American Idol Season 9 Top 9 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Lennon-McCartney Songbook


American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week’s American Idol theme was focused on the weath of music penned by legendary artists, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. So, suffice it to say that the singers were treated to a wealth of musical riches in the song selection process.  I could not imagine any of the singers experiencing problems in terms of uncovering the perfect song to highlight their individual style.

But, then again, so many elements must be considered  when choosing a song –  the correct key for their singing range, the arrangement, the communicative aspects, performance skills and, of course, genuine  and expressive vocal delivery.

However, the singers delivered this week. Kudos to all!

And, another shout-out to Ryan Seacrest: I am loving these dramatic intros.  This week, Ryan was in the control booth announcing the start of the show and I was loving it!  I love all the “behind-the scenes” shots this season – wonderful idea!

And so, without further delay, here is my Top 9 Vocal Masterclass evaluations.

Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access each singer, simply click on the singer’s link below.

Aaron Kelly, Andrew Garcia,

Casey James, Crystal Bowersox,

Katie Stevens, Lee Dewyze,

Michael Lynche,

Siobhan Magnus, Tim Urban

AARON KELLY 16-years-old: “The Long And Winding Road”

Strengths: Aaron – you selected one of my favorite songs. The lyrics and the music just resonate in one’s heart in such a special way and the emotional center of the song can easily pertain to any personal situation.

Your youthful approach was very refreshing and, yet at its core, there was an element of wisdom and sophistication in your performance that defied your chronological age.  You are a sensitive soul and have leaned toward selecting songs that mirror your intuitive delivery skills.

That being said, the song was a perfect fit for you. I felt that you delivered this song very well.  I also noticed improvement in your technical skills: your mouth was not as wide when you sustained your pure vowels and I felt that you were generally attempting to avoid losing your voice in all the vowels contained in the diphthongs.

I also appreciated seeing you move in a relaxed and determined way throughout the stage.  I find this an extremely important attribute in any singer, as it escalates the confidence level of the performer while allowing him to establish further communication with his audience.

This was a very good performance, Aaron. Congratulations!

Critique: Aaron- while watching the other singers speak about you, all of them referred to you as a  fun-loving young man.  Therefore,  it would be nice to hear you sing a song to reflect this. I have mentioned this repeatedly in past few  Vocal Masterclass articles – here and here – and now, this week, Kara and Simon mentioned this as well.  So, now you have been out-voted and, that being said, it was nice to finally hear that you do indeed  have an up-tempo number planned for us next week.  Bravo!

Also, I should caution you to make absolutely certain that you are fully supporting  your lower range.  Most of time the song resonated quite well in your upper range;  however, when you moved through your lower range, you barely skimmed the surface.  You need to “dig deep” to deliver those rich, lower notes, always making certain that the diaphragmatic muscles are supporting the vocal process.

Along with the natural chest resonance that is a natural element in your lower voice, one has to remember to  implement some head voice or your lower notes will lack clarity and precision.  The lightness and purity of head resonance allows the lower end of your voice to ring.  Without it, your baritone voice will have no carrying power and will fall short of its center.

Also, you still need to watch your approach when faced with the “eye” diphthong.  Sustain your voice on the first pure vowel of that diphthong – “ah” – and notice the increased ease and focus of your voice. But, that jaw must be relaxed also, so continue working on freeing it, allowing it to drop when moving through your upper range.

Also, I noticed that your left arm was flinging back and forth when you performed.  This signals unease to me and also a faulty habit that should be rectified sooner than later.  All this does is detract energy and momentum needed for the diaphragmatic breath support.

You need to use your arms in a meaningful, expressive manner, so make certain that you not allow this arm to move randomly when you sing.

Finally, I also wished you could have been a little freer with the  melodic line. You hinted at this earlier in this song and then, what started out as a great idea, was abandoned. Too bad!

I am looking forward to the playful side of Aaron next week, but make absolutely certain that all the technical elements are in place before you begin the choreographic movements. Pacing is extremely important in an up-tempo number, so use your movements wisely and in a way that compliments your vocal energy.

Good luck, Aaron!

ANDREW GARCIA 24-years-old: “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Strengths: Andrew- I loved the fact that you positioned yourself on the stage situated at the back of the judges. This allowed you to establish wonderful connection with the audience.  And, since you were seated with your guitar during the entire performance, this made absolute sense, didn’t it?

Also, I feel that the crowd energized you, giving you positive feedback and vibes as the song progressed.  As a result, you looked genuinely relaxed and carefree throughout this showcase  – professional and extremely grounded.

And, lo and behold,  your vocals sounded better this week!  Your voice certainly had more presence and you made consistent  effort to sustain those pure vowels with greater efficiency during this week’s performance. This made my day!   Also, the increased energy of the song and your escalating confidence level energized the diaphragmatic support muscles to work with greater efficiency.

I love to see this level of growth in a singer during the American Idol season. It shows that he has determination to learn and make the very best of the suggestions being offered to him during the course of a show. And, you are certainly doing all of this and more, Andrew, so kudos to you!

I thought this was your best performance to date. You were having a blast on that stage and looked extremely comfortable  – a visual A+ without a doubt!   Great work, Andrew!

