughout this number.
And, all that tension in your face and mouth did indeed cause you to crack at one distinct point in the song.
Also, be very careful that you don’t sustain your voice through every vowel of the diphthong. This was most obvious during – yet again – “Apologize “. For example, when you sang the word “ground “, you should have sustained this word on the “ah” vowel of that diphthong, rather than grabbing both vowels – the “ah-oo” – of the diphthong.
This occurred many, many times throughout this song – on the words “ground” and “around” and then when you sang the word “apologize“. For the latter word, a plain “ah” vowel would have sufficed, adding the “eye” and “ee” vowels toward the end of the sustaining process. By sustaining on one pure vowel for the majority of the time value of the note, your vocal sound would have sounded less cluttered and certainly more pure, centered and focused.
Also, I think you would have increased the visual dimension of this number had you moved away from the piano and walked toward the front of the stage, ending the song totally a cappella, perhaps incorporating some freestyle vocal riffs. As it was, the ending felt a little flat to me – it didn’t leave me with something substantial to take away from this performance.
During, “Heartless” – you ran into the same technical problems, however to a lesser extent. However, I would caution you to refrain from raising your head and constricting your facial features and neck muscles. All of these negative habits are robbing you of the full potential of your natural vocal ability and negating the efficient process of your diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
And we need to see the expression mirrored in your eyes. If you are constantly craning your neck in an effort to create vocal sound, not only are you putting undue pressure on your vocal cords, but also you are interrupting the communicative connection you should be establishing with your eyes.
So, there you have it, Kris! You have enormous untapped potential that could be fully realized through proper vocal training. I hope this is on your “to do” list once the show is over.
Congratulations, once again, on your growth as an artist during American Idol Season 8.