What a jam-packed week. Idol Gives Back has become bigger than ever and the performances, collages and tributes last evening were outstanding and deeply moving.
But, I am here to discuss the Top 8 performances of inspirational songs. It was, generally, a pretty solid night of singing, but some of the singers looked incredibly exhausted. I am sure that the schedule leading up to this week’s theme has been extremely hectic.
It is difficult to imagine how the singers manage to select, arrange, rehearse, memorize and perform these numbers, given that they have so many other obligations to fulfill while they are on this show.
I don’t think I was on the same page as the majority of the viewers and/or judges, but, it’s there for the asking – after the jump.
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.
BROOKE WHITE: YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
Strengths: Brooke- I was waiting with great anticipation for someone to sing this song classic, so I was very pleased that this song found a new home in your personal songbook. The words are so poetic and the melody is so contagious and, when blended together, the result is magical.
I thought that the genuine emotion you revealed in this song was absolutely stellar. You displayed a very endearing, very relaxed persona throughout this performance, communicating the storyline with gentle conviction and inspiration.
Once again, you made certain that the key choice for this song was perfect for your mezzo-soprano singing range. As a result, your voice sounded smooth and seamless throughout the melodic range of this number.
Also, by highlighting the most beautiful part of your range – your mid-vocals –you were also very successful to initiate the proper focus when vocalizing through your upper range. You skimmed the surface of those upper vocals, not traveling there too often, but just enough to showcase the head tone beauty of this area of your voice.
Therefore, owing to the unrelenting support of your lower range, you energetically transferred this same level of support when you moved into the upper recesses of your voice.
Additionally, midway through this song, I noticed that your mouth maintained a circular formation when grabbing the pure vowels of your lyrics, allowing the jaw to relax as you moved toward your soprano range. Therefore, your voice generally sounded more focused and resonant than in previous weeks. It gained in presence, thus allowing us to hear the absolute potential of your vocal gifts.
You truly possessed the sensitivity and the soul to sing this song as it should be performed – from the heart. This was a very solid, very memorable performance.
Critique: Brooke – why oh why did you not accompany yourself at the piano? As soon as I heard the song title, I thought: “This is perfect -Brooke at the piano, following the path of the original artist, singer/songwriter/pianist Carole King.”
However, you chose to stand at the microphone and, in the end, I think this decision caused this performance to be perceived in a one- dimensional light. Some of the potential sparkle that was necessary to establish a stronger rapport with the audience was absent, even though, internally, you were singing from the heart.
It would have been more effective if you had implemented choreographic elements – in the form of subtle stage movements -while performing this number. Visually, the song performance would have increased in dimension and would have permitted you to more efficiently establish a closer connection to your audience.
Also, in the opening segments of this number, I felt that your vocal technique was not as efficient, as I heard that push from the throat when you were singing. Remember – the push, strength and flexibility must always come from the diaphragmatic rib cage and back muscles, allowing the facial muscles and upper body to assume total relaxation.
To your credit, this supportive element increased as the song progressed and, as a result, the last half of the song was vocally very strong indeed.
However, I think we would have heard and enjoyed a totally different performance had you planted yourself behind the keyboard. You do need to work on your presentation away from the keyboard and this takes time and practice.
Next time, take baby steps – literally and figuratively –and explore the stage. It is actually a very “freeing” experience and you will find that your technique will work more effectively because of the relaxed energy you are exerting through movement.
Great work, nonetheless. Thank you for singing one of my favourite songs. Brava!
Strengths: Carly – boy, do I love this song and, given the stellar development of your vocal gifts, I thought this was a wonderful song choice for you.
From the outset, you established a very determined and confident demeanor and your vocal presence mirrored this internalized emotion. You displayed an incredible array of nuances throughout this song, all beautifully solidified through the technical support system known as the diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
And -hallelujah -your mouth maintained a more circular formation as you navigated your upper range. It was wonderful to see you access your upper range with a round and relaxed mouth and jaw. As a result, your soprano voice sounded more resonant and pure and I could hear the transparent ring in your head tone. Good for you, Carly!
I love to see singers progress on this show and, in this respect, you have indeed done your homework by slowly correcting the facial tension when you access your upper range. As a result, you looked more relaxed and your vocal tone was certainly more comfortable and vibrant.
