By: Rosanne Simunovic
Last evening’s performances were as good as they could be, given the song choices at the disposal of these three young singers. Some of the selections were not the most inspired and, actually, brought out the weaknesses in some of the voices.
However, it was exciting to see Beyonce at work with the Idols. She was on hand to fine tune their personal selections and I thought she did a wonderful job.
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.
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette(Judges’ Choice)
Strengths: Hayley – my goodness, is there any genre that you can’t sing? You are such a versatile artist and your trio of performances this week exemplified this wonderful dimension in your performing talent.
During your first number, “What Is And What Shall Never Be“, I loved the stage persona you created throughout this showcase. It was absolutely perfect and so in tune with the edgy style of this Led Zeppelin classic. (I can’t even believe I am typing Led Zeppelin in reference to a female artist!)
There were many exciting components to this performance – the tempo and mood changes, the vocal nuances, the fluid and inspired
choreography, the depth of your singing range. All of these elements were responsible for a spectacular premiere performance this week.
I thought every detail was meticulously rehearsed and at no time did I feel that your voice was taking a back seat to the other performing elements in this showcase. It was just excellent!
And how wonderful to include your Dad in this performance? He looked as proud as can be of his little girl and so happy to share the stage with you during this momentous Top 3 showcase.
Your second number, “Rhiannon” , demonstrated a brief variety of tempi at the top and just that little change in tempo made such a difference in the aural and visual dimension to this number.
However, the feel of this number was the polar opposite of your first and so provided a wonderful contrast in style and vocal substance. You easily can modify your style at the drop of a hat and this one performing aspect has been responsible for your success on this show. With you the motto: “Expect the unexpected” was never more true.
You totally encompassed the ethereal quality of this song. It was wonderful, Hayley! You were visually lost in the music, internalizing the expressive quality of the lyrics and music and strongly communicating the mood to the audience.
And the addition of the wind/fan machine to blow your hair and billow your dress was a smart touch. It intensified the mystical quality of this song. Your voice expressively captured this quality as well. I felt hypnotized by the vocal and visual process. This was very well done, indeed!
Your final number, Alanis Morrisette‘s “You Oughta Know” was a pretty solid performance. I found that once the melody of the music moved to the upper part of your range, I could truly appreciate the power and strength of your voice.
Stylistically this was a very strong performance. Thank heavens you are a great actress because this song does require strong acting skills. And energy! You are a fearless, confident performer, Haley, and are ready to meet every challenge thrown your way.
Brava and congratulations on your triple threat performances this week. Excellent work!
Critique: Hayley – I found very little to critique in your opening number, “What Is And What Shall Never Be”. It was a strong, vital performance.
The only thing I would caution you about is your articulation. It was lacking in clarity. Throughout this number, I had no idea what you were saying. I was loving the whole musical experience and all but I was confused about the storyline.
You must make sure that the words never get lost in the musical fever created on stage. Although the musical energy during a performance is very important for strong communication, you must be certain that the energy is then transferred to the lyrical content as well.
In your second number, “Rhiannon”, I could find little fault in your vocal delivery. Stylistically, I had no problems with your approach to this song. It was perfect.
Do you hear a “but” coming? Well, here it is. At times, I felt a little lost with this performance. I understand it is an “out there” choice of song but, once again, the words were lost to me.
Similar to song number one, you must be very careful not to let the freedom in your vocal delivery affect the clarity of your words. You are a very relaxed vocal artist and sometimes your words are not articulated with strength and precision because of this relaxed approach. You need to remember that the consonants, when articulated quickly, will add direction and energy to the voice, increasing and maintaining proper focus in the vocal masque.
And finally, your Alanis number, “You Oughta Know”. Another example of style winning over substance!
First of all, the key was all wrong for you. At the beginning of this song, your lower voice was a complete and utter non-entity. And your pitch was severely compromised because you couldn’t get a cohesive grasp on the vowels to properly focus your vocal sound.
As I said above, the second half of the song, when you sang through your upper register, was fine but every time you moved through your bottom range, we lost the intensity and strength in your voice and passion for the words. You must make certain to use your diaphragmatic breathing skills to focus and place your voice in your vocal masque. Do not reserve it solely for your upper range.