Critique: Andrew – you seem like a free spirit and this is why you are so loved by all your fellow Idols.

However, this natural freedom needs to be applied in your creative approach to your music.  This song could have used a little refresher in the original melodic line. There was plenty of opportunity for you to move the song through your upper range – the repetitive aspects of the song left the door wide open for this kind of imaginative risk-taking throughout this performance.

Therefore, the aural aspects of the song were very one-dimensional  and  I was waiting and hoping for something new and exciting.  As I mentioned above in the Strengths portion of this evaluation,  this was a strong and genuine visual performance;  however it did lack the vocal pizzazz that was necessary to deliver a “slam-dunk”.

This problem has been referenced in past Vocal Masterclass articles and this is something that I do hope you will continue to develop. You need to take creative risks and, considering how well you performed during the Hollywood auditions, I believe you are more than capable of achieving this.

However, I was very happy to see and hear the improvement in your technical skills. I did feel that you were attempting to grab those pure vowels while sustaining your voice in vocal masque, so one cannot expect everything to click at once.

Keep up the good work, Andrew, and remember to tap into your artistry during the rehearsal process.

CASEY JAMES 27 -years old: “Jealous Guy”

Strengths: Casey- this was the week you exposed your sensitive side with an acoustic ballad.  And, I would like to say that the wait was worth it!  More than worth it!  It was like winning a lottery.  When you buy the ticket, you never expect to win or maybe you expect to win a few bucks. But when you win the grand prize, then one is totally surprised and drowning in a sea of exhilaration and disbelief.

This is what I was feeling during your brilliant performance of  “Jealous Guy“.  Somehow I knew you would perform well while singing a slower ballad, but this well?  Totally unexpected!  However, everyone loves a surprise and this was the masterclass of all surprises! Incredible!

The heartrending, poignant lyrics were delivered with expressive conviction and blatant honesty. Your voice was so nuanced throughout this performance – this is how one adds dimension to a performance – singing from the heart and laying all the cards on the table.  No card unturned and no regrets!

This week, you established that you are more than a pretty face on that stage. You showed that you are not afraid to wear your emotions on your sleeve  and not terrified of taking a vulnerable risk in front of millions of viewers.

In addition to your acoustic guitar skills – and a nice change from the electric guitar, I might add – I loved the  sensitive accompaniment by the cellist. It suited the mood of the song so well. It has been said that the mellow sound of the cello is the closest instrument to the human voice, so it was a fitting addition to this stellar performance.

I also loved the step back from the mike stand at the end of the song – I don’t know why – I just loved it!  It seemed to gel with the mood you established throughout this number – the Jealous Guy and all his deepest, darkest thoughts moving from emotional darkness to physical darkness, perhaps?

And, you really were determined to grab those vowels while sustaining your voice throughout the melodic line. Great improvement in this area, Casey, and like the lottery win, totally unexpected!

Emotionally, you fully exposed the heart and soul of this song – it was so meaningful and so soulful.  The contrast between your pure vocals and your rustic vocals added inflection and nuance to this song .

One final note: the key selection for this song was well-established. I felt that the song fell in the most natural part of your singing range, thus allowing you to sing with emotional ease and passion.

I  really could go on and on, but I have other evaluations to write. (smile)   This was arguably the best performance of the night – on a night when there were many stellar performances.  It doesn’t get better than this!

Bravo, Casey and Standing “O” from Masterclass Lady (MCL)

Critique: Casey- although some of the vocals were not technically sound throughout,  the artistry was impeccable. I  understood and felt every word and your performance was a perfect example when artistry, authenticity and believability trumped perfect vocals. Substance over style – one of those times when it actually worked!

I also sensed that you are working on expanding the efficiency of your diaphragmatic breath support, as some of those pure vowels were wonderfully sustained. When you did experience some pitch problems, that indicated to me  that your throat muscles were experiencing too much tension.  Therefore, the vocal sound was less centered.

So, I would like to remind you to continue working on the relaxation levels in your face and upper body. This will enhance the effective resonation of your voice in your vocal masque. Make absolutely certain that your vowels are not too wide – try to aim for that perfectly round mouth on all the vowels.  Also, remember to relax your jaw – keep it, along with your throat muscles, free from constriction.

However, what a night for you Casey! Congratulations! All the accolades are very well-deserved! Bravo once again!

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX 24-years-old: “Come Together”

Strengths: Crystal –  you looked absolutely gorgeous tonight and, considering the fact that you were fighting a cold, I thought you gave a superb performance.  And, after watching the Idols’ comments about you, you seem to be a very sensitive and special young woman.  It is no wonder that your performances have resonated so fully and completely in the hearts of the listeners.

I thoroughly loved the inflection you added to this song  – the freedom of your vocal line was just wonderful. This is a natural, musical gift with you, Crystal, and although it may seem easy to do , in actuality,  it is a difficult element to hone and craft. However, you are so musical that the creative juices flow  from you with melodic ease and simplicity.

I also appreciated the fleeting glimpse of pure head voice in this song. It was absolutely beautiful and is a vocal element that you should try to implement more often and throughout your entire vocal range.

