American Idol Season 9 Top 6 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Music Of Shania Twain

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week’s American Idol Top 6 theme was a tribute to the music of Shania Twain. And, sharing her generous mentoring skills was the lovely Shania Twain! Surprise! I thought she did a tremendous job with these singers and was wonderfully supportive and caring to all of them.

As I wrote my article, it made me realize that the outcome of this show was a good one. It certainly wasn’t as memorable as the Lennon-McCartney showcase, but there were some genuinely surprising moments throughout this week’s Top 6 performances. A couple of singers jumped back on the horse, highlighting the reason why they deserve to have emerged this far in the competition.

And so, without further delay, here is my Top 6 Vocal Masterclass evaluations.

Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access each singer, simply click on the singer’s link below.

Aaron Kelly, Casey James, Crystal Bowersox,

Lee Dewyze, Michael Lynche, Siobhan Magnus,

AARON KELLY 16-years-old: “You’ve Got A Way “

Strengths: Aaron – ordinarily, I would have said: “What? Another ballad?”  However, given the theme this week and the limited selections suitable to your particular vocal and performing style, I thought your song selection was very astute and inspired .

Throughout  this song, you established a very calm, poignant demeanor on stage. Once again, as in so many of your previous performances, I loved your sophisticated, intuitive approach in the vocal delivery of this song. You possess innate musical skills that enable you to connect with the lyrics with genuine artistry and mature refinement.

Technically, I noticed tremendous improvement in your vocal projection. The circular formation of your mouth was more prevalent this week; I thought you were sustaining those pure vowels with efficiency and consistency.

Particularly noticeable was the way that you approached the “ayediphthong when sustaining your voice on the word “way”. By resonating your voice on the pure “eh” vowel in that diphthong, you were definitely striving for a cleaner and more refined vocal sound.  Someone has done his homework, Aaron! Kudos!

As a result, your voice had enormous presence and  control and really came alive with your newly acquired technical skills. The powerful ending to this song was very impressive and your voice  resonated with immense confidence honed through meticulous preparation and training.

I love to see a singer grow and blossom over the course of the American Idol season and you are a worthy testament to this level of growth and achievement. You have attempted to improve and hone your vocal skills and are a strong example of  what can happen when you follow the correct road to vocal success.

Congratulations, Aaron and a Standing “O” from Masterclass Lady.

Critique: Aaron- I can’t believe that I have nothing to add in the critique portion of this evaluation. Compared to last week, and, in fact, so many of the previous weeks, this performance showed tremendous growth and expansion. You are definitely moving forward in acquiring valid, deep-seated technical skills and I shall leave it at that.

Hopefully, you will continue on your path to vocal freedom. By doing so, your vocal charisma will escalate to exciting heights, similar to what we did enjoy in this superb Top 6 performance.

Bravo Aaron! This was a beautiful and enlightening showcase!

CASEY JAMES 27 -years old: “Don’t “

Strengths: Casey – from your interview with Ryan and Shania, it seems that you really “stepped up” the preparation for this song. Like Aaron, I was very pleased that you selected a ballad – the decision was smart and timely.

I  further appreciated the fact that you escalated a stronger connection with your audience by performing on the lower stage situated behind the judges. It seems that you had your ducks lined up in a nice clean row for this performance and it showed.

Everything that went oh-so-wrong last week, was a distant memory this week.  This song mirrored your remarkable and tender Top 9 performance of “Jealous Guy”. Back in the game was your sensitive and refined artistry that, for whatever reason, disappeared over the past few weeks.

You communicated this song with expressive honesty and candor. Every word was expressive and every phrase beautifully nuanced. Your articulation skills were precise and clean and, because of this, it added energy and presence to your rustic vocals.

I also felt that the key selection of this song sat comfortably in your natural singing range, allowing your voice to project with relative ease and effortlessness.

You established a poignant yet confident demeanor on stage and openly allowed the song to live and breathe in your vocal delivery. And once again, the blend of your pure vocals with your rustic vocals was just the ticket for this plaintive song. You really captured the flavor of this song so very well.

Although this wasn’t a technical masterpiece, it most certainly was an artistic one. The injection of genuine nuance and inflection established a memorable performance.  This is what happens when you dig deep and don’t settle for the safe and easy.

This was a wonderful performance, Casey! Bravo!

Critique: Casey- last week,  I spoke a great deal about elevating your artistic approach to your music.  This week, however, the artistry was there for all to see and hear, so congratulations for taking the risk once again to move beyond your comfort zone.  It must have been getting pretty claustrophobic in that box you built around yourself! It was time to move out and take a chance and it did pay off on a monumental way!

