American Idol Season 8 Top 8 Vocal Masterclass Article:Birth Year Songs

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

Well, I guess the singers are allowed to have an off week, because, for me, this show lacked the glitter and pizzazz of last week’s performances.

Methinks the majority of the singers are overthinking their selections – dissecting and analyzing every detail, reaching a point where the selected song becomes sterile and/or artistically restraining. In other words, they are confused!

Honestly, if I was a contestant on this show, I would make absolutely certain that (a) I could handle the pressure and (b) have some personal vocal coaches and arrangers in the background to guide me in the right direction. This is what David Archuleta did last year and he pretty well sailed through his performances every week.

You need a team of experts if you want to succeed on this show – this is a huge opportunity that requires a cohesive team effort.

So, without further delay, here is how I feel the performances fared this week. And keep checking my Twitter updates so we can stay in closer touch!

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.

Adam Lambert,  Allison Iraheta,

Anoop Desai,   Danny Gokey,

Kris Allen,       Lil Rounds,

Matt Giraud,    Scott MacIntyre

ADAM LAMBERT 27-years-old: “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

Strengths: Adam- as you began this number in a seated position, the combination of the eerie lighting and your high, ethereal voice was absolutely breathtaking. I finally felt you Adam – your passion, your artistry, your sensitivity.

The artistic strength, skill and sensitivity you brought to this song was pure brilliance. Part of what you do each and every week is innate – a true gift from God. However, the other part, the part that many singers do not want to face and yet you do, comes from working diligently and passionately toward the perfection of your craft. You bring meticulous, well-researched preparation to your performances, thus allowing you to freely sing with deep and expressive emotion, knowing that your voice is technically refined and secure.

You communicated the poignant message of this song in such a powerful manner – your voice was like a paintbrush, displaying colorful palettes and creating an artistic landscape that was truly a masterpiece.

Many of my readers have asked me if you sing with head voice, falsetto and/or if you incorporate chest voice into the mix. Yes – readers – he does all of that, but mainly, as in tonight’s performance, he sings in full head voice during the softer sections of the song and when the louder dynamics “kick in”, so does his diaphragm, creating a stellar head/chest mix.

How I loved and appreciated your phenomenal ability to phrase and mold your melodic line, adding nuance and inflection with impeccable style and finesse! I had goosebumps here, Adam, and it wasn’t because there is yet another ton of snow outside my door. It is all because of you and your impeccable artistry.

And when you stood and totally bared your soul, it was a strong visual and aural moment in this song. I don’t think anyone was breathing until the song ended all too soon. You totally captivated your audience this week with your extraordinary vocal and artistic skills. The sincerity and honesty of this performance was truly extraordinary,

How absolutely spectacular was this performance? It was a Masterclass Performance! Bravo Adam! Kudos!

Critique: Adam -what can I say? Well, I can say nothing because this was as perfect as it gets on this show! Congratulations and thank you for bringing such a high standard of artistry to the American Idol stage each and every week.

ALLISON IRAHETA 16 -years old: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt Year:1992

Strengths: Allison -finally! You treated us to a vulnerable and sensitive song choice and a stellar one at that! Nothing pours at the heartstrings more than this song and you were extremely wise in choosing this selection.

The key selection of this song was excellent, as it highlighted the beauty and power of your lower voice. You have a naturally radiant lower range and, in fact, I almost wish that you could find songs that would further highlight that area of your range over a longer time period during a performance.

You made absolutely certain that the communicative elements of this song were expressive and real. You carried yourself extremely well throughout the duration of this song and, in choosing this number, exposed another dimension to your artistry. It is not always about singing quickly and I am glad that you realized the importance of this fact.

You took a risk and I suspect it garnered you numerous new fans this week. Great work, Allison!

Critique: Allison- first of all, I have to say that the tempo of this song was pedantic and funereal. It was robotically slow and because of this, it prohibited you from any opportunity to achieve a much needed forward momentum in this number. As a result, the rhythmic shape and flow of the melodic line was compromised.

Additionally, the plodding tempo and lacklustre arrangement encouraged you to sing with far too much chest voice in your upper register. I never heard the crystal clear purity in your voice, as there was a complete lack of head resonance throughout your entire range.

And, yet, you are some sort of enigma, as it seems to me that you know how to grab those vowels with, generally, a fairly circular mouth position. So, I sense that you are not breathing deeply enough and not allowing the full complement of air to direct and project your voice toward your vocal masque. That means that your throat is involved in the vocal process and, if so, then your head voice is doomed and we lose the ring, the clarity and the transparency in your voice.

And moving back to the breathing issue, I found that you were inhaling air far too often, partly due to the slow tempo and partly due to your inefficient breathing skills. Therefore, as previously stated, your phrasing was fragmented – there was no flow, no musical momentum or drive.

However, I did appreciate the fact that you presented us with a more vulnerable and sensitive persona. Now you need to work on your vocal skills so that your voice incorporates the necessary amount of head voice into the vocal mix throughout your range. I have yet to hear ring emanating from your vocal cords – presently your voice sounds murky and dark and lacking in a high degree of nuance and inflection.

My final bit of advice for you is this: grab some technical scales and sing into your upper range, allowing your jaw to drop, the mouth to remain round and the diaphragmatic muscles to flex. Produce a crystal clear, light sound in your upper range and then gently carry that sound down into your lower range.

Increase volume by adding more air from your diaphragm, but always center your vocal timbre with head voice in every part of your range. Head voice must be at the core of your timbre.

Hope all this helps, Allison! Good luck next week!

ANOOP DESAI 22-years-old: “True Colors” by Cindi Lauper

Strengths: Anoop -once again, your voice sounded extremely resonant this week. The ballads seem to highlight the inherent beauty in your natural voice and you wisely attempt to use your technical skills to magnify the full range of dynamic power and skill in your vocal delivery.