The fog horn guy – on the Didgeridoo- was a neat instrumental addition to your splendid guitar skills – it accented your folksy, relaxed style, adding a novel visual dimension to this performance.

This was a splendid performance, Crystal!  Brava!

Critique: Crystal – oh how I wish you would not scream through those upper notes. It really worries me – the wide position of your mouth, the tense facial features and, generally, the lack of proper focus for your voice in the upper range. These are technical problems that need to be addressed and ultimately remedied or you will start to experience serious health issues with your voice.

You need to discover the strength and power that comes from solid diaphragmatic breath support and relaxing your facial features and throat muscles will allow this to happen with greater ease.  By doing so, you will be stimulated to provide support from the diaphragamtic rib cage muscles versus pushing the sound in an unnatural manner from your throat.

Presently, you sing with far too much chest resonance throughout your range and this is creating a very constricted, thick sound in your vocal delivery. To remedy this, you need to add some of that beautiful head resonance into every part of your range, all the while maintaining a circular mouth position on all the vowels and a relaxed, loose jaw.

Also, you are still experiencing some difficulty establishing a cohesive connection with your audience. Similar to last week’s performance, you really have to start moving away from the mike stand. If you can’t handle this, then, perhaps, moving your position to the stage behind the judges might be away of establishing a stronger bond with the audience.

Also, I noticed that you were frequently looking down at your guitar during your performance and, although the studio audience may not have fully perceived this as problematic, it was a very distracting element in this week’s performance when viewed through the television screen. It further distanced you from your audience.

You seem to be a shy, introverted young woman but, always remember that you are the boss on stage. You must own the stage. Do not be afraid of it – use it to establish a confident presence. You have the vocal skills, now comes the part of actually believing that you have all this and more

Best of luck nest week, Crystal! Be brave!

KATIE STEVENS 23-years old: “Let It Be”

Strengths: Katie – what a beautiful, acoustic performance of this song!  And so poignant and so very well-controlled!  You have always impressed me, Katie, but this week you truly exceeded the high expectations I knew you were capable of achieving. You are obviously surrounded by a savvy and intelligent team who are nurturing and guiding you in the right direction.

The phrasing element, for the most part, was impeccable and so very musical. Your voice embraced the melodic line with ease and simplicity, but, at its very core, there was a technical foundation rooted securely in place.

Your voice sounded liberated, yet there was never a moment that I felt or sensed that you were abandoning the diaphragmatic support system. At every point in the road during this number, the clarity of your head voice and the expressiveness of your vocal delivery gave me goosebumps.

I loved the melodic variation you added to this song – it was done tastefully. Very refined!  And the poise you exhibited throughout this very nuanced performance was extremely impressive. But then, when one does her homework, as you so obviously have done, then it all makes sense, doesn’t it?

The dynamic levels were not overdone and, yet, there was just enough contrast to lend a variety of  layers to this performance. And, by allowing yourself to become more involved with the emotional core of the song, you raised the communicative aspects of this vocal performance to stellar heights.

This performance was easily one of the best of the night, Katie! Congratulations and a standing “O” from Masterclass Lady.

Critique: Katie – so, the other singers revealed that you are a dancer. Well,  bring out those moves next week, honey!

However, joking aside,  I found very little to critique in this very genuine and exquisite  musical performance.

Oh – one thing -I would have liked more connection between all the “let it be” phrases. In the earlier stages of this song,  I would have joined a couple of those phrases in one breath, encouraging your voice to maintain a crescendo on the “ee” vowel in the word “be”, before moving toward the next phrase.

However, this was not a problem in the later stages of the song – when your voice gained in momentum and verve.

So that’s it, kiddo!  This was close to sheer perfection in my book. Brava!

LEE DEWYZE: 23-years old “Hey Jude”

Strengths: Lee –  you sang this song with tons of energy and I loved the soulful vibe you established throughout this performance.  I laughed at the bagpipes on stage – it didn’t make sense but it was an entertaining addition.

I thought your rustic vocals were perfectly suited to this song and so I applaud you on your song selection. Well done!

It was wonderful to see you enjoy yourself on stage and basically “hang loose”!  In past weeks, you seemed a little reserved; however, with each subsequent week,  you have worked extremely hard to establish a better connection with your audience.

Well, your hard work and determination paid off, Lee!  This week’s Top 9 showcase was your most relaxed performance to date and it is obvious from the enthusiastic applause that it fully resonated with your audience.

Good work, Lee and congratulations!

Critique: Lee – oh my, your voice was all over the map during this number.  As you were not vocally grounded at the beginning of this song , your pitch noticeably wavered and continued to do so as you moved through your upper range.  You were having so much fun on stage that you totally abandoned the necessity to support your voice from the diaphragm.

You must remember that upbeat performances have to not only look great, but also sound even better. Your voice lacked center and because you didn’t establish proper diaphragmatic support in the lower range, your upper notes failed to hit the bull’s-eye in your vocal masque.

You were reaching for those upper notes, raising your head to complete the process. However,  all this misplaced effort was in vain.  You must remember to think over those upper notes, keeping the head level and relaxed.  The elevation of the head merely puts additional strain on your vocal cords and adds constriction to your neck muscles.

