American Idol

Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 8 Singers: Music From The Eighties


American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

I am back from my month long vacation and ready to roll with my weekly Vocal Masterclass articles.

And, once again, I would like to publicly thank Mindy Moore for her excellent reviews of the singers during my absence. I know all of us truly appreciated reading her evaluations – they were thorough and precise, echoing what I felt when I later watched the performances online.

On Wednesday night, the singers performed the music from The Eighties – a great era that showcased the music the music of Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Foreigner, Elton John and more.

It was a strong evening of performances and the inclusion of the duets was a bonus for the viewers.

Anyway, 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.

Colton Dixon, DeAndre Brackensick, Elise Testone, Hollie Cavanaugh

Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Skylar Laine

The Duets

COLTON DIXON: “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper

Strengths: Colton – this was a strong performance of an unlikely song selection – but somehow you made it work. I love your alternative Indie vibe – it is a refreshing addition to this eclectic Top 8 group of singers.

Your articulation was more improved this week, especially when you sang through the upper range. Your words were clear and crisp adding conviction and presence to your vocal sound.

You really owned the stage and were a strong rhythmical presence throughout this number. And kudos to the drummer for adding a pulsating element to this song. You managed the tricky rhythmic sequences very well thus emphasizing the depth and magnitude of your musicality.

I really enjoyed your performance, probably your best this far. Congratulations Colton! Great work!

Critique: Colton – as much as your diction was more coherent, you still need to continue to work on refining the rough edges, especially when singing through your lower range.

In fact, therein lies the root of all your problems. The flexibility of the jaw and lips are not only important for the clarity of your words but also for the correct placement of your voice. And, when combined with solid diaphragmatic breath technique, your voice will adopt an energetic presence that is presently missing in your singing.

You have incredible tension in your throat, insisting to deliver your vocal sound while straining these muscles in your neck and throat. It would help if you would develop a yawning sensation when vocalizing – but the first part of the yawn, not the second where one usually stretches the mouth in a horizontal position.

It is this sense of relaxation and ease that you need to bring to your singing, allowing your voice to float freely via the breath support. You have so much passion when you sing and all that is fine and good but, by not allowing the voice to resonate freely in your vocal masque, you are inhibiting the wide range of expressive qualities needed to reflect that innate passion and sensitivity.

However, your creativity, as evidenced by this week’s performance, is undeniable and I see only great things for you on the future. Excellent work, Colton!

DEANDRE BRACKENSICK: “I Like You” by DeBarge

Strengths: DeAndre – I loved that you started this song in the audience. Now, there’s a first! And what a great song choice. It highlighted every strength and element in your vast vocal range.

You moved and strutted like a star – truly owning the stage like you definitely should. I loved the hair flips – so cute and so smart, using every part of your package to full advantage.

Your vocal riffs were spectacular – what you do is just incredibly difficult and yet, you make it look and sound so easy and effortless. My favorite vocal twist was the staccato arpeggio you sneaked in toward the end of this song.

And yet, it wasn’t just about your signature head voice – we were also treated to the expressive and almost raspy presence of your full voice. This provided such a strong contrast to your falsetto segments. Just wonderful.

You communicated the song exceptionally well, interacting playfully with your audience. Just a spectacular performance and it left me wanting more! Bravo DeAndre.

Critique:DeAndre – now you need to focus on adding more depth to your mid to lower range. All that beautiful falsetto cannot be abandoned when you enter into this area of your vocal range.

In fact, it has to be cleverly mixed with just the right amount of chest voice in order to achieve a seamless quality from top to bottom. Although, this week, the movement from your falsetto to natural range had greatly improved.

At times, we are hearing two entirely different voices when you sing. The falsetto should be an extension of your natural voice and vice versa. In order to achieve this, you must harness energy and support from the diaphragm to guide and focus your voice with ease and comfort.

Practicing scales that begin at the lower end of your vocal spectrum and move toward the higher end will help you achieve this goal. You will identify the subtle breaks in your voice and therefore apply the correct diaphragmatic support to strengthen the break.

However, this cannot be achieved overnight. Time and patience is key here and, as you physically mature, so will your voice. The depth and added resonance does develop later in young male singers but the technique will speed the process.

However, your phrasing and musicality, your relaxed stage presence and star quality are brilliant and I know that this is just the start of a very lucrative career for you, DeAndre. Congratulations once again!

ELISE TESTONE: “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

Strengths: Elise – I loved the hushed intensity of your voice during the quieter portions of this song, providing wonderful contrast with the more passionate segments of this song.

