Before we begin, I would like to say that the Top 13 Vocal Masterclass evaluations will be shorter than those you will read as the season progresses.
As I begin more familiar with the singers and, hopefully, notice changes in their vocal and performance technique, then the critiques will become more detailed and comprehensive
Now, let us move forward to my Vocal Masterclass evaluations and I welcome your commentary and suggestions after the read!
Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.
Ashthon - this was a beautiful selection and you exuded a lovely charisma on stage. There were some moments where I was treated to the pure quality of your head voice. It was so translucent and light – really lovely.
Critique: Ashthon – be careful not to raise your head, especially when powering through your upper voice. All this does is to create additional tension in your throat, which should be open and free at all times.
Also, keep that head voice as a central element in every vocal dynamic you choose to use when singing your songs. This is what generate an aesthetically beautiful vocal sound at every level and will keep your voice steady and tuned.
Strengths: Casey, Casey, Casey – this was pure brilliance. Pure and simple! I don‘t think we have seen anyone like you on American Idol before. You are unique, you are distinct and I love how you embrace your music with artistic intensity and passion. You communicated this song perfectly and I especially loved the mix of rustic and pure vocals in this performance. You were a strong rhythmic presence on stage. Why can’t everyone perform like this? Why?
Critique: Casey – you like to growl and snarl through your songs a la Louis Armstrong. You know, that was his signature sound and this will definitely be your s as well.
However, be very careful of the tension in the throat when you use this technique. Try to keep the diaphragmatic support central to your vocal projection, allowing your throat to be a free and liberated gateway to an effortless vocal delivery. You have the head voice – now incorporate it through every dynamic level and you will come to appreciate the ease and effortlessness of your vocal sound.
Strengths: Hayley –I loved this song choice. And, boy, you sang this song so well. This is not an easy song to sing – you need that head voice and you, Miss Hayley, have this element in spades. Your voice sounded so smooth and seamless; it just flowed.
Performance wise, I loved your understated presentation of this number. Even your gestures weren’t as bothersome to me this time around. They actually complimented the loose, free, melancholy vibe that is central to the mood of this song.
Great work, Haley.
Critique: Hayley – I think you could have created even more impact if you had moved away from the mike stand at some point in this number. The stationary position during these vocal numbers is never a good idea, especially during a ballad. You don’t need to be turning somersaults; a few steps forward would have done the trick. Try it, you’ll like it and your audience will feel more connection to you as a performer.
Strengths: Jacob – you pour so much into each and every song. All those runs and that full head voice were pretty incredible elements in this performance. You have undeniable passion and intensity when you sing and, although you were surrounded by a gospel choir, you certainly didn’t need it. You were a choir all by yourself. The melodic twists and turns you added to this song were risky, creative and inspiring. Excellent work, Jacob.
Critique: Jacob – you have to be careful that your overwhelming passion doesn’t overwhelm the correct projection of your voice. You were really pushing the limit in terms of solid vocal production vs. oversinging. You need to realize that your persona and expressiveness have to play a part in your vocal delivery and it isn’t necessary to be super flamboyant with the vocal gymnastics.
You do take vocal risks, I grant you that! However, this week, in doing so, you hit a few landmines and your pitch suffered at various points throughout this number. At one point in the song, it didn’t sound like you were singing in the correct key as the band and choir.
You have a tremendous gift, Jacob, but use it wisely and cautiously. Don’t push the envelope. The old say that “less is more” really applies to you more than anyone else in this competition.
Good work though Jacob.
Strengths: James – you are a monster. What can I say? What? You ooze music, you ooze passion and you ooze artistry. And what was that pure “oo” falsetto at the end of the song following those power vocals? Your vocal control, your musical phrasing, the seamless quality of your voice and undeniable stage presence are extraordinary and very, very special.
Bravo James! Yours was the best performance of the night. You are a star!
Critique: James – I am at a loss here. This performance was just too good. Let’s just leave it at that – for now! Bravo!
Strengths: Karen – this was a difficult song and you sang it very well. You looked lovely on stage and exuded an exquisite charisma. I also appreciated the fact that you never pushed your voice through the stronger sections of the song. Your vocal sound was always pure and perfectly placed. Good work, Karen
Critique: Karen – you suffered from poor song selection. It just didn’t work and, at least to me, was not too familiar to the listener. The melody was vague and ambiguous so the song never really moved forward or toward a climax.
You also looked more uncomfortable than last week during the Top 12 female performances, so I feel that something was amiss during this performance. Select your songs wisely in the future. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Strengths: Lauren – you looked lovely on stage and the song was suited to your voice and personality. You appeared relaxed and demonstrated remarkable poise, especially since you were first out of the gate this evening. Good work!
Critique: Lauren – in my opinion – this song was too frivolous at this point in the competition. It’s a fun song, not a song to demonstrate superior vocal skills. Your phrasing was fragmented and some the final notes were detached too soon.
Also, your lack of continued diaphragmatic breath support was compromised because of your stage movements. Nail the song in rehearsal THEN add your movements.