This song has some wicked intervals and, if you do not connect these intervals through the use of the diaphragm, then the voice starts to sound inefficient and less focused.

For instance, the Perfect 5th  interval leap during the words “sad song” and “made to” sounded very unfocused and wide.  Both notes in that interval were distantly off-center. And that spread in your mouth position when grabbing those vowels did not help the situation. Where was that circular mouth that I so enjoyed in last week’s showcase?

Also, your inefficient breathing skills resulted in a fragmented approach to your phrasing. The song was so jumpy and was lacking in a smooth, effortless approach. You may have enjoyed your performing experience, Lee, but the overall impression looked forced and unnatural due to your lack of solid technical control in your vocal delivery.

In the future, make absolutely certain that you rehearse these upbeat numbers at a snail’s pace. This will allow you to correct any technical flaws and ultimately lend a sense of control to the number when performed at the regular tempo.

Good luck next week, Lee!

MICHAEL LYNCHE 26-years-old : ” Eleanor Rigby”

Strengths: Michael – from your interview, you obviously put a lot of thought and research into this song. Backed by a string orchestra, I thought this song was wonderfully conceived and, although I would have appreciated a more simple approach, I understand your thought process in your chosen arrangement.  You were aiming for distinct and new and it certainly was all that. Good for you for moving beyond the boundaries of the song.

Additionally, I loved the strength and passion  you brought to this song and this became increasingly clear as the song moved forward. Your upper vocals were well-delivered and the focus of your voice was wonderfully sustained in your vocal masque.

I also applauded your decision to  move away from the mike stand during the closing moments of this song. Movement is such a liberating experience for the singers and, when used wisely, it can escalate the visual dimension of a performance.

You perform with such a big heart on that stage and really work very hard to energize and captivate your audience. Kudos for your very fine work once again this week, Michael!  Bravo!

Critique: Michael – I thought the front end of the song sounded a little vague. At first, I almost felt that the song was sitting too low in your natural singing range, but then I realized it was a technical issue. I think added diaphragmatic support, as well as precise articulation of the consonants, would have fixed this problem.

As I said above, this was not a problem in the second half of this song when you turned the volume up several notches and moved through your upper range.

So, you must remember to consistently articulate your words in your lower range,  using  the consonants as a spring board for your vowels. This will create additional energy that can be transferred to your voice and you will also notice the diaphragmatic breath support working with increased efficiency.

And, remember to keep that all-important circular formation in your mouth. Your vowels were mighty wide in the front end of this song, resulting in  lack of clarity and presence in your vocal delivery.

Also, as much as I appreciated the risk you took in re-inventing this Beatle classic, I thought the finished product was pretty dramatic – too much so. Part of this has to do with your enormous physical and vocal presence on stage. You must be careful to add just the correct amount of energy in your performance to compliment the strength of your persona and natural vocal talent.

However, that being said, I thought you still gave a very good performance this week. I love your voice and you generally use it so very well.  Congratulations!

SIOBHAN MAGNUS 20-years-old: “Across The Universe”

Strengths: Siobhan – I was very excited to hear that you selected  Across The Universe. This is such a beautiful song and your poignant rendition of this number left me breathless.

Seated behind a microphone stand through the entire song,  you radiated great beauty, presence and vulnerability.  Your lower voice is scrumptious and your vocal timbre is so distinctive,  And then, as you delicately moved toward your upper range, you blessed us with your angelic soprano voice. It was total goosebumps time for me, missy!  Gorgeous!

In fact, you incorporated a wonderful use of your head voice throughout this song. Your voice had so much ring and focus throughout this number. Also, the sensitivity you displayed as an artist was real and profound. You dig deep with your emotions when you sing and, because of this, we feel your passion and gain a glimpse into the beauty of your soul.

The control you exhibited throughout this song  was remarkable.  To sing the majority of this song with a soft dynamic demonstrates courage and confidence in one`s vocal ability.  Brava!  Personally, I think there is too much oversinging going on in the world. It tends to be all about the loud and the furious and it really gets tiresome.  No wonder everyone is under so much stress – lots of edgy, loud music out there.

But, I digress!  The quiet confidence that you displayed throughout this performance coupled with your sincere artistry was a gift to all of us. Your voice is an exquisite, unique force of nature.

Thank you for sharing this very personal performance with us. You are a sincere and believable artist and this competition is fortunate to have discovered you. Your performance was easily one of the best of the night!

Congratulations and a standing “O” from Masterclass Lady.

Critique: Siobhan- make sure you articulate those consonants when you with softer dynamics. I think this is what was lacking and what, perhaps, may have caused Randy to say that the song was a little sleepy. Crisp consonants and energy will bring additional focus to your voice and increase the inflection and nuance when singing with a softer dynamic.

However, other than this, I have to say that your performance was just exquisite and was a timely contrast to the other performances you have contributed over the past few weeks.  Keep up the delicate balancing act when selecting your repertoire, Siobhan, and you should continue to move nicely throughout this competition.

Kudos once again!