I could really hear and appreciate the true beauty of your voice and my first thought was: “She should have sung her first choice, “Hallelujah” – using a quiet, acoustic version”.

This would have provided better contrast to last week’s performance. At this stage of the game, it is all about surprising the audience with inspired song choices

The addition of the gospel choir during the key change was an excellent decision adding potency and angst to the lyrical and musical line.

Once again, you poured your heart and soul into this song, showcasing how committed you are to each performance. It has been wonderful to watch the growth of your confidence level and the strength and versatility of your vocal delivery.

Great work, Elise!

Critique: Elise – you must be very careful not to over – extend the raspy quality in your voice. All this yelling and screaming can’t be good for you. You must learn to create a powerful sound via the proper diaphragmatic skills or you risk harming your vocal cords.

Remember – the vowel is your friend: glue your vocal sound to the pure vowels in your words, funneling the sound through the vowel itself. However, in order to do that, you must have an adequate supply of air so that the voice can be heard at the desired pitch or dynamic.

And, relax those throat muscles, allowing the jaw to float free and drop when singing through your upper range.

All of these technical pluses will help you to perfectly center your pitch. You presently sing with too much chest voice and very little head voice. The purity and clarity of head voice must be central in every area of your vocal range and dynamic.

It helps to remember not to slam into those powerful upper notes. Ease into them, making sure that your head voice is central to the mix, feeling the diaphragmatic muscles supporting and guiding the vocal process.

Presently, you tend to sit on those upper notes rather than sing over them. This visual concept will assist the physical diaphragmatic process to work its magic.

Great work, though, nonetheless. Now, be careful of your song selections in the future!

HOLLIE CAVANAUGH: “What A Feeling”

Strengths: Hollie – finally! An upbeat song! It was great to watch you ease into it via the slower tempo at the beginning of this song. I love when songs have two distinct tempos in the melodic structure. It provides great contrast to the upbeat portion.

I chuckled at your innocent flirtation with the judges. And embracing the audience along the way was a huge plus in your favor. It was wonderful to see you break loose from the serious side we have been accustomed to seeing in your past performances.

Also your sustaining power was incredible. You can power-sing like no other in this competition. Your technique is so well-formulated and you use it wisely and well.

However, what really impressed me was the fact that you moved about the stage with energy and finesse. I loved seeing you have blast. You are young -have fun up there, right? Excellent work, Hollie!

Critique: Hollie – now that you have mastered the art of moving around the stage, be careful that the choreography doesn’t upset the technical apple cart.

A couple of times there were some pitch issues – but certainly not to the extent that the judges indicated. And certainly no worse than what I was hearing in other performances this week.

In fact, what I love about you is that you have the technical knowledge to correct these intermittent pitch problems on the spot – unlike some of the other singers. This is very important in the long run and it is a shame that the judges don’t appreciate the skills you bring to this competition.

However, remember to balance the stage movement with your vocal delivery. Keep the diaphragmatic support central to the vocal performance. Remember – baby steps.

And be careful not to get over-pumped when singing an upbeat song – control the reins. You have a powerful, technically enhanced voice so relax your stage movements a tad and become more aggressive during portions of the song that don’t challenge your technical skills.

However, this was an absolutely superb performance, Hollie. I truly love your voice!

JESSICA SANCHEZ: “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston

Strengths: Jessica – how did I know that you would be doing this song? (smile). Just instinct, I guess.

I am such a fan of your voice and style. Your were such an exuberant presence on that stage. And your technical skills were and are undeniable.

Your performing style is free and easy – so mature and so professional, yet playful at the same time. How did you become so poised and professional at the age of 16-years-old?

That last sustained note told the whole story. Glued to the vowels and resonating freely.

Each week, you adorn this stage with confidence, class and a sophistication that defies your adolescent age. You are a joy to watch – so relaxed, so charismatic and so genuine.

This was a brilliant performance, Jessica – a Masterclass Showcase! Brava and standing “O”!

Critique: Jessica – this was singing at its best. I honestly couldn’t find a thing wrong with this performance. It was seamless from start to finish. Brava!

JOSHUA LEDET: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

Strengths: Joshua – this was the perfect song choice for you, probably one of the best of the evening in terms of correct style and substance.

I loved the opening, beginning with the choir. Nice touch. You really speak when you sing – every word means some thing to you and I really appreciate that.

This was an expressive and soulful performance and very well paced. You eased into this song like a pro – making sure that the adrenaline did not overwhelm you. No one could sense the difficult vocals ahead for you, the passionate strength that would be required later on in this song. You performed “in the moment”, grounding your voice and saving the majority of your energy for the 2nd half of this song.

