BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC
Another year, another Idol! Welcome to the new home for the Vocal Master Class articles. Have a peek around the rest of the site and, if you don’t feel like doing that quite yet, then her is my evaluation on this immensely talented group of 12 finalist of American Idol Season 4.
To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below and, voila, with the touch of a click, you will be forwarded to your favorite singer’s link! Enjoy and please let me know what you think!
Bo Bice Spinning Wheel (Blood Sweat and Tears)
Strengths: Well, rock my socks, the Bice knows how to work the stage! From the outset, Bo, this song was smoking and, for me, it was one of the most phenomenal premiere performances on the American Idol Top 12 stage. You have an enviable amount of stage presence and technical ability and, your ability to communicate and truly entertain your audience, was absolutely first class all the way.
Your vocal timbre was rich and resonant and you utilize and sustain your voice with technical wisdom and consummate artistry. You had so many exciting moments packed into this 2-minute performance, which indicates that you are a well rehearsed and disciplined artist. Kudos, Bo and see you next week!
Critique: Nada –just enjoyed the ride. Just keep pacing and perfecting your future performances as successfully as this one and this competition shall be a smooth sail for you Bo!
Lindsey Cardinale Knock on Wood (Eddie Floyd)
Strengths: Lindsey – I have been such a fan of your rich, mellow voice and this week was no exception. Your voice had a naturally resonant quality throughout this song and you utilized your diaphragmatic technique quite well throughout the performance.
You have a beautiful charisma on this stage, Lindsey and this, in addition to the natural beauty of your voice, has served you very well in this competition thus far.
Critique: The first problem that needs to be addressed is your deportment on stage. The “knee-bending” technique is important, as it accentuates and compliments the diaphragmatic support. However, it should be subtler and a singer should never stand with the legs spread apart, as it considerably detracts from your stage presence. Additionally, it looks extremely awkward and unattractive. One foot slightly ahead of the other is the way to go and, as well, you are in a position to walk and move around that stage when you assume this posture.
Also, you will have to work at developing a more unique stylistic approach to your song performances to elevate above the karaoke level. Be creative and open to new and innovative ideas when you study your songs and really work to develop a singular interpretive approach to your music that identifies you as an artist.
Anthony Federov Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Neil Sedaka)
Strengths: Anthony – for me – this was one of the highlights of the Top 12 performances. Your voice sounded absolutely stellar throughout this song and you sang this number with sensitivity and unique style. Your performance was soulful and genuine, truly heartfelt. You work unbelievably hard on that stage and yet you make it all appear so easy and effortless.
You have absolutely breathtaking technique when you sing. Your phrasing and diaphragmatic support during this song was “on the money!” I truly enjoyed your ability to add a variety of nuances throughout this song and you maintained control throughout all of the expressive and melodic changes. The soft and poignant opening phrases, the powerful middle section and the pitch perfect “head tone” finale were handled with consummate artistry and professionalism.
Critique: None for Anthony! However, I do have one for the judges. This was the most biased judging I have ever witnessed during this competition. Please stop comparing this young man to Clay Aiken. He stands on his own and deserves more respect for his abilities.
Mikalah Gordon Son Of A Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
Strengths: Mikalah- what I love about you is your confidence and sass and charm on that idol stage. Each week, you put a smile on my face with your enthusiasm and flair for performing. You have great stage presence and the camera absolutely adores you. Your young voice is still developing and I feel that you are still working to secure your technical ability. However, you have an “x factor” happening in your performances that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Perhaps, you remind me of a young Barbra Streisand –not only physically, but also artistically. Barbra is all about the theatrics and the emotion and I believe Mikalah is as well and I love it! Never lose that joie de vivre – it is precious and it is absolutely monumental in achieving artistic success. Stay unique and keep channeling “Babs” – you are bringing her voice and her legacy to a new generation of fans.
Critique: Technically, Mikalah, you are having some problems with your voice, especially in your lower to mid range and, in this style of singing, this area of your range has to be secure and resonant or you will begin to have problems throughout your song performance. This was definitely a dilemma this week and, as a result, your voice experienced some negative pitch and projection issues. Really work to secure and anchor your vocal range through consistent diaphragmatic breath support.
Also, the faster pace of your song selection added to your problems, as you were not allowing the bel canto support to solidify your vocal sound. Your voice sounded poorly projected and was not resonating freely and efficiently in your vocal masque.
Remember to practice your up tempo songs in a very slow and sustained manner, so that you become aware of the areas of tension in your song performance. This slow sustained practice will allow you to work on the purity of your vowels and the depth of your breathing, so that when you sing the song up to speed, you will be definitely be technically secure during your performance. Good luck, Mikalah!
Constantine Maroulis You Make Me So Very Happy
Strengths: From the outset of this song, Constantine, your voice emanated a beautiful vibrato that I never noticed in previous weeks. It demonstrates that you have had some wonderful training in your past experiences; however, your voice naturally has a resonant and absolutely beautiful quality throughout your range.
