Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 10 Top 4 Singers: Inspirational Songs And Lieber And Stoller Songbook

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

Last evening’s performances were actually very good. Better than I thought they would be.

And how great was it to see Lady Gaga working with the Top 4?  She really brought out the theatrical side in all these singers and gave excellent ideas.  She made them aware of the words – how important they are when you sing, where you breathe, how you move etc.  It makes all the difference in a performance and, when taken at full value, can turn a very good performance into something truly special and memorable. 

Let us move forward to my Vocal Masterclass evaluations and I welcome your commentary and suggestions after the read!

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

Haley Reinhart, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, Scott McCreery,

HALEY REINHART “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson and “I Who Have Nothing” by Lieber and Stoller

Strengths: Hayley – I was so excited to hear that you would be performing “Earth Song” this week. This is a very compelling song and carries a very timely and powerful message.

Throughout this number, your nuanced voice remained very focused yet steeped with sensitivity and passion. I enjoyed the lovely glimpses of your head voice mixed in with you signature rasp. It reinforced in my mind your ability to maintain the head voice element throughout every stage of your expressive singing.

You, more than any other singer left on that stage, can effortlessly change tonal color like a chameleon. I don’t think any body realizes how very difficult this is to accomplish and maintain, especially in an abbreviated performance.

I loved how you slowly and tastefully increased the dynamic momentum in this number. It was very well paced and extremely controlled. You never allowed the song to get away from you, which can happen when performing a highly charged emotional song like this Michael Jackson number.

I absolutely loved how you embraced the inflection and nuance in your voice. The melodic line of this song is very repetitive, so the vocalist has to internalize the emotion and expressively communicate the words in a meaningful and significant way. The addition of the gospel choir did help the process, adding a dramatic touch at just the right moment in the song – similar to the original recording.

This was a very authentic, inspiring performance Haley. Kudos to you! Brava!

For your second number, “I Who Have Nothing“, you skillfully incorporated some of Lady Gaga’s perceptive theatrical ideas into this performance. I particularly loved the breathing elements she introduced into this dramatic presentation. I was so excited to see and hear this emotional aspect used to heighten the dramatic intensity of this song. It really, really worked and, additionally, allowed you to remain more conscious of your breath control when sustaining those long notes. Totally a win-win situation.

This was a very strong, meaningful performance and I had chills from start to finish while watching this performance. The voice poured out of you with incredible sustaining ability. You resolutely grabbed those vowels and, by doing so, your voice soared to stellar heights. This was the art of bel canto singing at its very best and it was exciting to see this method of singing applied in this genre of music.

The dynamic levels of this performance were wonderfully realized. Again, the pacing was impeccable in this number, allowing the slow, dramatic build to the climax in this number to be significant and powerful. The visual and aural elements were stratospheric, almost mind-blowing! You are a very good Gaga student, Haley, and you obviously embraced the wonderful interpretive skills she gave you to create a meaningful and inspiring performance.

Congratulations and Standing “O” from Masterclass Lady

Critique: Hayley – well, contrary to Jennifer and Randy’s opinions, I did not hear any “over the top” screaming during your Michael Jackson number. However, when watching the recap, culled from the rehearsal archive, I wonder if the judges were making their comments based on what went down at the rehearsal? Your voice did seem more shrill during rehearsal, but, this was definitely not the case during the actual performance.

You sang this song with angst and passion and your voice reflected these emotions. The song wasn’t about walking though the park enjoying an ice cream cone. It was about the future of our universe and the generations of children that must inhabit the world in the future. Therefore, the intensity in the voice must reflect this message and I thought you did a marvelous job in this respect.

So, I have little to critique in both performances. In fact, have nothing. Your second song was a work of art, a beautiful painting to inspire and move us. It was phenomenal! Actually beyond phenomenal. I will never, ever forget this performance. That’s how strong you were!

Congratulations once again for your two very passionate and extremely intense performances. You really packed a great deal of wallop into both numbers and challenged your self to move to stellar heights. Brava!

JAMES DURBIN: “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey and “Love Potion Number #9 by Lieber and Stoller”

Strengths: James – your first song, “Don’t Stop Believin’, was full of energy and drive. I loved how you connected with crowd right off the top, energizing them to join in the fun. That’s how you motivate the crowd, wake them up from their stupor and show them this is indeed a party.

The key selection for this song was excellent, as it enabled you to vocalize through the honey-dipped quality of your rich upper register. Your voice sounded pure and wonderfully centered. You skillfully managed to avoid your lower register this week as it has given you problems in past performances. Smart boy!

And, more important, you managed to ignore the nasty diphthong pitfall in the word, “night“. You sustained your voice on the clean, pure “ah” vowel, therefore allowing your voice to resonate with freedom and ease in your vocal masque.

That three note ascending at the end of your song was just wonderful. Your voice remained focused and tuned and that jaw was nicely relaxed, therefore allowing your voice to flow freely from your mouth.

Rhythmically, your stage presence was strong and vital and you exuded a confident and relaxed charisma during this performance. Your stage movements were so energized and, yet, never disturbed the tonal quality and focus of your voice.