You have noticeably improved each and every week, not only as a vocalist, but also as an artist, and your stellar work ethic and resolve are just outstanding!

I also noticed how diligent you were in maintaining that circular mouth position while sustaining those pure vowels. You work so hard on that stage, Anoop, and make every effort toward improvement a cause for celebration. I can see the concentration in your eyes – and the resolve!

This was a very sincere and sensitive performance. Congratulations!

Critique: Anoop -make absolutely sure that you are supporting that lower range. At the beginning of this song, your voice sounded slightly askew(where did that word come from?). I was missing the resonant purity and ring that I have been hearing over the past two weeks.

This week, your support did not properly engage in the lower range and this, unfortunately, hindered the aesthetic production of your upper range. It appeared and sounded to me that you didn’t have enough air to focus your voice with technical strength and continuity.

As a result, you encountered some pitch issues along the way – whether it was your nerves or lack of preparation in your song choice is something only you can answer.

Also, I am wondering if this song was your first song choice. This is a question that I will be voicing with some of the other singers because, overall, the majority of the singers seemed unsettled with their song choices this week.

Certainly there are better songs out there for you. This song is melodically and harmonically repetitive and, yes, colorless (sorry, couldn’t resist!). In the future, make certain that all your song choices – from 1st to last -are impeccable in every aspect – great melodies, wonderful lyrics, strong message, highly entertaining, dynamic variation. You have to love them all to be able to sing them with confidence and assurance.

Good work, nonetheless, Anoop!

DANNY GOKEY 28- years old : “Stand By Me” by Mickey Gilley Year: 1980

Strengths: Danny -this was a strong classic song choice. I loved the slow, sultry start to this arrangement. It gave you ample time and space to center yourself. It also provided wonderful contrast to the remainder of this song.

When the quasi calypso/jazz upbeat portion of the song took flight, your soulful voice beautifully mirrored the relaxed, yet soulful, instrumental vibe in the arrangement. You demonstrated a beautiful and flexible vocal approach to this number and the raspy nuances mixed with your pure vocals were so perfect for your distinct interpretation of this song.

Your expressive delivery was superb – so much emotion was clearly evident in your voice. Therefore, your communicative skills were exemplary throughout this number – you assuredly engaged and connected with your audience.

Additionally, you moved with confidence and musicality throughout this showcase and were a cohesive and powerful rhythmic presence on that stage. You expend so much energy on that stage, Danny, and really strive hard to entertain and captivate your listeners on every level. And you always succeed because of your sincere and genuine demeanor!

This was a great performance! Congratulations!

Critique: Danny -you really have to watch the omnipresent tension in that upper range. You constantly adapted a horizontal shape in your mouth position, which then encouraged you to apply a high degree of tension in your throat muscles.

As a result, your voice sounded forced and weighted -you basically pummeled the sound from your body instead of allowing the vocal delivery to fly freely and unimpeded through the support from the diaphragm. I rarely heard any evidence of head resonance in your vocal mix – it was chest resonance all the way.

You are fortunate that your voice is such a rich instrument – it allows you to skirt over some very important technical elements. However, this charade can only last for so long and then, guess what? You will run into some major vocal issues at some point done the road.

And the raspiness in your voice may already be hinting at this development. You quite possibly may have some present nodule problems that a skilled throat specialist can quickly identify. You would be wise to consult with a doctor as soon as possible. The only real cure for this is vocal rest, followed by a studious approach to proper singing technique.

Also, make certain that, during the rehearsal process of your upbeat numbers, you reduce the tempo a few notches. The slow, sustained practice will allow you to identify your technical deficiencies so that you can correct them and sing with greater efficiency at a faster pace.

You have wonderful skills as a performer, Danny, but you must make certain that you develop your technical skills as well. Your voice is a gift – please handle it with care. It is such a precious commodity and you want to be able to use it for a very, very long time and we want to be able to hear it for a very, very long time!

Good luck next week, Danny!

KRIS ALLEN 23- years old: “All She Wants To do is Dance” by Don Henley – Year: 1985

Strengths: Kris -this week you grabbed the electric guitar and decided to “party” with some lucky ladies in the audience. This performance provided strong contrast to last week’s performance – and I will leave it at that!

The arrangement of this song was very good indeed and I particularly loved the strong addition of the brass section. It added punch and authority to the aural effect of the number and encouraged you to do so with your voice.

Good work, Kris!

Critique: Kris -let’s get serious here. After choosing “Ain’t No Sunshine” last week, no one will ever convince me that this was your first song choice for this week’s Top 8 performance. It was monotonous and repetitive and your eyes didn’t have the same playful spark and glimmer that was so evident in some of your past performances – particularly last week’s showcase.

Last week, you revealed the absolute depth and intensity you were able to achieve as an artist. You needed to run with this level of artistic progress and keep up the momentum, but this song totally inhibited you from every ounce of musical ability that you so obviously possess.

You looked like such an unhappy camper on that stage and your mind seemed pre-occupied and very distracted, as if you were learning this song for the very first time ever! You seemed more focused on achieving the correct chords on your guitar than addressing the throng of girls around you. Something was definitely wrong with this picture.

This was more of a party song, not a memorable competitive number. The melody really went nowhere. If only you had added more melodic variation to this number and, additionally, some expressive nuance in your voice, that may have helped the performance. At least, it would have demonstrated that some concerted effort was expended in the rehearsal process.

There was still some horizontal tension in your mouth and, quite frankly, because the melodic line of this song was so linear, it was difficult to judge your vocals. You basically sang just four or five notes and a few more words throughout this song.

