by Rosanne Simunovic
Kudos to Paul Anka! He was a wonderfully supportive mentor this week and it was so good to see him work in such a positive way with these young singers. Brian Melo, I am sure speaking for all four singers, readily thanked him on stage for his valuable and informative coaching, saying that Paul Anka’s suggestions really assisted him to perform these songs with respect and artistic confidence.
This week, our Top 4 were challenged to perform two songs apiece in the company of a stellar group of musicians lead by the incomparable Orin Isaacs. It was an interesting evening of performances and, in all cases, one song fared better than the other.
Let’s have a look see, as we await the final results this evening.
The Top 10 will be evaluated each week according to performance order.
However, to quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.
Carly Rae Jepsen: “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” and “I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good”
Strengths: Carly Rae –I really enjoyed both numbers. You have a wonderful knack of selecting songs that have not been performed to death and, this, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment. It emphasizes that you are a secure and confident artist who impeccably researches her song material and is not afraid to perform songs that are less familiar.
You first number, “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” emphasized your wonderful ability to phrase your melodic line in a musically creative manner. You exhibited a mischievous, yet adorable, charisma throughout this song and the nuances in your voice echoed this sentimentality. Once again, you heightened this performance with expressive vocal elements, allowing the poetic emotion of the song to dictate the manner in which you would animate the melodic line.
And all of this was transferred to an even higher level during your second number, “I’ve Got it Bad And That Ain’t Good”. Of the two numbers, this was the most accomplished in every sense of the word. You were totally immersed in the poignant nature of this song and your voice sounded technically and artistically glorious and resonant.
You do indeed have a strong technical base that forms the basis of your vocal projection. Your open facial features, the circular mouth position and the relaxed jaw signified the strength of your diaphragmatic breath support during this number. You sustained your pure vowels in your vocal masque consistently and thus were able to carry your phrase lines in a seamless, uncluttered manner. I was clearly impressed.
Additionally, your poignant and sensitive rendering of this great song classic was absolutely spectacular. Your lovely soprano voice was laced with speech like inflection and vocal nuance that came from your heart and soul. It does not get much better than this and this song signified that you are indeed an artist of great style and substance.
However, even more important, you are a sincere and genuine individual – what a lovely and real trait to possess as a singer. This will carry you unbelievably far in the music world. Heaven knows we are inundated with enough phoniness in this business and need your level of sincerity in our lives. Brava, Carly, on two wonderful performances this week! Excellent work indeed!
Critique: Carly- your second song, being the work of art that it was, left me with nothing to critique this week.
However, I have some suggestions for your first song that, hopefully, will assist you the next time you perform this number. First of all, I could sense your nervousness and I think this hindered the complete entertainment value of this song. Given the short time frame, I never felt that you were totally immersed in the naughty story line of this song. Were you not comfortable with the song or was it the fact that this was your first performance this week? These are questions that only you can answer.
That being said, I echo Paul Anka’s advice that you did indeed need to internalize the song’s poetic soul more effectively. Sometimes these upbeat numbers actually unnerve a singer and, in fact, do not allow the singer time to “get in the zone”. And that’s what I felt here, Carly – you needed some “zone time”.
So make certain that you ease into your upbeat numbers- do not rush the performing and/or mental process. I felt that you lost a sense of control and your stage movements looked disjointed as a result. It’s all about pacing, so you have to make certain that you judiciously rehearse these quicker paced songs at a slower pace, giving yourself time to refine the performance process so that the vocal and choreographic elements are perfectly balanced.
Secondly, I think that you needed to utilize more of the stage during this performance. You were circling the microphone stand, to the point that it almost became a distraction rather than a real performing element in this number. I felt that a more inventive choreographic plan would have augmented and energized the vocal delivery of this song. I know you are more than capable of this as you had a blast during the “Chuck E’s In Love” number last week.
