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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!