I hope you are given the opportunity to perform once again next week because, in all honesty, this song did you no service whatsoever. You have more to offer, Kris, so make absolutely certain that all your song choices are stellar – from 1st choice down to 5th choice. In this way, you will always come out ahead and be absolutely certain that even your last song choice sits comfortably with you.

Good luck, Kris.

LIL ROUNDS: 24- years old “What’s Love Got to Do with It” by Tina Turner

Strengths: Lil -this week you moved the tempo up a few notches. Good for you! You looked gorgeous – you really dress like a star and this is so very important. You visually create the perfect ambience for each of your performances and, as a result, look and sound thoroughly professional at all times.

As in all of your performances, I so appreciated your diligence in ensuring that the position of your mouth remain round and relaxed, thus ensuring that the diaphragmatic breath support system could, at times, effectively harness and project your voice toward your vocal masque.

You work extremely hard, Lil – this is very evident – and I hope that, over the course of time, you are able to connect with a creative A&R person so that your true vocal and artistic potential can achieve realization and fulfillment.

Good work, nonetheless, Lil!

Critique: Lil -watch that you don’t push your chest resonance into your upper vocals. Usually this is not a problem, but this week you were a little sharp in your upper range. You seemed to be more nervous than last week and this may have factored into the slight disintegration of your naturally vibrant vocal timbre. Usually, your head resonance is quite seamless and pitch issues never ensue in your performances, but it was problematic this week.

Also, be very careful of those up-tempo numbers – they can be fun to perform but can also wreak havoc on the continuity of your diaphragmatic support system. The heightened physical energy can cause a singer to lose air, deflate the rib cage muscles, tighten facial and neck muscles and generally forget about the proper focus of the pure voice on the melodic line. Whether the song is fast or slow, the sustaining process must not be interrupted and the clarity of the voice never compromised.

Also, you seemed really constrained in that very tight dress and, to me, it seemed that you were not able to all to move or breathe freely. I loved your look, but the line of the dress was just so restrictive – how could you breathe or move with any sense of freedom? It was nearly impossible.

Were you able to practice in performance costume prior to the dress rehearsal and live performance? If not, then I would advise you to do so, as this can make all the difference in the world toward the degree of comfort and poise you are able to achieve on stage.

Also, I have to agree with the judges on your song selection. It was just far too iconic – you never want to be compared to Tina Turner. She is a legendary artist and, unless you planned to do something entirely different with this number, it was doomed for failure I’m afraid.

I sensed that this song was not #1 on your list this week? Was it? I wonder. You looked so uncomfortable that I wonder if your first choice was denied clearance. Just a theory!

However, the good news is this: I personally feel that you have a more beautiful, more dynamic voice than Tina Turner and you need to find songs that highlight the inherent depth of your artistry. You have depth, Lil, and you need to challenge your vocals and research songs that will stretch and broaden your stellar vocal potential.

Good luck next week!

MATT GIRAUD 23-years-old:“Part Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder Year:1985

Strengths: Matt -I loved this marvelous and sizzling arrangement of this great song classic. It so suited the jazzy vibe you emitted via your performance skills during this number. I thoroughly enjoyed watching you move and groove on that stage. You seemed to be well engrossed in your own comfort zone, so apparent was the joy and exuberance on your face throughout this number!

As a result, your vocals were naturally expressive and this fact, added to your relaxed stage skills, brought a high communicative element to this performance. You engaged your audience so well with this number. Excellent Matt!

I loved the brief interlude of scat singing during this performance. It provided great dimension to the melodic line, while at the same time, gave us another glimpse into the inherent soulful/jazz-inspired trademark in your vocal delivery.

And you rhythmically dominated the stage, Matt – you can move, dude! I was loving the shoulder moves and everything else in between. All of this added so much to the visual component of this very strong showcase.

I have to say that you do have a marketable look happening Matt, a sense of style that is becoming increasingly distinctive and ingrained in each of your performances. Excellent work, Matt! Kudos!

Critique: Matt- although your performance skills were very strong throughout this number, unfortunately, your vocals were compromised. This was a situation where the performing elements overwhelmed the vocals.

Overall, I felt that your sound remained captured in your throat. Basically, your throat muscles kidnapped your vocals and, as a result, the diaphragm was helpless to liberate your voice to the foreground – namely your vocal masque.

Your technical skills need to be solidified – that mouth is still so horizontal and this encourages you to grab all the vowels in your diphthongs instead of fully sustaining your voice on one pure vowel at a time. As a result, we lose the true and natural quality of your vocal timbre and, at times, there is evidence of air mixed in with your pure vocals. When this happens, the resonating presence of your voice disappears.

I have said this many times to many singers but it does bear repeating: you must continue to slow down these up-tempo songs during the rehearsal process to ensure that the voice is being produced in a consistent and secure manner. You have to exaggerate the sustaining process on the purest vowel in each syllable of your lyrics and, at the same time, become fully aware that the diaphragmatic muscles are fully engaged and connected to the vocal process.

When the vocals are secure, then add the performing elements , making sure that the latter is not overshadowing the former. Otherwise you will have, perhaps, a lot of style, but little substance in the end result. I feel this is what happened this week. Visually, this was a strong performance, but aurally, it lacked vocal authority and charisma.

So, find some technical exercises to fortify your voice and practice them by singing on the purest vowels such as, “ah” eh”, “ee”, “oh” (careful – there is an “oo”component at the end of this vowel – avoid it!), “oo” and “i”. A keep your mouth round, slowly dropping your jaw as you ascend into your higher range.

Good luck next week, Matt!

SCOTT MACINTYRE 23-years-old: ”The Search is Over” by Survivor. Year:1985

Strengths: Scott -and yet another instrument came out tonight – the guitar. And, once again you accompanied yourself with the multi-dimensional professionalism that we have come to applaud and appreciate over the past weeks.

