By: Rosanne Simunovic
Well, this is a first, isn’t it? An all-female Top 5. American Idol achieved their wish and a woman shall win the crown this year.
This was a very entertaining Top 5 showcase. The songs were diverse and, once again, featured songs that have never been performed on Idol. Now, I wish this had been the case from the beginning, but I digress.
Overall, these five young women came equipped with some pretty solid vocal technique considering many of them did say in their bios that they had little or no training.
Therefore, I have to assume that the American Idol vocal coaches are doing a very good job preparing these singers.
So, they have made my job here easier in one way and more difficult in another as I had to resort to picky critiques – dissect the less obvious flaws.
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 really loved both your song choices this week. Both were still locked in the ballad zone, but
Your first song, “Without You”, is more of a power ballad. Even though it does begin very quietly, the meat of the song revolves around higher melodic section of the song where the singer powerfully repeats the refrain up the octave.
This song begins quietly, so I was looking to see how well you intensified and supported this section of the song. The softer, lower melodic line of a song sometimes poses problems for singers but, generally, Amber, you supported and projected this area of your range very well.
However, it was during the second half of this song that your voice really kicked in. There were some “oops” along the way but the last few bars of this song were so brilliantly executed that the intermittent problems you encountered in the beginning became a distant memory.
Your second song, “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”, was performed by the great Barbra Streisand only once – during your Birth Year of 1994. The video of this performance is very rare and, once you watch it, you will see it is an exquisite performance.
This song requires a nuanced, relaxed, narrative approach – one which touches and inspires the hearts of the listeners. The melodic structure has a jazz component and encourages the singer to adopt a free singing style with impeccable phrasing.
And, you, my dear, successfully transferred all of these characteristics in your adaptation of this song. It was just so beautiful and I feel it was your defining moment on this show.
You just sang the juice out of this song – never over singing but just feeling. FEELING! Sometimes a song needs to be caressed and handled with the utmost care – like a package marked fragile.
This was one of those songs; you inherently knew that less was more while realizing that there are varying degrees of “less”. The inflection in your voice, the gentle manner in which you moulded the phrases, the genuine connection to the lyrics – all of these elements were key to the successful adaptation of your Top 5 performance.
You are most definitely a glamorous star in the making! Standing O and Brava and Kudos and all that jazz!
Critique: Amber – okay, you seriously need to work on strengthening that diaphragmatic support because there was a point midway though your first song where I felt you were going to zoom off the tracks.
Part of your problem is that your technique was not consistent and so your chest voice overwhelmed your head voice. And that horizontal spread in your mouth just added fuel to the fire.
The circular mouth position and relaxed jaw keeps your throat open and free and encourages you to call on the support from your diaphragmatic muscles.
Also, you need to play closer attention to how well you are supporting and projecting the lower end of your voice. You have to adopt a speaking inflection in your voice when singing through your lower range. Articulate the words – this will add energy and focus to your voice.
During your Barbra Streisand number, although I was swept away by the magic of this very special performance, I was aching for more head voice in your vocal texture, similar to what we heard at the very end of this song where you flawlessly skimmed the soprano register with that mini-run.
However, during the main portion of this song, this head voice was missing in action.
That spread mouth position is the culprit and I really hope beyond hope that you will work on rounding out that mouth and relaxing that jaw. This will add increased depth and clarity to your voice, allowing your voice to resonate with more freedom and ring in the texture.
And use your diaphragm!! Please! And use your diaphragm to incorporate more of that head voice in every level of your range.
But, honestly, Amber, in my mind, you will have a great career whether or not you win this competition. Just make sure you pay heed to the development of your technical skills to ensure a confident and healthy vocal career.
Strengths: Angie -Your first number, “I’ll Stand By You”, is a classic and how sensitive of you to dedicate this song to the victims in the Boston tragedy. Your hometown! So sad!
Once again, we were treated to a performance with you seated at the piano and I think everyone is in agreement that this is where you truly shine. It’s almost as though you get lost in the sound coming from your voice and fingers – whatever the reason, it works.
This was a genuine, real, heartfelt performance. Your voice was so angelic and yet so powerful. And, I was so impressed with your piano skills – very expressive.
Technically, you were in the zone. Your mouth was round, your throat open and free and your phrasing elements were very musical and creative.
And your voice was so nuanced and free. Just spectacular! You truly deserved that standing O Angie.
Your second number, “Halo”, was another stellar song choice. The song was very well suited to the glimmering clarity of your voice.
Similar to this song’s original artist, Beyonce, you have a classical – pop sound to your voice which is extremely important to this song’s delivery. The head voice has to be central to the vocal timbre so it is free to shine on its own when the singer navigates those classical runs.
And you navigated those runs so well, Angie! Your head voice was clear and centered, resulting in an even and uncluttered vocal delivery. Gorgeous!!
And how refreshing to hear an energetic and focused sound in your lower range. Crisply articulated words and great support.
This was a passionate, exceptional vocal delivery. Truly your moment in the sun, young lady! Brava! Standing O for Angie Miller! You worked hard and deserve the accolades.
Critique: Angie – “I Stand By You” was absolutely angelic and perfect and critique-free! I was waiting for this performance all night here so thank you for bringing the fire and the verve to this song. Brilliant!
Ditto for “Halo”. What a dual showcase! I am left breathless here! Congratulations Angie!
Strengths: Candice – okay, it’s official! You can sing pretty much anything young lady.
And talk about song choices that were diverse in style, tempo, genre etc., you win the prize for expanding your vocal showcase beyond your comfort zone – if, in fact, you do have a comfort zone! Ha!