Great work once again, Carly!
Critique: Carly – this song started out proud and strong and it seemed that, once again, you were going to hit a home run. Visually and audibly, you were very powerful at the outset and then…?
…something happened with your voice toward the end of the song. To me it appeared that your breath support faltered for some reason. It seemed quite strange to hear and see you sing with such artistic belief and confidence at the beginning of this song, only to have all of these strong emotional and vocal elements dissipate toward the end of the number.
At first, I thought it may have been a lyric problem, as something clearly distracted you. And then, you did mention that you were indeed sidetracked by the reactions of the judges. Darn! This is a shame and a lesson learned. Never- ever- allow audience reaction to negatively influence your confidence level while performing.
This is easier said than done and, considering the stressful circumstances of this competition, almost an impossible situation.
You have to think like a stand-up comic. I was watching Jay Leno the other night – I love this guy’s monologue. He makes it look so easy. However, that particular night, he tripped over a couple of words and never allowed his demeanour to reflect this faux-pas.
He continued on as if nothing happened and, in reality, nothing did. It was, after all, a couple of words not the whole monologue and, in the end, no one remembered – well, except me. But that’s why I write these articles.:)
Therefore, as a singer, you must learn to stay “in the moment” and not allow yourself to be distracted by outside forces. You are in control and no one else. Like a comedian, you must learn to pace yourself and calmly get yourself back on track when a performance glitch unexpectedly happens.
Finally, I do agree with Simon that there was an angry component to this song that didn’t seem to fit, but that may have been due in part to your lack of vocal stability at the end of this song. You seemed panicked and that could have been misconstrued as anger.
Generally, I thought you were very passionate about the song and, even though you exhibited some vocal deficiencies toward the end, you still delivered an overall convincing performance.
Strengths:David A. – I have been patiently waiting for a singer- pianist performance from you and was, therefore, so happy to see you sit comfortably at the piano while singing this very beautiful song. The message in this song was so potent and so inspiring, fruitfully reflecting your stellar emotional delivery of this song.
Once again, your song choice was absolutely brilliant – probably the best of the evening. And you did ensure that the key selection for your singing range was perfect. This allowed you to sing with tremendous ease and comfort at the piano, allowing the soulful delivery of this song to manifest with technical and stylistic efficiency.
Your technical advancement was and is exceptional and you truly have mastered the powerful technical element of focusing your voice in your vocal masque, while grabbing the pure vowels in your lyrics. As a result, your vocal timbre sounded extremely resonant, pure and pitch-centered.
In particular, your upper range was so very clear and transparent and, yet, at the same time, extremely rich and robust when you moved toward a louder dynamic level. This signaled the perfect mix of chest and head tone in this area of your range and this will only increase to unbelievable results as time goes by.
Finally, those crystal clear runs at the end of this song were beautifully rehearsed and sounded so very fluid and effortless. Your diaphragmatic breathing muscles clearly fortified every note in the run. As a result, your vocal control was extremely strong and the pitch beautifully centered as you rotated the notes with your signature soulful style.
This was a tremendously inspiring performance, David. Bravo x 3!
Critique:David – once again, I have very little to critique in this week`s performance. It was truly stellar and meticulously rehearsed in style and substance.
However – you need to continue to work on strengthening the presence and focus of your baritone range. In reality, this is not a current technical problem, as you are doing all that is possible in that respect.
You still possess a youthful airiness to your sound when vocalizing in your baritone range – all within the normal developmental limitations for a young male voice.
However, the depth and richness of your baritone range will deepen with time, but, until nature take its course, continue to energetically access your diaphragmatic breath support to assist you in the further development of this area of your range.
Nature and nurture must work together to develop the true potential of any singer`s vocal gifts, so continue to focus on your technical development under the guidance of your superb vocal coach.
However, I hardly need to lecture you in this respect. Your work ethic and determination shines through each and every week and you have been an artistically consistent and genuine performer since the earliest segment of American Idol`s 7th Season.
Excellent work, David! Now get some rest and remember to wisely pace yourself throughout the course of this very hectic American Idol Season.
Strengths: David C. – I may be in a minority here, but I loved your song choice. It is not my preferred style of music, but I clearly appreciated your strong artistic commitment to this song and your very powerful emotional delivery.
