By: Rosanne Simunovic
I absolutely love the music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Yes, it is not current, but the melodies and the lyrics are timeless. The stuff of true classics! And, the fact that they stand the test of time is testament to the writing talent of these legendary composers.
Their songs provided ample contrast to the Top 6 personal selections, dubbed from a list of “songs which they wrote”. I am not sure how much input some of the Idols had in these song selections but, overall, this grouping of songs suited their individual styles quite well.
It was also great to hear songs that have never been performed on American Idol, so it looks like the producers took up a money collection to obtain copyright clearance for some new songs for the show.
However, it was still a bit ballad – heavy for my taste. What is going on this season? Enough with the ballads already!
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: Amber – I thought both songs were perfect for your voice. And the kicker was that they were both upbeat songs, so after weeks of ballads, we were able to enjoy a more energetic style of performing from you. Brava!
Your first number, “I Say A Little Prayer”, is, of course, classic Bacharach. Originally performed by the great Dionne Warwick, this song was a natural fit for you. You looked so relaxed during this number and you navigated the stage just the way I like to see it – andante, well-paced movement, indicating that the choreography never got in the way of the vocal delivery.
And the star power in your performing style and the level of confidence and skill you brought to this number was incredible. Incredible! You never pushed your vocal sound – it oozed from your golden throat. You have such vocal power and control and, yet, never seem to throw it in our face. Everything you do looks and feels so natural.
The manner in which you bent the phrases, especially toward the end of the song, was magically creative. Except for a few vocal glitches at the end of the song, which I will discuss below in the Critique section, I have to say this was a spectacular performance!
During your second number, “Love On Top”, you highlighted all the reasons why I have come to admire your performing style. Not only do you have an exquisite vocal instrument, but you also have a glamorous performing style that one has come to associate with a select grouping of artists like Beyonce, for example.
She approaches her music with a classical bent in her delivery and I see this in you as well. The head voice never strays far from your vocal mix and you sustain your vowels and elongate your phrase lines with continued ease.
You performed this song with a sense of joy and energy – it was palpable. I loved how those upper notes just popped out – like no big deal. You paced this song extremely well and always had control of the vocal reins.
Congratulations Amber! You gave us two fantastic performances this week. Brava!
Critique: Amber – oh I wish you would round your mouth on the “ee” vowels. Those upper notes on the word “me” toward the end of this song were a bit off-balanced and there was a slight crack on one note in particular.
You really do need to round your mouth when sustaining this – or any – vowel, as the circular shape will keep your throat open and free. This will assist your voice to move freely toward your vocal masque via proper diaphragmatic support. Let the air guide the delivery of your vocal sound at all times.
You want to achieve an even sound with all your vowels and the only way to do this is too keep that circular mouth shape a constant. And, along with this, your jaw must stay relaxed, dropping into a half yawn effect when you approach your higher range.
Bend your knees as well when approaching your upper range – this technique raises the soft palate, allowing the vocal sound to move freely from your mouth.
During the second number, that mouth shape was still not making me happy; however, this song was a little busier in the melodic line, so you never had to sustain notes for a long period of time.
How you were able to “pop out” those upper notes is just a God given natural ability. But! But! You are young and as the voice matures, it tends to deepen and those high notes don’t just magically appear any more. This is why technique is so darn important.
Singers have to approach their craft similar to an athlete. The vocal cord is a muscle and, when we are young, all our muscles are very flexible and resilient. But, over time, this resilience is tested and only innate technical skills can further all they we could naturally achieve when we were kids.
However, Amber, you are a very strong contender in this competition and I envision great things for you in your future. Congratulations young lady! You are star bound!
Strengths: Angie – although both of your songs were ballads, you selected two numbers that reinforced the reason why you are such a strong force in this competition.
Your first number, “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, is an oldie but goodie. There is so much emotional power in the lyrics and the rhythmic drive of the melody reinforces this powerful force.
Your voice glistened throughout this number. You never forced your vocal sound and I so appreciated this. Your vocal sound was veryseamless and fluid.