This was an excellent song choice, Scott, and, given the fact that you were able to physically expose yourself to a higher degree, I felt that you established an even stronger visual connection with your audience this week.

However, make no mistake about it, it is the expressive quality in your vocal delivery that captures the hearts of the listeners. There are no bells and whistles when you perform – it’s your beautifully engrained artistry oozing with consummate musicality that dominates each and every one of your performances. Bravo!

This song was a complete departure from the selections you have chosen over the past weeks. There was definitely more angst and intensity in this number than in some of the others you have chosen to sing during this competition. It was wonderful to hear and see you challenge your vocals and increase your performing dimension in this week’s showcase.

Generally speaking, your voice attained its distinctive clarity and ring. I loved the openess and relaxed position of your jaw when you moved toward your upper notes. This signaled to me that the diaphragm was attempting to release your voice and project it to your vocal masque.

Great work once again, Scott! Bravo!

Critique: Scott -unfortunately, you encountered some problems with the upper range and it all centered around your mouth position. Although your jaw appeared relax and free, your mouth was not quite narrow enough to perfectly center and focus those pure vowels on a consistent level.

As a result, you encountered some pitch issues that would have resolved if you had secured a more circular mouth position. The rounded mouth, in combination with powerful diaphragmatic support, really harnesses the full compliment of head resonance throughout a singers’ range and, without it, the voice can sound poorly focused. As well, the heart of the pitch will be compromised.

Also, as your vocal timbre tends to be very bright, the roundness of the mouth position will add more depth and richness, thus allowing your voice to sound evenly textured with both head and chest resonance. It will sound more mature – much like the depth and timbre of your speaking voice.

Also, although I most definitely appreciated your use of the guitar, you looked removed from your comfort zone. I still sense that the piano is your most natural performing sidekick and that is where you should remain. It just works, you know?

However, nothing is stopping you from hopping on a stool or standing in front of or with a microphone and singing a heartfelt ballad to your audience. If you want to add dimension to your performances, this would be my suggestion – that, or become more accustomed and comfortable playing the guitar.

It seemed that the guitar was actually hindering some of the natural beauty and flow in your vocal delivery and, as this song was so dramatic, this diminished the full intensity of your technical support, thus impeding the cohesion of your dynamic range.

However, I fully appreciated your decision to add this song to your American Idol repertoire. I felt that, overall, it was still a very strong, very genuine vocal interpretation.

Great work, once again Scott! I will most definitely miss your genuine artistry and glowing charisma over the remaining weeks. I look forward to the Finale – they better give you a huge spotlight performance, as your elimination this week was far too premature!

For all the latest American Idol News, visit SirLinksalot: American Idol or the American Idol Official Site .

About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

53 Responses to “American Idol Season 8 Top 8 Vocal Masterclass Article:Birth Year Songs”

  1. “You communicated the poignant message of this song in such a powerful manner – your voice was like a paintbrush, displaying colorful palettes and creating an artistic landscape that was truly a masterpiece.”

    I loved this portion of your Adam critique MCL. So lovely. This kid just emanates art, doesn’t he?

    Something about his voice and performances capture the imagination. He really does take you places when he performs.

    This will go down as one of my fave performances ever on Idol, if not the best. Yeah, I think it is officially my fave performance in all 8 seasons. Truly outstanding. Congratulations Adam. How proud the judges must be for finding this remarkable talent. Same goes for his parents.

    Win or lose, Adam is going to have a very bright future. In fact, he is already there.


  2. And I thought I was the only one to hear Danny’s voice showing some strain. If he makes it to the “two songs per night” portion of our little show he may run into some real trouble. We are so used to hearing him do raspy that we don’t especially notice when things start to go downhill.

    Thanks for bringing it up MCL!
    I wonder if the vocal coaches on the show are warning him about it at all.


  3. MCL, you stated that the contestant must have some personal vocal coaches and arrangers in the background to guide them in the right direction, and that they need a team of experts if they want to succeed on this show – this is a huge opportunity that requires a cohesive team effort. I find that so troubling. I don’t understand how the average amateur can assemble such a team particularly if they’re in LA from other parts of the country. Even Adam stated that it’s difficult to make it in the music industry and he is in the competition to make some contacts that can help him. I hate to think that a madly talented average Joe doesn’t have a chance in this competition because he’s not surrounded by professionals. I don’t think that’s what AI started out to be and personally feel it’s a shame if that’s what it has become.

    As for your critiques, I wholeheartedly agree on Adam. I’ve loved him from the first time we heard him and so look forward to his performance every week! I don’t care if he actually wins the competition, but hope he makes it to the Finale so we can hear and see him as much as possible! He is the reason I’ll be going to the tour this summer!

    Although I think it was time for Scott to go home, his departure was so poignant. Many of us who gathered on Jason Castro’s fan site to watch the show shed some tears over this remarkable, brave young man. He’s a sweetheart and I wish him the best in life!

    Thank you for your thorough articles. I hope the contestants read them every week! I enjoy reading what you have to say very much and have learned a lot from you!!


  4. I thought there was some sort of contractual prohibition against having a “team”? As the actual contract is ‘sooper sekrit’ we don’t know for sure of course, but Archie did get some criticism for having help. I know that many felt it made him appear to be a puppet singer, where Cook was all alone with just a laptop and a head full of ideas.

    Having an arrangement handed to you is quite different that coming up with an arrangement yourself, especially in this season where “artistry” seems to be the keyword. I want to know what they themselves are capable of, not what a team of developers can come up with.

    And of course teams cost money, so contestants with less in the way of resources would suffer in comparison to those with the money to hire better arrangers.