TIM URBAN 20-years-old: “All My Loving “

Strengths: Tim – I loved the slow start at the beginning of this song that gently segued into the original upbeat tempo that we normally associate with this number.  I also enjoyed the variety of dynamic and harmonic levels within the orchestration throughout this song. It added wonderful dimension and interest to the overall presentation of this number, balancing so well with your vocals.

And speaking of your vocals, your voice sounded  impeccable – extremely smooth from top to bottom.  You have a beautiful timbre to your voice – it is resplendent with head voice and perfectly centered.

I also enjoyed your personal interpretation of this song. Your flexible approach to the melodic line was tastefully done. I am glad that you resisted the impulse to over think this song. By nature, it is a playful song and the whimsical nature of this song must be approached with simplicity and ease.

All in all this was a wonderful performance – the subtle  implementation of the orchestration and your “aw shucks boy-next-door” demeanor was just the ticket for this number!  And, let’s not forget your voice! It was just fantastic and so relaxed.

Excellent work, Tim! Bravo!

Critique: Tim - visually, I was looking for a more liberated approach. You looked a little stiff and a touch distracted on stage. Your eyes didn’t seem to reflect the fun-loving nature of this song and, given your open personality, it left me confused.

Were you waiting for those judges to jump down your throat again?  Well, guess what?  It didn’t happen!  They loved you and so did I and I am so glad that your work ethic was finally rewarded through this week`s performance.

I hope that, while preparing for future performances, you will feel comfortable to practice in front of a mirror. It will help you in refining your facial expressions as well as correct any technical flaws that you may be experiencing at the time

However, when all is said in done, this was a great showcase – now relax those eyes next time and allow them to shine!

For all the latest American Idol News, visit SirLinksalot: American Idol or the American Idol Official Site .

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About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

31 Responses to “American Idol Season 9 Top 9 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Lennon-McCartney Songbook”

  1. MCL, many people are complaining that Siobhan sounds nasal when she sings. I don’t think she does at all. Can you clarify this, please? Thanks!

  2. Erin – she has a lot of head voice in her natural vocal timbre – similar to Barbra Streisand – and sometimes people mistake this for nasal tone. I don’t think she is nasal at all, but, she is a bit green in her technical skills and needs to open and raise the soft palate so that her voice can project more efficiently, incorporating all the resonators in her face. Then her voice would probably would come across as balanced- but, personally, I love her voice.

  3. Thanks for clearing that up. : )

  4. Hehe, I guess it was inevitable that I couldn’t always be the first person to post! (I admit, the feeling of not being first is strange, though!) I definitely enjoy reading these articles very much and look forward to Wednesday evening when they’re posted! =)

    Erin – I agree with MCL! I just wanted to chime in because vonnie has asked me about “nasality” in Siobhan’s voice before and Mindy has asked me a question about Siobhan’s lower register, and I feel those two comments converge in the following comment I’ll make.

    I consulted a friend, and he pretty much confirmed what I thought. My friend concluded that Siobhan does have occasional nasality in her lower register, but it is very mild. For people who don’t know, in English, the consonants m, n, and ng are considered nasal consonants because the soft palate must be dropped to produce them, and in American English, it is common for speakers to also nasalize the vowels immediately before and after nasal consonants. In my friend’s words, “Since her tone isn’t strongly nasal, most American listeners wouldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.” (Indeed, it took me a while to perceive the supposed nasality in her voice.) He also pointed out, however, that for speakers of English dialects where the only sounds with nasal resonance are the nasal consonants themselves, perhaps some of Siobhan’s vowels would sound a tad nasal.

    What I thought from the beginning (as seen in my comment to Mindy) is that overwhelmingly, people are reacting more to the fact that Siobhan sings with a lot of head voice in her lower register (as MCL also said). That, to many people, sounds unusual. And combined with the dark sound color she uses, Siobhan’s lower register sounds “muddy” to certain people, and that “muddiness” is being confused with nasality. (Actually, many things are confused with nasality.) Yes, she is being nasal if one wanted to be super technical—very mildly—but she’s not being any more nasal than most other American singers, and if the balance in her lower register were different, people wouldn’t comment on the nasality at all.

  5. Katie is only 17, right? I thought her Let It Be was her best performance yet.

  6. MCL,

    I really enjoyed your critique of Siobhan’s performance. I thought it was brilliant in its restraint. I have always thought that it is incredibly hard to sing a song in this kind of soft, tender fashion.

    The comment you made about articulating the consonants might well have made this performance resonate more. What troubles me is how the judges received it. Tepid and confused are the two words that come to mind. I think Siobhan is getting some very mixed signals from the judges. I honestly don’t know what they want her to do. This was a wonderful change from the dramatic, over the top performances she has given. But I didn’t get the feeling that they totally got it.

    Do you have any thoughts on how the judges responded to this performance?

  7. Also, for people who want to be super technical (I know some of you are out there, hehe! I know I’m one of them, so sometimes I write posts imagining people like me are out there… but that also leads to information overload, so I have to temper my desire to clarify and explain everything with my desire to simplify and use smaller words! Whew! This is a super long parenthetical comment =P), my friend pointed out that in addition to Siobhan’s lower register containing a lot of head voice, he mentioned that Siobhan may lack just a tad in the amount of twang in her lower register.

