By: Rosanne Simunovic
What a great evening of music! Now that was pretty fine singing from Amber, Angie, Candice and Kree.
And wasn’t Harry Connick Jr. the absolute best mentor? He had x-ray vision when dealing with our Top 4, playing to their strengths while reinforcing their weaknesses. Now, that is what mentoring is all about. No agenda! Just objective, life-altering guidance. Bravo!
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 was not at all familiar with your first song, “Just Give Me A Reason”, but, I have to say, it is was a great song choice, providing superb contrast to your second number.
The percussive underlay of this song made this performance a powerful one and, although the rhythmic and melodic components of the song were distinctly different from Song Number 2, the message was still the same – signifying the power of love.
You sang this song with great conviction and determination. This was a very confident performance and sat perfectly within the core of your stylistic strengths.
I loved the a cappella portion – just you and the drums – very nicely done!
Your second number, “My Funny Valentine” was an exquisite performance. Even though it was a reprise of your Las Vegas performance, I still think that this number was an absolutely wise choice to make at this stage of the competition.
You need to sing songs that highlight the enormous breadth of your artistry and, for whatever reason, this song really resonates with you. It challenges you to liberate the full extent of your vocal powers.
The manner in which you ascended and descended the melodic line, throwing in a high jump here and there, was very expertly done. Your voice sounded seamless and pure – sort of basking in the glow of your head voice.
And your phrasing was just beautiful, so musical! Your voice just caressed this song with such tenderness and sensitivity. It was a very special, very distinctive rendition of this number.
Brava Amber! Standing O from MCL.
Critique: Amber – I have to say that this week’s dual performances were significantly better than last week’s. You were back to displaying a more confident and riveting persona on stage. Brava!
But, there are some technical issues at play here that cannot and should not be ignored.
That mouth of yours!! Heaven help me! It is driving me bananas here. You tend to sing with a horizontal mouth position and, as a result, your vocal sound is not only poorly
directed but also very, very bright. So much chest voice pushing your head voice out of the picture. Not good!
As a result, during the first number, “Just Give Me A Reason”, your top range was a little under pitch because your brought so much chest voice to the upper range.
A good rule of thumb – and it works – bend your knees when you move through your upper range and squeeze your butt. This will engage your diaphragmatic muscles to fully support your vocal sound and, also, it will raise the soft palate, leaving your throat open and free.
Just do not push the sound out anymore and, along with that, do not raise our head. Lower the head – just a touch – and let your voice emerge freely from your mouth.
Additionally, that tense spread in your mouth encourages you to push the sound from your throat muscles rather than allowing the sound to present itself freely via the diaphragmatic support system. Therefore, is it any wonder that you intermittently experience problems harnessing a steady, clean vocal approach?
You have been blessed with a natural head voice component in your vocal timbre which is currently being overwhelmed by the prominence of your chest voice.
Ditto for “My Funny Valentine”. Same technical issues, except your pitch was much, much better. Why? Because you were singing a song you absolutely believed in and felt very connected to! Everything worked! And the key was perfect!
However, I cannot take issue with your artistic vision for this song. It was a very, very special performance. Congratulations!!
Strengths:Angie – your first number, “Diamonds”, certainly accented the versatile artistry you continue to bring to this competition. And, once again, you accompanied yourself at the piano. Brava!
Although the melodic line – and, for that matter, the lyrical line – is quite limited,
I was interested to see how you were going to master the phrasing. Would you bend and re-invent the melodic line? This is what I was hoping for!
And, my wish came true. You leaped beyond the limited confines of this composition, showcasing the wide range of your voice.
The nuances were there as well, which was important because this song can be a tedious listen if the singer does not propel the song beyond the composing elements.
Your second song, “Someone To Watch Over Me”, is, of course, a classic. And you had the voice and the artistic skill to deliver this song with confidence and poise. Out popped that glimmering head voice, as you moved with technical ease and artistry through those intervals in the opening phrase of the main refrain.
The bridge is a tricky part of this song. For some reason, the flow of the song can become stagnant at this point in the number. However, you kept the phrase lines moving with a nicely rhythmical forward momentum.
I loved the key change after the bridge – it added a strong multi-layered dimension to this song and made for a powerful and passionate ending.
Critique: Angie – technically, you are very strong and you really have honed your skills exceptionally well.
However, you were really forcing your upper register during “Diamonds” – not all the time, but occasionally. So be careful! You need not go there because then I worry that this will become habitual over the course of time.
Keep that mouth round and jaw relaxed when you power sing, allowing the diaphragm to release more air for a louder dynamic. Never use that push from the throat – keep those throat muscles released and open.
Also, you need to work on a particular performing aspect that has been bothering me. When at the piano, you need to become “lost in the moment”. Who cares where the camera is – let the camera find you! All this camera play needs to lessen so that you can stay focused on the emotion.
I know you have been instructed to look for this camera but, honestly, just stand your ground and forget the camera is there. I think that, this way, you performance will be more honest and certainly more relaxed.
I thought the key for “Someone To Watch Over Me” was a touch low for you. However, that being said, I think that you can support those lower notes better than you did during this number – but you must remember to do so. And articulate during your lower range. This will add energy to your vocal sound as well.
Additionally, your phrasing was not as fluid as I would have liked. You were breathing far too often and I was longing for you to carry through the phrase endings in a stronger fashion.