    Idol does provide vocal coaches- they all have access to them so the playing field stays level.

    IMO it’s enough that they have access to Youtube to find ideas. Let’s leave it at that and let each of them stand alone on their own talents.
    IMO 🙂


  5. MCL, wonderful article! And I too loved your beautiful description of Adam’s gift.

    Something I’ve found, after downloading Adam’s iTunes performances each week, is that I actually prefer listening to Adam’s performances live (even without the video). His vocals are always perfect and beautiful in the studio recordings, but they just can’t match the emotion of the live performances. I found this especially true for Ring of Fire, Tracks of My Tears, and Mad World.


  6. Thanks again, MCL, for being so helpful to the AI contestants. I hope they appreciate you and listen to your advice!!!

    Your observations about contestants singing songs that were perhaps not their first song choices made a lot of sense–especially for Kris.


  7. Keep in mind that Adam’s song last week PTFM was NOT his first choice and he had to learn, arrange, and practice it in 24 hrs bc his first choice couldn’t be cleared. Regarding the uncomfortableness of the other contestants, it is my opinion that it can be attributed to the “Adam Factor” — his ability to choose and interpret the right songs and his stage presence must be pretty intimidating.


  8. Wonderful, eloquent insights into all of our contestants, MCL – thank you so very much.


  9. Adam’s studio version of Mad World is hauntingly beautiful. Really, just WOW! A stellar recording that I think has even more nuances than his live version.

    I have to admint that it doesnt have the same build-up as the live version, but the studio recording is my absolute favorite Adam recording (It has surplanted the Ring of Fire studio version which was my favorite ’til now)


  10. i have been curious how do they pick their songs? do the songs have to be “approved” but by whom? whomever own the rights? or? here is another thing I am curious about; where do they rehearse? do they rehearse at the mansion? how do they find time? appreciate an answer, please. thank you.


  11. MCL, a brilliant evaluation of each performance! It was reassuring to me that you identified some vocal technique problems with Danny. I feel if he keeps going without a vocal coach intervention, he is going to lose his voice entirely. I like his voice, so I hope he does start learning how to use his head voice when needed.


  12. Seriously Surely: have been curious how do they pick their songs? do the songs have to be “approved” but by whom? whomever own the rights?

    I’ve gathered different tidbits from offhand comments, but I can say pretty confidently that the answer is yes here. The songs have to be cleared or approved by the artist (or whoever owns the rights).

    What I’m curious about is whether or not there is a list of song choices from which the contestants must choose. I hear conflicting information about this. I believe some contestants HAVE said that there is a list, and I’m starting to believe that especially because this season has included so many songs already performed on previous seasons. It seems as though the list of song choices is very limited, so inevitably, after 7 years, the songs are starting to get cycled through more often.

    However, you also hear about contestants wanting to do a particular song but not being able to do so in the end of because of clearance issues. Clearly, those songs would not be included on a list if they were not yet approved. So, that makes me wonder: do contestants have the option to submit their own song choices and hope that those choices get approved before the show?

    I’m very curious about how song selection works on this show, actually.


  13. Also, I wanted to make a comment on Adam’s performance. I am surprised, actually, to read comments not on this site but on others, where people were completely unmoved by Adam’s performance. Maybe their hearts are hardened against him for some reason, already?

    I’ve realized that I’ve made many comments about Adam’s technique, but I’ve never put forth my own comments about whether I like or enjoy his sound. Let me start with this: Personally, as a matter of aesthetic preference, I prefer tones that are slightly more chest-dominant than Adam’s. As previously mentioned, his sound is head voice-dominant in all parts of his range. There is nothing “wrong” with Adam’s sound; that is his stylistic choice. My stylistic preferences just run a little towards the heavier side.

    Also, Adam clearly has musical theatre influences in his phrasing and tonal production, and as a result, his sound goes over differently with different people. I feel that the “music theatre” sound inherently sounds polished and a bit removed from the every day person (not as conversational, for example), and the different ways a listener can respond to that sound are probably what lead to comments about Adam simply “acting” in his performance. When most people think of vulnerability, they think of vocals stripped down even more bare than Adam’s in this performance, free all affectations.

    However, that said, I believe that this more theatre-imbued sound is simply Adam’s style, the way he expresses himself, and once someone looks past that, I think in this performance, especially, I truly saw Adam’s sincerity. Yes, there have probably been performances where Adam was “acting” through a song–all singers have done this too at one point in their life or another–but in this song, I really felt him bare his heart. I felt that heartrending insecurity of being misunderstood and being unknown by an uncaring world being conveyed in Adam’s voice. Adam was LIVING this song. You can see it in his face; you can hear it in his voice. Whatever you think of Adam’s tone, his style, his life–this was real, this was Adam. I don’t know if I believe that Adam is the best vocalist ever in American Idol history or any of that, but I do know this–if emotionless Simon Cowell can appreciate a performance like this, Adam’s sincerity must have undeniable that room. Maybe it doesn’t translate through the TV for some people, but for me, even with my “preferences” or whatnot, this performance was truly breathtaking.


  14. I’m starting to believe that especially because this season has included so many songs already performed on previous seasons. It seems as though the list of song choices is very limited, so inevitably, after 7 years, the songs are starting to get cycled through more often.

    That is eggsatly what I thought; there has been so many “recyled” songs such as “Stand By Me.”

    But on the other hand too, even if there is such a limited list; the “artists” should be able to make it “their own.” And that may be the whole idea–the artistry.

    I don’t know how many hands I can count but on the OTHER hand–judges had often said “wrong song choice.” And if there is such a limited list, this should not be judged! The workings of AI had me pretty much out of hands.