And, make certain you implement the head voice element through every part of your range, even the lower. This element will add brilliance to the lower register and will help to avoid a dark, muddy sound in your contralto range.
However, I felt that you gave three wonderful performances this week. Stylistically they were on the money. Good work, Haley!
“Wild One” by Faith Hill (Personal Choice), “If I Die Young” by Perry(Jimmy Iovine’s Choice) and
“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack(Judges’ Choice)
Strengths: Lauren – your first song, “Wild One” was a great way to begin your triple threat showcase. It was upbeat and fun and, as a result, you looked absolutely relaxed and buoyant. However, those lyrics were a tad – I don’t know – mature for your young age. Sometimes the music lends itself to a different emotion than what is embedded in the lyrical content. And this was one of those songs.
However, technically, you were very solid with your vocal delivery. As always, I appreciated your loyalty to the all-important circular mouth formation, allowing your voice to resonate with overall clarity and precision. I feel you have a pretty strong grasp of the importance of vocal masque resonance.
Your second song,”If I Die Young” carried a very emotional message and you conveyed this message extremely well indeed. During the second half of this number, you exhibited more verve and downright raw passion than was evident in the front end of the song.
Perhaps there was an emotional build up happening that made you more cautious and reserved during the opening of this number? You know the drill. You feel like you want to cry but you are trying to hold it back? And then, as the number reached the climax, you threw caution to the wind and then the song came alive.
Because once you moved through the second part of this number, after the key change, I felt more angst and sorrow coming from your expressive voice.
You may not have displayed the vocal control as I heard in the first half, but, emotionally your voice sounded vibrant and alive. And, in the end, emotion must win the day. The technique has to be there, but to sing without emotion, is to create a sterile, linear vocal memory that leaves the audience cold. And the final impression was anything but, Lauren. It was warm and tender – just beautiful.
During your last number, “I Hope You Dance”, you looked absolutely and positively radiant. I also appreciated the melodic variations you added through this number. It was a poised, sensitive performance. Your vocals were just lovely. You sustained those long phrases very well and your voice was generally well-focused.
Additionally, your articulation was crystal clear; every word was expressively communicated to the listener with clarity This was a very musical performance, Lauren. I loved it.
Congratulations on three truly excellent performances. Brava!
Critique: Lauren –midway through your first number, “Wild One”, I sensed some problems with your upper range. I felt that you were adding too much chest power to your upper range and this adversely affected your pitch and intonation.
You have to be very careful to add head voice into the vocal mix when singing through your upper register or you risk a flat, edgy vocal delivery
Also, as much as this was a great opening number, it was not a very challenging song for you. In fact, it was pretty trite in content. It was repetitive and less ambitious than what I was hoping to hear from you at this point in the competition. And those lyrics left a lot to be desired for someone your age.
You must remember to research your music carefully and make certain that your songs reflect who you are as a person. And that they are age appropriate.
During your second song,”If I Die Young”, you experienced the same technical problems as the first. You added far too much chest voice into your overall vocal delivery and, at times, your pitch lost its center. The purity and clarity of head voice, in combination with consistently applied diaphragmatic breathing skills, enables a clean, seamless vocal sound from top to bottom, regardless of range or volume.
You also looked more hesitant and tentative in this number and then I realized that it was the emotion of the song that undid you. So, you get a pass! I was wondering what was going on. Hey, it happens to all of us!
And again, during your final number, “I Hope You Dance”, your chest voice was obliterating the head voice clarity of your vocal timbre. Your voice lacked sparkle and shine and I suspect that you were out-and-out exhausted at this point in the showcase.
You sang this song with great feeling and undeniable passion, but your voice sounded very tired. And, if the voice sounds tired then the body is tired. The result: lack of strong technical support from the diaphragm.
However, as I said above, the raw intensity in your voice during this number was just wonderful and, technical skills aside, created a very memorable and sensitive performance.
congratulations once again, Lauren!
“Amazed” by Lonestar (Personal Choice), “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” by (Jimmy Iovine’s Choice) and
“She Believes In Me” by Kenny Rogers(Judges’ Choice)
Strengths:Scotty – your personal song choice, “Amazed” was a very challenging one. It requires strong breath support and vocal power. However, I felt that you did a wonderful job in this respect. I feel that your technical skills have vastly improved over the course of this competition – more so than any other singer.