    Here’s an explanation about twang I wrote to mariah once:

    See if this video on twang helps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTNOgaHHmKk

    “Twang” is associated with “cut” and “ring.” The degree of twang in a sound can be adjusted by a singer; it’s essentially a gradient, I feel. On one end, there is the absolute minimum amount of twang necessary for vocal production, and that doesn’t sound “twangy” at all. On the other end, there’s a lot of twang, which does have this sharp, bright character (which is often mistaken as nasality but is not).

    I bolded the key statement there; one of the singing methods I study, which delves into some of the science of singing, emphasizes that there is always a minimum amount of twang for healthy vocal production. This is called “necessary twang.” This minimum amount of twang doesn’t actually sound twangy, but it gives the voice clarity and allows it to be non-breathy. My friend said that Siobhan may be lacking in twang just a tad (probably not enough to be unhealthy but enough to make the sound a bit muddy).

    The funny thing is that Siobhan is clearly very familiar with twang. Her high wailing notes have a TON of twang, and the beautiful passages she sings in head voice in her mid-to-high range have just the right amount of twang. So, she clearly she knows how to manipulate the amount of twang in her voice; I just don’t think she realizes that her lower register could use a little more twang in it.

  8. Care – I agree. I thought her rendition of Let It Be was absolutely amazing – it brought chills to me. It was by far her best performance of the season.

  9. Hello there Soccer! Nice to see you back. I have had Katie’s back when no one else cared so I feel very pumped that she has reached this level and with such accolades.

  10. We should’ve listened to you, MCL. Or at least I should’ve. I couldn’t see through Katie’s early difficulties to her talent. I should’ve know. She is from Connecticut.

  11. Am trying to get read to leave town tomorrow so am extremely stressed for time today BUT I’m glad I stopped in for a quick read of the wonderful comments. AND I am so so so glad that people here are not seeing Siobhan’s voice as “nasal”. The other person listening to her last night with me (I was re-listening to her performance form Tuesday) commented (emphatically) “I hate nasal”. It will be gratifying to go back & show this person these comments. I think Siobhan’s voice is one that with a little work could be glorious. She has not had professional lessons. And beyond her voice, I like HER. Being a star is more than vocal ability. I loved what she did Tuesday – I think she made an excellent song choice & delivered a unique performance that reflected who she is as an artist & as an individual. Thanks again!!

  12. Darlene – To sum up what my friend said succintly, “The nasality is a red herring.” The quality people are actually reacting to is the “muddiness” in parts of her voice, and that is caused by something else altogether (in this case, the lack of twang in her lower register). ;)

  13. J and Darlene,

    Thanks for clearing up this persistent idea that Siobhan is nasally. I don’t hear that at all. I am glad that you are both here to make the distinction between nasality and lack of twang.

    I also loved Darlene’s comment about it being more than the voice. I love Siobhan, her honesty and truthfulness, her gutsy fearlessness that I hope she never loses and her commitment to doing songs that mean something to her.

  14. I will admit that MCL knows a lot more about singing than I do, so when she says Siobhan was good this week, I will accept that. I will say that her performance didn’t sound good to me. It didn’t sound like she was staying on the notes she was singing. I was uncomfortable through the whole thing and was really glad when it was finished.

    On the other hand, I really enjoyed Lee’s performance. The reason is that Lee is more of a rock singer where that type of singing is really acceptable. Most of the rock groups I like sing like that live. (Killers, James, etc.) But with Siobhan’s type of singing, every little imperfection sounds bad.

  15. When I watch Idol, I’m watching it from the perspective of someone who knows absolutely nothing about how music SHOULD sound. I just know what appeals to my ear. Siobhan definitely appeals to me and I never hear any nasal sound from her voice. I also definitely agree with what Darlene and Mindy said about Siobhan too–it is more than her voice. She comes across as being a very genuinely unique person and I admire her for that. I think she’s a real sweetheart!

  16. Okay guys, I am going to agree to disagree about Siobhan…I do very much hear a nasally tone from her when she sings, not nitpicking just saying what I hear. I have read many other comments to support this, so I know that I am not the only one!!!

    That said, I love her personality, her outfits are so outrageous, I love them! I think she is absolutley adorable!!!

    So from here on out I will not make any comments about Siobhan’s singing!

  17. vonnie,

    Please don’t feel as though you can’t talk about Siobhan’s singing! Everyone hears what they hear. If it sounds nasally to you, then that’s what you hear. I know that you have struggled with Siobhan. That’s totally fine. You don’t have to love what others do. You have your own unique and special likes and dislikes and that’s what makes you who you are.

    We can say that there is no nasally sound objectively, but you are hearing something that doesn’t work for you. That’s all there is to it. I really hope that you will feel free to say what you feel about everyone, whether or not some here disagree with you. Just because I don’t hear it, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to say it.

    Keep on expressing yourself. Maybe we aren’t always exact soulmates when it comes to music and singing, but we are both people who respect others and celebrate differences in opinion.

  18. vonnie – My point is this: I definitely agree that you’re hearing something that certainly resembles nasality in certain ways (in its muddiness)—I am not trying to contradict that you’re hearing that quality, and for the record, I hear it too!—what I am saying is that on a nitpicky level, “nasal” is NOT the most accurate term to describe what you’re hearing.