I have to agree with Randy Jackson – this was the best performance from you thus far in this competition and, for the first time, I really felt that you had a more relaxed demeanor on the Idol stage. You have a wonderful charisma on stage and, although, you could communicate more efficiently with your audience, you still possess a genuine and sincere manner when you perform.
However, the vocals were in fine form this week and that killer top note at the end was just superb. Actually, my TV screen blanked out for 2 or 3 seconds when you vocalized that note – such power! (laugh) However, you sustained the note well and your anchored the entire song with good solid technique. Bravo Constantine!
Critique: If I have anything to critique, it would be your stage technique over your vocals. As I said in the “strengths” section, you have definitely improved in this respect. However, you need to continue on this path and really allow the Constantine sparkle to really shine brighter and brighter with each passing week. Create more space for yourself on that stage –it’s yours for the taking.
Vocally, be very careful that you do not strain in the upper register. Allow the diaphragm – not the throat – to support and resonate and project your vocal sound. Keep the mouth round, the jaw relaxed and the throat free of constriction.
Anwar Robinson A House Is Not a Home (Bert Bacharach and Hal David)
Strengths: Anwar, you performed with the flawless artistry and heartfelt sensitivity that we have come to associate with you in previous weeks. I love this song selection for your voice and, speaking of your voice, what a beautiful instrument you possess. It has a unique and resonant ring that can only be associated with Anwar Robinson. Do you know what a gift that is?
Vocally, you know your technique and you use it well. However, what always impresses me about you is your sense of style and creativity when you perform your song selections. The last part of your song really kicked into high gear because you were singing with ease and freedom in your upper range. The technique was there, but your voice in naturally more resonant in this part of your range. Your ending was smooth as silk and you added a nice relaxed and pitch-perfect riff at the end.
You breathe and infuse new life into these songs. You are a veritable artist and have phenomenal interpretive skills. Great work, Anwar!
Critique: This week, you ran into some problems with your breathing, especially at the outset. You seem to know how to project and sustain your voice in the upper end, but that lower range needs attention, Anwar. You have to feel that you are digging into this area of your vocal range and you should focus the sound in the area of your mouth.
However, your mouth must be relaxed and round for the diaphragm to take over, even in this part of the range. Always remember that! Keep working and vocalizing in your lower range – it needs to be developed as efficiently as your upper range for added confidence and vocal diversity.
Scott Savol Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
Strengths: Scott – this was an excellent song choice for you. You really ran with it and involved the audience and the judges with your performance. Good on you! You possess a naturally beautiful vocal instrument, a pitch perfect tenor voice that, apparently, never fails you.
Additionally, you have a bell like ring to your vocal sound because of your ability to incorporate the beautiful element of head tone throughout your range. This became very evident when you added the falsetto midway through the song –always a good indicator that a singer is very comfortable and relaxed with the extreme portion of his/her upper range. Good work, Scott!.
Critique: Keep working on your stage presence, Scott. I have to congratulate you on your ability to improve on this aspect each and every week, so just continue to take risks so that your stage movements appear less awkward as you perform. Also, try to develop a sense of style when you sing. You have to become more creative as a singer and as an artist. Although you always sing very well, your interpretive skills are still a little green. Try to conjure up ideas how you, Scott Savol, will sell your song and allow it to materialize in a unique and distinct fashion.
Also, always be aware that your naturally beautiful tenor voice needs to be maintained through proper use of the diaphragmatic breathing skills. Keep your throat and facial muscles relaxed so that your vocal sound can resonate freely in the vocal masque (facial features).
Jessica Sierra Shop Around (Smoky Robinson)
Strengths: Jessica – you have a naturally resonant timbre to your voice. I was very impressed with the resonant quality of your bottom range; it was just beautiful. You managed to utilize the stage quite well and you gave a well-rehearsed and polished performance this week.
Critique: Jessica, you need to concentrate on your stage technique. Although you did work the stage in this number, it still appeared, to my eyes, a little tentative and cautious. The voice worked for you this week, but, without the stage skills, the performance will not rise to the top. You have to plan everything out – truly! All the great performers – at least the smart ones – plan their stage movements during the course of their numbers. It’s the only way to give a fluid, relaxed performance; the planning takes away all the guesswork when you perform live. Create a large space for yourself and then use it.
Vocally, be very careful that you do not push your chest voice in to your upper range. You have to utilize more head voice when you crawl in to this area of your vocal range or else the voice will sound tight, almost like shouting. Keep your throat relaxed.
Also, work on developing a more creative approach to your song style; add your personal signature to your song in order to elevate it to a new and exciting level.
