American Idol Season 9 Top 9 Vocal Masterclass Article: Inspirational Songs With Alicia Keys


American Idol
By: Rosanne Simunovic
This week’s American Idol top 7 theme was, in fact, a prelude to the star-studded Idol Gives Back Special this evening. 

So, in keeping with the wonderful spirit of generosity and goodwill toward all, the Top 7 performed  repertoire gathered from an American Idol catalogue of Inspirational Songs. And, it was quite a revelatory group of performances. Suffice it to say that, unlike last week, no one will be receiving critique- free evaluations this week. In fact….well, you’ll see! 

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, Casey James, Crystal Bowersox, 

Lee Dewyze, Michael Lynche, Siobhan Magnus, Tim Urban 

AARON KELLY 16-years-old: “I Believe I Can Fly “ 

Strengths: Aaron – you always perform with a ton of heart and soul. When one factors in your young age, it solidifies the knowledge that the intensity in your performances is really quite staggering. 

Currently, your voice is still changing – your singing range sits very high in your vocal register, but not naturally so!Therefore, as you move forward with your technical skills, this technical knowledge will aid you with the vocal changes you will undoubtedly encounter over the next couple of years. 

However, that being said, your overall performance of this beautiful song was passionate and expressive. You also added some refreshing melodic twists that was testament to your innate musicality. No one can ever criticize you for not “going for it”, Aaron.  You communicated the essence of this song with the sophistication and style that I have come to appreciate and expect in all of your performances. 

Also, although your voice is presently not a large instrument, the amount of physical energy you exert on stage makes up for the lack of power in your light, young voice. Consequently, you have mastered  one of the basic elements as a performer – adding physical energy to enhance the overall delivery of a song. 

Years ago, when I was your age, I was struggling to deliver more volume to my vocal performance. Like you, my voice was very light and sat naturally high in my register.  Although this was a good thing when singing softly, it was frustrating when I wanted to add a stronger dynamic level to my voice. 

However, my wise vocal teacher said to me – just sing with more energy! Become passionate and add more punch to your articulation skills. And, presto, the problem was solved and the overall impression of my vocal delivery looked and sounded more nuanced. 

So, whether you realize it or not, Aaron, the physicality of your performance style is compensating for your still very green technical skills. Never abandon this ( the physicality) – it is very important. Also, your movement and energy creates a liberating feeling when you sing and, furthermore, allows you to establish a powerful connection with your audience. 

Good work, Aaron! 

Critique: Aaron- you and those diphthongs!  This was such a bad week for all the performers regarding the misuse of diphthongs.  It was driving me crazy! 

However, your problem was twofold.  First, you must continue to be more careful to avoid the horizontal spread of your mouth when sustaining your  diphthongs.  The circular formation of  your mouth, when combined with a relaxed, loose jaw, will result in a more beautiful, centered and pure vocal quality.  AND it will also encourage you to breathe more efficiently from the diaphragm

Secondly, the sustaining process for your voice must be completed via the first pure vowel of a diphthong.  This is the fundamental teaching behind the bel canto technique.  It is an essential classical approach that, when used properly, can transfer to all styles of music. 

Particularly problematic for you this week were the “ay” and “eye” diphthongs found throughout your lyrics.  For example, in the word “away“, you  adopted a very wide formation in your mouth position and, additionally, avoided sustaining your voice on the first pure vowel of this diphthong, “eh”. 

You encountered the same problem when you sang the word “fly” – I was needing to hear more of the “ah” vowel in that diphthong and to see less tension in your facial muscles.  Your facial and neck muscles were so constricted and your diaphragmatic breathing so compromised that is it any wonder that your voice cracked when your sang the word “fly”? 

Also, by not maintaining a consistently round formation in your mouth position, you were subtracting added depth and clarity from your vocal timbre. 

Also, during the opening segment of this song, you sounded very cautious and tentative and it signaled that the diaphragmatic support was not connecting with your voice. The power vocals were much better. The second half of the song  was terrific, the first half not as much.  However, that being said, you were still punching through those louder vocals via the constriction of your throat muscles.  This is why your voice had little carrying power – it was not being produced in a liberated and fluid fashion via the diaphragm. 

I have noticed that your knees are always relaxed. Good for you!  Now use those knee bends to maximize the full support from your rib cage and back muscles and squeeze your butt on those upper notes. However, keep your mouth round and your jaw relaxed, extending the jaw down as you move toward your upper range.  Everything must work together or your attempt at achieving a free, well-centered vocal sound will be ineffective. 