And yet, there was a quiet intensity at the beginning of this song that I so appreciated. So many singers mentally fast forward to the powerful moments in a song while singing quietly and this negatively affects the subdued portions of a number.

But, not you! Every moment in a song is treated equally – no over-thinking from your end. I love this about you so much.

This was a masterpiece performance, Joshua! Loved it!

Critique: Joshua – I have to tell you – I am not a fan of the screaming. It has got to go. Please do not confuse screaming for passionately correct singing. These elements are polar opposites.

What I can’t understand is that you use your voice so correctly during the more subdued portions of the song but yet, when the power dynamics are necessary, all caution is thrown to the wind.

How I wish you would correct your approach to your power vocals, allowing the diaphragmatic support to dictate the strength and placement of your voice. All this tension in your throat will wear you down in the end and cause damage to your vocal cords.

Remember- your vocal cords are a delicate muscle and, when one is young, one can conquer mountains using improper technique. But, as the muscles age with the body, the wear and tear start to become evident and, if the technique has not been ingrained in you over the years, the damage can be irreparable.

I hope that you will focus on eliminating this screaming element from your vocal delivery.
Less is more – remember that! And simple can be a beautiful and healthy approach.

Good luck, Joshua!

PHILLIP PHILLIPS: “That’s All” by Genesis

Strengths: Phillip – once again, we were treated to your voice and guitar this week and what a treat this was! You are a tricky one to evaluate because you move from technically good singing to just the opposite.

You do have a pretty consistent way of gluing your voice to the vowels in your words which is a definite plus. This method was responsible for your strong vocal presence through parts of this song.

I loved the arrangement – the quieter bridge provided such a great contrast for the more vibrant portions of this song.

You sang with joy and abandon – although, at times, a sensed a level of detachment in your performance. This was a tough one to evaluate.

Critique: Phillip – you, as well, must be careful of the intermittent tension in your throat. And that periodical horizontal mouth position is lessening the inherent quality in your voice.

There is more there, Phillip, and a round mouth and relaxed jaw, when coupled with strong diaphragmatic skills, will allow your true voice to shine and rise to even greater heights in a more consistent manner.

Presently, your voice is lacking a consistent level of depth and clarity – sometimes, we get a glimmer of it and sometimes not.

Performance-wise, I wish you would lay your guitar aside and tease the audience a bit. All this standing at a mike, strumming your instrument and singing in pretty much the same linear style, is not an exciting road to travel on your American Idol journey. Everything sounds the same from week to week.

We need you to “change it up” – perhaps start with the guitar, then toss it aside and go crazy. Something! Anything!

Good luck, Phillip!

SKYLAR LAINE: “Wind Beneath My Wings”

Strengths: Skylar – what an unpredictable song choice. But, boy, you nailed it! We needed to see this level of depth from you. The timing of this particular number at this point in the competition was perfect.

Your voice was a sparkling, seamless presence. I loved everything about this performance – how you changed up the melodic line, took amazing vocal risks, the whole nine yards – it was truly unbelievable. You really reached for the stars with this song.

Your confidence and poise never ceases to amaze me. I truly believe that you are the strongest country artist that American Idol has ever introduced to this program. It’s as if Reba McEntire went back in time and planted herself on the American Idol stage. You are that good.

And you have excellent technical skills – that circular mouth position and relaxed jaw speak volumes. Your sustaining power is excellent and your breathing skills strong and consistent. As a result, your phrasing was very musical and extremely creative.

This is not an easy song to sing – the depth and delivery have to be just right in order to impact the audience in a meaningful way. I feel you did all that and more. Brava Skylar!

Critique: Skylar – I think toward the end of this song you threw caution to the wind and became slightly over-pumped. I thought that your vocals were quite forced at the end of this song, although there was that mouth, nice and round and the jaw relaxed. So, it confused me.

Make certain the delivery of your power vocals is coming from the diaphragmatic support and not from added push and tension in the throat and neck muscles. As much as you do do many things correctly, even the best technical singers must be cautioned and reminded not to force the issue when singing.

However, your performance was powerful and the risk you took with this song selection worked for you in a monumental way. I am speechless here. Speechless. Brava!

General Comments For The Duets

“Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton as performed by Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine.

Colton, your voice sounded so beautiful – rich and resonant. And, Skylar, when you came in to join Colton, I absolutely loved your pitch-perfect harmonies. There was lovely interaction between the two of you.

Skylar – I heard some gorgeous head voice coming from mouth – you really have such an expressive voice with great range and capability.

Colton- I credit you for adapting your Indie style to this country-flavored song. This emphasized your immense versatility – in vocal and performing style.