Nikko Smith I Want You Back
Strengths: Nikko – considering the time constraints with which you were faced in order to prepare for this performance, I have to say that you performed above my expectations. This was a rock solid showcase and you sang the song with great enthusiasm and style. You exhibit a wonderful personality on stage, Nikko, and I love that first and foremost about you.
Vocally, you do not over sing and I thank you for this. Your vocal sound is relaxed and effortless and your persona on stage is extremely genuine. In short, you are a natural performer. You sang this number with a wonderful sense of style and were sincerely animated throughout this number. Good for you, Nikko! Welcome back!
Critique: Nikko – be very careful to support and enhance your voice through the diaphragmatic breathing process. Your voice is not a naturally resonant instrument, so you have to allow the correct technique to support and enhance your vocal sound.
Additionally, keep those facial features relaxed and the throat open and unobstructed in order that your vocal sound can resonate freely in your vocal masque. Watch those messy diphthongs when you sing; sustain your voice on one pure vowel, much like the British do when they speak or sing. You will notice a great difference almost immediately in the depth and resonance of your voice.
Vonzell Solomon Anyone Who Had a Heart
Strengths: I have to say, Vonzell, that I was completely surprised by the superior depth and quality of your performance. Your voice sounded absolutely glorious on this song; you possess a phenomenal vocal instrument that, this week, was very secure and resonant throughout the song performance. I loved this song selection for you; the bluesy stylistic quality of the song was emphasized throughout and you highlighted another dimension to your performing skills by selecting to perform this number. This was a brilliant Top 12 performance selection and you looked and sounded relaxed, well rehearsed and in total command of the Idol stage.
You have a technically secure voice, nice and smooth from top to bottom, that, when coupled with your artistry and passion, really allowed this song to take wing and fly. And – that elongated note at the end of the song was fantastic. Brava, Vonzell!
Critique: I have very little to critique this week; however, if anything, I want to remind you to continue to select songs that will highlight your impressive vocal and artistic ability. I don’t feel that your song selections in the Top 24 were as strong as this week’s Top 12 performance. I never got a sense that you were anywhere near capable of performing at this level when the Top 24 shows aired.
Additionally, you have a huge voice; always make certain that the technical skills are in place so that you don’t abuse this natural gift form God over the course of the next few weeks. Keep the technique flowing throughout and really take heed that you are using your technical resources to secure your vocal sound.
Nadia Turner You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (Dusty Springfield)
Strengths: Nadia – from the moment you opened your mouth to sing, you commanded the stage with your vocal presence and charisma. You are truly a star in every aspect and, like Bo, you know who you are as a performer and do not hesitate to communicate this to us. The quality and depth of your vocal ability was just outstanding and your phrasing and expressive style were unique and inspired. You added your personal signature as an artist and breathed new and exciting life into this wonderful classic.
Your voice is technically secure and you are very careful with your key selections, as the songs you select are melodically perfect for your voice and persona. They speak to who you are as an artist. Excellent performance, Nadia! Brava!
Critique: Not to be able to write a critique at this stage of the game speaks volumes, Nadia! You are totally in command of your instrument and have technical control and phenomenal artistry that will serve you more than well throughout this competition. You don’t need American Idol; American Idol needs you! Kudos!
Carrie Underwood: When Will I be Loved(The Everly Brothers)
Strengths: Carrie – this was a very good performance and it is quite evident that your home is in the country. This is good because it identifies who you are as an artist. You looked happy and more at ease on the Top 12 stage than the past two weeks in the Top 24 performances. You sang with genuine enthusiasm and delight and, additionally, picked a great classic song to accentuate your wonderful performance this week. This last statement made all the difference, I feel.
Vocally, you possess a naturally beautiful instrument and you use it wisely and well. Your mouth maintained a beautiful oval shape as you sustained those pure vowels and the powerful ending solidified this fact. You sing with great commitment to your technique and never allow your voice to over extend its capabilities. Good for you! Congratulations Carrie!
Critique: What you must develop, Carrie, is an even more relaxed demeanor on stage. Granted, this was an improvement this week; however, you must continue to take risks and more effectively communicate your artistry and passion to your audience. At this stage, you are still singing in an introspective and, at times, hesitant manner. You have to really bring your audience along for the ride in order to create memorable and exciting performances.
Additionally, try to be more innovative in your song interpretations. We need to see and hear some ingenuity in your songs, more expressive depths and layers and nuances. However, I feel you are going to be one of these performers that will subtly improve each week as you become more relaxed and familiar with your new Idol atmosphere.
Rosanne Simunovic is the Voice Instructor and Conductor for the Timmins Youth Singers. If you have any further questions our comments, please at e-mail her. If you want to hear how she applies her technical methods to a variety of musical styles music, have a listen to one of her double disc CDs, Scenes from a Dream, a live compilation featuring outstanding performances between 1984-2000 with the Timmins Youth Singers and renowned classical, Broadway, and pop artists. Enjoy!