By: Rosanne Simunovic
The show is over for another season and Kris Allen is our new American Idol. The shy, young kid from Arkansas quietly stole the title from the refined, genuine and extraordinarily talented Adam Lambert.
However, make no mistake about it – Kris worked very hard to achieve this goal, showcasing his the multi-faceted musical talents as a vocalist, pianist, guitarist and arranger.
I would like to pose a question to the producers: why didn’t each of the singers have the option to sing a separate original composition during the Top 2 performances?
This is what ensued last year and it was a wonderful idea. Then, once the winner was announced – David Cook – the true American Idol Theme Song, “Time Of Your Life” was revealed for the first time. It made sense then and it would have made greater sense this time around.
I will write more about Kris and Adam in the coming days and weeks and months, but, for the last time, here is the Vocal Masterclass Article for American Idol Season 8 top 2 performances.
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- the first song you performed this week, Mad World , was an innovative reprise from your Top 8 American Idol performance , celebrating songs popularized during the year you were born. Suffice it to say, that this performance h0lds a special place in the hearts of many – your controlled, yet intensely passionate vocals and sensitive delivery were a sublime visual and aural experience.
However, this time, instead of a seated position, you decided to make a more dramatic entrance via the stairs. And so, as the dry ice billowed around you, you “walked your walk”, descending the stairs in complete darkness, moving mysteriously toward the lighted stage.
My thoughts coincided with Simon – the ethereal stage effects coupled with your long, flowing coat and intense, yet delicate vocal timbre, immediately conjured up images of “Phantom Of The Opera“. And, perhaps this was your intent – to reveal the essence of your tormented soul, as the Phantom so often does in the musical, through these extremely powerful lyrics.
If so, it worked in a monumental way, Adam. Your ability to sing quietly, while never losing the expressive focus in your vocal projection, is a sublime technical characteristic worthy of the highest praise and acknowledgement. The control you exhibited throughout this song was stellar to the “nth” degree. Unbelievable!
I also enjoyed hearing how you intermittently managed to sneak in a little crescendo in your vocal delivery – not too much – but just enough to add another level of nuance into the communicative structure of this song. I could listen to you sing this song over and over and over – the honey sweetness of your head resonance is beautiful beyond description.
Then in a rapid departure in style – but not in content – Simon Fuller selected “A Change Is Gonna Come” for your second selection. First of all, I loved the glamorous formal wear that you adopted for this number. Perfect!
You started this song with a small indication of trepidation in your demeanor and voice – you seemed and sounded a little apprehensive in the early stages. However, as I further reflected on your performance, it seemed that you were pacing yourself – not giving away too much too soon – and as a result, once you moved away from the microphone stand, the true magic began!
Therefore, as the song progressed, your voice rose to incredible heights – climbing hills and reaching vocal peaks that left me totally breathless and in awe of your vocal excellence.
Additionally, once your vocal fireworks exploded, it left me breathless! When you feel, then the performance becomes real – would that every singer could apply this ideology as you so do each and every week, Adam. This is what distinguishes true artistry – that and a great deal of disciplined and intuitive awareness of the potential offering of every song.
There were tender and tormented moments in this song - a true reflection of your soul. You dig very deep, Adam and you voice reflected your authentic and real emotion. It was just so tangible.
Because of your ability to reach and liberate untapped sources in this song, the communicative elements of this song were absolutely spectacular. The song gained new meaning and verve – totally different sound than what I have heard from other artists who have “covered” it. The depth and passion of your soul were honestly portrayed through your expressive, multi-layered vocal delivery.
And your superb ability to quickly vascillate between the full compliment of your head voice vs. the quieter timbre of your head voice was wonderfully executed throughout this number and added inflection and nuance throughout this sensitively expressed showcase.
Finally, that sustained note at the end was wonderfully full and focused as it should be – in that vocal masque. Gorgeous and pure!
At the end of the show, you mentioned that you were extremely happy to have been given the oppportunity to sing this song. Might I further add that this song was fortunate to find a new and refreshing home in your artistic soul.
Your closing number was “No Boundaries“, the American Idol Coronation song written by Kara DioGuardi. This is such a difficult number – the vocal and dynamic range that is expected from the singer is really daunting.