    Does that make sense? It’s just a matter of terminology. That quality is certainly there, and you can choose to call it nasality if you want to (if that makes more sense to you). I’m just here to clarify that on a technical/physiological level, the source of that quality is not nasality as much as it is lack of twang. However, I am not denying the existence of the quality you’re hearing. You’re right; you do hear something. And other people hear it too. And people have grasped at the term “nasal” because that’s what is in their vocabularly to describe it, and my role is really just to expand people’s vocabulary and make them aware that there’s a different way to describe that sound. I hope that makes more sense. ;) I’m definitely behind you in hearing this quality; you’re not imagining it! It’s there. I’m just trying to highlight that there’s a more accurate term to describe it.

    And do not worry, vonnie! You’ve been nothing but gracious in your comments! I definitely know that you’re not trying to be a “hater,” and I completely understand why that quality in Siobhan’s voice might not appeal to you (because it doesn’t always appeal to me either, and I’m a fan!). So, please don’t feel that you’re being troublesome in any way by voicing your opinions because you’ve been extremely kind and civil in the way you’ve expressed them. Just know that I’m not misunderstanding you or your intentions in any way. ;)

  19. I wrote my comment before seeing lovely Mindy’s comment, and I agree completely with her! Especially this part:

    We can say that there is no nasally sound objectively, but you are hearing something that doesn’t work for you. That’s all there is to it. I really hope that you will feel free to say what you feel about everyone, whether or not some here disagree with you.

    … but really, Mindy’s whole post was completely spot on. ;)

  20. MindyM and J,

    Thank you both, so much! I feel that I may be perceived as being negative, and that is not my intentions at all…I just hear what I hear, Lol :-)
    I’m not saying that is always a good thing!

    I think I may have figured out what I am hearing though…help me out here guys! The other night when they were talking about each other, I heard Siobhan talk more than I had in the past (and plus my hubby fast forwards through alot of the talking, he just likes the singin’) she speaks with a more nasaly voice! Was this just me is do you hear that too! Anywho, as soon as I heard her talk, I told my husband; that is what I am hearing in her lower register, so it may not even be anything that she is doing or not doing it is just the sound that comes through her palatal.

    My reasons too for my saying I won’t talk about her singing anymore; you all have answered my questions beautifully, and I don’t want to keep harping! I will however share the wonderful things about siobhan that I like!

  21. vonnie,

    You can share and say whatever you want anytime! I sometimes think that I drive people crazy with my perfect pitch thing. I hear a lot of things that no one else does and it’s something I have come to accept. For such a long time, I really thought there was something wrong with me, because I heard things so differently from everyone else. Coming to this site has helped me to understand what is going on. I am so grateful for that!

    Thanks to J, who spends a good deal of time explaining patiently to all of us what we hear and why! Now I don’t feel like a freak of nature. I can accept what I hear and celebrate this gift that I have had from birth.

    I just want you to feel comfortable saying what you think! You contribute so much to the discussion. I do understand why you haven’t connected with Siohban. We like who we like. There is no right or wrong! I still love you for who you are and always will.

    I am trying as hard as I can to keep my objectivity and fairness to all the Idol contestants. As I have said, even though Siobhan is my favorite, there are others that I like very much. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t get too carried away this season. I am happy that I have kept an open mind and was able to appreciate Casey’s amazing performance, Katie’s lovely coming of age and even Tim finally getting it right and doing something that I can actually like! Will wonders never cease!

    To my dearest J,

    We make you work so hard. I hope we don’t wear you out. If you ever are too busy to answer my questions, don’t worry. I will understand. We pick your brain all the time! But I have learned so much and it’s been extraordinary. I can embrace who I am and why. You and MCL have given that to me. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough!

  22. I just wanted to clarify one thing. I was on a loaner computer and inadvertently changed my user name from just Mindy to MindyM. But it’s still me, the same person. Now I have my computer back and all is well with the world.

  23. I am now safely situated in a hotel room in Maryland with high speed Internet access & can review all these wonderful comments. First, I absolutely agree with Mindy(M:))’s comment regarding mixed messages from the judges. That has been happening all along with Siobhan. Siobhan sang an amazing rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” & was told that there wasn’t a “moment” (Simon). Then, after praising her, Kara chimes in with “I just don’t know who she is as an artist”. So from then on Siobhan possibly feels compelled to have “moments”. This works well in “Paint it Black” & “Superstition” but not as well in “Through the Fire”. By now, Simon is bored of “moments” (now characterized as screaming). So she does something glorious like “Across the Universe” & we get “sleepy/tepid/confused”. Come on guys. I hope that Siobhan pays more attention to the comments on the Facebook AI9 page than to the judges because they truly have no idea what they are talking about any more. I don’t even listen to them for most of the singers; the only reason I listen to them when they talk abut Siobhan is that I care about her so much & I want to hear how wrong they are.