Best of  luck, Aaron. You have great potential that is being impeded by your lack of solid technical support. Hope this information assists you and energizes you to unlock the full beauty of your vocal talent. 

CASEY JAMES 27 -years old: “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” 

Strengths: Casey – once again, you decided to select an upbeat song for your showcase while accompanying yourself on the electric guitar. Although this is a great, oft-performed number, I felt that it was a perfect fit for you.  Also, you looked terrific by the way. I loved the fancy duds – you were all suited up for this very big show! Very nice! 

Additionally, highlighting your superb guitar skills during the musical interludes added another musical layer to this performance, while emphasizing that you came to this competition with solid musical skills in tact. 

As always, your voice was expressive and communicative and I loved the hint of purity mixed in with your raspy vocals.  Also, I applaud you on your very good attempt at adhering to the correct placement of your vowels – you were really trying to glue your voice to those vowels and this technical bonus escalated the overall  presence of your voice. 

Obviously, the song sat well within the framework of your comfort level, as you certainly looked and sounded more liberated than was evident during  last week’s performance.  Although you didn’t move around the stage as much as I would have liked, at the very least, you did move away from the mike stand when highlighting your outstanding guitar skills. 

I also appreciated the relaxed tempo in place for this song, as it allowed you to pace this song very well.  Nothing ruins a performance more than a song moving out of control and beyond the reach of the performer.  Therefore, the effortless nature of this song performance emphasized a more confident, self-assured Casey and allowed you to communicate the song to your listeners with great ease. 

Good work, Casey! 

Critique: Casey- this inspirational theme of this week’s showcase would have been a perfect opportunity for you to return to a slow, meaningful ballad. And the timing was right as well. I feel that the public was aching for a change as you so marvelously accomplished when you performed Jealous Guy“. a couple of weeks ago. Why did  this level artistry disappear and will you ever reveal it again?   More important, will you have the opportunity to do so? Timing is everything with this show and I sincerely hope that your time is not running out as I feel that you still have so much to offer. 

Also, as the judges clearly stated, I do concur that this song was the not best song to mirror the  Inspirational Theme this week.  If one analyzes lyrics, then, yes, the words are perhaps reflective and have a positive, well-intentioned meaning.  However, the rollicking flavor of this song added a  playful atmosphere that didn’t fit the intentions of this week’s profound and inspiring atmosphere. 

Also, the repetitious nature of this song did little to challenge your vocal artistry and, at some point during this number, I became more impressed with your guitar skills than with your vocal  skills. The vocals certainly were secondary to this performance and that was really a shame. 

You needed to establish a more creative approach to this song, perhaps by adding some diversity from the original tempo. For instance, you could have opened the song with a slower, bluesy tempo, allowing the lyrics to resonate in a more inspiring manner with the audience. Then, a segue into the quicker tempo would have provided wonderful contrast and dimension to this performance. 

Added to this, your phrasing was very monotonous and totally predictable. Just because the original performer adopts this phrasing doesn’t mean that you had to do so! 

Also, a change in the rhythmic structure would have been a great addition.  Adding syncopated elements to this very square, very monotonous rhythmic structure would have been a more creative approach to this song. By doing so, the song would have  remained more memorable in the minds of the viewers while highlighting your artistic skills in the process. 

Also, you must continue do work on your vocal projection, eliminating the need for the throat to become  involved in the process. All the power and support for your voice should be enhanced through the diaphragm, as indicated in last week’s evaluation. 

Good luck, Casey! 

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX 24-years-old: “People Get Ready” 

Strengths: Crystal – I loved the a cappella singing at the beginning of this song. Your voice sounded beautiful, pure and perfectly centered.  Also, the gentle manner in which your segued into this song was just the ticket to accelerate the forward momentum of this song.  It was like watching a beautiful flower blossom and grow – your voice was radiant and transcended the technical boundaries that can, at times,  truly stifle a momentous vocal achievement. Technique and artistry must go hand in hand. 

And, if I can be perfectly honest, this is the first time you actually touched my heart with a performance. This performance was singular and memorable, one of those special performances where technicality counts for so little and where artistry wins the day. 

It was also exciting to hear the beauty and clarity of your gorgeous head voice in your softer passages.  How I wish you would blend it in to your power vocals – but certainly, there was clearer evidence of this element throughout your range this week than in previous! 