Thirdly, be very prudent in refining your diction. Once again, your words were incoherent and this was the result of faulty pronunciation of the vowels and lazy articulation of the consonants. I think that, in aiming for a certain “sound” in your vocal style, your diction is being short changed. You need to spin the vowels with clarity and then articulate the consonants crisply and quickly so as not to interfere with the vowel placement.
However, you were obviously in your element this week and, despite the problems with your first number, overall your performances were believably artistic and wonderfully entertaining. Kudos Ms. Rae Of Sunshine!
Jaydee Bixby: “Fever” and “When You’re Smiling”
Strengths: Jaydee- thankfully, both songs this week were selected in a key that beautifully highlighted your resonant lower range. As I watched you, it just seemed to incongruous that this deep baritone voice was emerging from the mouth of this fresh faced, “aw shucks” face. Your youthful demeanour, paired with your unique vocal talent, makes a very neat selling package for your future manager and/or recording company.
So, that being said, both song selections worked because the key selection was so appropriate, thus allowing you to perform with ease and comfort on that Idol stage.
Your first number, ”Fever”, is not an easy number. It is revelatory in its simplicity and, therefore, there is no place to hide. All the vocal elements – good and bad – are truly exposed. As this song is very repetitive, the vocals are not as important as the stylistic approach to this number. It’s all about mood and attitude and Paul Anka did emphasize this fact with you when he stated: “Think sexy and focus.”.
And so you did, as you really avoided your trademark smile during this entire number. So, congratulations, Jaydee, for following your mentor’s advice and maintaining the necessary intensity to deliver a solid performance of this song. Also, those rhythmic leg movements were a blast. I loved this choreographic addition in this number, as it heightened the entertainment value so well.
However, it was you second song, ”When You’re Smiling that allowed you to truly be who you are as a performer. It was a youthful, exuberant and positive number that accented these same qualities in your natural personality and demeanour. And, yes – you could finally smile!
Everything worked in this number – the vocals were superb, the adorable dance number with one of the back-up singers was an entertaining surprise and you brought a vulnerable sense of energy to this performance. Additionally, I loved the echoed vocals emerging from the back-up singers during this number. It added so much to the creative arrangement of this song and solidified the entertainment aspect as well.
Also, you included some impressive phrasing elements in this song, carrying through your melodic line in a manner that emphasized and encouraged the forward momentum of this number. I sensed a better grasp of the correct vocal technique, as your vowels were more acceptably glued together and well sustained in your vocal masque. And, to highlight this fact, you beautifully sustained your final upper register note, as the shift into this area of your range was negotiated in a smooth and seamless manner.
Wonderful work, Jaydee! You have quite a future in store for you!
Critique: Jaydee – like Carly Rae, your second number was excellent and so I have found very little fault in this performance. One thought however: make certain that you maintain a relaxed, circular mouth position when you travel through your upper range. Even though you sustained your final note quite well, your face looked tense and your mouth was in that horizontal “twang” position, thus creating a discernible amount of tension in your vocal sound.
The only thing that saved you was the brevity of the vocalization process in this area of your voice, meaning, if you had to vocalize the note and/or sing through this area of your range for a longer period of time, you would have encountered audible vocal difficulties.
Now, let’s talk about your first number, “Fever”. As I said in the Strengths portion of your Masterclass evaluation, this is a very difficult number. To sing it artistically well, you need to possess a natural inclination for the jazz or R&B genre, something that is not inherent in your natural style, Jaydee.
However, this all may evolve with experience and development over time, but, personally, I would have searched for an alternative number. I just think that you are too young to credibly deliver this song.
Additionally, the fragmented phrases lines became very tedious after a while. I was waiting for you to creatively bend and shape the phrases, so that the repetitious melody could be more interesting to the listener. As it was, there was very little speech like inflection in your singing style and, therefore, the performance was very one-dimensional. Have a listen to Michael Buble’s version and you will know what I mean.
Also, your microphone technique added to the fragmentation of this melodic line, as you repeatedly brought it down to your side at every breath point in this song. It was not only distracting, but also a negative performing element. That microphone needs to stay in place so as not to disrupt the mood you are trying to maintain during the performance of this song.