However, technically, you still need to work on relaxing those facial features, especially in the lower half of your face.

By adopting the horizontal vs. the circular mouth position on the “ee” vowel, you were not making a full and complete connection with your diaphragmatic breath support.  As a result, the absolute timbre of your vocal quality was never realized. By constricting those throat muscles to produce your vocal sound, you are, in fact, decreasing the full intensity and dynamic flavor of your true vocal quality.

You really have to start taking the bull by the horns, Casey, and work to solidify  your technical skills. By maintaining a round and relaxed mouth position on  all the vowels, you will indeed establish stronger connection with the diaphragm and be less inclined to push your vocal sound via the constriction of your throat muscles. Also, your voice will sound even and seamless from top to bottom and flow effortlessly from your vocal cords.

You must remember internalize a floating sensation when vocalizing – the voice suspended and buoyant on the correct amount of supportive air released from the diaphragm.  Also, the jaw must be relaxed and free to drop as you move toward your upper range, thus releasing constriction in the throat. The “yawn” effect!

However, that being said, you did make significant inroads in the artistic delivery of your Top 6 performance.  With the flip of a switch over the course of one week, you managed to  highlight your vulnerability and sensitivity via a passionate and heartfelt performance.

Excellent work, Casey! Kudos!

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX 24-years-old: “No One Needs To Know”

Strengths: Crystal – I did enjoy this song selection for you, if for no other reason than the fact that we were treated to the lovely quality of your pure head voice.  It is not often that you expose this free and centered quality of your vocal range, so I was thankful that the melodic structure of the song did challenge you to do so. And quite well, I might add!

You looked lovely on stage and you gave a relaxed laid back performance of this very familiar Shania Twain song.

Good work, Crystal!

Critique: Crystal – oh dear – that spread mouth! I wanted to reach through the TV and squish your mouth into a circular formation. Week after week, this technical glitch in your vocal delivery has been a ubiquitous presence and it really is diminishing the full range and clarity of your vocal timbre. The circular formation of your mouth, when combined with a free and relaxed jaw, will urge you to access the powerful support located in your diaphragmatic support muscles.

Additionally, by correcting the above technical flaw, you will enjoy a seamless, even quality throughout your vocal range. For example, although the overall quality of your falsetto (head voice) was quite good, it didn’t flow easily  from your natural voice and back again. The technical support in your lower range was unsteady and, therefore the transition from lower to upper voice and vice versa did not sound fluid or confident.

Also, your performance demeanor seemed somewhat tentative – you didn’t seem fully relaxed while singing this song. Now, I know you love Shania Twain – perhaps, you were a little intimidated? She certainly was a supportive mentor, so I can’t see why this would be the case. Or, perhaps it was a fatigue issue more than a nervous issue? Hard to say!

However, for whatever reason, the song lacked punch and attitude.  You must remember that, even though you did prefer to deliver a laid back rendition of this song, you still needed to add a  measured level of intensity. Because this never happened, the song did sound flat and linear throughout this Top 6 performance. There were no plateaus within the melodic line.

Added to this was your lack of facial expression. You must remember that Shania is a very visual artist and, as a result, exudes a ton of charisma when she performs. You lacked that all-important sparkle in your eyes and buoyancy in your physical demeanor – two very important performing elements that ensure a strong, meaningful connection with your audience.

I do agree with your statement that bigger is not necessarily better. However, Crystal, there must be committment and respect for the lyrics and the music and the emotion must be genuinely  conveyed with conviction to the listeners. I felt that you needed to add more muscle to your sound and more inflection and nuance to the lyrical line.  As a result, there was no forward momentum in this song and the phrasing elements were extremely limited.

Hopefully, next week, you will be back on track and able to perform a song that sits within the parameters of your vocal talent. You have a natural gift for delivering a song with musical ease and expressive authenticity. Therefore, select wisely and rehearse and refine every aspect of your performance.  And, believe in your genuine artistry and give yourself permission to let it explode on that stage.

Good luck next week, Crystal!

LEE DEWYZE: 23-years old “You’re Still The One”

Strengths: Lee – I am so glad that you selected this lovely ballad for your Top 6 performance. It really is one of the most beautiful ballads that Shania has recorded and it was a refreshing change to hear a male vocalist’s rendition of this song.

Generally, I thought you gave a wonderful performance of this song. I particularly enjoyed the melodic changes you made to the arrangement of this song.

I also noticed that you were grasping the general bel canto method of vocalizing. Some of the vowels, especially the rounder ones such as “ah” and “oh“, were well-focused and your mouth position was round and relaxed. Perfect!

