Vocal Masterclass Discussion For The American Idol Seasion 10 Top 11 Results Show

Last night’s show was just okay for me.

This is the problem as I see it – many of these Motown classics have been performed numerous times during past seasons on this show and I cannot listen to them anymore.

We really need to hear and see new and exciting songs from all genres – similar to what we saw and heard from both David Cook and David Archuleta during Season 7.

Now, in terms of pure vocal skills, no one can surpass Pia, Stefano and James – they are pretty near perfect, although Pia and Stefano could stand a little tweaking here and there in their performance skills. And, James is coasting on incredibly natural vocal ability that sometimes does not work as well for him had he came to the show equipped with stellar technique.

However, tonight’s results could be interesting. Both Pia and Stefano received some lukewarm critiques from the judges and this may or may not affect the standings during the results show this evening.

Naima was very shrewd in her song selection; her pitch problems were non-existent because the key selection was absolutely “dead-on”, highlighting the rich, contralto quality of her voice. And the dancing was outstanding.

Scotty just sounded and looked very karaoke to me and he was straining for those upper notes. He is a genuine performer and communicates fairly well, but does so while tilting his body sideways. This needs to be addressed as it makes him look very awkward on stage.

Casey and Paul just don’t have the vocal chops for this competition, although both are very musical and entertaining. However, the raspy quality in their voices really limits their expressive range and this is really important when one considers how brilliantly some of the other singers manage this characteristic in their singing style.

Haley, Lauren, Thia and Jacob fall somewhere in the middle. The performances lack a certain finesse and, in the case of Lauren and Thia, maturity and refinement. If they do remain in the competition for a long period of time, it may be exciting to watch their growth.

So, who will make the Top 10? We shall know soon enough.

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

84 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Discussion For The American Idol Seasion 10 Top 11 Results Show”

  1. Dear MCL – As always you have zoomed in on a key source of the lackluster shows this year and the feeling of déjà vu. Perhaps, after ten years, the AI machine might have developed the capability to acquire rights to fresh material?


  2. Dear MCL, I’m an avid reader of your analyses each week, and this week in particular, I found Stefano’s vocal technique super odd this, it was almost as if he was transitioning between several different voices unnecessarily- almost like he couldn’t control the different tone changes. Am I just hearing things? I was just wondering what your take was on that.


  3. I’ve read that supposedly something “shocking” is supposed to happen on the elimination show tonight.


  4. Louise,

    Yes, I just came here after reading on MJ’s blog that Nigel is tweeting about a shocking result tonight. She has been speculating that it could be one of the guys or a favorite of the judges. So will the judges use the save if it’s someone that’s really good?

    I think it was Vonnie who said that we could have a surprise in the bottom tonight. I think with this competition being to tough, that anything can happen. Now I am dying to know what will happen.

    So Nigel reveals spoilers about eliminations when he decides it suits his purpose. Good way to ensure that everyone tunes in tonight. Why do I have a feeling that it’s a guy?


  5. Now that I just went back to MJ’s blog to read more, what Nigel specifically said is that there will shocking news tonight. Now that could mean anything. There is a big basketball game opposite Idol tonight, so maybe this is his way of making sure to get a big audience by creating a lot of buzz.

    The theories among those commenting on the blog there are fascinating. Someone even speculated that one of them could be leaving the competition, thinking about Casey and his illness. So it wasn’t specifically referencing a shocking elimination. Nigel can get so cute about these things.

    Well, we will have to wait and see.


  6. Hi Synth…welcome!!! 🙂

    If you can trust dial-idol…it has Casey at the bottom, it’s not always 100% but lots of time it is right on!!!


  7. Maybe Idol is trying to get an even number of girls and an even number of guys in the summer tour.


  8. Hello everyone. I had started a post earlier but I guess I confused myself & shut down the window. I was going to put aside the vocal issues & focus on the performances. So tonight’s result will be shocking?? I really hope it’s not Casey. I also hope it’s not Scotty (see below).

    Now on to my brief analysis: The performances I MOST liked last night were Naima & James. Both of them, in my opinion, brought something new to songs that, as MCL said, have been sung A LOT. Naima’s in particular was just downright brilliant. And even though I agree with MCL that this was not the most stellar performance from Scotty, he’s just SO darned cute – it’s hard not to smile when he’s singing.

    Stephano has, in my opinion, a wonderful voice but I find his performance is so forced (or for lack of a better word, “stagey” which is my counterpart to the word “pitchy” which has nothing to do with music – it has to do with something characteristic of the sticky black stuff). I have the same problem with Pia, another singer with an amazing voice. But I would not pay money to hear her, nor would I pay money to hear Stephano, at least not at this point.

    Casey did well last night, in my opinion, so I would be surprised/sad if he were voted off. I like him a lot. He’s not the strongest singer but he is a performer.

    I love Thia’s voice. But she’s so young & she doesn’t know how to perform. i wish she could have opened up more on a song that I think was good for her.

    I’ll stop here because I’m running out of time again. Hope to be back later.


  9. Hi everyone,

    I was just lurking at MJ’s site and discovered that I’m not the only “Sue” in town. I know that a lot of us read and post in both places, and I just thought I’d clarify that she and I are different people. I hope she gets her pool points. 🙂


  10. I checked back on MJ’s blog and it seems that the original tweet from Nigel had nothing to do with tonight’s results. It has been revealed that the theme for next week may be Elton John songs. Nigel then tweeted that everyone has guessed what the surprise is, so that’s all.

    Way to throw everybody off, Nigel!


  11. Everyone on MJ’s blog is talking about the dial idol numbers, so I checked it out for myself. I don’t know anything about how accurate they are, but these are the ones who are supposedly in danger of being in the bottom three –

    Haley, Naima, Thia, Paul, Lauren and Casey

    In the top five that are supposedly safe, Stefano is last and listed as a possible bottom three.

    Now everyone on MJ’s blog is trying to decide what it is that they guessed right on with Nigel’s original tweet.

    These are the times when I hate being on the west coast. I will be following the results online, because I always like to know beforehand who goes home. I can’t stand waiting another three hours.

    It is looking like it will be Elton John songs for next week’s theme.


  12. Okay well that’s the last time I call the bottom three! 🙂 HA!

    I’m not a fan of this “save” and I don’t know what to think that they used it this week…hm. I don’t think Casey was warranted the save at all….but anyway, it’s over, it’s done. No more saves…next week two people gone though….wonder what the contestants will bring next week. In my opinion, it needs to be a big rebound week.


  13. I didn’t want to wait until the show airs out here on the west coast, so I followed the results on MJ’s blog. So that’s the big shock – there will be 11 kids on the tour.

    They used the save on Casey and now there is no save for the rest of the season. Next week two will be eliminated.



  14. That was a weird show tonight. It almost seemed to me that the last part about the judges save was all planned and that they were acting. It just didn’t seem real to me. Did anyone else get that vibe or am I just too suspicious?

    I also wonder if they’ve gotten so much flack about the judges save that they decided to use it now and be done with it for the rest of the season.


  15. I loved the Motown theme! Coming from a Detroit suburb, I grew up on that wonderful music 24-7!!

    This really has been the BEST Result Show ever!!

    I love the excitement and what a wonderful theme MOTOWN music is! BTW, the MOTOWN MUSEUM is located in a very safe part of Detroit (not a suburb). I have been there three times and it is amazing! No aiti-tuned music back then.

    We had a wonderful Group Performance, Stevie Wonder, birthday celebration for Steven, Marc Anthony mentoring, country music, Hulk Hogan, multi-award winner Jennifer Hudson, and an unpredictable SAVE. I am so glad it is gone, gone, gone, for the rest of the season!

    All ELEVEN offer something different for the tour! YAY!