  15. Also, Adam clearly has musical theatre influences in his phrasing and tonal production, and as a result, his sound goes over differently with different people. I feel that the “music theatre” sound inherently sounds polished and a bit removed from the every day person (not as conversational, for example), and the different ways a listener can respond to that sound are probably what lead to comments about Adam simply “acting” in his performance. When most people think of vulnerability, they think of vocals stripped down even more bare than Adam’s in this performance, free all affectations.

    This was what I meant the other day when I asked about whether trained singers have a harder time sounding vulnerable and emotional when they sing. My singing training was based mostly around musical theater, “white church music” (as opposed to soulful church music), and some of those standard “other language” songs you sing for high school solo festivals to be judged. It all kind of pushed me in a direction of phrasing and emotion that was more like Adam’s (although I don’t have one-millionth of his talent). I don’t know how to sing and sound vulnerable – not in the way that it seems that people want Idol singers to sound, anyway.

    I hear so many people say that they’d rather hear mistakes and have it be really vulnerable than to hear a perfect vocal and have it seem “affected.”

    I guess when I think of the ultimate vulnerable singer, I would say Annie Lennox (although she just happens to be MAD talented as well). That’s what I think people want to see – real, overpowering, vulnerable emotion. It just sometimes comes in the voice of a singer who doesn’t have all their ducks in a row with regard to technique.

    But I think that’s hard when you are trained on musical theater. And I can appreciate a more musical theater approach to emotion as well. And darn it – I like to see PERFORMANCES too – where someone is performing the emotion and going over the top. I LIKE that. I like a little acting ability in (some of) my singers. I love Queen, for goodness sakes!

    I’d been dying to hear something more stripped down from Adam because I really wanted to see his soul. And I think we got that with Mad World. But I think performance is also his soul. And some people just aren’t ever going to get that.

    I think I’m rambling at this point, and I don’t think I accurately expressed my point. And there’s a good chance that I veered way off topic. I can’t exactly pinpoint what I want to say with words. Sorry.


  16. I’m new to this site, and I feel like I’ve stumbled across a gold mine! Thank you for your insight MCL. I’ve been reading on your site for awhile, but haven’t posted before now.

    Adam’s performance of “Mad World” added one more reason for me to love him and what he can do with his musical gift. I get excited thinking about the “library” of his songs that I’ll likely have when this season comes to an end. I’ve felt connected to him when he sings from the beginning; this song just intensified that connection.

    I enjoy your praise/critiques of all the Idols, and am now hooked on this site.


  17. “But I also think performance is also his soul”. Yes, Kelsey I understand and so do many of his fans. No need to elaborate on this.

    It’s the theatrical elements in his performances and vocals that make him a standout. A minority of people don’t get this. He is a star BECAUSE of the theatrics and outrageous vocals. All 4 judges realize this, especially Paula and Randy. Love Adam or hate him, his performances and vocals are always signature. I don’t think he could be copied if people tried.

    Interesting thing from one of his theatre friends. She said that her favorite thing to do with Adam is to go to a Karaoke bar. She said that when Adam would get up and start singing, everyone in the bar would just stop everything to watch him.

    If Adam is reading this I just want to say, Adam you are perfect. Do not change a thing. You come out every week and throw it down with confidence, style, talent and conviction. Again, there is nothing wrong with you or your performances. You. Are. Perfect.


  18. Hi Sparky and welcome:

    I am glad that you are enjoying the site and I hope you come back and visit often to post a comment or two.

    Your message was the first one I saw when I logged on – I see there hs been quite a bit of action today. Is everyone getting along? I hope so. I know that so many of the readers love it here because of the intelligent camaraderie they experience in their discussions.

    I hope everyone takes a deep breath before they add their comments and stop and realize that not everyone’s taste will be the same when it comes to the singers they wish to support.

    I was just discussing with a couple of my voice students today about heavy metal and “emo” and all the other alternative music out there that has attracted countless fans. I don’t get it, but, obviously, millions of others do, right?

    The bottom line is this: there is room on this planet for every style of music and every style of singer and we should, in the end, embrace every level of success these artists do achieve.


  19. Hi MCL,
    I’ve been reading your site for a few seasons of Idol and really appreciate reading your critiques.
    I’m curious if you have heard the clip of Adam singing “Come to Me, Bend to Me” from Brigadoon and what your thoughts are about the level of professional training he has had?



  20. How absolutely spectacular was this performance? It was a Masterclass Performance! Bravo Adam! Kudos!

    MCL, I am trying to recall how many times this comment has been made. Not many. Maybe with one of David A.’s performances? It is quite the compliment for Adam! I have found his performances to be outstanding, and will be shocked if he doesn’t win.

    I also share Hannah and BooBooKitty’s concern. I didn’t realize that the Idols are allowed to have “personal vocal coaches and arrangers in the background” to guide them in the right direction. I realize David A. had his father as part of his team, but complaints went beyond this.

    How could a bartender or waitress have access to these professionals beyond their high school or college vocal teachers? Maybe some can contact someone over the Internet? Beyond this, I would bet most are on their own.

    I could see a mentor like Barry Manilow being available to the contestants he worked with. I also know Debra Byrd works with them, but a team of experts?

    A response would be most appreciated. Thank you, MCL for all you do!


  21. MCL, I am so happy you made this comment about Anoop. You have noticeably improved each and every week, not only as a vocalist, but also as an artist, and your stellar work ethic and resolve are just outstanding!

    This is what brings me such JOY, that is watching a contestant develop and grow during their time on AI. I feel there is much Anoop needs to focus on and am happy he has at least one more week to make changes. (Getting rid of the white tennis shoes may also help his image. :grin:)

    In your comments on Allison, you stated, “… that the tempo of this song was pedantic and funereal. It was robotically slow…” and “Additionally, the plodding tempo and lacklustre arrangement…” Is there anything Allison could have done to change this? As a 16 year-old, could she really tell the band she wanted changes made?

