By: Rosanne Simunovic
I will keep this short and sweet! This week’s Top 4 Performance Show was excellent.
But where did the Big Band Theme disappear to? There was never a theme more entertaining and more challenging than that particular genre of music.
The phrasing elements, the lyrical and melodic content, the expressive performing style from that musical era are fundamental to a singer’s development – like building blocks for then vocal artist.
However, it was a great show and, although I didn’t critique the ensemble numbers, I thought all were great. I don’t know why the judges didn’t like Hollie and Jessica’s duo because I thought it was magical – swings and all. Oh well! To each their own.
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.
Hollie Cavanaugh. Jessica Sanchez,
Strengths: Hollie – your first song was a surprising song choice – but a superb one. I loved how you took your time with this number, just let it flow easily from your mouth and body.
You genuinely immersed yourself in this performance and felt every word. The expressive dimension in this number was heartfelt and real – a trademark in all your performances.
Your phrasing – long and fluid – was testament to your sublime diaphragmatic skills and your innate musicality. Those vowels were wonderfully pure and cohesive as you focused your voice in your vocal masque.
What more can one ask from a singer? Not much! Great work, Hollie!
Your second song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was beautifully performed. Once again, the phrasing during this number was impeccable and extremely musical.
Again – great work, Hollie! Congratulations.
Critique: Hollie – in your first song, the lower notes in the word faithfully disappeared. Make sure you support through your lower range and dig into this area of your voice. It is so important to incorporate head voice in your lower range. By doing so, your contralto voice will have presence and clarity.
And remember to use the consonants as springboards for the vowels. This fundamental is important throughout your range but particularly the lower as singers tend to ignore or forget this part of their range when applying diaphragmatic support. Articulation of consonants add celery and direction for the voice.
Also, watch that quivering jaw. That signifies tension in your facial muscles. You must trust those diaphragmatic muscles to craft your sound. They always do, so you have nothing to fear.
Finally, as much as I liked the slow tempo at first, it seemed to drag at some point in the song. This was not your fault, mind you. But, I think the tempo could have gone up a notch or two. Thank heavens you have strong vocal control to elongate those phrases.
You second song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, was an unfortunate song choice. Everything sounded just a bit one-dimensional. I didn’t hear enough inflection in your singing voice and, with this song in particular, you really need to add this element big time!
Also, why choose another ballad? You needed to change up the tempo for your second number. Part of me sensed that you were not convinced in your heart of hearts that this was the song for you. What a shame. Who told you to sing two slow numbers? I can’t believe that this was your sole decision.
Still and all, you are an exemplary singer! Kudos to you, Hollie!
Strengths: Jessica – your first song, “Steal Away” was a strong selection for you. I loved the sultry vibe you adopted for this number. Perfect! And the vocal dimension you incorporated during this number was outstanding. A little grit, intermingled with pure head voice, some growling here and there – you sprinkled this song with loads of nuance and inflection.
And then there was your seamless performing style. You moved with ease and grace on that stage, all the while balancing the choreographic movements with the vocal delivery to perfection. This was a well-paced, flawless performance. Brava, Jessica! This was a stellar example of consummate style and substance!
Your second song, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” was a huge number in scope and substance. And this might be one of the most spectacular performances I have ever seen on this show. Your phrasing – oh my goodness – you sustained these incredible long lines, going from high to low then to high without taking a breath.
And, how did you just stand there and sing this? All this emotion pouring out of you and you never moved, just poured your big heart and soul into this number.
The determination and confidence behind this performance was extremely inspiring. Boy, when you mean business, you mean it! You communicated this song like a pro, driving the lyrics home to the listener.
This was an absolutely first class performance all the way! Brava and Standing “O” Jessica. This is one of those times where standing ovations actually mean something. Such a stellar moment on that stage!!
Critique: Jessica – both songs were brilliantly performed. I found nothing more to add to make these performances better. They were well-rehearsed, technically sound performances.
However, I would caution you to pay closer attention the formation of your mouth. Make very certain that you adopt a circular formation when sustaining every vowel. The “ay” and “ee” vowels can be tricky in this respect because it is natural to assume a horizontal spread to the mouth with these particular vowels.
But keeping the “ah” vowel central to ALL vowels is key here. By doing so, it will add a seamless quality to your vocal line and heighten the depth in your voice. Additionally, your voice will be perfectly centered.
However, all in all, no one can take away the fact that your dual showcase was nothing short of brilliant. Congratulations once again, Jessica!
