Mindy Moore’s Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 10 Singers: The Music Of Billy Joel

As I am still on vacation, Mindy Moore has capably offered to contribute her vision for the American Idol performances. And she has done so in a very timely fashion. After watching most of the performances online, I have to say that she has nailed the pros and cons of each performance. Her evaluations mirror my thoughts.

Billy Joel’s songs are extremely difficult to sing. One only has to view his YouTube performances to see how brilliant he is as a singer-songwriter. Some singers rose to the occasion (Jessica Sanchez, DeAndre Brackensick) while others fell extremely short (Colton Dixon, Skylar Laine).

Here is what Mindy had to say:

DeAndre – “Only the Good Die Young” – I think it was a good idea to go uptempo again, but I don’t know that this was the song for him. I think that Deandre made a great entrance moving forward on the stage to engage the audience. The performance level was great. He was moving around the stage, energetic, and showing off that charisma. He showed some raspy, gritty vocals and very little of that falsetto. I love Deandre and think he has so much potential, but the thought I came away with after this performance was, is it memorable enough given that he performed first? That is my question. We will have to see what the viewers think.

Erika -“New York State of Mind”- I actually suggested this song for either Elise or Erika on MJ’s blog yesterday. It was a huge risk for her to change her look so dramatically. I didn’t recognize her when I first saw her. I hope that it will help her and not cause some confusion for the viewers. I think she looked absolutely great! I loved the beginning at the piano and then Erika moving more toward the audience. I think this young woman has a gift for interpreting a song. She can get to the heart and soul of the words and just bring so much passion and emotion in her performance. We heard the full range of her gorgeous contralto. She showed off her highest range and seamlessly transitioned back to her lower range. I loved how she started slow and allowed the song to build momentum at the end. We don’t get to hear this kind of voice and it should be heard. She took Diddy’s advice and got into that NY State of Mind! Great interpretation and heartfelt vocals. I love her!

Joshua – “She’s Got a Way” – I could feel Joshua’s doubts about this song. I have to thank Diddy for calling him out on his tendency to shout and scream. Thank you! I thought Joshua heeded his advice and there was much less of the shouting and more pure singing. He had a great opening just sitting on that stool with the mic in his hand and the piano for accompaniment. Then he stood up and moved toward the audience as he started to build the momentum. The funny thing is, just as I wrote down that I don’t think he connected emotionally as much to this song, JLo gave her comments and said exactly the same thing! I couldn’t believe it. That has happened a few times with her. I don’t always agree, but this time I felt the same way. I am hesitant to criticize Joshua because of the quality of his vocals, but when he brings the emotion to this performance it just amps up the excitement level. I think he did kind of get there near the end with the chorus behind him and that great crescendo. I think he could have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir behind him and still be heard! I still love him and think he did very well, but even he admitted this was a tough song for him.

Skylar – “Shameless” – I loved seeing her sitting on the stage at the beginning. This was visually very strong and a great way to get the audience involved. She is such a natural on stage, confident and assured when performing. However, I did notice that she had some rough spots in the beginning vocally. I noticed that once she started walking around the stage, she went off key, got breathy and lost the words. There is an old rule that you never sacrifice vocal technique for the sake of movement. Get the vocals down perfectly, feel comfortable and then incorporate movement. That would be my advice to her moving forward.

Elise – “Vienna” – Good for her for sticking to her song choice this time! She took a risk by singing an unknown song, but one that she felt worked for her. It turned out to be the right choice. I liked seeing her standing at the mic off stage center at the beginning. Then she moved onto center stage as she continued to pour emotion and heart into her interpretation of this song. Her phrasing was beautiful and every song seemed to be caressed by her husky vocals. I thought that the ending was pure genius. Those little runs that are so hard to pull off, were impeccable and highlighted the end of a great performance. Well done!

Philipp – “Movin’ Out” – I think this was a good song choice for him. I love how he stays true to himself as an artist. He made the decision to sing with his guitar this time. He has gone without it in previous weeks, but this seemed to work with the song. I loved that there was less backup! He really doesn’t need it. I think he knows who he is as an artist and brings honesty and conviction to his performances.

