By: Rosanne Simunovic
Did you enjoy the show this week? I did, although I have to say that some of these singers fared better than others.
But then, what else is new? Nothing is ever predictable from week to week and, without DeAndre in the mix, I feel that the light is burning a little dimmer on that Idol stage.
American Idol really paid a lovely homage to DeAndre. It was touching and lovely but, last time I checked, he was still alive. A touch dramatic Idol? Methinks so.
However, there were a couple or so singers that stepped up to the plate and made a strong impression on the viewers. Well, at least to this viewer.
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.
Strengths: Colton – as always, you brought your own brand of creativity to your Top 7 performance this week. You are a musician’s musician – intelligent and disciplined in your musical approach. No one can argue the vision and detail your bring to each song and, in particular, this Top 7 number
And this week, you managed to channel some of that intelligence and discipline into your vocal technical skills. Kudos!
I loved hearing the sound of your pitch-perfect head voice, which also helped you to establish a seamless connection to your natural range. What a gift this was to this performance and to the listeners.
And where did this round mouth and relaxed jaw come from? Where? Like magic, all the tension from past weeks disappeared and guess what? Your voice had more presence and resonance because of the adjustments you made in your upper body.
It is all about singing via a relaxed and open approach, especially in the chest and facial areas. Below these parts of your body, the applied energy and hard work via the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles takes care of the vocal delivery, similar to what happens when one plays a woodwind or brass instrument.
You are still a work in progress but, all in all, what an amazing improvement from last week’s performance.
Additionally, you sang with sensitive artistry and internalized the musical content in a meaningful way. Very expressive.
It was wonderful to see you at the piano once again. It is important to highlight every dimension of your musicianship. And the addition of the strings was a lovely touch, further strengthening the arrangement.
Congratulations Colton. This was, for me, one of the best of the night! Bravo!
Critique: Colton – I was hoping to see whether or not you achieved relaxation in your jaw and neck area. It was very problematic last week but this week – holy mamma – what an improvement!
I honestly was prepared to write pages of critique here but I am a little lost for words this week.
One thing maybe – make sure that you are more distinct when articulating your consonants, especially when you sing through your lower range or with a quieter dynamic. By doing so, you will increase the intensity and energy of your vocal sound, which has already improved with your newly-discovered technical skills.
I think the judges were ready to jump out of their seats but I feel that, since this standing ovation schtick was so over-played the last few weeks, they were hesitant to do so. But, it was in their hearts and it was in mine.
Kudos on a well-rehearsed and well-researched performance. Keep up the excellent work!
Strengths:Elise – I loved the husky vocals at the beginning of this song. This is your trademark and, when you apply the correct technique, your voice comes alive with character and presence.
In a nutshell, you truly lived this song, translating it into another stellar performance.
And your vowels were very pure on all those “eye” diphthongs which I really appreciated. It was wonderful to see you grab this fundamental element of good technique. You wisely sustained those “eye” diphthongs on the first pure vowel – “ah”. Ah yes, it helps to think British, doesn’t it?
You paced this song extremely well. It felt and looked relaxed and, unlike last week, you maintained absolute control over this song. It never ran away from you but rather stayed within your effortless and expressive guidelines.
You looked worry-free on that stage, totally enjoying and embracing this musical experience. And that is key, isn’t it? To find a song that speaks to your artistry and then generously share it with the rest of the world.
This was a superb comeback performance, Elise! Loved it!
Critique: Elise – be very careful of incorporating too much chest voice to your vocal mix. The clarity and ring of head voice is extremely important and must be central to the quality of your voice through every level of your vocal range.
You have a tendency to push the song forward rather than release it via your diaphragmatic air supply. It may sound corny but it helps to visualize your voice as having wings, flying free from your unconstricted vocal chamber.
You have to trust the strength and ability of your diaphragmatic rib cage muscles. They are there for a reason – to direct and shape your vocal sound through every part of your vocal and dynamic range.
It would help you, I think, to work on specialized sustaining exercises to assist you in discovering your head voice. Start softly, sustaining one note and then focusing your voice in your masque to establish a ringing timbre. Then, apply pressure from the diaphragm to increase the dynamic level of your voice, remembering to keep that head voice in the mix.
This should help and it can be frustrating at first. But, it is worth the effort and is a wonderful way to discover the true potential in your voice. Good luck, Elise!
Strengths: Hollie – my goodness I love your voice like crazy. Your technique, your tone, your delivery – it all comes together for you every time.
I loved the quiet ambience you introduced at the beginning of this song, sitting quietly on the stage alongside your guitarist.