However, given your stellar level of singing experience and expertise, this song, although far removed from your personal vocal style, resonated extremely well with the viewers. I felt that you successfully incorporated your signature style and methodology into this number.
Also you managed to distance yourself from the technical issues that chased you at the beginning of this song. Oh yes, as in last week’s performance, the tuneless back-up singer made a return appearance. What can you do, right? The show must go on!
And similar to your performance of “A Change Is Gonna Come“, the seamless manner in which you segued from your potent head voice to soft head voice was unbelievable. Your technical control, combined with your relaxed facial features, signified how absolutely ready you are for this song and for this competition.
And thank you for adding a wonderful melodic descant in the final refrain – your voice soared over the “now in tune” backup singers and sounded liberated and strong! Great substance and style!
Congratulations, Adam! This was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary American Idol journey. You are most definitely destined for International success. You are iconic – one of a kind - and have left an indelible mark on the Nokia stage and in my heart that will never be erased.
Bravo and standing “O” from Masterclass Lady!
Critique: Adam – your performance of “Mad World” was technically and artistically superb, so I have nothing to critique in this number. It was sublime perfection.
Now, I did mention that during the inital stage of “A Change Is Gonna Come“, I sensed a level of anxiety in your voice. Your throat didn’t sound open and free and so your introductory line, “I was born by the river” sounded a bit tense and edgy. I felt that, perhaps, there was too much too much chest resonance in the vocal mix.
However, you made up for it in the remainder of the number, leading toward that beautifully sustained final note on the word “come” – so pure and focused in your vocal masque.
However, make certain that you always keep that pure, ringing head voice at the core of your louder dynamics. You have to make sure that the chest resonance doesn’t allow the head voice to take a back seat.
Finally, let’s discuss “No Boundaries“. I didn’t have major issues with you, Adam, but with the technicians and the back-up singer. Yes, as in last week’s performance, she was once again singing too loudly and with really poor tuning to boot!
Therefore, the dissonance everyone was sensing at the beginning of this number had little to do with you. You know how to handle these testy situations so well and, as the song progressed, we heard more stability in the technical mix. I guess someone either woke up the sound guy or muffled the back-up singer. Ha!
Oh – and one more thing, Adam – make certain that you try to maintain a circular formation in your mouth position. This became especially noticeable at the end when you sustained the word “mountain“. Your mouth was open and relaxed, yet too horizontal for my taste.
Even with your relaxed jaw, by merely adding a circular formation to mouth position, you would have noticeably deepened the timbre of your voice. Try it – you’ll like it!
Finally, regarding the song, I was hoping for something more current, relevant and significant to your level of artistry. Suffice it to say that you were better than the song and, through your vocal delivery, elevated this song to listenable heights.
Congratulations, Adam! It has been an immense pleasure and honor for me to write these articles for you and the other singers, although I hardly think you needed any input from my end!
You came to this show impeccably prepared and it showed. Your genuine and caring demeanor and your extraordinary talent is something truly special. I will watch with great anticipation as you take the world by storm through your immense artistry and charisma.
Strengths: Kris -your first number, Ain’t No Sunshine, was a wonderful reprise of your Top 9 performance which celebrated best-selling songs from Itunes.Com. How I loved your rendition of this classic number and, this week, I fell in love with it once again.
Everything about this performance screamed “outstanding” – the gently layered nuances, the musical shape of your phrases, your excellent piano skills and, of course, your naturally pure and expressive vocal talent. Once again, it was clearly evident that your comfort level was optimal, as you appeared relaxed and confident throughout this number.
And when a singer is relaxed and “in the zone“, then the artistic style and substance truly mesh. This song emphasized the depth and inflection in your voice, as you freely enabled the technical support to supply the foundation for your singing. Your jaw was noticeably relaxed and free and your mouth easily maintained that all-important circular formation for the proper sustaining effect.
Your vocal timbre was colorful and expressive throughout this number - starting softly then, as the song progressed, adding crescendo and momentum to the melodic and rhythmic line and then closing with a softer, wonderfully controlled dynamic! Bravo!