This was a pretty seamless performance from start to finish and I so enjoyed these two kids together. Both singers looked relaxed and carefree and gave me an idea of what to expect on the Idol tour this summer. It’s going to be a great show!!

“I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters as performed by DeAndre Brackensick and Hollie Cavanagh

Hollie and DeAndre – the two of you blew me far away. Who knew your voices would blend so flawlessly? And the choreography was superb

DeAndre – your ascending scale was absolutely, crazy spectacular. I don’t know if many people caught it, but I sure did and my jaw dropped. And your voice sounded strong, robust, better than ever. It is just amazing to see what happens to all of the singers when they are relaxed and having fun, Fun, FUN!

And Hollie – no more shy little girl for you. And your voice, as well, sounded increasingly vibrant and delicious as a result. You glue your vocal sound to those vowels like there is no tomorrow, resonating your voice in your vocal masque. Your technique is just breathtaking.

This was just an exceptional duet from start to finish! Bravo and Brava and Standing O from Masterclass Lady.

“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty as performed by Phillip and Elise

Phillip and Elise – this was a great pairing. Your voices are perfectly suited to one another. And I loved the interaction between the two of you.

Generally, I thought your voices sounded more pure during this duet than during your solos. I wonder if there was a sense of relaxation that accounted for this change in your vocal deliveries? I suspect there was! It seemed that both of you were wrapped up in the vocal collaboration and just performing for performance’s sake. It is always amazing to me the change in singers’ voices when the competitive factor is removed.

Great work!

“I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael as performed by Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez

Joshua and Jessica – I would not have paired the two of you, but, somehow, it worked – gospel choir and all. This was an exquisite duo, so expressive and so “in the moment”.

There was an honest interaction between the two of you that I loved. I could sense the mutual respect and admiration for each other’s unique talent.

Joshua – again with the screaming, but, man, can you sing! I find it hard to believe that you are only 19-years-old. So much depth and maturity.

Jessica – you are a vocal wonder. And what I love about you is your ability to flawlessly adapt to multiple genres. Nothing fazes you. Nothing!

This was an unbelievably good duet! Left me breathless! Kudos!

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

28 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 8 Singers: Music From The Eighties”

  1. I thought that I heard Jessica go off pitch during several moments. Maybe I should listen to the performance again, but I thought it was her weakest effort to date. I do think that based on consistency, Jessica and Joshua should be the final two competitors.

  2. Hi MCL. I haven’t watched the whole show yet but I did watch Elise. This was so NOT the right song choice for her. The fact that the show allowed her to plow on ahead with it is in my opinion evidence that TPTB want her to fail (conspiracy theory :). Having said that I think she “soldiered on” admirably. I don’t think she’s going to win but just want to see her get into the top 5. Elise is going to do well no matter what happens on Idol.

  3. MCL: thank you for your comments on my favorite, DeAndre. I am a musician, not a singer, so I know nothing about vocal technique. What you said about DeAndre sounding like he has two voices when transitioning from low to high is interesting. I’m wondering if his experience singing Hawaiian music has influenced that? If you look up on youtube DeAndre singing “Na Wiliwili,” it almost sounds like he is yodeling, i.e. intentionally putting those breaks in his voice. I find that even in non-Hawaiian music, i like those breaks in his voice for some reason. Would appreciate your thoughts on this, as I just don’t understand the technique. I also agree that at times Deandre’s lower voice needs more volume. In addition to his age, could it also be because he is soft-spoken?

  4. Jessica Sanchez performed well and she sang well. However, there were moments when she seemed to be screaming or close to it. I think the judges should be more honest and give her good and constructive criticism. It would be better for her to sing well within her vocal range rather than sing big diva songs which may not yet be within her range. She is only 16 years old after all. Other than that, it was another good performance.The other amazing thing about her is that she could sing different genre equally well like soul, ballads, uptempo, and contemporary.

    Joshua was great too. Except for, in my opinion, the screaming parts.

  5. LJ – welcome and thank you for your comments. DeAndre is a remarkable singer, loaded with charisma and star power.

    However, he needs to work on raising the clarity and depth of his natural range. He presently sings with far too much chest voice in this area of his range which then contrasts in a negative way with the ring and focus of his gorgeous head voice.

    This will take time and patience, but he is on the right road. I thought his voice sounded more even last evening, lots of nuance and character. I just love him!

  6. Josh Gracin ~ Carrie Underwood ~ Scotty McCreery ~ Lauren Alaina, just to name the one’s I can remember. Scotty was named new artist of the year at the country ,usic awards, his album has gone platinum…Carrie…too many awards to count!!!