So make certain that you continue to refine your overall performing and vocal skills. Sometimes- if not always –excellence is found in the details, so be prudent, Jaydee, that every aspect of your future performances is rehearsed and refined as well as is possible. This will allow you to feasibly and successfully continue your emergence as a future star in the world of music. Details! Remember!
However, overall, this was a good week for you! Kudos!
Brian Melo: “Mack The Knife” and “Feeling Good”
Strengths: Brian – this is what I mentioned at the close of your Top 5 Masterclass evaluation: “I suspect you will have a swinging good time during Standards night, given your theatrical ability on stage in other genres. You are the Jacob Hoggard (Season 2 Top 3 finalist) of this competition and I remember that he was outstanding during his first and last (smile) Big Band showcase. Have a blast!.
Was I right or was I right? You solidly commanded the stage and lived your songs in a manner that captured the era in which they were written. Your first number, “Mack The Knife”, was a meticulously performed showcase. You had so much happening on that stage that it was impossible to capture all of this in writing. From your retro fashion statement – fedora and all –to your star making vocal performance, this showcase will remain indelible in my mind. It was that good!
Your voice had presence, personality and pizzazz and, because of your tremendous choreographic efforts, the believable performing elements within this showcase were extremely high indeed. Vocal and choreographic elements came together to create an extremely powerful and memorable platform for your unique and distinct artistry.
And speaking of your vocals, your voice sounded energized and wonderfully focused. You really worked hard to maintain a cohesive effect on those pure vowels and this added a ringing timbre to your overall vocal sound. However, I heard a little of the rasp break through now and then and, whether or not it was from vocal fatigue or an intentional addition to your performance, it audibly emphasized the “gangsta” nature of this number. So, it was a good call, intentional or not!
What was impressive, however, is your ability to turn this raspy quality on and off, emphasizing, at least to my ear, that you are grounding your vocal projection through the correct diaphragmatic breathing skills.
Your second number, “Feeling Good”, felt very good indeed. Although not as strongly performed as the first, you still maintained your “in the moment” demeanour during this entire number. The second half of this song had the necessary vocal punch and muscle that I was waiting for and so you ended on a very strong note indeed.
Also, you exhibited some flawless microphone technique, in that you smoothly moved the microphone away from your mouth during the louder and/or higher passages of this song. This performing technique alone spoke volumes of the depth and experience you bring to this competition and, more important, the confidence and determination.
Bravo Brian! Your showcases were the highlights of this evening of wonderful music. Congratulations on your hard work. Your work ethic and respect for the gift of music is commendable indeed.
Critique: Brian – the first number, “Mack The Knife”, contained all things positive. I could nitpick if I wanted to, but neither time nor sanity encouraged me to do so. Sometimes, the performance overrides the minimal vocal problems that you have encountered and I thought that, generally, your vocal delivery was absolutely stellar and your performance was first-rate.
However, in your second number, “Feeling Good”, the first portion of this song lacked the vocal kick and energy that I was looking for. The melodic line was resting in your lower range and, therefore, you were, perhaps, not applying a good technical foundation in which to present your voice.
Always make certain that the technique is accessed properly when singing through the lower part of your vocal range. It is in this part of your range that the raspy quality seemed to present itself, so you have to make certain that the clarity of your vocal sound is as much an entity in the softer and/or lower passages as in the higher/louder passages. We need to hear dynamic energy in your voice throughout your singing range, so keep those lower abdominal muscles buoyant and pumped throughout the singing process.
Also, you were raising your head again, Brian, as you moved toward the end of this song – reaching for the notes, rather than singing over them. You need to keep your head level with the camera and avoid creating the extra tension that comes from stretching those neck muscles as you sing your power vocals throughout your tenor range. Bend your knees and squeeze those powerful “butt” muscles – thinking down as you move up the vocal scale. This will encourage you to keep your throat open and free and, more important, it will strengthen the supportive process below the waist.