Hollie -“Honesty” – I have to say that MJ picked this song for her. I think that this was a challenge for Hollie. I loved how she started off more softly, restrained. I was hoping to hear her pull back a little. I always get the chills when I hear that clarity and purity of tone in her voice. However, for the first time I did hear some off key notes early on in the performance. I thought she did a great job of connecting with the meaning of the song, although I don’t know that she was entirely comfortable singing it. I thought that the ending, where she pulled back from her powerful high notes to go soft and tender, was beautiful.

Heejun – “My LIfe” – Well, he faked us all out with this song! I heard online that he had something up his sleeve. Clearly, Heejun’s confidence seemed to have taken a hit with the criticism. At least he decided to go uptempo and have some fun on stage. That was so nice to see. I thought his vocals were good until he started moving around. Then he went off key and the breathiness came back and the words were lost. The performance value was great, but sacrificing the vocals isn’t necessarily a good thing. I don’t know how the viewers will receive this performance, but I am glad to see Heejun enjoying himself.

Jessica – “Everybody Has a Dream” – First, credit to Diddy for telling Jessica the truth and calling her out on her singing. He was right. I am already hearing the word “pageant-bot” about her. So when he told her that the vibrato and the tricks won’t do it, that was a much needed honest critique. He challenged her, threw down the gauntlet and asked her to feel the song and the make him believe. I think she really needed this advice. She deserves credit for being able to take it and use it to give another outstanding performance. She has gone to another level, showing a maturity and ability to interpret the words of this great song so well. She started off softly and gradually let the drama of the song build to a crescendo. Her high notes at the end were absolutely amazing. This was a technically brilliant vocal with the depth and power of real emotion and feeling. It’s not easy to be the frontrunner, but Jessica just showed that she can handle it and be even better. Brava! Standing “O”!

Colton – “Piano Man” – I liked seeing Colton at the piano. I think he has a sense of what song appeals to him or moves him in some way. I thought his vocals were quite good, but something was missing for me in this performance. It’s hard to put my finger on it, maybe it was the lack of originality, not bringing anything new to this great classic. He has this emotion in his voice that is compelling, but I thought this came off as a kind of carbon copy of a great original. I appreciate his effort and seeing him on the piano and his effort, but I just didn’t think he did the song justice.

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

10 Responses to “Mindy Moore’s Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 10 Singers: The Music Of Billy Joel”

  1. Harold Lefkowitz March 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the reviews and mostly I agree except for Deandra who I thought was ghastly and Elise who I think stole the show again. If she is in the bottom 3 again, America will lose out of an outstanding singer performer. In my opinion the girls this year are much better than the boys and they are being kept in by the young girls while the better voices are suffering because of this. I wish there was a way to counteract this action.


  2. I agree on Colton – he tried to make the song sound vocally like a Christian song, but it left me cold as well. I think “For the Longest Time” would’ve been a better choice for DeAndre, and that Skylar should have dug a little deeper than the Garth Brooks version of Shameless.

    I agree on most everything else though, and I’m glad you’re filling in for MCL. Keep them coming – I always read the articles even if I don’t post often.


  3. Mindy:

    I pretty much agree with all of your comments except for Phillip and Heejun:) To me, his vocals seemed unsure and a little pitchy. Also, I detected a certain amount of arrogance when–to quote the great Spike Lee–Tommy ‘Hilnigger’ and Ms. Soron tried to offer him some useful advice on styling and he basically gave them the collective raspberry. Plus Mr. Phillips is starting to sound a bit karoake.

    Concerning Heejun Han, I wonder when his family emigrated to the Red, White and Blue. He seemed perplexed by some of the almost ‘inside baseball’ talk that Steven T used. I do like how he bows to everybody when he finishes performing.

    I like how he had fun with his image and SURPRISED us all. I have listened carefully to his vocals and–even when he gets ‘breathy’–I find his diction and enunciation EXCELLENT for a non-native English speaker. Also, I LOVE that pure clear tone that he has when he is relaxed.

    And it was a BREATH of fresh air.

    I am alo wondering if Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Laine are getting a little TOO addicted to big songs: I wonder if the MCL feels–as I do—that they may be possibly be damaging their vocal cords by wanting to sing songs with these big high notes.

    Also, part of the problem is with the themes used. I would–say a 70s Dance/Disco theme–that is BROAD enough so that the contestants have more choices.


  4. I am disappointed to see Erika go home. It’s even more disturbing that two girls have been voted off on consecutive weeks. This is a continuation of the same pattern we have seen in recent seasons.