Also, during the second half of this song, your voice sounded well grounded and brimming with that special blend of pure and raspy vocals that have distinguished you in this competition.

And I did notice that your head position was more centered and less inclined to move up when you sang through your higher register. You were still struggling with this new technical element, but, at the very least, I could sense and applaud your effort to correct this problem.

I also commended Shania’s suggestion to start this song with voice and piano, followed by the addition of the guitar and orchestration. This added a nicely layered effect to the song and augmented  your powerful vocals when you moved into the refrain.

Veyr good work this week, Lee! Kudos!

Critique: Lee – during the opening segment of this number, you  slid into your vocal delivery and, unfortunately, lost your balance. The vocals were off the radar and it struck me that, perhaps, that you were not connecting with the starting note or key of this song. Could you hear yourself in the monitors?

At any rate, your vocal sound was very airy and breathy during the front portion of this song and this coincided with the fact that you were singing through your lower range.  As I have mentioned in previous weeks, you have to make absolutely certain that you are harnessing your lower vocals with diaphragmatic breath support.

It is very normal to want to relax the diaphragmatic support when singing lower and softer, but, in actuality, this is not a good idea. The diaphragmatic rib cage and back muscles have to maintain the same intensity and control throughout every area of your vocal and dynamic range.  This is the only way the voice can sound consistent and seamless from top to bottom and from loud to soft.

This is why you encountered pitch issues early on in this song – your voice wasn’t grounded and, as a result, you struggled to get back on track.  And, to a certain extent, you did. As I mentioned above, your power vocals were more animated and better tuned.

However, your general lack of support throughout this song inhibited you from connecting many of those tricky intervals in the melodic line, especially when you moved from a lower note to a higher one.  The pitch was not centered or well-supported on the lower, resulting in a less than seamless connection to the higher note of the interval.

Therefore, you must continue to work on the continuity of support from your diaphragm. It must be established from the opening moments of a song, especially if the earlier portion of a song begins with a softer dynamic and/or in your lower register.

However, many of the sustaining elements in this song were fantastic and I did appreciate your special effort to taper many of your vowels. Also, for the most part, your jaw was quite relaxed – only the wider vowels, such as “ee” or “eh” interfered with this process and certainly not to the extent that it did last week.

You are growing and learning, Lee! Bravo!  Keep up the excellent work!

MICHAEL LYNCHE 26-years-old : ” It Only Hurts When I’m  Breathing”

Strengths: Michael – I never heard this song before, so I could evaluate it with an open mind.  I couldn’t compare it to Shania’s rendition and, having said this, I thought you were very wise and prudent to select one of her less familiar songs.

Visually, you added some lovely depth to this number, starting from a seated position on the stairs and then moving toward your audience with comfort and ease.  How I wish some of the other performers would lay their instruments aside and follow your lead. Or, at least travel with their instruments.  For me, it makes a huge difference in the memory level of any performance.

As always, you did such a wonderful job adding inflection and nuance to this extremely repetitive melody. This was no easy task and you, being the stellar musician that you are, realized this.  You made sure that the song glowed with definition and expressiveness. Therefore, we were treated to a lovely soulful flavor in this song performance, one that Shania totally embraced as shown through her swaying in the audience.

I also appreciated your effort to maintain a circular mouth formation, especially on the rounder vowels like “ah” and “oh“.  It reinforced your vocal sound in specific areas of this song and gave us a glimpse into the rich beauty of your vocal instrument.

This was a meaningful and heartfelt performance and  the expressive delivery of this number touched me so much.

Congratulations, Michael!

Critique: Michael –  you are still experiencing so many of the problems that I highlighted in last week’s evaluation.  And, what is very disconcerting is the knowledge that your vocal problems are becoming increasingly obvious and prevalent with each passing week.

Particularly worrisome was that horizontal mouth position on some of those wider vowels like “eh” and “ee“. And, although I loved the tender head voice at the end of this song, I felt it needed more muscle and support from down below in the diaphragmatic area.

You just seemed to be running out of steam during this number and couldn’t summon up the energy to support your voice properly. You must be tired   – you certainly came equipped  to this competition with the correct technical approach but, in the last couple of weeks, you have abandoned it.  Fatigue will do that to you  – that and lack of proper preparation time.

Also, why are you raising your head?  This will only cause you to needlessly strain to produce your vocal sound. You were working far too hard throughout this number, Michael. The performance didn’t look or feel effortless.  For whatever reason, be it fatigue, stress or illness, your voice has lost its presence and resonance  – the brilliance and sparkle has left the Idol building. And that is such a shame.

Here’s hoping that you are able to summon up the strength and resilience to cultivate the glorious vocal gift we came to know and love during the earlier stages of this competition.