At one point in the song, you flirted with a lower note and it sounded gorgeous. It made me think how good it would be if you could further highlight the depth and beauty of your lower range.  Your vocal timbre in that area of your range sounds rich and velvety! Don’t hide this area of you range, Crystal – flaunt it! 

Also, it was just wonderful to see you perform without the guitar and really making such a supreme effort to embrace and connect with your audience. I have no problem watching you play guitar and/or keyboard, but at some point, the listeners do crave more interaction from a performer and this week, you got it just right, Crystal! 

The expressive depth and dimension you displayed during this performance was extraordinary. You were obviously engulfed in the moment, as evidenced by your gentle emotional breakdown at the end of this number. Could there be any stronger evidence of your honest involvment in this week’s performance? You lived and breathed this number and, as a result, gave a strong, authentic performance that was truly singular. 

Brava and Standing “O” from Masterclass Lady! Congratulations, Crystal! 

Critique: Crystal –  be very careful regarding your tendency to push your vocals.  Although your voice sounded rested and revitalized this week, you were still pumping out your vocal sound from your throat. 

Also, as with so many of the other singers this week, you had a tendency to distance yourself from the pure vowels within your lyrics, especially when approaching those tricky ” diphthongs

And that wide mouth position and tight jaw simply added to the tension in your throat. You need to do be aware of  and incorporate the”ah” vowel in every vowel so as to maintain a circular  mouth position and open throat. This will also assist you in a more efficient and seamless approach to your vowels. 

So, my advice to you is to simply continue to work on the relaxation of your throat, allowing your voice to resonate with freedom in your vocal masque.  This will thus ensure consistently strong, confident performances because the diaphragmatic support system will have your back! 

However, this Top 7 showcase was  truly an extraordinary experience – your best to date – and I congratulate you for taking such huge risk in your performance style this week.  Kudos on your stellar showcase, Crystal! 

LEE DEWYZE: 23-years old “The Boxer”

 

 

Strengths:  Lee – this  was such a beautiful number and the lyrics were just so perfect for this week’s inspirational theme show.  And the instrumental arrangement of this number was just lovely – starting with your self-accompaniment on guitar, followed by the addition of the keyboard and, finally, for added depth, the string orchestra.   This is how one adds layers to a performance, allowing it to  evolve and grow in a memorable way. 

Although this song is well-known, thankfully, it has not been performed to death on this show – if ever!  How smart to find a song that would resonate with the listeners and, yet, would still sound fresh and clean to the listener’s ears. 

I also appreciated the expressive manner in which you communicated this song – it was real, genuine and heartfelt.  Also, your distinct vocal style  imparted a contemporary flavor to this song, adding a refreshing twist on an old and much-loved classic. 

Technically, I sensed that you were making a concerted effort to glue your vocal sound to the pure vowels. It was very evident during  the 2nd “la, la” section, where you cohesively grabbed those “ah” vowels, allowing your voice to inherit more presence at this point in the song. Additionally, your pitch was finely tuned at this point and I felt that the overall quality of your voice was more centered and secured. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. Excellent work, Lee! 

Critique: Lee – like so many others this week, you have  to watch how you approach your diphthongs.  Generally, you fared much better this week, but you still have to adopt a consistently cleaner approach when faced with words or syllables that contain many vowels. 

Also, attached to this you need to consistently secure a horizontal mouth position during your performances. This technical element is not fully ingrained yet – it is getting better – but it still needs attention. An example of this problem occured when you vocalized  the word  “shame” – there was too much spread in your mouth and you did forget to resonate your voice on the pure “eh” vowel. 

However, as the song progressed, your voice became more centered and secure, but you want to strive for better consistency of this technical element throughout every performance. 

Also, I wish you would leave you guitar behind and move toward center stage to embrace and connect with your audience. Your shtick is starting to become old news and now is the time to change up the visual dimension of your performance.  As I mentioned last week, this can accomplished by taking baby steps – better that than taking no steps whatsoever! 

Also -watch that head, buddy – keep it level! You are still playing those head games with me Lee. First it’s up, then it’s down! Level is the way to go and it will gently coerce you to relax those constricted throat muscles. 

Best of luck next week and keep refining your technical skills. You are on the right track so do not deviate from this route. 