As always, you created a strong, believable presence on stage, one that visually and audibly increased as the song progressed. You are a consummate performer, David, and I felt that you performed this song with a strong sense of purpose and resolve.
Technically, your vocal power became more pronounced and muscular midway through this song. As many of the singers this week, your mid vocals sounded extremely resonant and dominant, highlighting the authentic and unique timbre of your voice.
Generally, your vocal technique was more stabilized when you navigated your midrange and all the correct elements – a circular mouth position, relaxed jaw, energetic diaphragmatic support – were properly positioned during these segments within your showcase.
I very much appreciated the “give back” message on the back of your hand at the end of this song. What a poignant and brilliant way to end this wonderful showcase. It was very touching indeed and it further highlighted your sensitivity as an artist and as a person.
You possess a natural communicative ability when you sing and are truly committed to delivering the message behind each and every song performance in a unique and distinct manner.
Critique: David C. – I am not sure if you are totally recovered from your health issues last week, but, nevertheless, you encountered some technical problems within the extreme parameters of your range – high and low.
Let’s concentrate on your lower vocals, shall we? At the beginning of this song, I felt that your voice was not stabilized through a highly efficient breath support system. As a result, your pitch was poorly centered and your voice lacked resonating focus and presence. Did you forget to breathe deeply or were you just plain tired?
Visually, it seemed to me that the latter problem ruled the day. You looked awfully exhausted on that stage and, if so, then your depleted energy didn’t allow you to energetically and buoyantly support that lower range through the correcting breathing process.
Also, remember that lower vocals need to be focused in the same manner as the upper vocals. If this is not allowed to happen, then, yes, you will encounter projection problems within this area of the range. The voice will become inaudible, muffled and indistinct.
Then we encountered similar problems when you vocalized into your falsetto range. I perceived a great deal of tension in your voice. Your throat was extremely constricted, signaling that the diaphragmatic breath support was compromised and thus inhibiting the vocal sound to flow freely from your body to your vocal masque.
You have heard of the term “stuck in your throat”? Well, in essence, this is what happened to your higher vocal range – it became glued to your throat and, the result was a poorly focused vocal timbre. The lower body lacked energy of purpose and, as a result, you encountered some very edgy vocal moments when singing through the upper level melodic line.
Remember to utilize the “yawn” effect when you sing –keeping the throat open and relaxed at every point in your singing range. And bend those knees and squeeze your butt when accessing the upper range. This will allow the soft palate to remain elevated, thus creating optimum space in your throat cavity.
However, even when the singing was less than perfect, you still exhibited a star quality that was truly special. Your passion as an artist is real and your communicative abilities – the manner in which you move and inspire your audience –is truly exceptional.
Now, go to bed, replenish your body and see you next week!
Strengths: Jason–I thought this was a perfect song choice for you and it was very neat to hear a male singer interpret this number. The emotional content of this song classic beautifully mirrored your relaxed and gentle communicative ability.
As you accompanied yourself on ukulele, I could sense your artistic level of contentment and felt that the innovative folk-inspired arrangement of this song rested easily within your comfort zone.
You attempted to use a variety of nuances while performing this song, thus displaying more dimension in your vocal timbre.
Although the technical delivery was not as efficient as it could have been, I did appreciate the risk you took as an artist in the performance of this song. I also think that your innovative approach to this song classic was a win-win situation for you, instilling a new found respect from the majority of your audience.
Good work, Jason!
Critique: Jason –well, throw eggs at the computer screen, because I am probably one of the first to say that I really did not like this arrangement at all. The upbeat tempo in combination with the tinny sound of the ukulele did not mesh with the passionate emotional center of this song.
Additionally, your laid-back approach to this number was transferred to your casual approach in your technical delivery of this song. All the technical progress you made last week was a distant memory and I became increasingly frustrated as the song progressed.
First of all, your phrasing was extremely erratic and fragmented. Never did I feel that there was a forward momentum to this song – it was just so rigid and uncompromising.
You were taking shallow breaths at inappropriate moments in the melodic line – many times after every word. This arrangement certainly did not challenge the development of your breathing skills. What a shame, considering the success of your performance last week.
Also, the limitations within your technical approach were deterring the dimensional variety within your singing style. As much as you attempted to sing with expressive artistry, the vocal projection sounded extremely strained and poorly focused.