Strengths: Joshua – like Hollie, I was surprised at your first song choice, “You Raise Me Up”. It is quite removed from your natural R&B style, so good for you for moving outside your comfort zone. And I was interested to see how you were going to approach this number. Excited actually!
So, I was not surprised to hear that gospel-tinged element in the musical accompaniment. The arrangement was perfect and distinctive – a testament to your singular vocal style.
Thank you for reining in the screaming this week. Kudos. I love when you bless us with your pure bell-like voice. A little gravel is all we need. It goes a long way.
However, your performance was very expressive and loaded with vocal dimension and color. This is where you do excel, Joshua. You have an inherent musical gift that wraps easily around the original melodic line, bending it a little here and there with just the correct amount of variation so as not to detract from the native score.
Your second number, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, was quite the stage production with the brass band, string orchestra and all. And, I loved the vocal nuances you added in this number. Outstanding! Even the screaming worked this time, although, between you and me, you didn’t really need it.
And where did that head voice come from? That’s the way you do it. This performance was loaded with physical and vocal charisma and left me speechless. You are quite the magician – do you have any more vocal surprises tucked into your back pocket? I guess I will have to wait and see next week.
Critique: Joshua – in your first song, “You Raise Me Up”, you finally got it right – vocally and emotionally. There was a near-perfect balance between the head and chest voice.
Now, mind you, if you had rounded out that mouth while sustaining those vowels, the richness and resonance of your vocal sound would have been heightened.. For me, your vocal timbre was still lacking depth and, by adopting a circular position to your mouth, you would have noticed and felt the difference immediately.
Additionally, your vocal sound would have achieved better focus. I felt that, during the early stages of this song, you lost your center. And the less defined articulation skills diminished the energy in your voice. Remember – always articulate those consonants, particularly when you sing through your lower range and/or a softer dynamic.
Now, with your second number, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, this was all about the artistry. However, technique is important and I think that once you have time – and you must make the time – to hone and refine your technical skills, you will enjoy a greater sense of security when you sing.
Because, in the end, you cannot resort to vocal screaming when you want to sing with more passion and verve. Your vocal cords will develop nodules and that would be an unfortunate end to your career.
However, the stage was yours this week and I congratulate you on two memorable performances. Bravo!
Strengths: Phillip – your first song, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, was a good choice for you. And I always appreciate seeing you perform without the guitar. It allows us to see a different side to your performing persona and it challenges you to focus on the vocal delivery.
For visual dimension, the blonde sax player was back in full force. Yay for her! Is that the same gal who performs with Rod Stewart all the time? Ha!
But, I digress! I loved the relaxed arrangement of this song, as it made it possible for you to incorporate a fluid rhythmic feel to your performing vibe.
Your second song, “Volcano” was unfamiliar territory for me so I was intrigued at what I was going to experience. And, I have to say that I loved it. It was a nice change of pace from all the power singing we were hearing this week from the others.
I loved the visual aspects in this number – with the back-up singer facing you via some nifty camera work. Very nicely done indeed!
This was a deep, dark number. And you adopted an introspective approach to this number. Very sensitive and tender. This is not an easy number – it has to be spoken through the singing voice.
You dig deep, Phillip, and, although the vocals were not perfect, sometimes, with a song like this, that was almost a good thing. It adds to the tortured nature of the song. It is one of those numbers where interpretation is key.
You were innately expressive and might I say real via this performance. I felt that I was gaining a glimpse not only into your soul but also the depth of your artistry.
Very good work, Phillip!
Critique: Phillip – in your first number, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, you encountered some pitch problems while singing through your upper range. You were reaching for the notes instead of singing over them.
And that horizontal mouth of yours is driving me cra-a-zy! Circular and relaxed is the way to go when sustaining vowels. And, coupled with strong diaphragmatic support, your voice would have soared to unimaginable heights – free as a bird.
There is so much tension in your facial muscles that the resonators located in your facial masque are obliterated, thus decreasing the full scope of what you are able to accomplish as a singer.
Also, why stay glued to the mike stand? This just increased the tension in your body. It was an upbeat song so I don’t know why you didn’t take the opportunity to move along the stage, establishing stronger communication with your audience?
Perhaps it was your ill health? If so, then it is very understandable and you did remarkably well considering your circumstances.
Your second song, “Volcano” was brilliantly performed. Again, you need to work on the technical aspects listed above for this song as well. However, I was so taken with your artistic intent during this number that I gave you a pass, albeit a temporary one.
Take care of your health and that voice, Phillip. You do have a wonderful career in your future but make sure you rest and regroup once this show is over so that you can regain your strength for the tour.