    This confuses me. I can see Anwar, Blake, David Cook, or Adam address the issue with Ricky Minor. They have the musical experience and knowledge. It just seems most of the Idols are at the mercy of the band.

    Again MCL, thank you so much for your knowledge and insight. I hope all the Idols (or relatives) read your blog. It is priceless!


  22. MCL, was that THE Paula Abdul who Twittered you last night? Very nice compliment she gave you.


  23. Hi dlandau!

    Yes I have heard it several times and, actually, I would love to hear Adam sing this on Idol? Was Brigadoon ever a movie? Next week is movie week, so I was just wondering.

    Maybe American Idol should have a “personal theme” night – let the singers pick songs solely based on their distinct artistry. How would they like to market themselves? Although, I have heard that Adam doesn’t wish to be known as a musical theatre artist, which is why I think he would be leaning, perhaps, towards a cabaret identity, which is all-encompassing.


  24. Kariann – re the” team of experts” comment – I guess I didn’t make myself clear. I think what I did mean was that, if you are auditioning for American Idol, find a vocal coach and/instructor that could assist you in the AI process. David’s team was his father, Richard Parkinson (arranger) and Dean Kaelin (voice instructor and coach) and David checked in with them on a very regular basis.

    How is a 16-year-old supposed to succeed on this show without some caring, expert advice as to song selection, arrangements, key selections, vocal technique, performing technique etc? It is nearly impossible.

    And, I venture to say that, when you are totally green in terms of performing experience – at any age – it is going to be very obvious, especally when you have someone like Adam LamBert as your main competitor.

    This was Jason Castro’s problem last year – we never did get to see one ounce of his true potential until after the show was over and he was able to demonstrate his outstanding talent without the pressure and confinement of the AI regimen.

    And Debra Byrd can only do so much and, I have heard that, as the show moves along, more coaching time is assigned to the singers who they believe will emerge as the real stars of the show. Could be a rumor, but, I sense there is an element of truth in this.


  25. Katillac – Paula twittered me? What did she say? I can’t find it or her profile anymore. Strange.


  26. Allison’s case, Kariann, is aperfect example of a 16-year-old whi is not receiving the proper guidance. Although Seth Riggs is her vocal teacher – and an amazing one at that – he may not be playing as prominent a role in her AI journey as, say, Dean so obviously did with David.


  27. MCL,
    Yes Brigadoon was a movie with Gene Kelley and Van Johnson, but I don’t think that song made the final cut of the film.
    I’m with you, I’d love to hear him sing this on movie night. Would certainly quiet those people that call him screechy.


  28. dlandau – agreed! However, I think he will do something multi-dimensional this week in terms of tempo. Start slow, then pick up the tempo. Just instinct. Let’s see if I’m correct! haha


  29. MCL, I saw it last night and then again this morning. Can’t remember exactly what it said… wasn’t a long message, but she complimented you on the things you said about Scott. I know nothing about “twittering”, but the name said @PaulaAbdul, so I was wondering if it was really her.


  30. Oh, I see, Katillac – but that was me complimenting her on the lovely farewell words she said to Scott. Hence the @PaulaAbdul = meaning I commented to Paula Abdul.


  31. Ah, sorry then. Shows that I know nothing about Twitter. I feel silly 🙂


  32. sorry MCL and readers. i don’t know where else to put this. all i know is that it shouldn’t be missed.

    David Archuleta, O Holy Night from Dec. 2003


  33. Hey, I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet, but I found out the theme of next week. Apparently, the contestants will be performing “songs from movies”. This is certainly bound to be interesting for sure. Oh, please Danny, sing “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan!!!!!


  34. MCL,

    I saw this from Diablo Cody on the EW website, and thought you would appreciate it:

    Then there’s Scott MacIntyre, an entertaining throwback to the heyday of Christopher Cross and Rupert Holmes. Listening to Scott makes me want to open a box of Franzia Blush and chill out on a yacht. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve downloaded his soothing version of ”Mandolin Rain” and his airport Marriott take on ”Just the Way You Are.” Since he’s legally blind, Scott could be accused of courting the sympathy vote (in the grand tradition of Anthony ”Tracheotomy” Fedorov and Kellie ”Prison Dad” Pickler). However, I think Scott is the real deal. His old-fashioned appeal is, paradoxically, one of the freshest things about the show. In a world of wannabe Jonas Brothers, it’s refreshing to see a guy who would rather be Art Garfunkel.


  35. Good advice about bringing a team with you when you come on this show.

    Question though, you say that Allison is coached by Seth Riggs. Doesn’t he teach a different singing technique than you? From what you say in your critiques it sounds like you teach Classical Technique while Seth Riggs teaches Speech Level Singing. Just curious


  36. Dadmonson -I think, that basically, the techniques are the same, but Seth Riggs and Dean Kaelin (David Archuleta’s teacher) just give it a different name when applied to popular music. Their style or approach may differ than how I go about it, but the end result is the same.

    David’s technique was “spot-on” last year – he was a technical prodigy, I thought, and was able to use the proper technique in a soulful, liberated manner.

    However, Allison, to me, doesn’t look as disciplined or as refined in her technical development and that could be because of her, not her teacher. Teachers are only as effective as the level of committment and talent that comes from their student. We can’t wave a wand and magically ingrain proper technique in a singer – they have to wrok at it.


  37. Kelsey – thanks for adding the link to this great article about Scott. I hope to compose another article in the next few days about Scott and his premature elimination.