And then, when you stood up to move, you not only added a lovely visual dimension to this number, but also gave your body a chance to free some of that inherent tension that plagues most singers at the top of every performance.
You really worked hard on that stage, Hollie, and I so appreciate your determined effort and strong work ethic. Congratulations!
Critique:Hollie – something was not quite right about this number. It was the first time that I didn’t feel totally relaxed watching you.
First of all, your pitch was not spot on throughout and it had nothing to do with your technique. Well, not fully. First of all, you were over- thinking every single note coming out of your mouth rather than feeling the words coming from your heart.
Secondly, although everything looked good in terms of what we could see – the relaxed jaw, the cohesive vowels, the sustained phase line – it’s what we didn’t see that was problematic for you.
You pushed far too hard when you sustained your notes and, in doing so, you lost some valuable head voice. And without head voice central to your vocal mix, the pitch will falter and it did.
I always tell my singers to sing easily onto a powerfully sustained note and then quickly crescendo once you establish the stability of the head voice. This way you lessen the risk of missing the mark pitch-wise.
Also, stylistically, your approach to this song was misguided. You approached this song like a balladeer and this is an angst-filled rock song. We needed some grit and grime in your vocals.
I am not quite sure if this song was the correct fit for you. In fact, I am certain it was not the correct fit. I was longing for the free and easy Hollie when she sang “I’m So Excited” with DeAndre a couple of weeks ago. This is what we needed to see at this stage of the competition.
However, I am a huge fan of your voice. Always will be. Now pick a fast song next time and pace yourself wisely on stage. Good work, nonetheless!
Strengths: Jessica – I never heard this song before but it doesn’t really matter. You sang the juice out of this song. Seated quietly on top of a grand piano, we all knew that this song was going to be very special.
This song allowed you to show every nuance, every dimension, every facet of your prodigious voice. We heard the highs and lows, the gritty, the husky, the gorgeous head voice, the lyrical.
You told this story like no other. I loved how you crawled inside the song and explored every nook and cranny within the song structure. You are a detailed singer, one who feels the music from the depth of her heart and soul.
What a strong, emotive performance! You never had to leave the piano to connect with your audience. We, instead, were drawn to you and your impeccable, extraordinary talent.
What a showcase! What a talent! Along with Colton and Skylar, the best of the night!
Critique: Jessica – be very careful that you fully support your natural range. I say “fully” because I believe there is a good level of diaphragmatic skill in your technical approach.
But, I did feel that, at times, some head voice was lacking in your mid range. And because the majority of the melodic line sat in that area of your range, you let your guard down.
Melodic repetition does that to the most seasoned singer and you are still so young. There is so much to learn and every song will pose new challenges for you.
When you sing through your mid range, you have to be very careful not to allow the chest voice to take control. I found your voice lacked transparency throughout this song – you almost sounded tired. You have to visually lift your voice when singing through your mezzo range and the clarity will reappear like magic.
However, this performance was all about the artistry and you possess this in spades, Jessica. Brava!
Strengths: Joshua – this was an interesting song choice. Bruno Mars? I wouldn’t have connected that song to you. But, you did a great job with this number.
I loved the choreography and the big band back-up. You really captivated the audience with this performance. No one can ever say that you are a one-trick pony. With this song, you proved that you are capable of many different styles of singing.
And yet, this song was given new life through your particular brand of singing. It spoke to your soulful, retro roots and the uplifting tempo allowed you to showcase your strong performing skills.
You came to this Top 7 performance with a sole purpose: to entertain and capture your audience with your individual style. And, that you did, Joshua! Congratulations!
Critique: Joshua –sorry, I sound like a broken record but I am just not a fan of the screaming vocals. You presently sing with far too much chest voice in your vocal mix.
As a result, your voice doesn’t project with clarity. I found myself straining to hear you over all the instrumental back-up. And, I don’t feel this was a problem with the sound mix. No, the problem lay in the lack of transparency in your vocal quality.
The proper balance between the choreographic and vocal elements needed more attention. I have said this many times but it bears repeating: make sure the vocals are never compromised for the sake of choreography. The technique must be central to the performance.
In the end, the artistry does win the day but the vocals have to be there – front and center – grabbing the prize as well. I just feel that you are presently giving little attention to how you are manufacturing your vocal sound.
Each week, your voice is sounding more tired and less prominent. This means that your technical skills are lacking or cast aside for the sake of “selling a song”. This may be fine and dandy now, but talk to me a year from now and let me know how your voice is faring.