    Country music singers who have gone on to do very well in the country music industry.

    Skylar is mimicking her favorite artist Miranda Lambert…watch a video of Miranda and you will see a carbon copy of Skylar…!!!

    Not dissing on the girl, but she is by far less stellar than the above mentioned.

  7. Vonnie – I sense that many in the MCL community do not enjoy Skylar. Is it her personality that turns people off? I still think she is the strongest country artist this early on in her Idol career. She is fearless.

    As much as I love Scotty and Carrie, they were not quite as fearless on the show. Almost awkward. However, they have most certainly blossomed post-Idol. And, in the end, that’s all that counts.

    I just chuckle when I watch Skylar – between her and Jessica – it’s quite the sing-off!

  8. LJ – welcome and thank you for your comments. DeAndre is a remarkable singer, loaded with charisma and star power. 

    However, he needs to work on raising the clarity and depth of his natural range. He presently sings with far too much chest voice in this area of his range which then contrasts in a negative way with the ring and focus of his gorgeous head voice. 

    This will take time and patience, but he is on the right road. I thought his voice sounded more even last evening, lots of nuance and character. I just love him!

  9. MCL,

    Thanks so much for this masterclass article. Now I understand why I didn’t hear Hollie as being off key in her performance. I thought there were a few tiny things, but now that you explained how she corrects it, that makes a lot of sense. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it, because that is what I used to do when I was singing. I was really upset about the comments from the judges because they attacked her strength. I fear that this can cause some psychological damage or at least some real confusion for Hollie. I know that they have an agenda and it is to influence the viewing audience, but I don’t have to like it.

    I did briefly mention Colton’s problems with his lower register and thanks for going into more detail. He does have a great voice, but his indie style just doesn’t seem to appeal to me. I do think he is quite talented.

    I heard Philip as off key for a good part of his performance. I have wondered about his jaw and mouth and some tension in his facial expression and throat when he sings. I hear him as shouting in parts, and I think that is from the technical issues. Also the lack of clarity and depth explains why I don’t enjoy his singing as much as the others. I do think he sounds the same every week and that makes it kind of hard for me.

    Thanks for your comments about Deandre and Hollie’s duet. I thought they were amazing together.

    I am just grateful to read your thoughtful analysis and constructive comments for each of these contestants.

  10. Mindy – thank you so much. I know how you feel watching the judges attempt to sway votes. They like who they like and that’s that, I guess.

    Hollie needs to be reassured that this is in fact a show with a pre-determined agenda and then move on. This girl is so talented and, with all the singing competitions out there, nothing is stopping her from auditioning for other shows.

    Wouldn’t it be something if she moved deep into, say, X-Factor? Don’t think Simon is not watching and planning, although I suspect Idol may have more stringent legal ties to these kids now that there are so many other singing shows on TV.

  11. MCL,

    Thanks for giving me some perspective. I got quite emotional last night and feared that the judges put real doubts into Hollie. Do you think that Hollie knows this is a show with a predeteremined agenda? She is very young and may take their comments to heart.

    I have to tell you that Hollie is being kind of savaged all over the blogosphere. Perception is everything and the judges comments didn’t help. It’s not that they don’t like her, it’s just that they think she is nowhere near ready.

    Most seem to think she is toast. Also, there is a sense that Deandre is being given the short end of the stick. I thought Jimmy Iovine saying that he would be in the bottom three – before he even sang – was quite disrespectful. Someone described him as being bussed “silently”. Interesting.

    I am surprised that someone like Elise would have technical issues with her voice, given that she teaches voice and has a good deal of experience. I hear her as being off key, but have been hesitant to say it. Maybe it’s too much chest voice. I hear things, but don’t always know the “why” of it. I just didn’t think this song was right for her at all.

    I actually like Skylar’s voice. I think that for the last two weeks she has chosen songs that don’t allow her to show off her vocals. This was a big surprise, because this song can come off cheesy if you don’t sing it like you mean it. I think she is a much better singer than Lauren Alaina. She has more confidence, more power, better technical skill. I didn’t love everything about this performance. There were some parts that didn’t thrill me, but overall I thought she connected with the song emotionally and gave a fearless performance. It was a gutsy choice and it should pay off.

  12. MCL…

    After I re-read my post, I need to apologize…I was in a hurry to get out the door and left it as more of an argument than a comment! Sorry about that….I can’ t get on the Skylar ban wagon mainly because of her personality, but also because I feel that she has had a few very nasally performances and has not been called out on it.