Good luck, Michael! Courage!

SIOBHAN MAGNUS 20-years-old: “Any Man Of Mine”

Strengths: Siobhan – only you came equipped with the proper attitude necessary to convey this song in a way that embraces Shania’s brilliant rendition of this number.   You started out with confidence and showmanship, energizing and encouraging the audience to clap along with you.  What a great way to get the party rolling! Brava!

And so your journey began, as you strolled off the stage and established further connection with your audience. However, this did worry me at first – I thought that all this excessive movement would cause you to lose steam and, even worse, wreak vocal mayhem.

However, you paced this performance very well and made absolutely certain not to spend too much energy during the walking segments.This was an extremely wise decision considering the amount of vocal energy you infused throughout this performance and, in particular, at the end of this song.

This gave me a glimpse into the meticulous attention to detail you initiated during the rehearsal of this song. You, more than anyone else in this competition, understand how to maintain proper balance between the vocal and choreographic elements. Both the visual and aural dimensions of this number were exceptionally well done.

And let’s talk about that ending. You doubled the ascending passage at the end when singing the word “mine” – what a great moment that was for all of us and for you!  Pretty amazing stuff, m’lady!

This was a superb performance, Siobhan! Kudos! Brava!

Critique: Siobhan – there is a disease going around the American Idol 9 singers and it’s called “horizontal mouth syndrome”. It appears that you have also been bitten by this annoying bug, particularly when approaching your “ee” vowel or “aye‘ diphthong.

As I mentioned last week, you have not fully ingrained the  process of applying the circular mouth formation on those wider vowels, like “ee” or “eh“. As a result, your voice can suffer from an uneven quality in your vocal delivery.  These vowels are very bright vowels and the roundness in your mouth position will add depth and brilliance to these vowels when vocalized.  That nasty horizontal mouth position will only make these vowels sound strident and poorly focused.

Also, you need to adopt a purer approach to your diphthongs, particularly the  “eyediphthong.  And again, you must avoid that prevalent horizontal spread in your mouth. By not fully sustaining your voice on the first pure vowel of that diphthong – “ah” – with a circular mouth formation, you are placing unneeded pressure on your vocal cords.

Finally, as I mentioned last week, you need to learn the importance of incorporating some head voice into the lower end of your vocal mix. Presently, your lower voice sounds very dark and poorly focused and it needs more sunshine aka head voice.  Nasal resonance – not nasal tone  – is an important vocal component in a singer’s timbre and it can only be initiated through proper diaphragmatic support and by making certain that the soft palate is fully raised.

To this end, make sure you remember to create some more space in your mouth when singing through your lower end and, more important, articulate your words with clarity and precision. It will add energy and forward direction to your vocal  sound. Don’t get lazy down there and do not allow your diaphragmatic muscles to collapse.

However, all technicalities aside, this was a well prepared performance. Just outstanding! Brava once again!

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

Copyright © 2008. MasterclassLady.Com. All rights reserved.

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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

37 Responses to “American Idol Season 9 Top 6 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Music Of Shania Twain”

  1. MCL, thank you once again for your fair and balanced critique this week. I enjoy reading the detail you put into the comments for each contestant, as it helps me understand exactly why performances sound off to me. I particular liked the metaphor you used regarding Siobhan’s vocals. Her voice does sound “dark” and does need “sunshine.” Those words brought a smile to my face, as it described my feelings exactly. Thank you!


  2. You are most welcome Beth. And your comments put a mile to my face as well! 🙂 Thank you!


  3. Oh dear. I’ll refrain from being competitive, but these results make me very sad. That said, I think Siobhan will have a good career in the industry.


  4. Alex, I am almost speechless myself. Sorry MCL, there will be no more analyzing of Siobhan voice. Not only was she my favorite, but she was also my DH’s favorite. His heart is broken and does not want to watch Idol any more.

    I have no logical explanation to state why she was sent home. Thank you for your comments about all the contestants, MCL.


  5. Grammie Kari:
    You articualted my thoughts exactly. My husband and I are also down about Siobhan’s departure, and we won’t ever want to watch the show again.
    Simon treated Siobhan harshly and unfairly.
    Every year we look forward to the tour…not this year.
    I cannot believe she got the least amount of votes. She was leading on most of the polls online or in 2nd or 3rd place.
    I wish Siobhan good fortune and success; I believe in her.

    The rest of the season will be a snoozefest; I could care less who wins.


  6. Grammie, I think part of the reason is the show’s viewer demographics….it’s mostly female apparently and perhaps they like to vote for the boys (based on articles I’ve read). The same thing used to happen on Canadian Idol and it gets boring when there’s only one girl left.