During your second number, “What’s Goin’ On“, with guitar in hand, you created a different ambience . Very acoustic and very intimate! This was the perfect song choice for you, as it accented ever aspect of your performing style that we have come to know and love over the past few weeks.
I also loved the calypso-generated rhythmic pulse that formed the foundation for this song. It was excellent and musically contagious. And, in gauging your relaxed and carefree demeanor, you obviously internalized the essence of this wonderful song selection in a believable manner.
Finally, your performance of the American Idol Coronation song, “No Boundaries“, was passionate and genuine. Although your voice did not embrace the melodic line with perfect ease, you did make every concerted effort to deliver this number with artistic sincerity and commitment.
And, in this song, as well as the other two numbers, the clarity of your diction was immaculate – clean and precise. In every performance that you have given over the course of the show, I have never detected ” muddiness” in your vocal sound or articulation skills – every aspect of your singing style is clean and precise and extremely pitch-centered.
Congratulations, Kris, on an extremely well-rehearsed trio of performances. You are an excellent musican and a sublime artist and your likeable, sincere demeanor has been a shining beacon in this year’s Top 13 lineup of singers. Bravo!
Critique: Kris -”Ain’t No Sunshine” was beautifully interpreted, so I have nothing to add that could make this performance better than it already was this week! This number so suited your vocal style and I can only imagine how wonderful your CD will sound when you are given the freedom to select songs similar to “Ain’t no Sunshine“.
However, your second number, “What’s Goin’ On“, didn’t quite have the punch and pizzazz of “Ain’t No Sunshine“. The overall performance lacked the dimension and creativity that I witnessed during “Ain’t no Sunshine“.
You sang the number quite well, but, for me, the espressive qualities that we so enjoyed in “Ain’t No Sunshine” were missing from “What’s Goin’ On“. The whole performance was extremely linear and one-dimensional.
Furthermore, the technical issues came creeping back into the picture – your jaw was noticeably tense and your mouth extremely horizontal, thus preventing you from accessing the full power in your diaphragmatic support system.
Also, you have to really watch when you are seated with a guitar, Kris . Make certain that you do not slouch, thus ensuring the elevation and openness of the rib cage. By doing so, you will be more conscious of the diaphragmatic muscles and your support system will be more accessible.
And finally, we journey to “No Boundaries“. First of all, let me say that there is no way that the key could have been lowered – as many seemed to think – because you were experiencing technical issues with your lower range at the beginnning of this song. Any lower and you would not have been heard!
The lower end of your voice lacked focus and sounded off -center. You were really struggling for those notes and this is where your technical support would have made a difference. It would have guided you to dig deep and flex those muscles, thus rendering more presence and verve to your baritone voice.
Also, always remember that your articualtion must not disappear when singing through your lower range. In fact, it should increase and this increased clarity in your diction would have added energy and focus to your voice.
Additionally, by accessing the proper support in the earlier stages of this song, you would have fared better during the remainder of this number. Technical strength must be present from the minute you open your mouth. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to access later on in the number.
And, as the melodic line moved along and ascended to your tenor range, this is indeed what happened. Your diaphragmatic muscles were not ready for the challenge and, as a result, I witnessed a great deal of facial cringing and tension in your upper body.
In an effort to create a nuanced performance and expand your dynamic possibilities in this song, you accessed the wrong area of your body and, as a result, a visual and aural struggle ensued. You looked and sounded really uncomfortable. And, again, that elevated head position made its appearance, as you struggled to reach for rather than sing over your upper notes.
Also, your mouth position was loving that inefficient “spread” position – particularly when you sang the word “boundaries” . Always remember, Kris, that a round mouth on all the vowels will increase the depth and uniformity of your voice through every level of the melodic line.
In closing, however, I would like to say how much I have enjoyed watching you grow in confidence and artistry on the American Idol stage. You truly are living a dream and I am so happy that your dream was realized. You are a sweet, caring, genuine and talented individual and it was a pleasure to wrtite these Vocal Masterclass articles for you.
Congratulations! You have now been “kristened” the American Idol Season 8! The future is yours! Bravo!