    When Casey was in the hospital for the second time, I said they should let the 11th place person go on the tour because Casey isn’t going to keep all those concert date. I even suggested he MC if he dropped out. I didn’t know he would be that 11th person, but I am so happy for him! I think they do have a physician on the tour.

    WOW! What an ending!

    Welcome Synth!


  16. Oh, my goodness!!! I felt like crying, seeing Casey get so emotional. I’m so happy for him, and glad the save is gone, like Grammie Kari just said. If it had been Stefano with the lowest number of votes, I’d hope they would have saved him, but I’m not to certain that they would.


  17. Louise….You’re not too suspicious. I think that it was all worked out very shortly after they knew the results. My feeling is that they really like and respect Casey and did not want to see him go and not be on the tour. Casey has been and remains my favorite, I know he’s not the best vocalist but for me there’s just something so likeable about him.
    I hope he got what J-Lo said to him tonight and goes back to what he was doing during the auditions. I’m glad they used the save on him and I wish him well. I wish them all well. This week D-Idol got it right but I think that the reliability of that site will be challenged this year with the new online voting system whose votes are separate and not tracked, I can’t imagine it but you can vote for the entire 5 hours online.


  18. Well, this time Nigel wasn’t kidding when he tweeted earlier today about a shocking result. I do think that once they realized the results, they make the decision in advance to use the save to keep Casey and have eleven people on tour this season.

    Maybe the fan bases of these two guys got a little complacent this time, because a guy hasn’t been in the bottom yet. It was a well deserved use of the save. No way should Casey have gone.

    So now the save is gone and used for a worthy contestant and there will be eleven people on tour and next week two will go home. Now it’s up to America and that’s the way it should be! What an emotional night!


  19. I am pleased about the results. As I said before, I truly LIKE all these contestants and I would like to see all eleven on the tour this year — they may even be able to have more duets and group performances this year on the tour. Lastly, I am SO GLAD that they used the save now – the bonus is that we don’t have to sit through weeks of “sing for your life”.


  20. I too am glad that the save is gone…like JULIA said, no more sitting throught the “sing for your life.” I’ve never liked the save anyways!

    I am gald that they used the save last night on Casey… 🙂


    I wonder if the judges haven’t already decided who they would you the save on and if one of them came up to plate they would use it…? I wonder who they would not have used the save on last night? It did seem rehearsed!

    After MCL mentioned that she thought the show was scripted, it all makes sense now; I’ve always known the producers have always had an agenda. Especially how some get thrown under the bus while others can do no wrong. This is supposed to be America’s choice not the producers!

    But, I think this top 11 are all really good, so it should be a great tour this year!


  21. Mindy,

    I am so glad that someone other than me thinks Jennifer talks way too much! 🙂


    I vote online, and it really is so easy, no busy phone lines; this is going to make it hard for dial-idol to predict the bottom three! But they had it right last week and this week! Maybe not many are voting online yet!


  22. I watched the end of the elimination show again this morning and still think that the judges knew ahead of time that Casey was going to be eliminated and had made their decision. But watching Casey, I definitely believe that he had no advance warming. I’m glad they saved him, and very glad that we don’t have to think about the judges save for the remainder of the season!!!


  23. Oh, my typing skills! I meant to type “no advance warNing” in the post above.


  24. Sorry to interrupt the discussion, but I know how much MCL loves discovering new talent (don’t we all? ) Check out Tanner Linford. I saw his video while voting on this year’s Stadium of Fire Talent Search. The show will feature (you guessed it!) David Archuleta. You can vote here, http://www.freedomfestival.org/events/stadium-of-fire-talent-search/

    Tanner’s entry:


  25. We did just have a go at chatting about how scripted the show is now.
    Using the save on Casey showed what we were speaking of. Casey may not have
    known. But those judges did. And stopping him in mid song was a
    bit presumptuous. What if he had passed out while performing? He was
    very close to unconciousness after he was stopped. Now they cannot save
    Stefano. Next week is a turning point for me and this series. I believe
    I continue watching so as to be able to remain a fan of MCL.


  26. Vonnie,

    I think Jennifer can give good critiques, sometimes reading from her notes. However, she really can tend to go on and on and on. That doesn’t leave much time for Randy or Steven to say anything. She has interrupted both of them, especially Randy, on a few occasions. She just needs to remember that she is one of three, she’s not the only judge.
    I would also like Steven Tyler to try to say something a little more relevant. Randy has tried to be more expansive in his comments and not rely on his little go-to words and the “dawg” thing as much. Steven needs to step up, too.

    I did feel bad for Casey when they dramatically decided to stop him from singing. I thought he was going to collapse on stage. They know that this young man has been ill and sometimes it would be nice to see them forego their ratings and drama out of simple common decency. After Casey composed himself, he said that since it was so early in the finals, he didn’t think there was a chance of them using the save and when they stopped him from singing, he thought it was all over.

    At least we are done with the save for this season. I don’t know how they will manage to up the ante with the drama, but at least we won’t have to watch any more weeks of these kids supposedly singing for their lives.

    I do hope that Casey will take this opportunity to go back to what worked so well for him earlier. I would like to see that Casey.


    As far as the word “pitch”, I simply don’t know what other word to use when the notes sound off to me. I could say off key, that’s about the only way I could describe what I hear. I know that MCL has explained in the past about absolute pitch and relative pitch. There may even be another one, but I don’t remember. She said I have absolute pitch and any singing that isn’t that accurate may sound off to me. I can’t always put in words what I hear, but my ears are so sensitive to anything and seem to pick up a lot. Sometimes I have learned from MCL’s critiques that it’s poor vocal technique that is the reason why I am hearing something that is off.

    This season I have tried not to put as much emphasis on what I am hearing in my critiques. I do care very much about things like performance value, entertainment, showmanship, command of the stage and especially, the ability to understand and interpret the words of the song and tell a story to the audience. So I am looking for a number of things. I used to be accused of just wanted perfect vocals and ignoring the other aspects of the performance. That was not true then and is not true now. It’s just that when something is really off with the vocals for whatever reason, it can interfere with my ability to enjoy the performance.


  27. You know, one of the reasons that the concept of the Save annoys me is that we end up saving people who have no chance of winning the thing (sorry, Casey fans, but I just don’t see it.) If they haven’t developed a sufficiently large fan base to keep them from being voted off and the judges have to save them, then it is just a matter of time until they are voted off again. (Having said that, Michael Lynche hung in much longer than I expected he would, but look at the competition last year.)

    I’m also not wild about it just from the competition perspective. It is a contest, after all, and why should one lucky singer draw a wildcard on the week that they botch it up completely, while everyone else has to live with their mistakes? The whole thing about Idol is that you MUST BRING IT EVERY WEEK AND LEAVE EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE. If you can’t, you get cut, and I think that’s fair and reasonable. Too bad if you are talented, but they all are, and only one can win the thing.

    On the other hand, I can’t deny that Casey will bring something to the tour that is worth hanging on to, and I can’t really fault Idol for wanting to make the tour as marketable as possible.

    Can someone please explain to me why Paul McDonald hasn’t sniffed the bottom 3 yet? A poorly supported voice that seems to miss on pitch too frequently (but there is so little diaphramatic support that I’m never sure if my ear is hearing it properly — Mindy?). Forget the fact that without the guitar in his hands, he seems to be unable to convince any of his limbs to stay still for more than a millisecond — he just seems to be me to be completely out of his league vocally. The sort of singer that you enjoy when you end up at an obscure club on vacation quite by chance, but not anyone you’d buy a record from or go intentionally to see in concert. Does being attractive and having a Pepsodent smile really make up for all that (why am I even asking that? Look at Tim and Sanjaya.)

    I’m not trying to rag on the poor guy, he seems genuinely nice and into what he’s doing — I just don’t get it, that’s all.