    I worry about idol and their position with Skylar; I feel as if they look at her as if she is the cash cow, all of the country alumni has gone on to do great things, and seem to be more in the public eye than any other idol genre’s, Other than Kelli…! So I feel as if she is who they are going to pimp and push to the confetti bath.

    That makes it not fair to the other contestants!

    Look at me, the one who did not want a pony in this race and here I am already standing on my soap box…I’ll get better, I promise ~ or you won’t let me watch the class anymore while you are away! :-)

  13. Haha Vonnie. I knew something was up with your last 2nd last comment. Too funny. We are all running around in circles and it seems almost funny that, with technology being the way it is, we think that everyone can see us in real life while commenting on a blog. :)

    Anyway, you can watch the school house any ‘ole time. I feel fortunate to have your continued support and ditto for all the regulars in this MCL community.

    I do like Skylar’s spunk though – although, normally, she is not the kind of performer I am drawn to. Strange. I must be getting mellow in my old age. I do respect her confidence and technical skills – and, most of all, her determination. We shall see how she fares once Idol is over.

    I think TPTB want a girl to win big time – so they have planted a gal for everyone if you look at the big picture. Notice there is no country boy or mainstream pop boy? All the guys are quite polarizing – you either like them or not – but these gals, especially Skylar and Jessica, probably have strong fan bases.

  14. Oh Mindy – there are many people out there that claim they can teach voice. It’s sort of like everyone claiming that they can cut hair. Just because one sings does not a teacher make.

    In fact the worst teachers, I find, are the ones that teach while forging their own music career. They basically teach to make some cash.

    Teaching, I feel, is a calling, a desire to make a difference in someone’s life, other than your own.

    I hope Hollie stays tonight. DeAndre as well. It would break my heart to see either leave the competition this early.

  15. Thank you MCL…! :-)

    I think that idol has found tons of money in the country industry. I think what I was trying to say; Skyler just doesn’t appeal to me as being any better than the country artists who has been on before her.

    Also what makes me think that TPTB are pushing for another country win…look at the one’s who are in the bottom three and who have already gone, they are letting good talent leave for the sake of one for the win!

    Erika, Elise, Hollie, and Jessica are all really good singers who I am afraid will see the same fate as Erica and Shannon, all for another country win, especially since Lauren didn’t pull it off last year.

  16. I’t odd that I find myself thinking about my least favorite of the girl contestants, Skylar, more than the others. The first time I heard her I had to turn the TV down and found her mega-twang very irritating. I’m not a fan of excessively twangy country singers, even though many of them have very nice voices, like Reba or Jennifer Nettles for example. I have to agree with you about her drive, intensity and performance abilities though. Although I have wanted to hear her sing a song without the boot stomping’ and fist pumping, “Wind Beneath Your Wings” didn’t work for me. She did a few things in her duet with Colton that I thought were brilliant. The first was the way she chose to dress. Very tasteful dress with heels and no boots, much like early dolly from the Porter Wagner days. Second, she showed a great deal of restraint in not over powering Colton and doing her part of bringing a good blend to the harmonies. But for me, the best part was she found a new Dolly, one that I have hoped to see for a long time. There are many Dolly’s, Mountain Dolly, Early Dolly, Trio Dolly, Vegas Dolly, Hollywood Dolly and many more. This song was from Vegas Dolly, the one Dolly that I just can’t watch or listen to and the one that mainstream pop audiences are most familiar with. I love Mountain Dolly and Early Dolly, the writer of songs straight from the heart of the person who lived them and the singer who sings in her beautiful natural voice and who has no rival as a harmony singer. Skylar managed to find a Dolly that lies somewhere between Mountain Dolly and Vegas Dolly and her rendition of this song was the first time that I have heard it that I liked it. She out Dollyed Dolly.

    Well fortunately Hollie dodged the bullet last night and will survive to perform again. Maybe Haley will give her a call and help her turn the criticism into her next great performance. There is a level of performance where the judges show themselves to be fools when they harshly criticize it. That’s the performance that Hollie has to deliver. Maybe she needs an imaginary friend to sing to and with on stage. She was great in the duo and trio format. This may sound slightly inappropriate, but it’s not when you think about it. The best thing that Hollie has done recently for her image as a budding pop star was wearing the shorts and heels last night. Wow girl; who knew? Being tastefully fashionable is a big part of being a pop star; score one for the Hollie girl. On a more serious note, I think they were right to criticize her, but not for the picky, minor technical elements. I think she has a problem beyond the issues that we see in her solo performances and that is her voice may lack distinction and the ability to be instantly recognizable. Some of that is in a person’s tone that they are born with and some is in their style. Think “Reba” for a minute. That may be the biggest key to success that a singer can have. I heard more of her Britt flavor in the last performance than before but it doesn’t jump up and say Hollie in the same way that Skylar’s tone and style do. Jessica is lacking in the distinction area as well to my ear.