    That said, I don’t blame any of the remaining contestants- they all share the same dream.

    I have a feeling that it’s not over for Siobhan though. She’s one of those contestants who will likely be given a shot after the show ends. She’s young, pretty, talented and has a unique voice and personality. She’s a star and no one can take that away from her. As far as star quality goes, she was at the top this season, IMO.

    Paint it Black was my fave performance of the season.

    If I were to give Siobhan some advice it would be to be more current. Her song choices and arrangements weren’t always something you would hear on the radio and that is critical to being successful on the show. Simon says this over and over to all of the contestants, but for some reason they don’t all pick up on it. Some of the most memorable performances on the show are those that have been modernized by the contestants. Think “Billie Jean” by Cookie or “Heartless” by Kris Allen. Their performances were almost always radio-ready.

    Back to Siobhan: She will definitely be missed. I’m so sad about the results, but congrats to the remaining contestants.


  7. I’m a Canuck ex-pat, living in Las Vegas, and I wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog comments about AI, and especially about my favorite contestant, Siobhan. I worked in radio many years ago in Toronto, and took singing lessons as a way to work on my pronunciation and breathing. I really enjoyed the experience (and I can say with confidence that I’m not tone deaf). I’ll definitely miss Siobhan, but I hope I won’t have to miss her for long and that she’ll soon be back with an album of her own.


  8. Thanks everyone for your comments. I am upset but not surprised that Siobhan was eliminated. The pimping by the judges combined with the prospect of knocking the socks off a Sinatra tune next week seemed too good to be true for Siobhan. And it was!

    What a ridiculous season! However, for Siobhan, this is the beginning of her new life post-Idol. She is now free to pursue her career on her terms.


  9. Dear All,

    I was not surprised when I looked at the demographics of potential voters and recent Idol history. (Allison Iraheta for her raw power and energy and Melinda Doolittle for her technical skills and pure sound were recent favorites of mine that I had hoped would continue in the contest). For me, the most interesting performers are gone this year. I was looking forward to seeing and hearing what Siobhan could do in the next few weeks and the show will not be the same for me.

    In fairness to the other contestants, I will not reiterate the “sweet lemons; sour grapes” routine and I do wish the remaining contestants well.

    My wish for all (naysayers, included) is that Siobhan Magnus continues to work on perfecting her craft so we can enjoy her performances in the future.

    My wish for Siobhan is that she finds and never loses her joy in her singing again so she can take advantage of the many opportunities in her future.


  10. Siobhan should have at least made it to the top three in my opinion. I honestly wasn’t expecting her to win, but it was shocking to me that she was eliminated before Aaron and Casey. From reading some of the other blogs, I realized that she was suffering the same fate as Danny Gokey did last year. For most of last season, he seemed to be Adam’s biggest competitor so people tend to be negative about a threat to their favorite. I was guilty of feeling that way about Katherine McPhee in season 5 because she was a threat to Taylor. During this season, for the first few weeks at least, Siobhan seemed to be Crystal’s biggest competitor. And then she had an “off” week and Kara and Simon couldn’t find anything positive to say about her for several weeks. And it seems that people went after Siobhan like she was a wacko because of the way she dressed, her “scream,” etc. I guess a lot of people would have been happier with her had she dressed like Katie–the all-American girl. In spite of the fact that I loved Siobhan’s voice, I do think she had a problem with song choice the last few weeks. And I respect MCL and some of the other experts on this site who pointed out some of her voice problems. However, I think she had more talent than most others on the show this year.

    I too wish Siobhan well. Wasn’t Jennifer Hudson voted off at this time too? Or did she make it one more week?

    I can’t wait to hear from her biggest fans here–Mindy, Darlene, and Gene. I hope you’re doing okay, Mindy.


  11. I think a big issue is that contestants who don’t play an instrument are at a big disadvantage. Those that play guitar have the ability to modernize their songs just based on that experience. As long as Idol allows instruments, contestants like Siobhan will have an uphill battle.

    The key thing for me is being current/relevant. Contestants who modernize their songs automatically have an upper hand. The average viewer at home is looking for that current groove so it’s critical that contestants stay in that current pocket. I think the contestants who did this best are David Cook and Kris Allen. It has to sound like it could be played on the radio, bottom line. I wanted Siobhan to win, but I don’t think she accomplished this: Her choices did not always sound current. That said, she is young and very talented so I’m pretty sure she’ll get signed somewhere.

    I think the final 3 will be Lee, Casey and Crystal. At least that’s what I’m hoping for!! I wanted Siobhan to win, so what do I know. Hahaha.