  28. Mindy, I should let Darlene speak for herself, but I don’t think you’ve ever used the word “pitchy” — you speak of singers being flat or sharp, or perhaps off-pitch — but “pitchy” is Randy’s favorite term (and sometimes other judges’, as well!), and I think that is what Darlene was referring to.

    I agree with you, Darlene, about both Pia and Stefano. Great voices, but far too measured and self-conscious as performers. Both need solid uptempo numbers to show us if they have the potential to break out of their restraints. I’m not sure that either can do it in the time frame they need to, although I think Stefano may have a bit of a headstart on Pia.

    However, I must say that I think Haley is getting shortshrift in this department. While we may not yet be clear on what kind of artist she is, she is working hard at being an entertaining performer no matter what she is singing, as is Naima. I think both have been more successful at it than Lauren has been to date, and I’ve decided to be glad that Haley is in the competition.


  29. Reminder. Stefano surprised everyone with the double time disco remix of “Lately”. He could have sat at a piano alone and had a “moment” with that song—-BUT this years’ producers don’t seem capable of a moment.


  30. I just got back from a week-long vacation and discovered the shocking results of this week’s show! Needless to say, I feel very, very behind. =P I will be watching the performances now and commenting later. If there are any unanswered vocal questions people want me to address, please feel free to direct me to them because there are so many comments; I don’t know if I’ll be able to read them all! 😉


  31. Next week is ’80s music, so I HOPE that the producers allow for more creativity with arrangements. A lot of ’80s music just sounds dated when done straight… we need current-sounding music out of this bunch, not karaoke.

    I wonder if Casey will take the last-minute advice last night (no overdone facial expressions and excessive growling) to heart. He needs something acoustic, with his bass… like Jacob, he is ten times more resonant when restrained.


  32. Oh shoot, nevermind. Apparently they switched the theme to Elton John songs. Last night it was announced it would be ’80s songs.

    Yes, that’s much more worrying. As much as I love Sir Elton, I don’t know if it’ll be a good week. For some reason, an image of Naima singing “Circle of Life” came into my mind… I hope that doesn’t happen.


  33. I just watched the group number with Stevie Wonder again and can see some real chemistry (maybe JOY?) developing among them for the tour this year. Yes, some of these contestants have shown that they are unseasoned at times, but I can see some real potential in these early performances. Let’s hope that they have good healthy mentoring (as opposed to tor-mentoring) this year.

    Tom, if what you read is correct about next week, Elton John has a wide and deep songbook (although it depends what the AI10 Machine has bought rights to this year); but this could be an opportunity in to build the repertoire of all the contestants.

    There is some irony to all this in that the night Jennifer Hudson was voted off, Elton John was quoted as calling the voting “incredibly racist” as Hudson, LaToya, and Fantasia all had low vote counts that night. Is it time to kiss and make up now?


  34. Janey – great video! What a voice on that kid! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  35. So I hear that next week is Elton John week and not the 80’s. I’m disappointed. I LOVE 80’s music. That’s MY generation. I could have actually maybe come up with some titles. Elton’s a great musician, but his heyday was in the 70’s.


  36. Jeanne,

    Your hearing is just fine! I think people have more capacity to hear things than they might think. I know when something isn’t right, but I don’t necessarily know why. I have some vocal technical background, the basics, but I am not in the same league as J and Darlene who are singers.

    I think Paul gave a decent performance for him. He was more on pitch this time, so standing still seems to be the way to go, or sitting as long as he is not making those weird, strange gyrations that contort his body. What really went wrong with his performance were a few things – first, those backup singers! Good grief, what were the producers thinking and what was up with the sound mix? The guy has a soft voice to begin with and then he has to practically shout to even be heard. One of the reviewers online said that if the backup singers were gone and it was just Paul and his guitar, he might have had a moment. I think it was Michael Slezak. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it would have been a much more compelling performance. My second issue is that he was smiling all throughout the song. I know that this guy realizes that his smile, those flashing white teeth are his assets, but this is not a happy song! If he feels the need to remind America and especially the girls voting, about his smile and teeth, then do it when the performance is over. Did he read the words to the song? Did he think about what story he was telling?

    I think Paul should have been in the bottom at least once. Yes, unfortunately you can get by on looks and a nice smile, at least for a while. I am pretty much done with him at this point. I simply think he is not strong enough to compete in this group.

    Haley has slowly started winning me over. She has a more powerful voice, so she was able to be heard above the backup singers. Still, it was annoying to hear them so loud again. I think she found her niche, who she is as an artist. She can definitely sing other genres of music but must be careful with song choice. She still isn’t as natural in her movements and gestures onstage as I would like, but this time I thought she was restrained for her. The most important quality that I felt from her was finally a real connection to the words and emotion of the song. I am glad that she made the tour.

    As far as Casey getting basically a free pass, my belief is that he did deserve to get the save. The fact is that it’s now up to him to show America that he is more than a one-note screaming growler who makes faces. He has to go back to the basics. If he does it, then the save will have been well used. If he doesn’t, then America will vote him off again and this time there will be no reprieve.

    Next week will not be easy. Elton John is another iconic performer who sings extremely difficult songs, but makes it look easy. Song choice will be of the utmost importance.


  37. Jeanne,

    Sorry, but I didn’t actually address your comment about the vocal issues with Paul. I don’t know if it’s the position of his face and neck that may be constricting his vocals or tension, but I do think that he isn’t using his diaphragm properly to support his voice. What concerns me is that he is straining badly in his performances and that will cause wear and tear on his voice.

    Dearest J,

    I know you are trying to catch up, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts about Paul’s voice, what you think Casey needs to do and if James has a great natural voice but isn’t using it properly with good vocal technique.



  38. Gene W,

    This is just for you!!! My son has been learning to play the harmonica, and is getting into a little bluegrass music; so today he comes home from school and tells me that he has this cool band that he wants me to hear…it was Allison Krauss!!!

    He was a little miffed when I told him that Allison was by no means new to the music industry…but I did tell him that he has great taste in music! I had him listen to ‘when you say nothing at all”, he liked it alot!


  39. Hi Mindy. I don’t have a problem with the word “pitch”. I have a problem with the word “pitchy”. It’s an annoying (to me) shortcut to saying “there were pitch problems”. I might be a nitpicker when it comes to language – no make that, I AM a nitpicker – but I cringe when I hear “pitchy”. And my singing teacher sometimes makes a distinction between “under pitch” and just plain downright flat but I don’t honestly know what the difference is. The good news is that sharp is sharp. There’s also a difference between singing notes that have some harmonic sparkle to them and singing a straight tone. I like notes with harmonics in them. They’re just prettier. Pia generally has a lot of harmonics although occasionally she loses them & seems to resort to some unnecessary near shouts.

    I really think this is a fun bunch of people with a whole lot of talent. It’s going to be hard to decide which person should stay & which should go.

    Jeanne, I think you are spot-on regarding Paul. I haven’t figured out how he got this far either but he seems to attract a fair amount of fanaticism (I have a very sweet, young Twitter friend who is wild about him). I think it’s the smile too. And lest we forget what happened last year when Lee Dewyze won. Granted I stopped watching Idol when Siobhan left but I heard Lee in Charlotte on the Tour & it was quite frankly awful. Granted it was horrendously hot & late & they had just traveled 12 hours by bus. But Lee absolutely didn’t win on talent. It was the cuteness factor.

    OK, I am tired so I need to stop now. Thanks, everyone.


  40. Addendum: Mindy, I don’t think any of these kids have great vocal skills (breath control, posture, good head position). but there’s a lot of raw talent in them. Here’s a brief & sleepy analysis:

    I’m not a big Haley fan, to be honest, but I will say I think she’s comes closest to what I would like to see in singer – everything seems fairly effortless for her, so something good is going on. And she wasn’t bottom 3 this week so she’s gaining fans.