Your mouth maintained that less than efficient horizontal position, thus encouraging you to push and manipulate the vocal sound from the throat muscles rather than the diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Additionally, last week I cautioned you about your deflated posture when playing the guitar. This week, the same problem occurred and your collapsed posture was negatively impacting the power of the diaphragmatic process, forcing you to breathe in a shallow ineffectual manner.
I truly hope, Jason,that you seriously work on your vocal technique. You need to continue to reveal the depth of your vocal artistry and, more important, protect the longevity of your vocal health.
Only a solid technical regimen will ensure this and, as you are still so young, it is important that you make the changes sooner than later. It will only become more difficult as time goes by.
Good luck next week and drop that jaw!
Strengths: Kristy Lee – I have to admit I was a wee bit concerned when I heard you were going to sing one of Martina McBride’s signature songs, “Anyway”. However, this song choice challenged you to sing with a solid technical approach, one that was most welcome by this writer.
This was an excellent song choice, by the way, perfect for the theme of this inspirational showcase.
Back to your vocal delivery, this song required you to pull out all the stops to ensure that your voice was brilliantly sustained throughout the melodic line. You accomplished this important component so well, Kristy Lee, and the shape of your phrases were seamless and flawless.
Also, you looked absolutely beautiful on stage and your posture was probably the one of the best I have ever seen in a singer on this show. The elevated and open rib cage, coupled with the correct position of your legs and feet (one foot slightly ahead of the other with a nice bend in the knees), encouraged you to sing with technical and artistic confidence.
Because you created so much space in your lower body, it made you fully aware of the continued diaphragmatic support necessary to augment your vocal line, thus ensuring that the voice was correctly focused in the vocal masque.
Your breath control in those long sustained notes, particularly on the “ay” vowel, was impeccable and you approached the diphthong element in the “ay” vowel by singing the purer “eh” portion of this diphthong. As a result, your voice generally maintained a ringing, head tone presence throughout this song.
This was a meticulously rehearsed song performance and I congratulate you. You tackled one of the more difficult songs this week, one that required impeccable pacing and disciplined study. You are slowly revealing many layers of your talent with each passing week, signaling that you are indeed working extremely hard behind the scenes.
Kudos to you for this enormous achievement!
Critique: Kristy-Lee – although your upper vocals sounded superb, I felt that your technical approach was less efficient when you vocalized through the lower segments of this song. Your contralto voice lacked the substance we so enjoyed when you accessed your upper range.
Also, your crisp articulation skills were not as apparent when you sang the first portions of each verse and this problem diminished the focus of your voice and the coherence of your lyrics.
This seems to be a ubiquitous problem in so many singers. Generally speaking, the singers become too carefree when vocalizing in their lower range and, as a result, the entire vocal range is not as homogenous as it could be.
Don’t save your energy for the louder and higher dynamics, Kristy. You have to ensure that the diaphragmatic support is as energetic and as buoyant in the softer/lower sections of your melodic line as in the louder/higher segments.
Additionally, you have to spin those consonants crisply and cleanly on to the vowels, thus ensuring that the words are understood and/or expressive at every dynamic level.
Also, make certain that you continue to work on the formation of your mouth and the relaxation of your jaw. It is certainly much better than in previous weeks, but it still needs to be fully refined to the point where you are not aware of this problem anymore.
You have a lovely bright timbre, one that needs to be amplified by an increase in the depth and intensity of the overall vocal sound. The consistently correct mouth formation, coupled with the diaphragmatic breathing, will assist you with this.
Finally, continue to develop the expressive elements of your song delivery. Vocally, this was a very solid performance, but, I still feel that you need to immerse yourself in the full meaning of the lyrics and wear your emotions on your sleeve. As a singer, you must adopt a speech- like inflection when you sing, so that the music and the lyrics are strongly delivered to your listener.
Speak the words –like a soliloquy –making sure that you are speaking with expression and passion. It will make you fully aware of the lyrical content and will ensure a more dynamic vocal delivery.
Good luck next week, Kristy!
Strengths: Michael-this was a tremendously passionate and communicative performance – loaded with tons of emotion and charisma. You always sing from the deepest part of your soul, something that can only be taught to a point. The rest has to come from the singer.