    My last word on this is for the contestants: Sing CURRENT arrangements. It automatically pulls the audience in and gives you a head start. There’s a reason everyone remembers the songs that David Cook sang.


  12. I should have added “make the song your own” in addition to making the song “current/relevant”.


  13. I agree that Casey James had much better vocals and enunciation than we have heard in previous weeks. That said, I still teel that his perf was LAZY for the following reasons:

    1. Except for location, he performed on a stool during the Top Eight Mens week.

    2. He has YET to use the stage to connect with the audience: Think Tim Urban and Andrew Garcia.

    As per Ms. Magnus, I will agree that she does have a good voice; however, I have felt that her vocals have been ‘unfocused’ and she depends on the scream WAY TOO MUCH. Also, I have been less-than-impressed with her wardrobe coices.

    Another ‘trait’—IMO—that sent Sioban home was the arrogance and ‘spoiled-bratism’ that she exhibhited whenever the ‘Big Four’ gae her a critique. A little humility would have been good for her.

    Anyway, that ends my comment.


  14. Louise – Jennifer Hudson was voted off in seventh place.

    Alex – You made a very good point about current/relevant arrangements. I completely agree that Kris Allen’s and David Cook’s success really stemmed from their talent in that department.

    I’m also glad you also added the point of “making a song one’s own” because I believe some contestants succeed despite having less mainstream leanings because they have such a strong artistic identity and inner confidence that they command attention on that stage and also endear themselves to fans. Speaking for myself, Crystal’s type of music isn’t necessarily the kind I’d buy a CD of, usually, but I’m really drawn to her artistry and her musicality. And I found Bo Bice’s earthy Southern rock sensibility really refreshing, even though I wouldn’t ordinarily listen to that genre of music, per se. Artistry goes a really long way.


  15. I’m stunned that the review of her performance techniques did not include that ear-piercing scream that she ended upon. That was entirely unpleasant, and no note I can imagine that should ever be sung again!



  16. Don’t be surprised that if Casey James keeps improving, he takes the prize. He is the last contestant from the South.

    Mike is from Florida, but resides in NY City and has some of the “polarizing” issues that Siobhan had.

    The remaining contestants seem to be from the “Rust Bowl”.

    Although wikipedia is not a primary source of information, the following excerpt has an interesting summary of the Demographics and “Geographical bias”:

    “Since the show’s inception in 2002, six of the eight Idol winners, including its first five, have come from the Southern United States; at the time of their respective auditions, Jordin Sparks resided in Arizona, while David Cook lived in Missouri.[59] A large number of other notable finalists during the series’ run have also hailed from the American South, including Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry.[59]

    “More recently, Chris Muratore, vice president of Nielsen Entertainment noted, “Each one of these artists appeals to the larger music consumer … Carrie Underwood is not a traditional country artist; she crosses over. Kelly Clarkson is the same.”[59] Data from Nielsen SoundScan, a music-sales tracking service, showed that of the 47 million CDs sold by Idol contestants through January 2010, 85 percent were by contestants with ties to the American South.[59]”

    “The show itself is particularly popular in the American South, with households in the Southeastern United States 10 percent more likely to watch American Idol during the eighth season in 2009, and those in the East Central region, such as Kentucky, were 16 percent more likely to tune into the series.[59] When asked about the appeal of Southern contestants, season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, from the state of Alabama said, “People in the South have a lot of pride … So, they’re adamant about supporting the contestants who do well from their state or region.”[59]


  17. Here is an article from Ann Powers of the LA Times…

    I will not quote the article here, but in the future, Siobhan could be a role model for young girls like her sisters.


  18. Julia, I think Casey James could take it too. I’m predicting Casey, Lee and Crystal for final 3. The other thing to note is that country music sells very well in the U.S.A. so I could see the show wanting to push him. I would not be shocked at a Casey-Crystal final 2.

    J, thank you for your reply. I wish all the contestants could sing current arrangements that are their own. The judges repeat this advice over and over, but for some reason the contestants don’t always follow suit. I’m not saying that is necessarily what I want to hear all of the time, but I do think it’s smart as far as the competition goes. Be current, make it your own…Automatically gives you a head start.


  19. Where is everyone? LOL.


  20. Julia – Thanks for the link to the Ann Powers article! It was very interesting. I enjoyed reading it immensely. I don’t know if I agree with all of the points, but the spirit of the argument is a really valid one, I feel. I hope Siobhan finds her way again. She’s definitely a type of singer who absolutely needs the right material for her to shine.