    Scotty was straining this week & he needs work on his breath control but I love that rich baritone. And I’m not a country music gal.

    James starts out under-pitched/flat but he gets better once he gets into the song. Maybe he needs to warm up more?

    Jacob scares me a little; in my opinion, he oversings & doesn’t let his voice do what it could do if he lightened up a little.

    Lauren has a good voice but I think she’s young & a little nervous. The result is tightness & trouble getting a good breath although she occasionally lets go with a great, full note.

    Pia has a gorgeous voice. But she also seems to be straining & oversinging. The result is loss of harmonics on some big notes. I think JLo is on target with comparing her to Celine Dion. She could be that good but she’s not there yet.

    I wish Thia would stop smiling so much. The smiling interferes with clear diction, in my opinion. It’s a great voice but she’s so young. I think she’ll be one of the next to go.

    Naima is a dancer. I like what she did this week from a purely entertainment perspective. I also heard more richness/stability to her singing this week but she chose a fairly easy song. The dancing was pretty interesting but it’s a singing show, not a dancing show.

    Stephano is another singer who I think is straining & oversinging. He might have decent technique but he’s not utilizing it right now.

    I love Casey for who he is but I’m not sure he can sing. I didn’t hear him in the earlier performances so maybe he’s got something in him I haven’t seen.

    Paul I discussed above.

    I so admire these kids. They are singing for a huge live audience plus countless TV watchers (like us). I got nervous singing to 62 people this week. And 2/3 of them were Citadel cadets, most of whom fell asleep during the performance. But my singing teacher was out there & that added a certain degree of anxiety to the night. I did do a pretty good job on Brahms “Wie Melodien” – happy about that because I love that song.

    OK, now I really do have to stop. Thanks again, everyone.


  41. Janey, I am listening to the Tanner Linford clip. Wow, great voice. I sure hope he has a good teacher because he could do a lot with that talent. Thanks!!


  42. Darlene,

    Thanks so much for clearing up the usage of the word pitch. It’s true that I never use the word “pitchy”. I have never heard it until the judges said it on Idol. Randy did say to Naimi last week that she seems to be under the pitch quite often. I am not sure what that means. A note can sound sharp, or not in key and I will immediately hear it. If it’s a performance where the singer is consistently off key, sometimes I can’t listen to it. My head hurts and I even have to cover my ears. That’s how sensitive I am to it and it doesn’t always feel like a good thing!

    I loved your take on some of the singers. You must have missed some of the disagreement that was generated about Haley. She has not been one of my favorites and I have been frustrated with her affectations and mannerisms while performing. I also didn’t know who she was, since she changed from singing Alicia Keys to Patsy Cline/Leann Rimes and then an uptempo Whitney Houston song! It’s not shocking that she has been in the bottom two until this week, when I finally thought she was on the right track. Someone here was kind enough to post two videos of her earlier singing. One was an amateur web-cam thing that she put together at home and the other was a performance of “Night and Day” with her high school band at some function. Wow! She didn’t have any of the stagey, fake mannerisms and her voice sounded unbelievably good. So I kept an open mind. I don’t know that she will be one of my favorites, but I think she has some real talent.

    I really understand your comments about the raw talent present in this group, but the lack of things like breath control, good posture and head position is why I am hearing some issues in their singing.

    I am not a country music fan, but I am just crazy about that baritone of Casey’s. I can tell that he is lacking in both performance and vocal skills. He tilts his head to one side when he sings and that might be affecting his breathing. I thought he was straining for the notes in this week’s performance, although I don’t know if it was because they might have been out of his range or because of the poor breathing. He is pure raw talent and a gorgeous voice that gives me chills.

    Thank you for clearing up what was bothering me about James this week. Yes, I wrote in my critique that he didn’t sound quite right in the beginning, that it took him a bit to get his vocals more on pitch. Under pitch or flat makes perfect sense. I also think that his vocals are getting more rough and a little raw or harsh in places and I think that is because of the lack of technical vocal skill.

    You summed up my feelings about Jacob perfectly! I have nothing to add.

    I am still wondering how much range Lauren has with her voice. She seemed the most comfortable and happy singing this song and there weren’t that many notes. I can hear the breath problems and that’s just youth and inexperience.

    My issue with Pia is that I hear her high power notes as harsh or a little screechy, for lack of a better word. I don’t know if that is because of what you mentioned about lack of harmonics, that makes it sound kind of harsh to me. I still love her voice and wish she would break out of her comfort zone and take a risk next week and really go uptempo and move around that stage. I do hear the Celine comparison, but you are so right that she’s not there yet.

    I think the point about Thia smiling has been made here and elsewhere. I am sure that MCL and J would have noticed the horizontal mouth position. I think she’s just too young right now and in over her head. I love the tone of her voice, but I wish she had waited a year or two for this competition. I agree with you that she could be one of the ones to leave next or quite soon. She has really struggled with song choice.

    MCL mentioned the contralto tone in Pia’s voice. I thought she might be singing in a lower key this week, but I am not sure. They were smart with this song, because it’s really a repetition of the same few notes with not a lot of challenging melody, key changes or range. She has been having terrible problems with her pitch when she sings. So they gave her a feel good song where it wouldn’t challenge her voice, she could break out her dancing and give a fun performance. I know that she has studied dance, so she incorporated that this week. When she gets the right song, she has an interesting, kind of offbeat, jazzy, funky voice. I like her because she is different. To me it’s a miracle that she is still there, because she doesn’t fit the traditional mold.

    Stefano keeps raising his head when he sings and he closes his eyes. He sounds at times like he is straining to stay on key, but this song just didn’t work at all. He sang it the wrong way and didn’t connect with the words.

    Casey supposedly does have more voice, but we haven’t heard it lately. I think that I heard a bit of it in Hollywood week, but he has gone for the screaming, growling, over the top stuff that obviously turned off America.

    I do feel the same way you and Jeanne do about Paul.

    I also agree about how difficult it is to do this in front of a live audience and a viewing audience of millions. These kids are young, have so much pressure to get the right song, then know how to sing it and come out and deliver every week. I give them all a lot of credit!


  43. Oh, silly typos again!

    The biggest one is when I messed up in saying that MCL mentioned the contralto tone in NAIMA’s voice, not Pia’s!


  44. Darlene,

    Can you explain a bit of what you mean when you say singing a note with harmonics versus singing it with a straight tone? I haven’t heard this before, and it sounds interesting to me.


    I agree with your description of Pia’s glory notes as sounding a bit harsh. I’ve been attributing that to the fact that she leans her head back on them and so creates tension in doing so, but if there is something else contributing, I’d be glad to hear what someone has to say about it.

    And lastly, I agree with MCL’s assessment of all of them, but particularly about Thia and Lauren. Plenty of talent in both, but much too young. I thought Lauren might be able to be another Alison Iraheta (in terms of performance chops), but she hasn’t lived up to my expectations. I wish parents would just refuse to let their kids participate until they are at least 18, and encourage them to wait until they are 20. The kids just don’t realize that there are things they don’t have that those 2 to 5 years will give them, and they need a little adult advice forced on them. How many teens have we seen about whom we say, “if only they had waited a few years, they could have won the whole thing?”

    I assume that Idol permits them to audition because they think it will draw in audience. And perhaps — just perhaps — they get the next Justin Bieber out of it. But for the kids themselves, it’s generally a bad choice.

    I remember going to an audition callback years ago, and reading against some much more experienced and older actresses, and realizing just how much out of my league I was and how much I had to learn. But I was in my 20s when that happened; I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed a thing if I was 18!