MICHAEL LYNCHE 26-years-old : ” Hero” 

Strengths: Michael – you selected a superb song to accommodate your soulfully sophisticated style of singing. Your rendition of this song was heartfelt and meaningful.  Accompanying yourself on guitar, you gave a sensitive, yet passionate performance. 

Your vocal instrument is just stellar and the manner in which your voice championed the melodic line was pretty remarkable. And, although you never strayed from your position behind the microphone stand, the physicality of this performance was strongly communicative, your voice easily reaching to the back of the venue with ease and effortlessness. 

Although you bring  a high level of vocal training to this competition, you have used your training wisely. You sing with freedom and flexibility and move beyond the boundaries of your technical skills. Pop singers must learn to balance technical skills with artistic skills and each week you have proven to complete this very task. 

Good work, Michael. 

Critique: Michael – I don’t know what happened but, for the first time in a long time, your voice went all wonky on me.  What was extremely disconcerting was the persistent horizontal position of your mouth throughout this song.  This happened several times, the first being early on in the song when you vocalized the word “high”, throwing your voice totally off balance. Additionally, you fell into the diphthong trap by not allowing your voice to resonate easily and completely on the pure “ah” vowel in that diphthong. 

Furthermore, that  ubiquitous word “away” encouraged more of this technical mayhem and, as a result, your tuning was all over the map.  

I almost felt that the song was running out of control. Although you were moving freely and easily behind the microphone stand, perhaps it was too much! It appeared to me that the physicality of this performance threw your support system out the window.  I have cautioned you about this before, Michael – you have to tailor your movements so as to not distract from a balanced, technically sound delivery. 

Pacing is everything when delivering a song to your audience. You want to start confidently, but in a controlled manner, allowing the adrenaline to be released evenly throughout a performance. If you release too much adrenaline too soon, you will lose control of your song and, given the fact that you only have a 90-second time frame, it is all the more reason to conserve energy. 

However, even with all of these problems, your beautiful voice is a force of nature. I love it – now handle it wisely in the future! 

SIOBHAN MAGNUS 20-years-old: “When You Believe” 

Strengths: Siobhan – two of my singers will be performing this song at my annual student recital in June, so I had a smile on my face while you performed this number.  This was probably your most understated performance since  you performed “Across The Universe” during Lennon-McCartney week, so it was wonderful to see you scale it back once again. 

And you know, Siobhan, I am beginning to enjoy your post -performance chat with Ryan and the judges, as it gives all of us a glimpse into your sweet, gentle and sensitive persona. And Ellen really loves you and has your back, so there you go! 

As always you gave a sensitive and controlled performance. Your clear soprano notes were resplendent – so crystalline and centered – and it was so refreshing to hear this purely classical form of singing on this show. You wisely re-invented the song to suit your performing style and left the “diva-belting” to Mariah and Whitney.  That’s not what you are about and it is wonderful that you embraced this distinction in the interpretation of this song. 

Also, that sustained note on the word, “believe” when moving through the key change was absolutely breathtaking. It was so secure and so darn risky and yet, every week, you plant your feet on that stage and you show us the remarkable depth of your talent. And your work ethic!  Ditto for the three -note ascending scale on the word “believe” during the final moments of your song.  Those notes were brimming with head voice clarity and oozed from your mouth with expressive ease. 

This was just another gorgeous performance, Siobhan, and I am running out of superlatives to describe your vocal artistry. It is singular and it is distinctive, Brava! 

Critique: Siobhan -your mouth was spreading on “ee” in the word “believe” and, in fact, throughout the entire song. It mystified me.  This technical glitch has never been a huge problem for you in past performances and the only thing that I could think of was that you were not aware of the correct method needed to enunciate this vowel. It requires that all-important  circular mouth formation. 

And because this vowel was so prevalent throughout this song, given that the title of the song is “When You Believe”, you maintained this wide mouth position throughout the entire song.  Therefore, during the opening segment of this song, I felt that your pitch was compromised and along with this problem your vibrato became very wide. 

Also, you were breathing in a shallow manner, gasping for air. This was never a problem for you – it almost seemed as if you could not get a handle on your diaphragmatic support system this week. You did look awfully tentative on that stage and I am sure that your low comfort level with some of the judges contributed to this feeling. 