However, this was a superb theatrical performance duo and you looked and behaved like a star on that stage, all the while possessing a sincere and humble demeanour. It doesn’t get better than that! Bravo!
Dwight D’Eon : “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “Unforgettable”
Strengths: Dwight- although you were clearly removed from your comfort zone in both of these numbers, I have to say that there were moments – particularly in the first number – that I was quite impressed with certain elements of your vocal delivery.
Let’s take your first song, “I Get A Kick Out Of You”. Now, is it my imagination or did you listen to a recording of ‘ole blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, performing this song? Why you ask? Because some of the melodic twists and vocal nuances you added throughout this number sounded like the late Francis Albert and that is a very good thing indeed.
From the relaxed “r” consonant, to the purity and clarity of your vowels and ending with that killer glissando up to the last note of the song, I sensed the spirit of Mr. Sinatra invading your performing style. And that is very good thing indeed. You should know that Frank Sinatra, in his early performing years, would listen to the recordings of the great male classical artists of his time, eventually achieving their bel canto approach to singing. He wanted to be not a good singer but a great singer and he worked hard and surrounded himself with good role models to achieve this end.
Therefore, you have benefited greatly in your vocal development over the course of the last couple of months, as your voice clearly has improved by leaps and bounds.
Now, getting back to your first song, you took Paul Anka’s advice and rhythmically shortened the word “kick”. Sometimes the consonants, especially in popular music, are more artistically effective than the vowels. It’s called onomatopoeia – when the consonants and/or pronunciation of a word sound like the actual meaning of the word. And “kick” was a perfect example and it added to the stylistic aesthetics of the song to accent it.
And I loved your rhythmically induced walk on at the beginning of this song. You looked and acted like a big band star and set the mood beautifully.
During your second number, “Unforgettable”, you sang with poignancy and sensitivity and, despite your vocal misgivings in this number, your vowels were actually cohesive and well focused. However, this is a very sustained number and it takes great vocal skill to solidify the complete artistic performance of this song. Like Jaydee’s “Fever”, it is difficult in its simplicity and, if the singer’s voice is not highly trained or comfortable in this style of music, then the problems present with unfortunate ease.
However, I have tremendous respect and admiration for your musicianship, Dwight. You have worked very hard during your tenure on Idol and, when performing music that speaks to your specific brand of artistry, you are exceptional indeed. Bravo!
Critique: Dwight – I think the main problem, in both songs, was the lack of forward momentum through the phrase lines within the melody, coupled with your poorly centered pitch difficulties. I feel that your diaphragmatic breath support was totally collapsed and, sensing your less energetic and committed approach to the genre, all supportive systems failed. Therefore, even though your vowels were cohesive and clear, they lacked a forward spinning sensation that comes from the powerful support of the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles.
Your breathing seemed rather shallow and lacking in the depth and security that comes from accessing the diaphragm. This era of music symbolizes a strong commitment to words and music and, if a singer fails to recognize this, then the song will start to disintegrate. You are so accustomed to playing high- energy songs with your band that it is quite a leap of artistic faith to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight to sing songs that reflect a more ambient era of music.
Of the two songs, “Unforgettable” caused you the most difficulties because of the long melodic lines that required sustaining power. However, as you were singing this song, I could not help but notice that your overall vocal sound was very quiet, almost hesitant. I think if you had applied a stronger dynamic approach to this song, it would have enjoyed a higher degree of intensity and passion, thus enhancing the overall impression and artistic confidence of this performance.
You were singing very defensively I thought and, by not grabbing the reins from the opening line of this song, you lost your artistic momentum and security. Therefore, even though I know you are not comfortable with the retro brand of music, I would encourage you to make this repertoire part of your rehearsal regime, as it will challenge you to expand and further develop your voice through the correct technical regime. And, who knows, maybe with time, you will actually come to love this music and/or create new ways to perform these classic melodies within your own unique style singing.
Good work, nonetheless, Dwight. Here’s to the future!
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