    It was good to see Elise not in the bottom this week. I guess between Elise and Erika, one was going to leave. I thought Erika gave some stellar performances, but she just wasn’t able to connect with the viewers. That makeover may have seemed like desperation. At least she gets to go on tour. I will miss that contralto voice.

    I guess there is some comfort that two guys were in the bottom three. As I feared, Deandre was in some trouble. I have thought about Heejun’s performance and have to say that I am a little concerned about his attitude. I don’t know if it was a reaction to the criticism or he just wanted to break out and have some fun, but it didn’t amuse Steven Tyler. Is he taking the place of someone who would appreciate this opportunity more and give it their best? I don’t know what to think.

    So we are down to three girls already. Same old, same old.


  5. Yes Mindy and Louise – this elimination came as no surprise, although it would have been great if the judges had used the save.

    After watching the video of Erika’s “sing for your life” song, it was just sad how Randy brutally dismissed her. Couldn’t he have addressed this in a nicer fashion? At least acknowledge the poor girl. She is so talented. (sigh).

    And what is DeAndre doing in the bottom? Has the world gone mad? This kid is a star!


  6. MCL,

    That was very hard to watch. I have to say that I was also disappointed in the judges comments after Erika’s performance the other night. It was like they were nitpicking her and just looking for some petty thing to criticize. I didn’t include that in my article, because I wanted to focus on my own thoughts about the performances. It seemed to me that they went out of their way to praise Elise to save her. I am fine with that, but then they pretty much just kind of threw Erika under the bus.

    There is an old saying, but I don’t know if I should use it. I will bleep some of it out – it’s called d***ing with faint praise. I hope everyone can figure out what that word is because I don’t want to print it. That is exactly what they did.

    I am not blaming the judges for Erika’s exit, but it would have been nice if they could have just acknowledged what was a stellar performance. Even the crusty Jimmy Iovine loved it.

    I get too emotional when I watch these young people getting eliminated. I had tears in my eyes as Erika sang and then the way Randy just dismissed her like that, well it was difficult to watch. I am sure that they are being extra cautious with the save this season because of what happened with Casey and then Pia.

    As far as Deandre, remember the question I posed in my article after his performance? I thought he might not have been memorable enough. Many bloggers reviewing his performance chastised him for not getting the lyrics of the song. He was too innocent to realize what it was all about. At least he wasn’t in the bottom two.

    I just tell myself at times like this that life is unfair. So many online were rather callously dismissing Erika by saying that she was a wild card anyway, wouldn’t have stayed very long, blah, blah, blah.

    Also, everyone is praising Colton to the heavens for his performance of “Piano Man”. Jimmy Iovine even said that Billy Joel e-mailed him and said that he liked it! I don’t know what it is with this young man. He sings well, but there is just something that doesn’t quite work for me. A few bloggers who reviewed him did mention some of his “hiccuping” vocals and hesitation in singing that kind of bothered them.

    I honestly just have to roll with it and accept that it is what it is with this show.


  7. Billy Joel emailed him? And liked it? He was just being courteous. It was awful. Everyone I spoke to hated it. It was a trainwreck. I am totally adding a blog topic with BJ’s original version – people do forget how amazing this song really is when performed correctly. A former student of mine really knocks this song out of the ballpark. I wish I had a video of him performing it. Stellar vocals and piano!

    Randy is just so miserable to some of these singers. Apparently, none of the judges said anything to Shannon after her elimination. I felt so sorry for her. Truly. She is a sweet talented girl and was treated like garbage. (sigh)


  8. Billy Joel emailed Jimmy Iovine that he liked Colton’s performance. More than likely Billy enjoyed everyone’s performance; however, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I can actually see him recording Christian Rock. He’s put his life into the Lord’s hands, so we’ll see what happens.

    I haven’t been disappointed at all in any of Jessica’s performances. How great that all Tommy could tell her is to shortened the dress. She could be a fashion diva! LOL! I look forward to see what she will wear for next week’s “My Idol” theme.

    Thank Mindy, I found a lot of my feelings reflected in what you have written!

    MCL, Randy is becoming the “new” Simon. Personally, I think it is a set-up between him and Jimmy having these little disagreements. Too bad none of the judges could be reassuring to Shannon. I just can’t believe Jennifer wouldn’t have hugged her!