Also, I feel you need to incorporate more of  your naturally beautiful head voice into your lower range. This week, your lower range sounded extremely vague and dark and would have greatly benefited from the ringing quality of your natural head voice. You need to remember that, in every part of your range, head and chest voice is important and the blend of these two integral vocal elements is the secret to a seamless, centered, pure vocal sound throughout your vocal range. 

Head voice allows your voice to have presence and charisma – it allows the voice to become transcendent, even when singing through the lower part of your range. 

However, you are an artist extraordinaire and even when your performance is not a perfect 10 in terms of the vocal delivery, it is always brimming with artistry and sensitivity! You are a star waiting to be cultivated by the right hands! 

TIM URBAN 20-years-old: “Better Days “ 

Strengths: Tim – I absolutely loved this song for your voice. It sends a wonderful message and captures the positive quality that emanates from your forthcoming personality.  You do have a refreshing aura on stage. And your voice reflects this.  Your voice always exudes a lovely timbre, so that’s a very special gift that you have inherited.  

When you moved through your louder vocals, your voice certainly gained in resonance and presence and wrapped easily around the melodic line. And you made a special effort to articulate your words with clarity and precision and, beyond the strong communicative element in your peformance, your articualtion skills added energy and focus to your voice. 

Additionally, your self-accompaniment on the guitar was very good indeed.  I congratulate you on your hard work leading up to this point! 

Good work, Tim! 

Critique: Tim - oh man, you were nervous and, perhaps, ill? I noticed the cough at the end of this song.  

Whatever the reason, everything was going wrong for you this week. Your inefficient diaphragmatic breathing skills, your poor head position, that horizontal mouth spread – you name it – it was all causing havoc in this week’s performance.  I don’t know if you just didn’t have the time to rehearse this song properly, but it left me a little speechless, let me tell ya! 

Your diaphragmatic breathing seemed totally off the radar, as your voice was lacking in stability at the beginning of this song. You were incorporating air to your vocal sound during the 1st half of this number, signaling to me that you were unable to focus your voice properly through the diaphragm. It is really tough when you are off to a rough start ina  90-second number because, like Michael this week, it was very difficult to get back on track again. 

Then to add fuel to the fire, you elevated your head to the heavens looking for help, when in fact you needed to utilize your God-given support system known as the dipahragmatic breathing muscles. The tilted head minimized your lower body support and added increased tension in your neck and throat muscles. Additionally, your eye contact with the camera was diminished and we were left with a lovely shot of your neck muscles throughout the majority of this number.  And it helps to think down when moving up in your vocal register. 

I think it is time to relinquish the guitar and concentrate on your vocals. You and some of your Idol peers are having diffculty delivering both instruments to the viewers with ease and precision. It is just starting to look like too much work. You need to focus on your voice, Tim – it is a beautiful instrument and is capable of more than we are hearing each week.  Your true vocal potential has been  untapped and you need to surround yourself with a good technician to unravel the marvelous mystery that is your voice. 

Good luck next week, Tim! 

 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

16 Responses to “American Idol Season 9 Top 9 Vocal Masterclass Article: Inspirational Songs With Alicia Keys”

  1. MCL, what I really love about your critiques is that we have a performance that we can replay and identify what you comment on within it — in the event that we don’t remember it well enough. Such a blessing to those of us not in a position to take voice lessons ourselves. I find myself paying attention to anyone’s singing with regard to some of the very basics that I have learned from you over the years: rounded mouth, singing on the first sound of the dipthong, bending the knees, etc. It has really helped me understand previously inexplicable things. And one of the reasons why I get, without your saying anything, why Casey’s ever present smile isn’t in his best interest!

    Also have really come to understand why you are so insistent that contestants who play instruments must occasionally put them aside and just perform. I fought it for a while, but now I get it.

    Thanks for the education!

    Like

  2. You are most welcome, Jeanne! And thank you as well for your wonderful commentary. I always love to hear feedback -both good and bad – as it contributes to lively, intelligent and respectful exchange of ideas.

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  3. Thank you again for such a fine article, MCL! As always you are honest, fair, and to the point. Your advice will surely be helpful to all the finalists. I was particularly interested in your critiques for Siobhan, Crystal, and Tim.

    I know I am in the minority when I say this, but I will miss Tim. So many of the guys have been rather dull and boring this season. No, Tim wasn’t the best vocalist, but he had a presence about him that made him so likeable. True, the judges didn’t like his Crazy Like Thing Called Love performance – however, he connected with the audience in a way few have. I liked the slide. LOL! He had several good performances which I thoroughly enjoyed!