Vocal health is integral to your long term success as an artist. You would be wise to start working on technical exercises that will correctly strengthen your voice, developing it to its full dynamic potential.
Good luck, Joshua!
Strengths: Phillip – when you moved into the more energetic portion of this song, I felt your vocals come alive. Your technique is not the strongest but, what you lack in technical skills, you make up in energy and charisma.
You delivered the song with ease and comfort and with your customary relaxed vibe. You seem pretty relaxed up there on that stage – perhaps too relaxed?
Critique: Phillip – oh dear, your technique needs work. All this tension in your jaw and throat is such a bad road to travel. You, more than anybody left in this competition, need to adopt the yawn effect when you sing.
Although your voice has tons of personality, you need to understand that technique will assist you in developing a wider and healthier vocal range.
A circular mouth and relaxed jaw while sustaining your vowels will encourage you to draw from the strength and support located in your diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Presently, you are pushing your sound via your throat muscles. This bad habit also diminishes the precise pitch quality in your voice.
And I was hoping you would finally put your guitar to rest and just attempt to connect with your audience in a more meaningful way. (sigh) Oh well. And I’m not even sure if you were strumming it correctly at the beginning of this song. (more sighing)
I guess what I am trying to say is that everything is sounding the same from week to week. You, the guitar, standing behind the mike, singing an uptempo song – the act is getting old Phillip and, more than that, your technique is not moving forward.
In order to take this competition seriously, you need to challenge yourself and make us sit up and say: “Wow, we didn’t know he could sing like that”!
For me, that statement hasn’t arrived yet and I am hoping that it will. Question is – are you? Are you up for the challenge?
Good luck, Phillip!
Strengths: Skylar – this was a great song selection. Originally recorded by Kellie Pickler. this really worked for you. You embody some of Kellie’s style and yet are distinctive in your own way.
It was nice to see you accompany yourself on the guitar. It provided lovely contrast to your past performances and reminded us that you have depth as a musician.
Your technical skills are superb – I can find little to criticize in this respect. And, it seems to me that some of the nasal component in your voice – the twang – was less obvious.
You sounded and looked so “in the moment”, performing with confidence and poise. You really live your lyrics, don’t you? This is what defines a true performer.
And, even though you remained stationed behind the microphone, you still managed to strongly connect with your audience. Your phrasing had a forward, fluid momentum that grabbed your audience in a meaningful way. Brava Skylar!
Critique: Skylar – remember to keep your head level when you sing through your upper range. All in all, this was not a huge problem but there was a slight tendency to lift the head when singing through your upper range.
Remember – sing over those notes (mentally) and keep your eyes level with the audience.
However, this was a strong performance – artistically and technically. I could find very little to fault in this number. Along with Colton and Jessica, one of the best of the night. Brava!
Elise and Phillip: “Somebody That I Used To Know”: This was a good combo. Your voices are very similar in quality – gritty, husky and yet endowed with a bit of head voice in the vocal mix. Your harmonies were very good and there was a cute camaraderie between you.
However, I would have preferred if you had not been glued to the microphone stand for the first part of this song. Because the time frame for this number was so short, it really didn’t allow you to fully connect – with each other and with the audience.
And Phillip – it was great to see you minus the guitar for a change. See, that wasn’t too hard was it? And, it’s more fun to grab on to Elise anyway, right? Good work you two!
Colton and Skylar: “Don’t You Wanna Stay”: Even though your styles are entirely different, I do love your voices together. You both have incredible energy when you sing – and so much emotion. Your harmonies were so beautiful and your chemistry was lovely to watch.
It was great to see both of you grabbing your mikes and moving along the stage – and to each other- right from the beginning. I think, because of this, the song resonated very strongly with the audience.
And, unlike last week, this was a more even performance. Colton- you were more in the zone and your voice sounded much stronger and more evenly matched to Skylar’s. Great work!
Hollie, Jessica and Joshua: “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson: This was an interesting trio and you all looked like you were having a great deal of fun. Too much fun in fact? Did you have time to really practice this number?
To my eyes and ears, it looked thrown together at the last minute and, given your time constraints, maybe it was.
The harmonies were not always secure but I think this had to do with the mix of big voices. It seemed that everyone was trying to out-sing the other. The blend is so important in ensemble work and integral to harmonious pitch.
However, Hollie, your descant was incredible. Yet, I felt that your voice worked so much better with DeAndre last week.
Joshua – you need to articulate more clearly and stop screaming at the audience. Use your diaphragm to create and mold your power vocals.
Jessica – you sounded radiant throughout but were some times over-powered by your team-mates.