  45. Mindy,

    Thanks for telling me my ears are okay? There are times when I hear people saying the singers are off pitch, and I wonder what they’re talking about, and times when I’m certain they’re off and it is either ignored or their technical skills and pitch are praised. So I’m never sure any more if it’s my ears or theirs! That’s why I rely on your infallible assessments . . .


  46. Good morning! I thought I would check in an see what the insightful Masterclasslady had to say about this week’s performances. I agree with some comments here, but must politely and respectfully disagree with a couple of things.

    Unlike the last two weeks, this week I thought Jacob was excellent. I just watched the performance again, and I absolutely loved this performance. Yes, I am a big fan of his vocal quality, but he had been over the top recently. This week I thought he showed great prowess and range. I love the low smooth tone that melts butter. Sad to see him in the middle of the pack for MCL.

    I just can’t get excited about Pia. As much as my music training tells me she is a fantastic vocalist, for me she is very boring and forgettable. I sure hope she can break out of the slow ballads and show she can command the stage like Niama does. Lauren is growing on me too. Loved her performance.

    James continues to be one of my favs. Still not digging Casey or Paul. Scotty managed to survive motown, with a quirky albeit cute performance. I just love this kid for some reason!

    I found Stefano’s phrasing very strange. Didn’t like his approach to the song at all.

    So, my favs continue to be Niama, Jacob, James and Scotty. Clearly not for pure vocal talent alone. They are the reason I am still tuning in!


  47. You know, Sarainvt, I think people are blasting Jacob a little too much for his performance style and interpretation. It’s part of who he is, and I’m mostly fine with it. Yes, there are times when he goes over the top, but I liked his performance this past week, too. And I’d much rather have his energy and passion than someone like Pia, who colors between the lines. When he is in his zone, I’m not sure he can be surpassed, but I’m concerned that it’s been harped on so much that anything he does can be seen by some people as too much.

    In the acting world, I’ve discovered that people are, by nature, either over-actors or under-actors. Doesn’t matter which you are, you need training to get you to the middle. But it is easier (over time, at any rate), to tone down the over-actors than to get the under-actors to turn up the amps. So Jacob is really better positioned than Thia and Pia, who underplay their performances.

    I think it is still too early to call this particular horse race, which is why I am enjoying the season. So much can happen in a couple of weeks, and contenders can fall and dark horses rise.


  48. Jeanne,

    I heartily second your comments about letting these young people wait until they are at least eighteen before entering a competition like this. I have said this in the past and will say it again. I just think that it’s important to have the time to go to school, be with friends, go to your senior prom and enjoy youth. You are only young once and when it’s gone, you can never get it back.

    I understand the feeling of maybe grabbing the opportunity to have a chance at the kind of success we all only dream about. However, as we have seen on this show throughout the seasons, these young ones don’t win and can have their careers end before they even begin. I thought that Allison Iraheta should have waited a year or two. She was signed, released and album and now where is she? Just looking at Thia and Lauren, you find yourself thinking what they might be like if they had waited a year or two. How on earth can they be expected to choose the right songs, withstand the rigors of this competition and the pressure of performing weekly in front of millions? It’s too much.

    As far as Jacob, he should naturally be one of my favorites because I love r&b singers. I do love his voice, but the oversinging and embellishments have been a real turn-off for me. I don’t think it’s all his fault. The arrangements have not done him any favors and he’s not the one who brought in the gospel singers for one performance. I think the backup singers are too loud and that might make him feel as though he has to sing louder to be heard. I did give him credit for toning it down this week, but I still think there is just too much going on with the little runs and extra notes and drama. The quality of his voice is not in question for me. I will keep an open mind about him and hope to see him show off his voice in the best possible way. I still think that for him, less is more.

    I think Thia is going to continue to struggle in this competition. Paul should have been in the bottom already. He is one that I have pretty much written off. I am sorry, but he sounds like a niche singer with a very distinctive, special sound that comes across well in certain settings. He doesn’t have enough voice for me, and I don’t like this idea that someone can get by on looks, a great smile and great teeth.

    Naima is different and it’s a good thing to have her in this competition. I think she is capable of even more than she has showed us thus far. Scotty is in this for the long haul. He has that unbelievable baritone and the charm and likeability thing going on. He has a natural, unaffected style of performing which is very appealing.

    The ones I really like are Pia, Scotty, James, and Stefano. Naima has my interest. I am liking Haley more and still am open to Jacob.


  49. There is more about Casey on MJ’s blog. Apparently, he needed another blood transfusion on Thursday morning for internal bleeding. After the judges used the save for him, he apparently started hyperventilating backstage and collapsed. He is feeling very upset about the save being used for him, because now no one else has the chance.

    This just puts a human face on everything. It makes me even more concerned with how they handled the whole save thing on Thursday night. Knowing that Casey needed another blood transfusion that morning, maybe the judges could have just done away with him singing altogether and told him immediately that he was saved. The stress of this competition cannot be helping his health.


  50. I’m glad that the judges used the save; now it is out of the way. My concern is; was this in Casey’s best interest or was this a dramatic ploy to gain ratings?

    Casey’s health concerns me; I’m not so sure him on tour is the best thing. Internal bleeding and blood transfusions is a serious matter!


  51. If anyone’s interested, I blogged about this week’s performances in some depth here:


    If you don’t care to read all that ( 😛 ), here are my scores and rankings for the week:
    1. Jacob: 90
    2. Pia: 83
    3. Naima: 78
    4. Lauren: 77
    5. James: 74
    6. Haley: 70
    7. Paul: 64
    8. Casey: 61
    9. Stefano: 55
    10. Scotty: 49
    11. Thia: 43


  52. My gut feeling is that Casey doesn’t have the health to withstand the life and demands of being a professional singer. I was sort of hoping that the judges wouldn’t use the save on him, because it would take him out of a situation which his condition doesn’t seem to be able to deal with.

    It’s a shame if that’s where his heart is, but there are many people with talent and desire who nevertheless end up in other career paths. It could be that Casey is simply meant to take another path.

    It’s been three weeks and this is his third incident. At some point, his health needs to take priority.


  53. Jessica Turner March 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Jeanne wrote, “My gut feeling …” LOL Pretty good pun there.

    In all seriousness, how close is ulcerative colitis to Crohn’s disease? I think he’s a big boy. He may be 19, but he is pushing through it like a man. Is he Frank Sinatra or Louis Armstrong? No, but there is music flowing through those veins and I hope he finds the inspiration to let it flow..

    Pia really is boring to me. I really think if Simon were here, he would somehow let her know. J. Lo. is doing a pretty good job, though. Is she incapable of showing us her heart? Susan Boyle certainly could. Pia needs some stage presence/dancing lessons from JLo and some taking on something modern.


  54. I don’t think anyone wants to see Casey leave the competition or stop singing, but it is obvious that this is a serious situation. He has already had a transfusion and now another one. Internal bleeding can be dangerous and life-threatening. This is a chronic condition which must be monitored and managed.

    It’s not necessary for Casey to make any life changing decisions right now, but it’s something that he will have to take into consideration. This competition is stressful and rigorous and the tour will be tough, too. I have to believe that the doctors who are treating him would not have allowed him to continue if it might have endangered his health. I feel for him having to deal with something like this at such a young age.


    I only had time to read your numerica rankings. I don’t usually approach it that way, however if I did I would have some significant differences with some of your placements and numbers.


  55. Sorry, another typo! I meant to say NUMERICAL rankings!


  56. Life as an entertainer, whether a singer, dancer or comedian is nothing but stress. Casey
    is so young. He should take another road in life.


  57. Preston. Read your blog. Well-written and interesting. Thanks for the link!


  58. Preston- that was a fun read. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know about your blog.


  59. Preston,

    I actually did take the time to read your blog in its entirety. You seem to have some strong vocal technical knowledge. I thought it was written well, thoughtful and insightful.