Your second song. “Love Potion Number 9” was exceptional. I did notice that the performance key was different from the rehearsal key. At least, it seemed that way to my ear. Whatever, it was a good choice to make because once again the key selection highlighted to depth and resilience of your upper register.

Your pauses during the closing segments of this song allowed us to focus on your gifted vocal ability. You are fearless, James. I think this is what is so intriguing in all your performances. You just go out on that stage and give’er and, because you have made wise decisions during the rehearsal process, it always, always works!

I particularly enjoyed the final slide to your extreme upper range. Now, that was pretty darn amazing. Your entire body guided this process and it was great to see what a difference strong, diaphragmatic breathing skills can make in a performance.

This performance was loaded with substance and style and both reinforced how gifted you are as a vocalist and as a performer.

Excellent work, James! Congratulations.

Critique: James – there was very little to critique in your opening performance, “Don’t Stop Believing“. It was extremely well controlled and the energy and focus in your voice was consistent. And your stage presence was powerful. A strong performance is a strong performance and this was very strong indeed. Bravo!

Ditto for the second performance. However, I was disappointed in that you sang two upbeat songs this week. I was hoping to hear more diversity in your song selections. Perhaps last week’s emotional performance of “Without You” affected your decision to include slow ballad this week.

If so, that’s a shame as I feel we really need to see the sensitive, emotional James and hear the actual beauty and depth of your voice when singing a slow, meaningful number.

Hopefully, you will have the opportunity to select a song for next week’s Top 3 show that will again reflect your innate ability to move and inspire us with your expressive vocals. I am still aching for another “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” moment from you.

Great work, James! I love everything about you and your voice is golden! Bravo

LAUREN ALAINA: “Anyway” by Martina McBride and “Trouble”by Elvis Presley

Strengths: Lauren –”Anyway” was a powerful song choice and the timing to perform this song could not have been better.  You demonstrated a renewed vocal and performing confidence during this number through which  the viewers really gained  perspective on how gifted you are as a vocalist.

There is still so much potential to develop in your voice, but, at its core, this performance had a maturity and refinement that we haven’t yet see from you.  You thoroughly nailed one of the most difficult Martina McBride’s songs.

Throughout this number, your voice sounded radiant and pure. The strength and drive of your vocal sound was just perfect and I loved how you skillfully glided toward those upper notes .

Your voice resonated so beautifully in your vocal masque and the chest and head voice were perfectly blended.

You certainly knew how to access those pure vowels. Look how beautifully you grabbed the pure vowel, “eh“, in that nasty “aye” diphthong in the word, “AnyWAY“.  The “aye” diphthong is such a nasty element but it becomes less nasty if one sustains on the pure, first vowel of that diphthong, “eh”.  By doing so, the voice sounds centered and the singer has avoided the unnecessary clutter  that diminishes the focus and clarity of the singing voice.  One vowel versus three? No contest. Three’s a crowd!

The accuracy and refinement of your sustaining ability enabled you to escalate your vocal delivery, adding many layers of dimension and sound to this exciting showcase. It really was exciting to watch the transformation from last week’s performances.

Excellent work Lauren and Standing “O” from Masterclass Lady.

In your second number, “Trouble“, you escalated the momentum  and brought a lot of sass and attitude to this Elvis Presley number. It was great to watch you having fun on that stage, just throwing caution to the wind and moving with ease on and off the performing platform. 

The movement in and of itself can actually relax a singer, and I think in your case Lauren this was especially necessary. We needed to see you connect and energize the audience and you were very successful in this regard.

You also managed the tempo changes very well. That quick tempo came out of nowhere, but I loved it.

This was a  very seamless performance, full of fun and character. You can perform, girl! Where has this Lauren been hiding?  Since last week, I felt that there was a ten-year maturity growth in your performance and vocal levels. There was strength and drive in this performance and the musical arrangement really widened and intensified the multi-dimensional aspect of this showcase.

Excellent work Lauren. Just outstanding! Brava young lady!

Critique: Lauren – both performances were excellent performance and I have very little to critique.

However, I would caution you to pace yourself when moving around the stage as you did during your second number, “Trouble“. At times your voice was very breathy and we lost the energy and focus in your voice.  During rehearsal, make absolutely certain that your stage movements are not adversely affecting your vocals delivery. Pace! Pace! Pace! Less is more, so don’t run out of steam before you can end the song with strength and confidence.

SCOTTY McCREERY: “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” By Alan Jackson and “Young Blood” by Lieber And Stoller

Strengths: Scotty – seated on a stool in front of the mike, you set the mood of this song beautifully. Your relaxed, forthcoming demeanour  heightened the intimacy of this performance and, although you didn’t move or change position, your meaningful vocals were transported with ease to the listeners. You established a very strong connection with your audience and didn’t have to lift a foot to do so. It was all about your beautiful and expressive vocal delivery.