  9. MCL,

    I would love it if you would put up a blog topic with BJ’s original version. That would be wonderful. I do agree that Billy Joel would hardly e-mail disparaging comments about any of the performances. I gave Colton credit for his vocals, but there was still something missing for me.

    There is a great interview with Erika on MJ’s blog. She had some interesting things to say about the judges. She didn’t understand any of JLo’s comments regarding her performances. She thought that the comments were contradictory and confusing. I know that I definitely disagreed with JLo’s take. This young woman comes across as gracious and poised. She had some insightful things to say about the Idol process.

    She apparently is one who loves to experiment with new hair looks. It was her idea to go dark, Tommy Hilfiger’s to go short. She is very happy with it, but said that she will probably change it again. I hope that she finds her niche in the music world.

    The one concerning thing she revealed is that she has a nodule on one of her vocal chords. She said that she used to be a mezzo soprano four or five years ago. Now her voice is lower because of the nodule. I wonder if she needs to see an ent specialist to have it checked out.


    I agree with you about Randy and Jimmy kind of having this phony back and forth thing. It doesn’t ring true at all.

    I thought the judges were kind of cold to Shannon. I still think that they made a conscious decision to pimp Elise and kind of let Erika go. They seemed to realize that both of these young women were in the bottom a few times, so they tried to focus on one and get her through. I don’t have anything against Elise. I like her a lot. I just don’t like the strategy from the judges.


  10. Hi Mindy. If no one else has said it today, you rock!!! OK, here are a few scattered thoughts – I’m still catching up, I think I’ll be catching up the whole season. I am not a Joshua fan – I have heard him twice now – he has a lot of potential in that voice but his diction & mouth position are (in my opinion) pretty horrendous. No one should smile when they’re singing & he does it constantly. I hope he can connect with a really good teacher soon. I also do not love Deandre. He does not connect to the song (again in agreement with the judges). Technically, he has a decent voice but he’s not a performer.

    I really like Skylar – I think she has a unique voice & a lot of character. She oversung the song but I admire her courage. JLo agreed with me – not sure what that means LOL. I have the same problem she did – those first couple phrases are hard for me but they’re so important – they’re what invite people to listen to the whole song vs. going to get more beer or hitting the rest room. I also like Elise – it’s a great voice. And the judges were impressed.

    Having said that, I totally agree that the judges did Erika no favors. Her performance was great. My partner who is hard to please commented on her excellent diction (including the hard to place “k”‘s at the end of “York”). She should not have been the one to leave.

    God, I wish these singers wouldn’t take these trips through the audience. There’s no way they can breathe doing that. Opera singers don’t do that. They move on stage but they don’t try to run a 5K.

    So Phillip stayed right where he needed to be during his song. Bravo!! It’s not a fabulous voice but he’s a performer with conviction & I like him.

    I’ve decided that in the interest of time management I’m skipping the little mentoring sessions although I like Tommy Hilfiger so maybe I’ll watch those segments.

    OK, back to the singers. Hollie amazes me. She’s SO young & she’s so fearless. Plus she’s gorgeous. But she forces some of her notes. And again (scary) I’m in some agreement with JLo – she does need to not up-scoop & down-scoop (I don’t think those are great verbs but they do describe the problem.

    Heejun did indeed surprise me. His performance last (or actually 2 weeks ago) was to me completely underwhelming. This performance was not – I liked it. And there were some beautiful notes in their – his singing of the word “home” toward the end of the song made me smile. And right now I’m thinking how cool it would be for an Asian-American to win the competition & advance in the singing world. I don’t think he will win but it’s nice to see him trying to make it in an industry virtually devoid of Asian-American performers (who interestingly do very well in opera). Vienna Teng is a very good Asian-American performer so there is some precedent.

    Jessica nailed it, in my opinion, and she SO benefited from Diddy’s feedback. The high notes were spectacular. She was believable. There was a moment that I had a flashback to Pia but it passed. There’s more substance in this young lady. Brava!!

    I liked Colton last week. I didn’t like him quite as much this week. There are some real diction & some pitch problems. But good for him for taking on such a classic & trying to make it his own. And that red piano – way way cool.

    OK, that was a lot of scattered thoughts. Thanks, Mindy & thank, MCL.


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