    Which brings me to my girl Elise. She is the grown up of the bunch but she needs a little help with those fashion choices. I’m glad she survived the ‘80s fiasco. Hopefully she will find good material in the next theme and will resist the temptation to over use some of her vocal tricks and just sing the song. Her iTunes version of this week’s song is actually pretty good and I would agree about halfway with Jimmy on the choke comment. Part of the problem she had was in the short format of the stage version. Even the ‘80s offered better material for her but that wasn’t it.

    It was great to see Kelli Pickler last night. She is one of my guilty pleasures, and I too love that girl. Kelli is another singer who can actually sing pretty well, has a decent voice, but messes it up with excessive style elements. She’s had several good songs and averages about four strong songs per CD. IMHO, She was one of the very best contestants ever on Idol and maybe one of the smartest. Always entertaining, sang better than expected, knew how to deflect criticism by agreeing with them in an apologetic way. Vonnie, the last time I looked, and this was last season, Kelli had sold more albums than Adam Lambert!

  17. Hey Gene,

    Loved your post and agree with you on everything…as for Adam, I don’t know what say…it went downhill fast with him.

    Womever the original guy is from Queen, had a sit down interview and made a comment about Adam; he said either you are an activist or a musician you can’t be both, no one knew that Freddie was gay until he got sick! For Freddie it was about the music.

    Adam’s mad world, will be forever in my mind, but he has lost me as a potential purchaser of his music.

    While Kelli was not one of my favorites I must say I did enjoy the show with her on there, and last night she was the all grown up Kelli, a littlemote twang than I like, but I thought she sounded really good!

    The hubby finds her pretty fascinating too! ;-)

    I think with the country thing Shannia brought a didn’t sound to the table and easily crossed over voice, as does Carrie. One of the things I like about Allison Craus, pure vocals without the nasally flavoring!!!

  18. Okay! I shall translate now!

    “Little more”
    “Different sound”

  19. Vonnie,
    I’ll start at the end of your comments. Guess where I was last night? The wife and I joined two of my brothers and sisters in law to see (wait for it) Allison Krause. You could be on the phychic hot line. She is always superb but in our concert hall the show was unbelievably good. She has a tradition of doing a long encore set where the group gathers around a single mike , old school style, and sings several songs. There are several gospel numbers and here break out Keith Whitley cover of “When you say nothing at all.” All of that was to say that she sang “Down to the River to Pray” acapela, as she did for the movie soundtrack for “O Brother, Where art Thou?” and Vonnie, this is no exaggeration, it was truly the voice of an angel that seemed to go right through me. Unbelievable. The only way it could have been better would be for the room to go pitch black with total silence for about 10 minutes following the song to let the last reverberation sink in.

    Kellie is attractive and all, and that’s not lost on me, but that’s not why I like her. It’s just her uplifting spirit. She’s one of those rare people that make you smile when you see them coming. I’ve only had the pleasure to know a few of them in my entire lifetime. You could see it last night in the way she went over to the Idol’s sofa and made herself at home and addressed each of them. No other guest in my memory has done that. She’s a fun girl and she loves her old granddaddy that took her in when she needed a home. Unless he has passed away recently, she brought him to her home as soon as she began to enjoy success. She also has been overseas several times to entertain the troops and I’m sure no one does it better. So despite the image, she’s a good girl with a good heart. And yes she was bringing some twang with an unhealthy dose of syrup to boot, but the song had those great country lyrics that you have to love. Kellie is 8th on the list with all but two of those placing above her being winners and at least four winners finishing behind her.

    Adam’s lifestyle was no secret but the over the top, in your face approach to advertising it was a sure way to limit his market. You make a good point there. That said, he is viewed by a large enough number of Idol fans as the best of the Idol contestants that you would think his sales would exceed Kellie’s. Adam is in 13th place, ahead of two winners. Kellie’s sales approach twice his. You should look at the list at Wikipedia sometime. The low sales numbers of some of the contestants is shocking. Kelli has more than three times the sales of Katherine McPhee.

  20. Oh! Gene my envy runs deep, Allison has the purest voice that I have ever heard, she truly has the voice of an angel…Blessed you are!

    Wouldn’t it be great if Idol had Allison as a mentor?

    I’m really not surprised that Adam is that low on the list, I think right out of the gste at the music awards he sealed his fate.