    I am so happy Tim did make it to Idol Gives Back! His missionary work in Africa shows the kindness and responsibility of this young man. So goes his warm smile and good natured personality; however, he has been blessed to have made it this far and have the opportunity to go on the tour! I wish him the best.

    I do think it is time for Casey to lose the guitar. That’s it for right now.

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  4. Another wonderful article, MCL! I love how your responses are growing more detailed, especially in the strengths section, as we, the audience, have the privilege of learning more about the contestants and sharing in their experience. As the contestants reveal more of themselves, it truly does help us cherish them more as people and as dedicated musicians.

    I’m completely with you on the need to avoid unnecessary tension in the lips and the jaws, and really, to everyone, when diaphragmatic support is on your side, there is never a need to push!

    I think many singers would be surprised by how little air is really needed to hit and sustain high notes; the key is knowing how to control the airflow and breath-stream and not have all the air leak out at once. That’s one of the things I love about how bel canto technique views the breath! I definitely aspire towards the ideal of singing in front of a lit candle without having it flicker. :D

    (I also love the conception of “support” as “body connection.” To be well-grounded in support, singers really need to be in tune with their bodies and the sensations they feel when they’re singing. When the mind-body-voice synergy is there, there’s never a need to push!)

    Also, I have to say that vowels are a subtle killer! Vowel modification is so important to free singing. Always a good reminder. ;)

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  5. Crystal went off key on her a cappella and her voiced cracked when trying to go out of her range. Lee and Tim was off key several times throughout their performances.

    Just wondering why you thought they were better than Mike, who was in key. True that their performances were more heartfelt, but at least he sang it technically correct and they were technically off.

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  6. Dear MCL – Wonderful critiques for all the contestants – you are so fair and clear in your critiques – each contestant can USE the information you convey.

    I would like to add one thing that was distracting from this version of this throat shredder from Siobhan:

    Ppperformance – PPOPPING Ps. I know this is a hard one – the microphone really pppicked that uppp.

    Outside of the breathlessness (and the “stuffiness and muddiness” in the lower registers that bothers so many others) that you already addressed so much better than I could ever do –

    I loved Siobhan’s rendition of the theme almost as much as the version sung by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky.

    If Siobhan can relax a bit, I think she can overcome the breathing issues – I have been told to pull it up through my feet when speaking and singing – that seems to mirror your flexed knees approach – I hope that this will help.

    I am selfish about this journey now – I want to see and hear what Siobhan will do next. For me, she is the most interesting contestant and I just want to see what she can do now.

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  7. MCL – Could you explain this concept of syncopation in more depth? I sort of understand it when I read about it, but maybe you can add some light:

    “Also, a change in the rhythmic structure would have been a great addition. Adding syncopated elements to this very square, very monotonous rhythmic structure would have been a more creative approach to this song. By doing so, the song would have remained more memorable in the minds of the viewers while highlighting your artistic skills in the process. “

    Like

  8. SurelyUCan'tBSerious April 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Very nice critique, I love to read it and learn from you.

    I too was disappointed that Tim left; I really just dug his “All My Loving.” Just crazy about it. I hope he will keep singing and go for his goals.

    Shirley

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  9. MCL,

    I respect your critiques, and it amazes me how you spot the smallest variations in the performances.

    However, are you telling me that YOU, of all people, don’t hear how nasal Siobhan is?

    Maybe it’s just my pet-peeve, but whoa! I hear it almost every week. It bugs.

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  10. MCL – I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since last year. I have been a huge fan of Adam since then, and am now rooting for Siobhan. I thought I might share some of my impressions of attending Tuesday night’s show, particularly of Siobhan and Crystal. I attended with a friend who was neutral regarding the contestants.

    I very much wanted Siobhan to have her night, but in all honesty I would have to say that Crystal stole the show and my friend agreed with me. The studio audience really responded differently to the two performances. I would love for Siobhan to enjoy the same applause and the acclaim, and I’ve been giving some thought as to why Crystal connected more.

    First, I just want to comment that I adored Siobhan’s look – her dress, her hair, her accessories. She looked exquisite on that stage – like a beautiful flower, maybe an orchid. She’s very comfortable with her own beauty, while Crystal seemed a bit lost in her dress. Simon obviously knows nothing of fashion.