    When all is said and done, I will say that I had some very different opinions about some of the performances. That’s why we have places like this. So that we can discuss our different opinions!


  60. Vonnie,

    You son is exhibiting a definite pattern of good taste and musical maturity. You may not know that, before she began singing, Allison was a child prodigy violin player but changed to the bluegrass fiddle style at an early age. If your son was a little miffed that you had heard of Allison Krauss, he might get seriously upset to discover that, with twenty seven awards, she is the all time leading recipient of Grammy’s for any female artist and is tied with Quincy Jones for second overall! That may be because she has appeared either live, or on the recordings, of at least half of the voting members of the academy. The cool thing about it is that you can still go see her in small, relatively intimate, venues of 5,000 or so. You can’t go wrong with Allison whether it’s the sheer beauty of her vocals, the quality of her, and her band member’s musicianship or in the message of her songs. You don’t have to worry about what he is listening to. She did several songs on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” sound track that he might want to check out.

    I love harmonica and try to play a little myself. Is he interested in bluegrass / country harmonica, blues harp or more along the rock and pop lines? There isn’t a lot of harp in bluegrass, but he can lay down his own lines if he wants too. Blues harp is what I like and there are many players to listen to back to the very roots of the blues. Stevie Wonder has one of the most recognizable styles of anyone in the pop / R&B fields and it was none other than Delbert McClinton who played the famous intro to Bruce Channel’s early rock hit “Hey Baby.”

    Give him my regards and encouragement with his harmonica playing. What kind did he buy, BTW?


  61. Gene W,

    Great information…Thank you!

    “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” is where he heard Allison, but for some reason it is just now starting to click with him, lol. The song “Let’s go down to the River” is one he really likes.

    Right now, Kum-ba-ya, is one we hear over and over…along with (now this will be me giving you the sound of what we are hearing, don’t know the name of what he is trying to play, but it is bluesey) Ba ba da ba bump…ba ba da ba buuuuummmmp! lol, sorry!

    He likes blue grass as well as Folk and Blues. His harmonica is nothing fancy, until we know that he is going to actually keep it up, yeah you know the lecture!!! This is what it says on the side of it…BluesBand, Hohner International.

    I will also pass on all of the info on Allison to him as well, WOW! I had no idea she had done all of that…she has the most beautiful voice, like an angel.

    He has been pulling notes off of the internet trying to learn some new songs…he’s actually doing pretty good!


  62. Gene,

    Wow, that’s a blast from the past with the mention of Delbert McClinton doing that unbelievable harmonic intro to Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby”! How well I remember that song! A golden oldie! I really think that harmonica is what made that song so great. Beautifully done!


  63. Right now, the best technical singers are Pia and James!!

    Off-topic but I think Eva Cassidy is one of the greatest singers that ever lived!! Her and David Archuleta are quite similar if you ask me. They both had the technical skills and the emotion behind everything they sang.


  64. Gene,

    I didn’t realize Alison Krauss had won so many Grammys, but I’m glad to know that. I’ve always been extremely disappointed when the CMAs pass over her for best female vocalist. “When You Say Nothing At All” should have been a shoe-in, among many others. The purity of that voice deserves more recognition than it gets. I’m still stunned by it every time I hear her; it’s such an unusual gift, and one that she is extraordinarily faithful to.


  65. Erin,

    I totally agree with you regarding Eva and David. They both connect incredibly well with the emotion of each song. This is an area the judges were saying to Stephano he needs to work on after he sang “Hello”. That point set aside, Stephano also has some of the strongest technical skills as well this season.


  66. So, it’s Elton John tonight?

    We are pretty much guaranteed someone will be singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”, but who will it be???

    I remember when Taylor did “Levon”; I loved it, he did an awesome job with that song! Clay’s “Sun Go Down” for me is still the best of that song!


  67. Stefano at his piano tonight. Please.


  68. Vonnie,

    Hi! I think “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” is the most covered Elton John song on American Idol. For me of course, I liked David’s best. He put more heart and emotion into his performance than Clay did. Although, Clay certainly has an incredible voice as well!! I remember how Finale Night was so overwhelming for David, standing there crying after the judges comments. I was so proud of him!


  69. Anita,

    Your right! That song is a definite shoe-in for tonight…who will sing it? I think Stephano will???


  70. Hey there Vonnie! I left you in charge of the students in my absence and you did a wonderful job. 🙂

    Did someone sing “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” during the earlier rounds of this competition? Was it Stefano? I hope no one sings “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. If so, I may have to take a Gravol or something.


  71. MCL,

    LOL…Everyone was outstanding!!! 🙂


  72. I was so sad to see Mike be the first one to go home on DWTS last night…I wanted Romeo to be the first to leave!


  73. Vonnie,

    I thought Wendy would be the first to leave DWTS.


  74. Rosanne,

    I agree with you on “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. I think it is a pretty song, but if anyone sings it tonight, I have a feeling It will end up being bland and uninspiring. I can see Thia choosing to sing this one, but I hope she doesn’t. I don’t feel it will do her any justice. I want Thia to go back to where she started early in the competition. I was so impressed with her then!!


  75. ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me’ gave Joe McElderry his ‘moment’ a couple of years ago on the UK Xfactor, from that point onwards he topped the votes. It’s a great song and if sung well can make a massive difference.

    If you fancy a listen

    While I am talking about Joe and thinking about about connection and emotion, his ‘Dance with my Father’ always makes me well up.


  76. I’m not sure why posting the link became embedded You tube – but if you click twice you can go through to You tube itself.


  77. Vonnie,
    I’m a little slow, but better late than never.

    Yeah, I know that song! Another good one is da da da bump, da da da bump, then insert your first blue line, My baby dun leff me, da da da bump (second line) I’m here all aloneand so on. It’s part of a pretty simple 12 bar blues that he can have a lot of fun with. (Misspelling was intentional)

    The Hohner Blues band is the perfect instrument for him at this stage. They are priced reasonably enough that he can pick up several different keys as the need arises. If he stays with it I would suggest that he consider a Hohner Special 20, which is a modified Marine Band model, because it will be much easier to bend notes on than the Blues Band model. He can get any key he wants, but most instruction is geared toward the key of C.

    I suggest that he work on his embouchure (how he places the harp in his mouth) and playing, both blowing and drawing, clean single notes. Work on mastering the left end, especially holes 1 & 2 before moving further up the scale.
    He may find Gillian Welch and / or Emmylou Harris interesting as well. The three of them did the “Go to Sleep Little Baby” lullaby of the sirens number from Oh Brother… Emmylou is another local girl “done good.” Like Allison, she seems to transcend genre classifications and performs with a wide array of other artist.

    BTW, why did you throw me under the bus?

    That is one of the definitive early rock songs for me. Of course there are many others that are milestones, but that one stands out, and yes, it’s all about the harmonica intro. Delbert is still one of my favorite artists of all time. In about 1979 I had an opportunity to see him play in a local night club with his huge Chicago style blues review band. He had a big horn section, a guy with a B3 and Rhodes piano, backup singers, drummer, percussionist and the usual bass, rhythm and lead guitars. They were all on a stage that couldn’t have been more than 10’ X 20’, if that, and just a foot above the main floor. I was about arm’s length out in front of them, directly in front of Delbert. Words can’t describe it. Bliss and tinnitus come to mind though.
    BTW, Bob Babbitt was the highlight of last week’s show for me. The term “legend “ is appropriately used on him.

    I like Eva Cassidy a lot as well. She has a beautiful emotive quality to her singing. I also enjoy listening to her picking style. I’ve tried, with no luck so far, to find a little Guild acoustic / electric like hers, maybe one will turn up if I keep looking. Unfourtunately, I didn’t discover her music until after her untimely death. It was during a discussion here about Allison Iraheta’s duet with Cyndi Lauper of “Time After Time” which they did in more of the Eva Cassidy style than Cyndi’s own original style. I’m sorry to have forgotten, but was it you that brought her up at that time?