  21. Hey everyone!

    THanks for your comments. I am indeed around but the weather was too beautiful today to spend sitting in front of a computer. The LA Times articles are terrific and, perhaps, the beginning of something very big for Siobhan. Winning this competition is certainly no guarantee to success. Her fans have to stick by her in the long run – this is what will make the difference.


  22. MCL, I don’t know if Siobhan will be that successful, unfortunately. She only placed 6th. But I’m hoping something big will happen to her because she’s better than everyone in the top 5, even Crystal.


  23. Very interesting article, Julia. I certainly agree with the premise and most, if not all, of what she says.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about this week’s performances, and have two thoughts. One is that seeing Shania again (while she has never been my favorite country artist, I do have two of her albums and was VERY aware of the impact she had on the country music scene) points up what she has that I don’t think — this is me personally, no one has to agree with it — any of the Top 24 have — at least, not at this point in their careers. And that is star power. That rare, elusive quality that makes us want to watch.

    There have been better singers and better songwriters than Shania Twain, but she has STAR quality in spades and that makes up for a lot. It sure sold a lot of records, and I had a lot of fun with her humorous “Woman Power” songs when they came out. One of the things that was great about Shania was that her tongue was planted firmly in cheek.

    So this got me thinking about what is different about Shania, and also what goes into having IT. Which ties into the Ann Powers’ article. Being a great artist depends, first and foremost, I think, on being yourself. Yourself without apologies, without fear, without filter. Only YOU can be YOU, and when YOU (whoever YOU are) are YOU, it is actually the most interesting thing in the world.

    YOU pretending to be anything, in any small way, other than YOU, is boring. The audience knows it is fake, and tunes out quickly.

    This is not a slam against the AI9 contestants. It is really, really, REALLY hard to be YOU, whatever that is. For most of us, we have to unlearn all the defense mechanisms we have built up through the years. And that can take a lot of time. If it doesn’t take a lot of time, it takes a lot of work and typically a lot of pain, too.

    People like Shania are the lucky ones who seem to have greater access than most of us do to whom they are, deep inside. Shania’s inner energy is so positive and excited, it just bubbles up and spills out and takes us with it. It is so powerful that it just breaks through any filters or barriers she might erect. So she has a HUGE headstart on the rest of us when it comes to performing.

    This year’s contestants haven’t yet figured out how to let the YOU out of themselves. Crystal comes closest, but it’s interesting — she is incredibly natural talking on stage, more natural than 99.9% of performers. She might as well be in her own living room. But when it comes to performing, she comes close to letting her inner YOU out, but can’t quite get there yet. Lee has no clue who his inner YOU is; it escaped by accident, I think, in “Treat Her Like a Lady” — but Lee has no idea how to conjure it up again — hence the generally vacant look in his eyes. Casey is no more in touch with his inner YOU than Lee is — perhaps less so, because he’s learned how to mask his ignorance with one of two stage personas: the smiley uptempo guy, or the “I’ll close my eyes when I sing a ballad to show how I’m really feeling it and even though David Archuleta got nailed by keeping his eyes shut, I’ll get away with it because I’m a hunk.”

    Aaron is so young that it is unreasonable to expect him to know his inner YOU, but I have to give him props for trying so hard. Still wish he had waited a few years.

    Michael I haven’t followed closely enough to understand why some people have problems with his attitude. Remember, I mostly watch the performances and nothing else, unless there is a mentor whose input I really want, and some occasional judges’ stuff. I skip the pre-song and post-song banter. What I do know is that if he really channelled his YOU, he wouldn’t be getting negative comments. Human beings instinctively respond positively to genuineness, no matter what that genuineness is (unless, of course, you said that you genuinely wanted to kill everyone on your block, which most of us would find offensive.)

    And I think Siobhan, too, struggles with figuring out just who she is and how to deliver it. She is young, after all. Shania, by the time she made it big, was in her late 20s, so I have no idea if she exhibited Star Power in her early 20s, or if it is something she grew into. My general sense is that some Stars have it from birth, and some mature into it. Adam, for all of his brilliance, I think matured into it. David Archuleta will never have the kind of Star Power that Shania had in her heyday, but I think he has been in touch with his inner YOU from a very early age (which proves the axiom that some inner YOUs are stronger than others, even though all of them are interesting to watch. Some are simply more interesting to watch. You can see this with movie stars in particular. Movie stars typically play the same role over and over, and we NEVER get tired of watching it, because we love what they present. (The argument gets a little complicated at this point, because someone like Eddie Murphy has a screen persona and and off-screen persona, and they don’t match. But in music, they are generally the same, so I don’t need to explain the Eddie Murphy phenomena in this space. :-))

    The thing is that all of the contestants have the potential to access this thing that makes them unique, whether they do it on the show or in later years. But none of them have been doing it consistently. Which does say, yes, it’s a crapshoot at this point.