    Both Siobhan and Crystal beautiful smiles. In general, Siobhan, though, looked much more nervous and serious between the filmed shots. She kept further back on stage and seemed detached from the audience. I wish that I had been closer to her and able to offer her some words of encouragement. Crystal fidgeted with her clothes a bit while setting up, but she really lit up with her dad there in the audience. Before her song, she interacted quite a bit more with the audience and the guy throwing out T-shirts to everyone during the commercial. After the show ended, she ran out into the audience to hug her dad while Siobhan disappeared. Crystal just came across as more comfortable with the audience.

    Siobhan’s vocals were amazing – crystal clear and beautiful. My friend was impressed by her technical skills, but we both thought that her song choice didn’t connect as well with the audience. He didn’t like the song, and I wasn’t familiar with it. It seemed very cerebral. In contrast, Crystal chose a more raising-the-roof-off-the-church kind of number. It’s just a song that elicits a more visceral kind of emotional response. The audience really responded to Crystal’s performance with much more enthusiasm than anyone else’s. And, her tears at the end came across as very genuine.

    The sound system was really geared for the television audience rather than the studio audience. It was a bit hard to catch all that the idols were saying back to the judges. Siobhan struck me as very intelligent and serious, while Crystal came across as more down-to-earth and accessible.

    I would say that Siobhan is lot like a glass of fine champagne while Crystal is a draft of cold beer. They are just different in their appeal.

    These are some of my reflections as a member of the studio audience, and they are from the point of view of someone who very much wants Siobhan to win in an all-girl finale.

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  11. Sue –

    You have made the perfect analogy and you probably stated better than anyone else I have read (or heard) why Crystal is projected to win. We Americans like our warm creature comforts and tend to distrust the “intellectuals” and “elite”.

    How sad that Siobhan comes across that way when she has such an earthy background. Her story is so CURRENT — father on disability, mother (the main breadwinner) laid off from retail. If shy Siobhan could display that kind of warmth, she could win over more (but not all) of the audience; however, I have a feeling that her best work will be in the more complex pieces that must be in her (and I hope OUR) futures.

    I do LIKE Crystal as I do my old blue jeans — but I find her sound so derivative of Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, among others — very retro. Siobhan just touches my sense of potential and possibility for emerging music that I yearn for in this canned music world.

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  12. Thanks, Julia, so much for your thoughtful response to my first post here.

    I should add that Crystal was the only Idol who interacted directly with the audience while setting up for her performance and after the show, probably because her father was there. All of the other Idols were much more focused on getting ready to sing. However, Crystal’s obvious excitement and joy at seeing her father before her performance clearly translated into a wonderfully heartful rendering of the song which drew in the audience.

    MCL, I have followed your observations about the unfair judging of Siobhan, and I would have to agree. My guy feeling as I listened to Randy, Kara, and Simon criticize her was that they simply didn’t care if she moved on to another week. She had become expendable to them, and so there was little effort to provide any constructive criticism or encouragement that would help her develop her stagecraft. I was surprised at the contrast of the very positive feedback given to Aaron for attempting a big song though not quite pulling it off and the negativity thrown at Siobhan, who executed the most technically difficult song of the night flawlessly.

    As you noted in her vocal performance and I observed in her demeanor on stage, Siobhan must be reeling from the onstaught of the overly negative comments that she’s received for the past weeks. As Randy started speaking, I could see her bracing herself for yet another round of them. And, what we are now losing is the joy, excitement, confidence, and fearlessness that Siobhan was able to bring into her earlier and more notable performances such as Think, House of the Rising Sun, and Paint it Black.

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  13. Siobhan sings too low for a big stage.It results in almost whispering. Her vocals are unclear at times so the lyrics lose their meaning. It prevents their full emotional expression so it sounds unclear and flat. As if she likes the music more than the lyrics. In comparison with Crystal, whose vocals are clear and her vocal emotional expression is sound. Siobhan is unaccomplished singer who experiments ,perhaps compelled, by her originality and creativity.Crystal is an accomplished singer who is in full control of her original and creative talent. It is by far easier for Crystal to sing Shania’s songs than any other contestant and I expect her great performance. Siobhan needs to find strong emotional connection with one of those songs, preferably something dynamic.

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  14. What I mean -in regard with Siobhan- is that she sings too low those parts of a song that are sung quietly. I absolutely agree with Sue and Julia that the judges, Kara and particularly Simon, discourage Siobhan with their negative criticism.

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