Your baritone voice sounded rich, robust and strong, like  a warm, cozy and familiar blanket to comfort us.  Gorgeous!  The words were clear and sensitively communicated and your phrasing was  musically extended, always in keeping with that forward momentum. This was such a beautiful performance. It truly warmed my heart.

Your ability to sustain on the first pure vowel in every word has improved so much, Scotty. Your jaw seemed more relaxed in this performance, therefore, permitting your voice to resonate with improved ease and continuity.

You are such a confident, comfortable performer on stage and truly live in the moment when you perform. This is an important lesson that every singer should aspire to – sing for the “now” and not “what is to come“.   By doing so, you will develop self-assurance, become less panic-stricken and strengthen your focus to connect with your listeners with genuine ease and empathy.

Excellent showcase, Scotty! Bravo!

Your second number, the highly engaging “Young Blood” , was an entertaining ride on the Scotty train.  You were comfortably animated during this number and, in fact, even if you weren’t singing, your face told the story. You are such a visually expressive artist and I think that, with time, you will refine some of the facial expressions but, for now, your youthful abandon was a joy to behold!  Everyone needs to lighten up, right?

I am thrilled that Lady Gaga encouraged you to adopt a central connection to your mike.  There has been a marked improvement in your mike technique over the weeks and, in fact,  you have grown in this and every area of your performance difficulties.

I loved how your worked the camera – “the  lookee there, lookee there” segment heightened the entertainment value of this number.  Thank you for not forgetting about your television audience!

Additionally, you added a wonderful array of  inflection during this song. You alternated the spoken and vocalized sections very, very well. This is more difficult to do than most people would think.  It  just emphasized how wonderfully you internalized the emotional core of this song. You are, first and foremost, a story-teller, Scotty – a great narrator who happens to be a wonderful singer.

You had so much fun during this number and, again, put a smile on my face. We saw the flirtatious side of Scotty and the gals were loving it. Kudos and bravo to you.  Excellent work once again!

Critique: Scotty – you have to watch that country twang. Your voice is so beautiful but I am aching for a cleaner approach to the vocals.  For example, take Lauren’s approach to her country-flavored songs. She has less tendency to scoop and slide on to her notes and, I prefer this approach very much.

And, during your first number, the slow, sustained tempo drew attention to this vocal issue. I was aching for you to cleanly approach the notes in the melodic line, not slide into them from the bottom.  Your voice is so beautiful, almost classical in timbre and texture and needs to be harnessed correctly.  Something to think about and,hopefully, correct over the next couple of weeks.

 Also, be very careful that you don’t strain in the upper range.  Think over the note and don’t reach for it. Just bend those country knees, squeeze your butt, drop your jaw, relax your throat, breathe from the diaphragm, grab a pure vowel and those upper notes will come pouring out.

Sounds complicated?  Well, it actually isn’t.  The knee bends/butt squeeze combo will actually accelerate the other suggestions, so long as your mouth remains circular and the jaw relaxed.  And remember to breathe from the diaphragm. Once you feel the air expand in your rib cage, you will be more apt to use it to correctly drive your voice forward toward your vocal masque.

Congratulations once again, Scotty! Excellent work and two authentic performances!

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

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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

4 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 10 Top 4 Singers: Inspirational Songs And Lieber And Stoller Songbook”

  1. Great to read your comments. Haley has really won me over – I am no good at technicalities – but she puts emotions and nuances in her song like no other.

    Generally she doesn’t answer back, but this time she was right to correct Randy to say she was NOT at the top of her range.

    Why are the judges so down on Haley compared to the rest of them – I don’t know. It’s like Siobhan last year

    I really really want her to win – However I do think I will be very disappointed.


  2. I love reading your comments! I love James Durbin but people are SO incredibly cruel toward him because they insist on comparing him to Adam Lambert. They’re 2 distinctly different performers. I’d love to see James have voice lessons, work with a good voice coach, so he can develop his vocal talent. His performances always make me smile.

    I can’t get into country music but appreciate your comments regarding Scotty and Lauren. Haley is talented and interesting. I hope she’s signed by a record label that knows what to do with her, definitely not the same label that signed Allison Iraheta or David Archuleta!


  3. Hi Hannabee. Let me preface my comments with the fact that I love both Adam Lambert and James Durbin. Do you hang out on Twitter like I do? Because Twitter seems to have a high concentration of the “comparators” (i.e. “He’s nothing like Adam Lambert, Adam Lambert is so much better, James just screams & Adam …..”). These same people have been whining for 2 years that no one on Idol will ever be “as good” as Adam. Also, the same sort of unfair and sometimes downright mean things were said last year about Siobhan (whom I also adored). I also would love to see James work with someone who knows about singing because he really does have a lovely voice. And he is such a natural performer – it’s all from the heart.

    I agree about Haley as well. She has a beautiful voice and there’s a place for her in the world of music. I so hope she doesn’t go home tonight. But I guess someone has to. :(.


  4. So Haley was judged as Jason was for a rehearsal performance. Man Nigel better some new tricks up his sleeve.

    Haley was best of the night. Anoop is right X Factor will be better because we Idol fans are done with the busing, manipulation and terrible judges.


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