  24. Lots of interesting comments in this thread, thanks to everyone for posting!


  25. Leigh-Ann Gerow April 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Anyone who thinks Siobhan can’t make a song current/relevant needs to listen to her studio version of “Any Man of Mine”. It’s just as good as any song on country radio, and in fact, with the “We Will Rock You” backbeat, could be a crossover hit. IMO, Siobhan’s biggest challenge this season wasn’t her personality or clothes, but the 90 second song limit. She wasn’t able to customize the abbreviated songs as well as she does the full versions. I think all her studio tracks are incredible, and I give her props for trying to keep American Idol a “singing competition” and not falling into the trap of trying to win a popularity contest.


  26. I’m confident that Siobhan will have many opportunities to shine, whether in a record deal or perhaps a stint on Broadway. Her talent is too great to ignore.


  27. Leigh-Ann, I was referring to the live performances. Although vocal chords are an “instrument”, contestants who play guitar, piano, etc., are at an advantage when it comes to arrangements. The other contestants have to rely on the band more. I wanted Siobhan to win….I was just making an observation as far as the competition goes.

    Still think that being current and making the song their own is critical. I just don’t know why contestants don’t do this more often since it gives them an automatic head start.


  28. Thank you for your wonderful website! Alex I think you are correct with your thinking about making the song your own. I have a feeling a lot of the contestants don’t know enough about themselves and music to be able to do this. Some just sing and are good but they might not have the that gift to go with it.

    I am a huge Lee and Crystal fan they both have the gift of knowing who they are and what makes them sound good. A side note on Lee yes he is off key a lot live but wow with the studio versions! I think he is still nervous and very shy, but he can gain better stage presents with time. Crystal is well just a natural!

    I thought Siobhan has a great voice and will go far, her music was just not my cup of tea.


  29. I think it’s not about the contestants not making the songs their own. All the Idols are sort of in a tough spot between listening and catering to the judges and staying “true to themselves” or what not. JMO.


  30. What a shame about Siobhan. I think many of the votes are from girl teeny boppers who are voting for their favorites, which are not necessarily the most talented. Siobhan can sing anything, and that’s why she will have a great career anyway. She can go in so many different directions.
    I was looking forward to a close race between her and Crystal….ala Clay and Ruben on season 2. What a bunch of great talent that year. Even the blending of all their voices on the group songs was fantastic.
    Clay and Ruben are starting a tour on July 23 through the month of August. It will be great to see those 2 best friends performing together again.
    For those that do not know about Clay’s hilarious sense of humor, there are many Utube videos of him at his concerts. He has a great rapport with his audience, making it fun as well as beautiful music.
    I just discovered your site through another site that I frequent, and am glad to see your support of the talent on one of my favorite shows ever. I have never missed AI since the first day of season one.


  31. Sad how Siobhan was trying to do (maybe too early in the cycle) what the contestants are required to do in the last weeks – perform in more than one genre. She was trying to display versatility when the rest of the show (Producers, Judges, and Contestants) were focusing on consistency.


  32. Good – Siobhan is at home and resting.

    Siobhan Magnus returns home to Cape

    May 05, 2010

    ‘MARSTONS MILLS – After a whirlwind of television and radio interviews and appearances in the past week, “American Idol” castoff Siobhan Magnus is back home on the Cape.’

    ‘In a brief interview with the Times this afternoon, her father Alan said that she is very tired, has a cold and is resting. ‘


  33. If you are into Google Trends and Demographics –

    Interesting to see that Siobhan Magnus has a large following in Asia – Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

    I do not know if that is good for an international career…


  34. This is not a terribly scientific analysis, however,

    Lee Dewyze seems to have similar demographics to Siobhan – perhaps they appeal to a World Music clientele. Wouldn’t that be an interesting tour if Lee Dewyze maintains the present momentum and takes Siobhan Magnus with him on an international tour… Oh, well, a girl can dream.

    There is so much angst in the news these days and a little bit of the joy of music and hope for tomorrow helps.

    Casey James receives more hits from Europe than the other four finalists.

    Interestingly, it appears that Crystal Bowersox is a domestic goddess…

    Michael Lynche also seems to pull hits mainly from the USA.



  1. American Idol Season 9 Top 5 Vocal Masterclass Article: The Music Of Frank Sinatra With Harry Connick Jr. « MasterclassLady.Com - May 5, 2010

    […] hoping to hear  the glorious sustained bel canto singing that was wonderfully evident during last week’s Shania Twain performance.   However, the quick pace of this song coupled with your stiff and tense demeanor unfortunately […]


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