At the end of the day, I think everyone would agree that you are game for any style of song as long as it resonates with your immense artistic vision.
With your first song you hit us with a number that I did not expect – “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul. This is the number I was absolutely waiting to hear because I wanted to see exactly how you were going to change it to suit your distinctive performing style.
I loved how you played with the melody and doo wapped your way through parts of it. You looked relaxed and always confident – you are such a pro at your craft.
Your second number, “When You Believe”, happens to be one of my favorite numbers in the pop idiom.
With a song as beautiful as this, a singer could pretty much sleepwalk though this number. The lyrics are so meaningful and the melody so haunting that a singer with a pretty decent voice could sell the song.
However, you are not an ordinary singer but an extraordinary one and brought this song to a whole new, “candice-flavored” level. Every word carried meaning for you and you beautifully wrapped your voice around the melody, then unwrapped it, then wrapped it again in the creative manner that you fully possess.
The confidence and skill that your brought to this song was just so inspiring.
This was a great showcase, Candice. Congratulations!
Critique: Candice – your first song, “Straight Up” was a pretty solid performance but, as much as you sang a controlled vocal delivery, it still left me wanting more.
Also, I felt that your chest voice was too evident during this song, especially since most of the melodic structure sat smack in the middle of your range. So, for the first time, I heard a little strain in your voice due, in part, that it really did not challenge your technical skills.
You must make certain that these cyclic melodies do not fall flat and sound one – dimensional. Yes, you added a few little twirls here and there but I was looking for more – much more. Plus the lack of head voice in your vocal mix made your voice sound tired.
During your second number, I again heard more chest voice than I wanted to hear. And then I noticed that you were frowning when you performed this number and this facial tension inhibited the full resonance of your voice.
Open facial features – this is the key to fully liberated vocal sound.
So, these are important technical elements you need to work on to further develop and protect that remarkable voice of yours! Use them wisely, use them well but, please, use them!!
Strengths: Janelle – well, you may have selected “Dumb Blond” as your second song but you are most definitely not one. You have proven to be an intelligent and resourceful young musician from Day One of this competition.
I was happy to see that you stayed true to your country roots with both numbers. This is the stage of the competition where it is crucial to play not only to your performing strengths but also to your audience.
Your first number, “When I Call Your Name”, was as country as it gets, wasn’t it? And I loved watching you perform within your element, your guitar in hand like the little pro that you are.
Your voice was so nuanced during this song and it was a song that accented the depth of your vocal and dynamic range.
And your technique was just so, so good. Beautiful round mouth, sustained vowels, glistening head voice in every part of your dynamic range.
This was a very impressive performance and very genuine. Loved it!
Your second number, “Dumb Blond” was a tribute to your Idol, Dolly Parton and it was a firecracker of a performance. I enjoyed watching you effortlessly move on and off stage and yet keep the song and your voice rhythmically secure.
And you added some teasing nuances in this very entertaining number. You just put such a smile on my face. You were having so much fun on that stage and yet still stayed very connected to the audience.
Excellent work, Janelle!
Critique: Janelle – be careful that you do not raise your head when moving through your higher range. We lose the magic in your eyes and that craned neck causes needless strain.
However, other than that, this was a spectacular performance. I felt the love and passion in your voice. You are a very talented, multi-dimensional performer!
Your second song, “Dumb Blond”, was excellent. Maybe it wasn’t the strongest song choice for a Top 5 competition but it was still extremely well done.
I also feel that the judges missed some of those subtle nuances you added to this song. The varied levels of head voice and the slight change in tempo midway through this song perhaps was lost because of your choreography – but I caught it and it was fabulous.
Great work, Janelle!
Strengths: Kree – your first number, “She Talks To Angels” was beautifully done. You began this song seated on the stage and then, stood up to add visual dimension. I wish more singers would do this because it is a powerful element to add in a song.
You sang this song with a greater emotional connection than what I have seen from you in the past. It was wonderful to see you totally lost in the moment with this number.
Now moving on! What a gorgeous rendition of this scrumptious Celine Dion song. This is the song I have been waiting to hear from you – a song that really makes you dig deep and one that resonates 100% with you.
I felt that this song held great meaning for you and, most definitely, it is a song that touches everyone who has ever loved anyone in any capacity.
Your transparent, warm and pure vocals were just the touch for this song. You sang this song with sensitivity and your expressive levels during this performance were subtle but thankfully present.
Because the melodic line jumped up the octave in the second half of this number, we were able to hear the seamlessness of your dynamic and vocal range. The key was perfect so your vocal control never wavered.
And I loved the arms out to the side – this was a great visual effect AND it elevated your rib cage making you aware of the diaphragmatic breathing muscles. It is so freeing and expressive at the same time!
Great work, Kree. Congratulations!
Critique: Kree – I heard a lot of chest voice in your vocal mix during the first number. Your voice sounded strained. Even though your mouth was round and jaw relaxed, I felt you were pushing from your throat.
Also, I was looking for more inflection in your voice and felt that your were belting all the way. It is fine to become lost in a performance, but there has to be a solid technical foundation in place to guide the voice in a more creative and skilled manner.
You need to work on your diaphragmatic support especially when you wish to sing with a louder dynamic. Even when the vocals become more powerful, head voice must be central to the vocal sound or you risk over taxing your vocal cords.
Your second number suffered from the same problems so these technical problems will not go away unless you address them.
However, it was great to see you so connected to your songs but now I need to see you as connected to the advancement of the correct technical skills.
Good luck, Kree.