    I also agree with you about Pia and Stefano. The themes are seriously hampering Pia. She’s a classy singer and, so far the themes have pointed her toward power ballad song styles. Personally, I would be happy if she stood still and sang ballads every week. J-Lo must have forgotten her upbeat performances, with dance moves in the earlier rounds. “Grenade” for example, was the best performance of group week or her duet with Karen during the Beatles theme week. She clearly carried both the group and duet performances. She also walked and used and hand mic twice in the live rounds but has managed to leave the impression that she is standing behind the mic stand, week after week, singing ballads. She has a dilemma this week because Elton’s best songs are ballads. I suppose she could do the cliché stroll around the judges table singing Crocodile Rock or worse, but I would much rather see her stand still and sing a ballad than to do that.
    This week will be easier for Stefano because they haven’t set him up for failure by telling him he shouldn’t sing ballads. For me, he needs to leave the anger at home, try to convey the message of the lyrics to his listeners, and try not to push the song as hard as he has in the last two weeks. His anger should be directed at who ever arranged his song last week.


    I was very surprised the first time I saw her high ranking as a Grammy recipient. I was reading something about Vince Gill that linked to the records for all time Grammy winners when I noticed Alison’s numbers. She is the type of artist who usually goes un recognized by the big award organizations, largely due to the politics of the system. The artists with the larger labels have a much more powerful PR machine behind them to persuade the voting members of the Academy to vote for them. Alison is with the small label Rounder Records so it makes her rewards even more gratifying and more likely merit based than due to arm twisting


  78. I think that “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” is definitely one of the most covered songs on this show. I would really prefer not to hear anyone do it again, but I have this feeling that it just may show up yet again. There are Elton John songs that have been sung to death and I hope these kids try to avoid them.

    “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is just too saccharine and overdone. Please, Thia, don’t touch it. One of my personal favorite Elton John songs is “I’m Still Standing”. It’s a great upbeat song for someone who might like to go there.

    Whatever Stefano sings, he just has to stop closing his eyes, don’t push so hard and please, connect with the lyrics and meaning of the song. The vocals should all flow from that.


  79. I read some suggestions about Pia doing Rocket Man – Kate Bush style – had to search it out on you tube – but it was really great and different – not sure if Pia could pull this sort of thing off though.


  80. Gene W,

    Thank you for all of the info, I will pass it on to my son!

    Sorry! Didn’t mean to throw you under the bus…was just trying to impress the teacher; and you know the sayin’…you only pick on the one’s you like! 🙂


  81. MCL – Yes, someone sang “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word,” but that was actually Robbie Rosen (during Hollywood and during wildcard rounds).


    Gene W,

    I don’t know if your “I’m a little slow” comment is a reference to response time, but if you’re slow, I’m a snail! I have a draft in Notepad open right now that I began earlier, but I need to get my responses going before they really become outdated!

    Speaking of which, I saw your question from before asking how I came by my knowledge of singing, and I just wanted you to know that I did NOT ignore it. That reply is also currently in draft form. Thank you for asking and for phrasing the the comment as kindly as you did; it was very touching. 😀


    Dearest Mindy,

    On Paul’s voice, I tend to agree with the technical commentary already put forth. I can see why his unique vocal timbre (raspy with that sound color) is appealing, but as MCL has said, his vocal production sounds “all wrong.” I hear a lot of tension in how he produces his sound, which is probably the main source of his compromised pitch. (Pitch problems usually come from a lack of hearing, excess muscular tension in the larynx and/or inadequate support. The latter two are connected.) Reviewing the comments, I think Jeanne nailed it by pointing out how Paul does not adequately support his tone and, as a result, ends up going flat often (this is a paraphrase).

    (For the record, Jeanne, I hear the pitch problems too; it’s not just you! The funny thing is that I noticed them this week more than previous weeks, perhaps because of greater familiarity with the melody, but the only other time I’ve heard this song was probably during season 8.)

    On what Casey needs to do, I think Michael Slezak’s commentary in his two most recent recaps is spot on. In his most recent article, Michael Slezak wrote: “we haven’t seen Casey give a truly melodic performance, start to finish, since Hollywood Week.” That loss of melodic sensibility is one of the most dramatic differences between the Casey we saw in his audition and in Hollywood and the Casey we’ve seen in the live rounds thus far. I loved Casey’s audition because of his musical sensitivity, the well-done head voice, and the tastefully done growl and rasp, but in the live rounds, Casey has resorted to overdoing the growl and, in the process, has lost some of the jazzy musicality of his audition and Hollywood performances.

    Now, starting from his Hollywood performances, the worrisome technique was already there (raspiness can be done healthily, in theory, but the source of Casey’s raspiness often sounds more based in constriction than in a healthy underlying foundation), but the subtlety was still there. (Michael Slezak points to Casey’s performance of “Georgia on My Mind” as an example.) Two weeks ago, Slezak wrote that he feared Casey was beginning to believe his own hype; perhaps, that is it. What I think Casey needs to do is to exhibit the musicality and melodic sensibility that endeared him to the public in the first place. No unnecessary growling or screaming. Just Casey giving a pure vocal performance. That would be refreshing.

    On James’ voice, I think that assessment is fair, but I want to unpack it a little more. To begin, James certainly has oodles of natural talent to have been able to teach himself to sing those high notes as well as he does, but it is also true that he’s needed to learn how to control his voice a bit better and rein it in, so the level of polish you’re looking for might not completely be there yet.

    What MCL may be getting at (my apologies if I misinterpreted this statement!) is that James could achieve even greater consistency and reliability in his instrument if he had stronger technical understanding of how it works, and really, that statement applies to almost any other singer in James’ boat. For singers who are “naturally gifted” (I’m not a huge fan of this term for reasons you can extract from me later, but let’s roll with this for now), the process of singing simply involves opening their mouths and singing. On one hand, this is great because having an intuitive feel for one’s instrument and this level of “mind–body connection” are really the end goals of vocal training. On the other hand, these singers may not be as adept at fine-tuning their vocal production or in diagnosing vocal problems because for them, sometimes you open your mouth and get what you want; sometimes you don’t.

    With little understanding of the technical processes involved, it might be difficult for these singers to discriminate between what they’re doing when everything is “right” and what they’re doing when something is a little off, and the danger I’ve seen with many “naturally gifted” singers is that bad habits creep in and spiral away, and they don’t know how to fix these problems because they can’t pinpoint the technical difference in what they’re doing. From their perspective, they’re doing the same thing: opening their mouths and expecting a sound to come out; it’s just not working right. And that’s frustrating and scary, and that’s why I appreciate so much the scientifically-based knowledge I’ve come by because it demystifies the act of singing for me. If my voice malfunctions on me, I’m not helpless to wonder why my mysterious vocal equipment is acting up; I have a diagnostic checklist that helps me determine where in the process of singing I am stumbling. That kind of knowledge is power.

    Anyway, I apologize because that was a bit of a tangent—I don’t mean to imply that James is heading down that route; I was only making a general observation I’ve seen even in my favorite of singers—but the takeaway point is valid: understanding the voice as an instrument certainly helps a singer better utilize his or her own potential. I agree that, generally speaking, James’ singing is pretty solid. His pitch is not always spot on, but I believe this is more an issue of focus: really concentrating on listening to the band and finding that pitch center. I believe you might have mentioned harshness or unintentional distortion; those may be an indication of moments of inadequate support. Supporting correctly takes the strain of the vocal cords, but it requires more physical effort from the body than inadequate support, so it is understandable to slip up at moments because it is difficult to maintain a consistently high level of support over time. This is more of an issue of fine-tuning; every note requires a slightly different level of airflow and support. Also, don’t forget that nerves can really interfere with a singer’s ability to support his/her sound! I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case for several contestants, which is why, like Darlene, I am very impressed by how some of these contestants are able to put out such top-notch performances despite being nervous.