And your articulation was crystal clear. No matter what Mariah says, articulation is very important for two reasons: the words are communicated with clarity and it imparts energy and drive to the vocal delivery.
Your second number, “Love Came Down” by Christian artist, Kari Jobe, is a first for American Idol and, of course, reminded everyone the direction you wish to take with your performing career.
Seated at the piano, your voice was resplendent with a hushed intensity at the beginning of this number. Then, when you opened up, all the emotion and sensitivity came pouring out.
The second song was proof that choosing a song that you truly believe in is absolutely integral to performing success. And, although it makes absolute sense, so many performers try to be something they are not.
When a performer strays from the true core of their artistry, he/she is not only betraying himself/ herself and but also confusing his/her audience.
Therefore, you chose two numbers that played to your strength as a vocalist. As I said last week, you have to stay true to your artistic vision and ignore the critics who don’t get where you are going with your music.
I saw no evidence of artifice in your emotional approach. I thought that, with both numbers, you communicated the emotional core extremely well, allowing your sensitive head voice to glimmer throughout.
The head voice element has become a signature sound with you, Angie, and in a world full of belters and chest voice fanatics, the angelic quality of your vocal sound is not only a welcome relief but also necessary for vocal resilience and longevity.
And, combined with proper diaphragmatic breathing skills, head voice is also responsible for developing and strengthening numerous technical elements such as pitch, nuance, vocal focus and resonance etc.
So, all in all, you performed your dual showcase extremely well. Great work, once again!
Critique: Angie – I think all the critique about your supposed theatrics and technical acuity is starting to negatively impact your performances, especially in your first song.
As a result, I found you were very tentative while performing your Burt Bacharach number, almost like you were over- thinking the process or else worried that you were going to be too emotional.
All I know is that something was clearly wrong. As I said, above, I didn’t feel that you were so much trying to conjure up false or pre-planned emotion as, perhaps, guarding against over-doing the emotional delivery.
As a result, the judges called you on this, telling you that the song lacked emotional substance when, truth be told, to me it just looked like you were trying to strike a proper balance between emoting in a genuine manner vs. being overly dramatic.
So, I was relieved when I saw you in your element during the second number, seated at the piano and performing a song that was truly part of your artistic make-up. You are a Christian Music artist and there is a huge market for your music. So, you must never waver from that. This is what sets you apart from the pack.
Also, part of me wondered what would have happened had you performed your Burt Bacharach number seated at the piano? I think we would have sensed a more relaxed, genuine vibe from you because clearly your voice and your performing skills escalate dramatically when you are behind the keys.
So, here is something to think about for next week. Try beginning a song at the piano and, then, to add visual interest, stand up midway through the song and make your way to center stage.
I know – I can almost hear the judges saying: “Why didn’t you stay at the piano”? But, in all honesty, even out greatest singer/pianists – Elton John, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow etc.- move way from the piano at some point during their shows, if for no other reason than to establish a closer connection with their audience.
So, I have, hopefully, given you some food for thought for next week, Angie. You are a gifted musician and will only get better with hard work and experience.
Excellent work this week! Kudos!
Strengths: Candice – your first number, “Don’t Make Me Over” by Burt Bacharach was written in 1962 for the great Dionne Warwick. It was her first recording -ever – and it is a blockbuster of a song.
And, it was a perfect song for you! In fact, the punctuated style of the phrases reminded me so much of your Top 10 performance of “I Who Have Nothing”, where you pretty much brought down the house!
The power behind every phrase can only be emphasized by a singer who possesses a consummate vocal gift and ability to tell a story. Yes, I am speaking of you, Candice.
You drove the momentum hard in this song, each phrase sounding more powerful than the next. There was a forward momentum in place at all times and it grabbed the listeners eyes, ears and heart.
And I loved hearing the clarity of your head voice, nicely exposed and centred. This was a performance steeped in nuance and inflection and it does not get better than this.