You also need to work on your sustaining power; to this end, it is time that you researched a ballad for your next song selection. We need to see more diversity in your vocal style. Right now, I find your performances have been one-dimensional and lacking in nuance and depth, so be encouraged to stretch and grow when researching your repertoire.
Strengths: Naima – wow, that was pretty spectacular. You not only sing well, but you also work the stage with fluid choreographic movements. This was such a strong performance and, vocally, you projected the song extremely well. The key of this song was absolutely perfect for your voice and, therefore, you didn’t have to struggle to project your vocal power.
Excellent work, Naima!
Critique: Naima –you do have to work at creating a balance between vocal and choreographic elements so that one does not overwhelm the other. I think that, at times, your pitch suffered because you lost diaphragmatic breath control for your voice.
Make sure that all your technical ducks are lined up in a row –breathing, phrasing, support – and then add your stage movements. Then and only then will your future performances increase by leaps and bounds.
Strengths: Paul – you have such a wonderful personality on stage. I just love it. And, like Casey, you bring something new and exciting to the American Idol stage. Your choreography certainly is unique and different. Good work, Paul.
Critique: Paul – you have a great smile, but that smile is going to be your downfall. If you could round out your mouth, even a bit, you would add more depth and presence to your vocal sound.
Additionally, it would assist you in maintaining a pitch centered vocal sound. You did struggle with pitch issues, especially in the lower end of your voice. All of this is due to lack of proper diaphragmatic breath support. Presently, too much air is escaping with your vocal sound and the result is a thin, emaciated vocal timbre.
You need to work on developing a seamless quality in your vocal range, using the vowels in your lyrics to sustain and project your voice.
Strengths: Pia – you created a strong presence on stage. Your grace and passion are truly special and came through so beautifully in this song. You have such a strong, pure vocal quality and it is clearly evident that your voice that has been honed through strong technical skills.
Critique: Pia – careful of the head raise. It creates tension and forces you to push your sound from your throat muscles rather than relying on the strength and power of your diaphragmatic muscles. Additionally, we lose eye contact with you.
Also, I think it would have been good if you moved forward during the final refrain of the song, if only to relax and free your muscles. The movement would have added visual dramatic substance to this performance.
Additionally, be careful to tame that left arm gesturing when you sing. It became distracting as the song moved along. This is why physical movement would have been more exciting to your overall performance. The repetition of the song lyrics, coupled with the repetition of your arm movements, made everything look and sound the same.
Excellent work though, Pia. You are a strong competitor in this talented group of Top 13
Strengths: Scotty – great song. Perfect song! Years ago, I actually performed this song with my choir and a local country artist. It has a wonderful message and a soaring melody. You told the story so well and you phrased your musical line better than in previous performances. Good work, Scotty
Critique: Scotty – you need to stage an emergency meeting with your vocal coach and figure out how to breathe properly. I still find your phrasing so fragmented and you barely take risks with your melodic line. You also need to incorporate more nuance within your song performances. This week was no exception. Everything was sung at the same level and intensity.
Additionally, you were straining for those upper notes at the end of some of your phrases, another indication why you need to strengthen and solidify your voice through the correct technical process. I really could go on and on here, but will do so in future Vocal Masteclass articles. Let’s see what next week brings!
Strengths: Stefano – this was incredible. Really! You have so much musicality and rhythmic intensity when you perform and your vocal technique is excellent.
You obviously understand the importance of true bel canto singing and make supreme effort to maintain a circular mouth position while sustaining those pure vowels.
You handled that wild tempo change so well – lesser men would have collapsed when faced with this rhythmic struggle but you are far too musical for this to happen.
Excellent work, Stefano.
Critique: Stefano – your downfall tonight was the arrangement of this song. Although it demonstrated the depth and maturity of your musicianship, to the ears of the listener, it was a tad confusing. I didn’t get that double time, reggae-like rhythmic change until the second time this element appeared.
At first, it almost seemed that you were off tempo and I was a little frightened for you. But then I realized that this is how it’s supposed to sound and I relaxed. But, I wasn’t happy. The rhythm was too frantic, bordering on a bit of hysteria. Who writes these arrangements? They have to relax already and understand that keeping it simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
However, despite this, you presented a very polished, professional performance. Excellent work, Stefano!
Strengths: Thia –your voice was so perfect for this song and your gave a tender, heart warming performance . Your graceful presence on stage complimented the warm mood of this song so well. Lovely work, Thia.
Critique: Thia – like so many others that came before you, you needed to physically move on stage to create more impact. And, I feel that the pace of the song should not have changed direction. I loved the slower, acoustic opening portion of this song as it complimented your youthful vocals so very well. Once the tempo changed, I felt you lost a level of control and your pitch lost its center.
Also, watch your mouth position. You adopted a horizontal mouth position throughout this song, quite probably because it is called “Smile”, right? But, if you had adopted a circular position with your mouth, you would have added a richer, more centered quality to your vocal sound.
Let’s hope that next week’s song selection will do you justice. You are a genuine, sincere performer and I would like to see you move far in this competition.