  82. Whew! That was long, but I have some bonus thoughts to add. 😉

    Darlene mentioned harmonics, which Jeanne asked for clarification about. This is simply another way to talk about resonance in singing. To make things as simple as possible, I’ll explain it as thus: for any note at a given pitch and on a given vowel, the configuration of a singer’s larynx and vocal tract (tongue, lips, jaw, soft palate, etc.) can be manipulated to maximize the resonance of the sound being produced. (This is called “formant tuning” or “resonance tuning.”) Classical singing strongly emphasizes maximizing resonance to enhance the beauty of a singer’s tonal quality, and thus, some of the nitty gritty aspects of technique involve learning how to make fine-tuned adjustments to do so.

    Therefore, another way to state Darlene’s comment is that some of Pia’s high notes (the ones deemed “harsh”) are not as “classically beautiful.” And this is true; I would not argue with that. However, it is important to distinguish between aesthetic ideals and healthy vocal production. Not all sounds that fall outside of a classical aesthetic are unhealthy. For example, nasal sounds often are not unhealthy as much as they’re simply unpleasant-sounding to Western sensibilities. I admit that I’m not a huge fan of nasal tones myself, but there are plenty of cultures that incorporate nasality into their singing, and that is perfectly valid for their cultural preferences. On the flip side, a “beautiful” sound is not necessarily a healthy one.

    Now, in Pia’s case, I believe it might be a combination of her choosing coordinations that are not classically beautiful and her needing to make a few fine-tuned adjustments to execute them properly. There are modern techniques that teach what I colloquially refer to as these “brassy coordinations” that Pia is attempting, and according to one technique, there are two different brassy coordidnations. I will include links to both below.

    (1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-SfEweCaiA — Nicole Scherzinger actually demonstrates both of them in this video. The first type of brassy coordination can be heard on the “freedom” note @ 0:03 and the “I know how I feel” note @ 0:18. The second type can be heard for the entire “and I’m fun” phrase @ 0:26.
    (2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgcr01uyAH8 — Jonalyn Viray demonstrates the second type on the “star” note @ 3:30.

    The coordinations are somewhat similar-sounding and both aggressive, but the second is sharper and lighter in sound color and is able to be sung on higher notes. Notice that although these coordinations will not be to everyone’s taste, when done correctly, the sound is very clear. I don’t hear anything off in Nicole’s singing for the first 23 seconds.

    Pia is more likely to sing with the second type of brassy coordination (although sometimes I hear a hybrid of the two or a hybrid with a standard mix). Since I don’t mind this vocal aesthetic (although it is an acquired taste, but so is opera!), I don’t consider these notes screechy. However, sometimes, her sound is unintentionally raspy, and there’s a slight harshness that goes beyond the default value of the healthy version, and that is worrisome to me. I didn’t want to hear that raspiness at first because I think there’s a prejudice against these brassy coordinations, even when done correctly, and I wanted to open people’s ears and show that they can be done healthily and even be considered beautiful by some. For the record, if Pia kept singing with this aesthetic, I would not mind at all. However, the execution of that aesthetic, I’m afraid, does need a bit of tweaking—not all of the time but some of the time—but Pia is so very close that it breaks my heart to have to point it out. In the long run, however, she would benefit immensely in terms of stamina and longevity to be made aware of the difference, so it’s not something I should just gloss over.

    As I mentioned in my comment above, I’ve seen wonderful singers with some minor bad habits escalate and suffer from vocal deterioration over time, and I would not want that to happen to Pia. I want to emphasize, though, that it is not the aesthetic that she’s aiming for that is the problem, but rather the way she’s executing it. These brassy coordinations are very difficult to do well and require a lot of skill in fine-tuning a singer’s vowel, other elements of his/her vocal tract, airflow, support, and so on. Voice instructors in the modern techniques I spoke about recommend only advanced singers to attempt them because having a strong basic technical foundation is imperative. I admire Pia’s ability to color her voice so beautifully and retain musicality in using these coordinations; there are just a few technical tweaks to be applied here to improve the sound quality, but they are necessary.

    Wow, I feel that I just wrote a lot without saying much, but I hope that made sense. I just wanted to make one more point about Pia’s high notes. In her upper register, she’s doing two different things that might be considered “harsh.” (I’m not saying I believe that they are, only that some people perceive them to be.) One is that she picks these brassy coordinations that are thicker-sounding than usual. Someone might ask: if they are so difficult, why does Pia do them? Perhaps, because they may be more instinctive. Although singing in a standard mix is not as challenging, it requires a singer to back off the air pressure and thin out the vocal folds a bit, and in my own experience, sometimes it is more instinctive to simply go full throttle and throw all of one’s support at a note. I find it harder sometimes to remember to pull back and dial back the volume. The other thing Pia does is actually the opposite: sometimes she thins out a bit more than expected and replaces the rest with twang. Since Pia is a mezzo (I’d argue), the sound produced is still powerful; however, the tone color is a little brighter and more “shrill” compared to what is expected from a soprano. And that’s why I think it’s important to take into account that Pia is a mezzo, so her high notes will not sound exactly like a soprano’s. Sometimes they’ll be a little brighter, and sometimes they’ll sound more aggressive. That’s just what it sounds like when a mezzo hits those notes in the ways Pia does.


    One last note: I know some people have felt disconnected from Pia’s singing, even though they find it technically sound, and I can understand this (because on-stage movements and various other elements contribute to cultivating an emotional connection), but I just wanted to share an anecdote that represents a different experience.

    One of my friends is not a regular American Idol viewer, but she stumbled upon Pia’s performance of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” two weeks ago, and she told me (and I quote), “I got teary-eyed because she was so good!” Apparently, my friend did feel an emotional connection there, and she said Pia’s performance was so compelling that it made her want to start tuning into American Idol regularly! This is just one person’s experience, of course, but as a Pia fan, I was really encouraged that someone who doesn’t even regularly watch Idol was so moved from that one performance that she wanted to become a regular viewer. What a wonderful compliment for Pia! I admit that I am a huge fan of Pia, not only of her voice but of her classy, humble personality, and I admire the hard work and dedication she clearly puts into her craft. I haven’t seen a female contestant with her level of technical skill in a long time.


  83. Vonnie,

    Here is a link of tab for beginners. http://www.harmonicaclub.com/harmonica_tabs.htm

    The choice would be between “tongue blocking” or “mouth position / puckering.” Neither is better but a matter of personal preference and style. The old school blues harp guys, like Little Walter, tend toward tongue blocking. Modern players generally tighten the pucker of the lower lip to blow or draw a single hole and use tongue blocking to make some of the more complex chord variations where the player is blowing or drawing from both sides of his mouth but blocking the center holes with his tongue. The pucker technique shouldn’t be done like a kiss from grandma but more like kissing Christina Aguilera or Steven Tyler, if you prefer. Big, loose, unfolded bottom lip with the harp planted tightly in it at about a 30% angle. From this starting position you have to learn to narrow the air channel of the lower lip to blow or draw from one, two or three holes in the harp. Pressing the harp into the lower lip can help narrow the air channel. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Blow and draw through it as if you are breathing, not in a forceful manner that leaves you feeling hyperventilated. A useful technique for a beginner, in order to hear what sound he is trying to make, is to temporarily block the holes that are not in use with your fingertips and then do a test blow or draw. Once you hear the sound, it is easier to match with the normal techniques. Practice a little bit every day.



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