Your second number, the jazzy and soulful “Love Song” by The Cure/Adele, provided sharp contrast to your Bacharach number. Your rich vocals were still very evident but you relaxed the sustaining technique just right so as to convey a more subtle and intimate delivery.
You have an innate ability to change the sound and inflection in your voice to suit the style of the song you are singing. It’s unbelievable really! i hear a different voice coming from you with each song and, yet, it is all pure Candice.
This song was brimming with every level of nuance. And those ascending and descending glissandos during this song were exceptionally done. They exposed how vast your vocal range is and how even it is from top to bottom. You made it sound easier than it was.
And, we could feel the emotion coming through your voice – it guided every level of this performance and there were many levels of greatness achieved with every word or phrase that you vocalized.
It was so outstanding, so multi-dimensional and, guess what? You never had to move from your place on the stage to communicate and touch your listeners. Your confident, nuanced voice and magnetic stage presence did all this for you!
I honestly have to say that I have rarely heard a performance as good as yours on this show. Good? It was beyond good, great, excellent, extraordinary. It was a performance of distinction and one that signalled greatness.
For all of us watching, it was an exciting, riveting experience because we were witnessing a mega star unfold before our eyes.
Your voice, your artistry are gifts from God. You were put on this earth to achieve great things with your voice and this is most definitely the start of something very huge in your life, Candice. Brava!! A Masterclass Performance x 2!
Critique: Candice – technically and artistically, both songs were insanely stellar.
I was hoping that you would perform an upbeat number this week. Two ballads just didn’t cut it for me, especially knowing that you can perform uptempo numbers with great success. So, that was somewhat disappointing from my end
However, if you are going to sing two ballads, you just showed everyone how to do so with signature style and substance. You just gave two Masterclass Performances in one night and I bow to you m’lady. Standing O O O!!
Strengths: Janelle – overall I feel that you gave a very strong performance of both songs.
Your first song, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, was very well done. You walked around with freedom and ease on and off the stage, and that voice – that voice – was pitch perfect. You picked the absolute perfect key for your voice, signalling what a difference a tone or semi-tone makes.
You sang this song with tons of personality and proved to the viewers that you feel absolutely comfortable in front of a live audience.
In your second song, “The Dance”, you captured the perfect mood for this song from beginning to end. And I loved the visual dimension – rising from a seated to a standing position. I wish more singers had done the same this week.
You emoted this song so well. And your voice glimmered like crystal. That head voice is your ace in the whole – it never strays far from your vocal mix, does it? As a result,your voice always sounded centred and beautifully focused during both numbers.
All in all, you gave two solid performances! Good work, Janelle!
Critique: Janelle – I actually enjoyed your Bacharach number and cannot find anything to nitpick here – unlike the judges! Ha!
If anything, I would have to say that it was too fluffy for you – not enough substance or filler, if you get my drift. It started and then it ended. There was not enough happening in the middle.
In retrospect, it might have been a good idea if you had re-arranged the tempo. You certainly have the arranging smarts to do so, as you have proven in the past! How much more effective this song would have been had you started with a slower tempo – perhaps a cappella – then picked up the speed with instrumentation after the first four lines!
And, what happened to your sidekick – the guitar – during your second number? You should have used your guitar skills to remind us that – yes – you are a consummate musician. It was such an intimate, quiet song and this would have been the perfect opportunity to use this instrument. In fact, I was expecting it and I am sure I was not alone here.
Even during last week’s showcase, I was wondering why you did not use your guitar to reinforce the country-style genre in your performing style. Strange to see this two weeks in a row.
However, your voice sounded expressive and secure but artistic decisions made with the first song selection detracted from the overall success of this dual showcase – as well as the lack of guitar in the second!
Hope to see you back where you should be next week, Janelle, with guitar in place. We know you can move around and connect in a very tangible manner. It’s all good. But now it’s time to bring out the guitar and remind us once again why you were selected for this Top 10 in the first place!
Good luck next week, Janelle!