    Secondly, regarding other singer’s performances this week, I was also impressed by Katie’s performance this week. She seemed to be enjoying herself & she sounded fantastic. I am hopeful that the 3 remarkably talented women will make it as far as they can in the competition. And I was blown away with Casey. That is a remarkable voice. I am looking forward to more from him. I really like Aaron too. I still wish he had waited a year or two but he’s a keeper in my opinion.

    Thirdly, it is clear to me that one of the joys of this particular site is that we can come on here & share our opinions & learn something from each other but also recognize that different singers appeal to different people. For instance, I do not like Lee at all. To me, he is consistently off pitch/downright flat. This has occurred in numerous performances. In my opinion, there were much better singers who were voted off a long time ago. But do I think there are people out there who are enjoying the heck out of his singing? Absolutely. And do I wish him the best? Absolutely.

    Thanks for all the great insights & sharing.

  24. Darlene,

    Thanks for your comments. I wanted to make clear in an earlier post that I am not saying that Simon is an ogre. What I am saying is that he sometimes does play with the minds of these contestants. He knows what it takes to succeed in the music business, so at times he can give them excellent advice and guidance. But there are other times when he kind of becomes a performer, looking for even more disturbing ways to insult these young people. It could be that he is concerned that Siobhan doesn’t yet know who she is artistically. It could also be that he wants one female in the finals and that has to be Crystal. Siobhan has the vocal ability to compete strongly with Crystal. If Simon wants just Crystal and two guys, then Siohban could mess with that plan.

    It’s not just Simon who gets on my nerves. Kara is the one that I think bothers me the most. She becomes too full of affectation in her critiques. She wants to be more articulate than she really is. When she said to Siobhan – I don’t get it, after her restrained performance of “Across the Universe”, I wanted to throw something at the tv. I do believe that Simon’s harsh criticism of her “House of the Rising Sun” performance, might have made her hesitant to go there again. She went with the dramatic, over the top performances and the high power screams. I will always remain puzzled by the choice of “Through the Fire”. I would never have picked a Chaka Khan song for Siobhan. I will not dwell on behind the scenes machinations and manipulations from the producers, but will move ahead hoping that Siobhan can trust her own instincts and not try to please the judges. They don’t even know what they want half the time.

    I also wanted to add that if anyone hasn’t done so, they might want to listen to Siobhan’s studio version of “Across the Universe”. There is more clarity and distinction in the vocals and it is quite beautiful.

  25. Thanks, Mindy. I am not feeling quite as charitable toward Simon. I think there WAS definitely a time when his comments were helpful. I think that stopped at the end of last season. This season he just seems crabby & tired & most of all inconsistent. He has switched back & forth with Siobhan, which has not been helpful to her, in my opinion. He began with his infamous (in my opinion) “you’re a quirky little thing” (or maybe it was “funny little thing” ) after her wonderful interpretation of “Wicked Game” (that’s when I fell in love with her – it was an aha!! moment – that this was someone different who had something to contribute to the musical world). Then he flopped over to her side on Rolling Stones night but flopped back the next week. I agree that he has shown incredible favoritism toward Crystal. He did this last season with Adam. So it’s not necessarily a good thing to have Simon on your side.

    Kara….OMG, what can I say about Kara. It seems like a lot of people think she knows something about the music industry & success. I’ll have to take their word for it. She did write Adam Lambert’s “Strut”. Much better than “No Boundaries” but let’s face it almost anything would be better than that song. But her comments towards Siobhan have been absolutely less than helpful. “Confused” after “Across the Universe”? What in the world was “confusing” about that performance? Siobhan wanted to sing a restrained, soft ballad. There was absolutely nothing confusing about it AT ALL. But I also agree with you that the studio version is different & lovely in its own right.

    Regardng the choice of Chaka Khan, I am not familiar enough with R&B music to decide what Siobhan might/should have sung that week. I think she sounded really good on the studio version of “Through the Fire”. But obviously the live performance was a miss.

    It will be fun to see how Siobhan & Adam interact this week.

  26. Also, forgot to thank J in my last post regarding the video on “twang”. Very interesting & potentially personally helpful for me. Not an issue I had considered in my own singing. I will check out Anastasia & (interestingly) Chaka Khan, the two female singers he mentioned as having a lot of “twang”. Thanks!

  27. Darlene,

    I just watched Slezak’s weekly Idolatry summary and he mentioned that Crystal messed up the words in her performance of “Come Together”. I have been hearing it elsewhere on the blogosphere. I didn’t catch it during the performance. But Slezak was concerned that the judges were being so careful not to criticize Crystal, that they might risk a backlash. I couldn’t agree more. But this is just another example of how they are handling Crystal with kid gloves. Even Slezak, who is a huge fan, says that the judges need to call her out if she messes up.

    Slezak also mentioned how the judges carefully avoided criticizing Lee’s off pitch performance of “Hey Jude”. I have liked Lee from the beginning, but his inability to sing on pitch has started to bother me a lot. I thought that was the wrong song, too big for him and very difficult to sing. He just completely lost the melody and the chorus was really bad. I think he is sacrificing the vocals for the performance. But Slezak noticed again that the judges were mostly positive, hinting that they want a Crystal/Lee final. I think the judges need to watch this kind of behavior, because the viewers have a funny way of deciding who they want in the finals.

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