You have slowly increased the level of your expressiveness with each passing week, discovering who you are as an artist and identifying your rightful place in this competition. I believe that your comfort level on the stage has reached the optimum level and we are finally seeing the true potential behind your artistry. Good. For. You!
Your voice is truly beautiful – naturally rich and resonant. Many singers would pay big bucks to possess your stellar vocal gift, as it has a natural presence that is truly distinctive.
The 8ve jump when you said the words “dream on” was quite a surprise and you secured your falsetto range with clear, transparent head tone. It was beautifully pitch-centred and pure –you seem to enjoy this area of your range very much. It is almost becoming a signature element in your performances.
Additionally, you focused your “ay” vowel extremely well, making certain that you sustained your voice on the purer “eh” vowel within this diphthong. By nature of your accent, you are naturally drawn to the purest enunciation of the vowel, avoiding the diphthongs at all costs. Therefore, you have genetically mastered one of the most important elements in bel -canto singing.
This was, overall, a solid performance Michael. Kudos!
Critique: Michael – that tense jaw is still a problem for you, isn’t it? This is a difficult habit to erase, but you must continue to do so at all costs. By holding that jaw so rigidly in place, you are truly impeding the vast potential of your vocal gifts.
There is so much tension in your throat and this is restricting the proper projection and focus of your vocal sound. Your lower body – specifically the diaphragmatic breathing muscles – needs to anchor and focus your vocal tone, thus ensuring a free, relaxed and ringing vocal sound throughout your vocal register.
Also, I noticed that your posture was a little deflated, as you did tend to bend from the waist when you sang. This closed off the expansiveness of the rib cage area and, again, discouraged the full potential of the diaphragmatic breathing process.
If you are to bend anything, bend your knees when you sing – especially in your upper range – as this will assist the elevation of the soft palate and the openness in the throat cavity.
Also, given the theme of the Top 8 showcase, I was hoping for a more sophisticated song selection from you this week, one with more dimension and complexity. A beautiful R&B number, something with soul that carried a universally inspiring message would have been the way to go.
Melodically, the number felt too restrictive in content – very repetitive and cyclic – not allowing you to highlight the true dimension of your vocal and dynamic range.
However, you sang your heart out and it made me smile to see and hear you sing with such a high degree of comfort on that stage.
Here’s to the future, Michael! I will run – not walk – to purchase your first CD. You have classical elements in your voice that will allow you to record an eclectic album that will appeal to a broad base of music lovers. Just. You. Wait. And. See!
Strengths:Syesha –yours was an absolutely consummate vocal performance. I thought the song gained new life and meaning through your vocal delivery and you added exciting new dimensions to this song that were absolutely spectacular.
The nuances you displayed in your dynamic range were so beautiful. You started this song in a soft and gentle manner, wrapping your voice around the melody line with expressive clarity. This provided generous contrast to the more powerful segments of this song, thus highlighting the strength and confidence in your vocal technical skills.
The rhythmic elements in this song arrangement were meticulously accented and punctuated to mirror the message contained in the lyrics. There was such cohesion between you, the background singers and the orchestra and this added a multi-layered component to the entire showcase. It was truly a showstopper in every sense of the word.
Your technical skills were generally well formulated and I always felt that you were in total control of this fine performance. You paced the song exceptionally well, making certain that you created space in the song tempo to mould and phrase your musical line in a creative and confident manner.
Your breathing skills were superb – how could they not be? There was always a forward momentum, a sense of purpose as you entered new areas in the melodic structure. And that upper note in midstream was absolutely stellar. It came out of nowhere and, yet, you made it look and sound so easy. It accented the high degree of preparation that went into this remarkable performance.
Congratulations Syesha! Yours was an extremely strong visual and aural performance – one of the best of the season. Brava!
Critique: Syesha– I have nothing to critique this week. Well, perhaps one thing.:) Be very careful that you consistently maintain a circular mouth formation. Sometimes, your mouth position was more horizontal than I would like to see and this added undue pressure to your vocal cords.
Make certain that you continue to refine this one element in your technical regime. It will add more depth and substance to your vocal timbre, allowing you to sing with even more freedom and assurance.
Also, you will ensure proper vocal health and longevity, allowing your vocal cords to vibrate freely and without restriction through the diaphragmatic breathing process.
Good luck next week, Syesha!