Overall, this was not your strongest week, but it was still very solid. Good work, Angie.
Strengths: Candice – you chose very clever, very distinct songs for your dual showcase. Your song choices have been phenomenal throughout this competition, in fact!
However, I, along with everyone else I expect, was wondering how you were going to re-arrange the Bruno Mars number to suit your gender?
Actually, part of me was hoping you would just let it be and sing the song as is – you would not be the first female to sing a song from a male perspective.
And you did!! You became, as you said, the storyteller. Smart! Current!
But, what a great song – so poignant, so eloquent and so real. And your expressive voice was the perfect vehicle to deliver this song straight into the soul of your listeners.
I loved the restraint you used when you sang this number, staying very true to the storyline. But, when it came time to break loose, out came those rich, pure, resonant vocals with emotional force.
And your technique! It was back! That’s how it’s done! Round mouth, relaxed jaw, strong diaphragmatic support. Brava!
And how could I not know the wonderful 2nd number you chose, written by the great Harry James? How? Well, suffice it to say, I will never, ever forget it now.
You brought pretty much every element and genre to this song – there, was some blues, some jazz, definitely a lot of soul, some subtle theatrics – you name it, it was there! In spades! Oh my word! Your voice was ripe with nuance – head voice, grit voice, earthy voice, chest voice (but the restrained kind which I appreciated) – and the expressive nature of your vocal delivery sent this song through the roof to another dimension where only angels sing.
This is how you sing a standard! These classic songs are the medium to a great message – they penetrate the heart of the listener if – and only if – the singer is in perfect sync with the emotion. Which you most definitely were, Candice!
I loved how you used your hand to accent your words – just a touch – but it added punch to your delivery.
But, it was the quick change in dynamic levels that truly impressed me. So much control to was darn scary. You earned that instantaneous standing O from the judges.
This was a crazy, good, jaw-dropping performance!! Incredible!!
Standing O from MCL!! Kudos!! Congratulations!
Critique: Candice – you gave a stellar performance of your first song. Honestly, it does not get better than this. Except for your second number. Ha!
However, just to nitpick, I have to say that I noticed you squeezed out those last few head voice notes and I was asking myself: “Why is she doing that”? All that great technique throughout this song and then, when you reached the end, you totally abandoned it. Maybe, you were just happy to be done! Ha!
Nevertheless, remember to always keep that mouth relaxed and let those pure soprano notes just flow from your mouth. The diaphragmatic will guide the way.
And your second song? Really? It was a Vocal Masterclass! Whew I am fanning myself here and it’s not because of the warm weather. That song was smokin’, critique-free and fancy- free!! I am off to iTunes now to download!
Strengths: Kree – if you felt the need to select a Carrie Underwood song, I am so glad that you chose “See You Again”.
I loved the melodic line of this song as it played to your strength as a singer. You have a beautiful seamless quality from top to bottom and an ease of moving from your bottom to top range with not a break in your vocal veneer.
As always, you sustained your voice so very well, gluing your pure vowels to the notes within the melodic line. Also, I appreciated the fact that you eliminated the nasal quality that I heard in the original Carrie Underwood recording. Yours was a purer, cleaner sound. Loved it!
You brought an earthy, bluesy quality to “Stormy Weather”. You exuded a relaxed and “come hither” persona throughout this number. And the dynamic range you brought to this song cannot be emphasized enough. It was very, very good.
Critique: Kree – in your first number, I was surprised to see you sing through your upper range with a horizontal mouth position. Not always, but frequently enough that I had to write it in my critique.
Be careful of those “aye” or “eh” vowels. Position the mouth in a circular shape when singing these vowels, adding more “ah” into the enunciation mix.
Also, never raise your head when you sing through your upper range. You need to sing over those upper notes, rather than reach for them. Propel them downward as you would a volleyball – this is a good visual to grab on to. The craning of the head just adds unwanted tension to your neck muscles. And you lose eye contact with the viewers.
Also, it would have been more visually appealing if you had stood up midway through this song. And, it would have liberated your body as well. We needed to see more dimension in this performance and the change in position would have given us this. Plus it would have added more punch to this performance.
The more I listen to you, the more I wonder if Country Music is your “thing”. You have such a refined quality to your voice – very pure – and it makes me wonder if you need to rethink where your strengths lie as a vocal artist.
Case in fact: your “Stormy Weather” performance was a more solid, more believable, more real performance than the Carrie Underwood number. And, if you had performed the song with less abruptness, really stretching the phrases instead of disrupting them, it would have been a better showcase for the seamless quality of your voice.
Also, I do agree with the judges – this was not the strongest song choice for you. A nice, upbeat, bluesy song would have been welcome and added diversity to your dual showcase.
Also, you need to work at understanding and genuinely connecting with the lyrics. A good rule of thumb to assist you is to recite the words – separate from the music – in order to internalize the feeling.
This will assist you in understanding the emotional aspects at every point in the song and this added comprehension will assist you with many other musical aspects, such as your phrasing, articulation and, most important, memorization.
Good work though, Kree.
General Comments For Quartet
This was pure fun and a great way to end the show. Neat choreography and vocals. Pre-mixed vocals but what can you do? And why were there so many girls on stage besides the Top 4? Very confusing. Although that chorus line bit at the end and the fireworks were spectacular!!