  21. Gosh, please forgive all of the typo’s…I got a new gadget and I can’t run the darn thing.

  22. Vonnie,
    It was a blessing. I felt like Fred G Sanford a few times; “take me now Lord, take me now.”

    They will never have her on Idol but it is an interesting notion.

    This year she moved into a tie with Quincy Jones for the second highest number of Grammy’s won by an individual and first place for female artist. This is for all time since the inception of the Grammy’s in 1958. Remarkable given the competition during that time period.

    Yeah, that award show you referred to wasn’t a great career move for the boy wonder.

    What sort of new fangled gizmo you typing on?

  23. Gene,

    I got me one of them there Nook Tablets…only enough room for one finger on the keypad, which lends itself to hunting and pecking, all that keyboard training has gone out the window. Technology may be advancing but it sure does feel like I am going backwards…it feels like it takes me hours to type one sentence now.

    Let’s just say with this method of typing I couldn’t respond in a hurry if I needed to!

    WOW! Allison’s grammy list is very impressive! Does she have a new album out now?

    Yeah! Adam has not done himself any favors that’s for sure. What a voice he has; I still think that had he started off with covers he would have done alot better, his first single should have been Mad World, and then One…

  24. Vonnie,
    One large finger on the keyboard at a time. That’s hilarious! I know what you mean. I didn’t have any formal keyboard training but I can use four or five fingers at the same time when i put my mind to it. I was in line at the courthouse for 5 hours a few weeks ago and my line mate, a young woman who was a texting addict, had a most impressive two thumb style. It looked like she was doing some exotic form of massage on her keyboard.

    Yes, Allison has an album that has been out about six months called Paper Airplane that’s pretty good. I mentioned yesterday that her breakout song was a Keith Whitley song. I have only one Kelli Pickler song that I downloaded, and it too is a Keith Whitley cover “Don’t Close Your Eyes” which his widow Lori Morgan also covered very nicely. Or conversation about Kelli prompted me to preview her new album on iTunes and anyone who likes traditional country music from around the 60’s will love this album. There are several really good songs on it.

    My rule is any new artist should have three well chosen covers on their first album. I’ve heard some young fans who think their guy is too good for covers, but they are not. It’s worked for the biggest names in the business who were /are better than whoever “there guy “ is. It gives the new artist a link, an instant association, with the type of music and musician that they have covered. “Cred” if you will. Plus, it can expand the new artist fan base to include the fans of the original song. If all you can do are covers, you are in trouble. That’s a different case altogether.

  25. Gene, why would Adam’s sales exceed Kellie’s? She’s released three albums in the country market – the last bastion of the physical CD buyer. Adam Lambert is credited with 830K+ of his debut album – an album that has also sold well throughout Asia, Australia and Europe, while Kellie has sold around 1,400K of three albums in the US, with no signifcant sales outside of the US. And her latest album has sold all of 64K.

  26. Gene,

    I have an artist for you to take a listen too, she is a contemp christian singer, her name is Candi Pearson; look up her singing Amazing Love and He Leadeth Me! I don’t know how you feel about christian music but she has the most beautiful voice that I have ever heard and her song Amazing Love is absolutly gorgeous!

  27. Vonnie,
    Yes I do like Christian music, but like other genres, some of it speaks to me more than others. I tend to like traditional Christian music, like the Whites or the Cox family, The Isaacs or that with a bluegrass basis or feel to it, but I’m not limited to that type. I also like artist who do both Christian and secular music like Kathy Troccoli, Rhonda Vincent, The Whites, Rickey Skaggs, Vince Gill, Alison Kraus and so on. I am not a fan of most praise and worship music because it begins to feel like mindless chanting or Christian Rock, but there are exceptions to everything. I have no problem with others who enjoy the formats that I don’t if that is how the message reaches their heart.

    I watched the videos you mentioned from Candi Pearson. The live versions I found featured her with a Bluegrass style band. It was pretty good stuff. Thank for the recommendation. Are you able to get high speed internet at home now?
    I hope you had a nice Easter; I know we did.

  28. Gene,

    I can get high speed now, I have a mifi…it works really well, we are in the process of building a new house and where we are building has towers realitively close, so I get great service there, and will be looking to purchase a new lap top when we move. My nook is great for reading and facebooking, but lacks abilities that I need.

    I gave my desktop to my son, so I am just using my nook, surfing the net gets a little hairy at times, but I can download any video now!

    Glad you liked Candi Pearson, she has a pretty voice. I like pretty much all contemp christian and love praise and worship! Have you ever listened to Jason Gray? He’ s really good too!

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