Strengths: Kree – your first song, “What The World Needs Now” was a smart song selection. It is such a classic and extremely relatable to the listener.
I loved the a cappella beginning, the way you played with your phrases. I think this is what impressed me the most about this song. You sang freely and unimpeded – wrapping your voice so beautifully around this lovely melodic line.
You effortlessly built the dynamic level in your voice, all the while not compromising the translucent quality in your voice.
Technically, I could not ask for better – that round mouth, the relaxed jaw, the wonderful sustaining quality of your voice – all these elements were there in living color.
I had goosebumps after this performance. The simplicity and beauty of your vocal and performing style was so genuine, so real.
For me, it was your absolute best performance to date.
Your second song, “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, was similar in style to your first – very exposed in melodic and lyrical content. And, again, you took this song where it should go – straight into our hearts.
As in the first song, I applaud your relaxed jaw and the manner in which you glued your vowels to the melodic line. There was always a forward momentum throughout this performance and the phrases were nicely stretched and fluid.
Very good work, indeed, Kres!
Critique: Kree – your first song was just stellar and you are “Kree-tique” free. Emotionally, perhaps, I could have used a little more variation in nuance, but, still, all in all, it was a technically clean performance.
Now, during you second song, I absolutely needed a more nuanced approach. I was looking for more inflection in your voice, more angst perhaps, as well as increased emotional revelation in your face and eyes. I didn’t feel that you were connected to the song at all – it just lay there!
You really needed to dig deeper with this kind of number; I felt that your expressive vocal sound remained on one level – safe and secure. But, to render memorable performances, a singer needs to take risks and you have not fully challenged yourself to do so.
Every song sounds the same to my ear and, even your performing style remains unchanged from number to number. I am waiting for a “knock-out” performance from you, Kree, because I know you can do it. You just have to believe the you can do it!
Although both performances were technically good, they felt too sterile and I was left wanting more.
Good luck next week, Kree.
Strengths: Lazaro – your first song, “(They Long To Be) Close To You” is an absolutely beautiful song and it worked very well for your sensitive performing style. I wish I could give you more positives but, honestly, I cannot. You either need to work much harder or realize that you may have limitations to how far you can succeed as a serious vocalist.
Your second song, “Angels”, was a strong song choice and I feel that you were emotionally connected to this song. Seeing that you did have a hand in this selection, then it is no wonder that you performed this song with more conviction.
Your voice sounded more energetic and resonant, although still lacking in the control that I was looking for. But, it is amazing that, when equipped with the right song material, you are able to open up and give a more meaningful performance.
Good work, Lazaro!
Critique: Lazaro – why do you always look so worried? You were dripping in sweat at the end of your songs?
Well, I guess I can answer my own question: you are worried because you came to this competition totally unprepared for what lay ahead of you and not equipped with proper technical skill and savvy to see you through the brutal rehearsals.
You never open your mouth, resulting in poor vocal presence and projection. And your pitch was problematic in both songs because your throat was very tense and constricted.
Additionally, you have not yet discovered the magic of inserting head voice into your vocal mix. Even your chest voice is not being supported properly via the diaphragm.
Basically, you sing whatever comes out of your mouth with little to no thought of how to produce a seamless, nuanced vocal sound – one that is multi-dimensional in range and dynamics.
Also you need to articulate with more precision. You tend to mumble into the microphone and when you hold the mike so close to your mouth, it signals a less confident performing style.
As a result, your vocal delivery lacked energy and purpose. Diaphragmatic support is absolutely necessary at all times, during the louds and softs, the highs and lows.
You need to get on a strict regimen of daily technical practice so you can truly discover the full potential in your singing voice.
Also, you need to go on a searching expedition and explore the history and evolution of pop music. It is very important that you discover the many styles of popular music, if for no other reason than to find a genre that is totally suitable to your singing style.
Yes, this this takes hard work and time and effort, but the preparation will heighten your confidence level so that you can give meaningful and diverse performances in the future.
Good luck, Lazaro!