Your mike technique was wonderful. No more “sideways Scotty” when handling the mike. Your mike was nicely centered and you looked relaxed and comfortable with this refinement.
Visually you created the perfect ambience for this performance. You were in absolute control yet exhibited a sincere, warm persona.
Technically, there were some wonderful moments in this song. The sustained note on the words “amazed” was wonderfully executed in that you sustained your voice on the “eh” vowel, avoiding the other two vowels in that annoying diphthong – “‘i” and “ee“. It was a nice, clean, well-focused British approach. Loved it!
Additionally, you did wonderful work with the dynamics. There was a nice build to this song, your voice becoming stronger as the arrangement moved forward.
I also was happy to see how fully you sustained your phrases. The final words were highlighted and didn’t just disappear at the end of your line. You were singing through your phrases now, achieving a lovely ebb and flow that allowed the momentum to move forward. And your articulation was excellent. I heard that crisp “K” consonant when you were finalizing the word “Take“. Kudos!
Excellent work, Scotty!
During your second number, uptempo“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”, you picked up the guitar and comfortably accompanied yourself – adding yet another dimension to your triple threat performances.
I loved how you embraced this song, Scotty. You looked relaxed and carefree. It wasn’t a complicated song but you expressively communicated this number very well. Your words were crystal clear, you added some superb inflection in your voice and your phrasing was very musical. Additionally, there was a nice forward momentum in this song.
Your final number, “She Believes In Me“, was the song that I was waiting to hear. It was such a stellar and inspired song choice for you! Perfect! Now this was a performance. It was heartwarming, sensitive and expressively delivered.
Additionally, you added dramatic visual dimension to this number, moving from a seated position at the beginning of this song to a standing one toward the final moments of the refrain. This change in position not only intensified the passionate nature of this song but also relaxed your physical presence.
This song brought out the potential in your voice. The chorus is so beautiful and your voice just embraced that melodic line. And it was great to hear the expansion of your vocal potential beyond your baritone range. Throughout the course of this competition there has been so much development in your voice, Scotty, and the escalation in your confidence level bodes well for your future success as a country artist.
Bravo times 3! Very impressive triple threat showcases.
Critique: Scotty – during your first number, “Amazed”, I found the phrases were fragmented. It was encouraging to hear you sustain the final notes of each phrase. Now what you must learn to do is become more creative with your breathing, You are using your breath wisely within the phrase but it is the connection between two phrases that need to be addressed in a more creative manner.
In other words, try not to continuously breathe afterevery couple of bars or so. By doing so, the song becomes stagnant and less fluid and musical. For example, look how I organized your breathing for the opening lines of this song
Every time our eyes meet (no breath) This feeling inside me
Is almost more than I can take
Baby when you touch me (no breath) I can feel how much you love me
And it just blows me away
I’ve never been this close to anyone (no breath)or anything
I can hear your thoughts (no breath) I can see your dreams
Also be very careful to not raise your head when moving through your upper range. You must approach your upper notes with less effort, singing over rather than reaching for the notes
Your second song, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not“, was a more successful effort, Scotty, so I have little to critique. It was a fun, relaxed number and both your vocal and performing demeanor were laidback and carefree.
Your third and final performance, “She Believes In Me“, was an excellent performance, Scotty.
However, although I was aching to hear more depth in your upper range, you are achieveing this goal, slowly but surely.
Just make sure that you consistently harness diaphragmatic support for your upper range while dropping your jaw and relaxing those throat muscles.
And don’t forget to work on incorporating your head voice into your vocal mix. At times I felt that you were sitting on the notes rather than allowing the notes to flow freely from your mouth.
I think it is a placement problem. Make sure that you place (focus) your upper range in the top half of your vocal masque and, to that end, incorporate the “ah” vowel into every vowel sound. That way, you will be assured of an even, beautifully focused vocal delivery.
However, I did hear your soft head voice at the end of this song and was as thrilled as could be. You are getting it, Scotty! It hasn’t quite come together yet, but you are embracing the technical process just beautifully. I not only applaud your talent, but also your work ethic!
Kudos young man! This was, for me, the best performance of the night. It was truly special.