  38. What an awesome site, thanks masterclasslady…Hey btw, adam has a fan map now at


  39. For adam lambert fan’s chat go to Yahoo chat. Got to MUSIC…then go to ROCK…then go to room 14.


  40. Overall, I felt that your sound remained captured in your throat. Basically, your throat muscles kidnapped your vocals and, as a result, the diaphragm was helpless to liberate your voice to the foreground – namely your vocal masque

    It is quotes like this that really, really made this weeks’ critique come alive to me. So many times I get confused with the technical terminology…but this type of writing really enabled what you (MCL) were saying make sense to me who has no vocal training. Thanks MCL. This “episode” of the master class was beyond excellent.


  41. Hey everyone. For those of you who want an Adam fix before Tuesday, click on the below link…..It is Adam singing Crazy at a bar. He’s so good that women in the audience throw their shoes on the stage. It’s not the version that is his demo.

    Have fun!


  42. Kariann 1:
    “In your comments on Allison, you stated, “… that the tempo of this song was pedantic and funereal. It was robotically slow…” and “Additionally, the plodding tempo and lacklustre arrangement…” Is there anything Allison could have done to change this? As a 16 year-old, could she really tell the band she wanted changes made?

    This confuses me. I can see Anwar, Blake, David Cook, or Adam address the issue with Ricky Minor. They have the musical experience and knowledge. It just seems most of the Idols are at the mercy of the band.”

    Allison has as much if not more experience doing this type of thing that many other of this years contestants.
    She won Telemundo’s very popular singing contest “Quinceañera” in 2006 with a prize of USD 50,000 and a recording contract.

    In an interview with music director Rickey Minor on the American Idol Extra broadcast this week he explicitly stated that the contestants themselves had to make the final decisions regarding arrangement, tempo, etc. They are given every opportunity possible to state their wishes and direct the manner in which they will be presented.


  43. Dear Masterful Lady, I love your insightful and constructive advice/criticism for the Idol singers. You put the finger on my thoughts of their performances, pinpointing exactly why it was I was liking or disliking their renditions.

    As a singer only in my fertile imagination, I have to ask you what you mean by singing with a ‘head voice’ a ‘chest voice’, a falsetto, or a mixture thereof. I confess that as Adam ended his beautiful song, I was watching his mouth shape and erect posture, thinking “I’ll bet Master Class Lady knows exactly how and why that shapes his big finale.”

    Please advise on all of the above. Thank you very kindly~ Robin


  44. MCL – just found your site. I love it. Your reviews and critiques are grounded and helpful. Many people don’t like Kara but I think she gives the most specific, helpful comments.

    I hope you write more about Scott. I really enjoyed him even though he had some pitch problems here and there. With his background in academic music, he knows when he’s off, doesn’t he?


  45. I heard about that. why doesn’t ppl like Kara? she don’t bother me. it is odd what bothers people. they are awfully negative and that is not a good virtue. About Scott being pitchy (I know you did not ask me, Jessica) but anyway. I believe it is because they cannot hear themselves unless they have that earpiece to help them. Is that right? Rosanne? (MLC)


  46. Seriously Surely – not necessarily. Singers encounter pitch problems for a variety of reasons and rarely is it due to technical issues with the monitors. Pitch problems happen because of lack of proper diaphragmatic support, nerves, too much chest voice in the vocal mix and facial and upper body tension.


  47. Kara doesn’t bother me either, Seriously Surely, and I thought that she would. To be honest, I think she has handled the pressures of her new position with poise and charm. It is nice to have a male/female balance on the judge panel, as well as a female that doesn’t 90% of the time give only positive remarks about the contestants’ performances. Don’t get me wrong! I love Paula and the show desperately needs her positive attitude each week. I just like the Kara a bit more spunkiness to the table. I also agree with how she is very big on artistry. She makes valid points each week, and I feel like she is a great asset to the show.


  48. Sorry about butchering that one line near the end! LOL

    What I meant to say was: “I just like how Kara brings a bit more spunkiness to the table.”


  49. I wish I had a few quotes from Kara’s comments, not that they’re all perfectly helpful. However, my vague brain seems to recall that many are specific and useful. Sometimes she suggests a song, a vocal technique, etc.

    Paula is sweet, but mostly I just shake my head.

    As for pitch problems, live performances are hard. I’ve heard the big names hit bad notes in concert (or harmonies off): Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen. The studio obviously offers opportunities to fix these blips. I know it’s competition so you have to look at the best performance that day, but a couple flat/sharp moments are gonna happen.

    I think Scott didn’t quite know how the limitations of his own voice would work in certain songs? Maybe it worked well in the studio sessions and practice and thought he had ironed out the problems? Even Adam had that one wonky note at the end.


  50. I wanted to thank you for such a comprehensive and intelligent critique of each contestant’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s refreshing to know that there is someone who actually understand and appreciates the nuances and technical skill involved in being a singer.

    I actually had the same sense of all the performances. I just am not able to put it in such knowledgeable words. I think Adam truly has a God given vocal instrument. He has also worked extremly hard to hone his vocal skills. His training in theater is helping him enormously here. I am stunned at his vocal range, power and that unbelievable falsetto.

    I also loved reading your critique of Matt’s performance. I thought his vocals were not good, but he performed well. He seems to lose his breath control when he starts moving around a lot.

    You also helped me to understand the issues I am having with Allison’s voice. I can see that she is talented, but raw and unrefined. I do believe that she needs a vocal coach to help her learn to understand her voice and control it and use it more effectively.


  51. Just found your site – love it – I’ll definitely be back regularly!



  1. American Idol Season 8 Top 2 Vocal Masterclass Article: Adam Lambert and Kris Allen « MasterclassLady.Com - May 21, 2009

    […] Adam- the first song  you performed this week, Mad World , was an innovative reprise from your  Top 8 American Idol performance , celebrating songs […]


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