By: Rosanne Simunovic
I am back from my month long vacation and ready to roll with my weekly Vocal Masterclass articles.
And, once again, I would like to publicly thank Mindy Moore for her excellent reviews of the singers during my absence. I know all of us truly appreciated reading her evaluations – they were thorough and precise, echoing what I felt when I later watched the performances online.
On Wednesday night, the singers performed the music from The Eighties – a great era that showcased the music the music of Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Foreigner, Elton John and more.
It was a strong evening of performances and the inclusion of the duets was a bonus for the viewers.
Anyway, 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.
Strengths: Colton – this was a strong performance of an unlikely song selection – but somehow you made it work. I love your alternative Indie vibe – it is a refreshing addition to this eclectic Top 8 group of singers.
Your articulation was more improved this week, especially when you sang through the upper range. Your words were clear and crisp adding conviction and presence to your vocal sound.
You really owned the stage and were a strong rhythmical presence throughout this number. And kudos to the drummer for adding a pulsating element to this song. You managed the tricky rhythmic sequences very well thus emphasizing the depth and magnitude of your musicality.
I really enjoyed your performance, probably your best this far. Congratulations Colton! Great work!
Critique: Colton – as much as your diction was more coherent, you still need to continue to work on refining the rough edges, especially when singing through your lower range.
In fact, therein lies the root of all your problems. The flexibility of the jaw and lips are not only important for the clarity of your words but also for the correct placement of your voice. And, when combined with solid diaphragmatic breath technique, your voice will adopt an energetic presence that is presently missing in your singing.
You have incredible tension in your throat, insisting to deliver your vocal sound while straining these muscles in your neck and throat. It would help if you would develop a yawning sensation when vocalizing – but the first part of the yawn, not the second where one usually stretches the mouth in a horizontal position.
It is this sense of relaxation and ease that you need to bring to your singing, allowing your voice to float freely via the breath support. You have so much passion when you sing and all that is fine and good but, by not allowing the voice to resonate freely in your vocal masque, you are inhibiting the wide range of expressive qualities needed to reflect that innate passion and sensitivity.
However, your creativity, as evidenced by this week’s performance, is undeniable and I see only great things for you on the future. Excellent work, Colton!
Strengths: DeAndre – I loved that you started this song in the audience. Now, there’s a first! And what a great song choice. It highlighted every strength and element in your vast vocal range.
You moved and strutted like a star – truly owning the stage like you definitely should. I loved the hair flips – so cute and so smart, using every part of your package to full advantage.
Your vocal riffs were spectacular – what you do is just incredibly difficult and yet, you make it look and sound so easy and effortless. My favorite vocal twist was the staccato arpeggio you sneaked in toward the end of this song.
And yet, it wasn’t just about your signature head voice – we were also treated to the expressive and almost raspy presence of your full voice. This provided such a strong contrast to your falsetto segments. Just wonderful.
You communicated the song exceptionally well, interacting playfully with your audience. Just a spectacular performance and it left me wanting more! Bravo DeAndre.
Critique:DeAndre – now you need to focus on adding more depth to your mid to lower range. All that beautiful falsetto cannot be abandoned when you enter into this area of your vocal range.
In fact, it has to be cleverly mixed with just the right amount of chest voice in order to achieve a seamless quality from top to bottom. Although, this week, the movement from your falsetto to natural range had greatly improved.
At times, we are hearing two entirely different voices when you sing. The falsetto should be an extension of your natural voice and vice versa. In order to achieve this, you must harness energy and support from the diaphragm to guide and focus your voice with ease and comfort.
Practicing scales that begin at the lower end of your vocal spectrum and move toward the higher end will help you achieve this goal. You will identify the subtle breaks in your voice and therefore apply the correct diaphragmatic support to strengthen the break.
However, this cannot be achieved overnight. Time and patience is key here and, as you physically mature, so will your voice. The depth and added resonance does develop later in young male singers but the technique will speed the process.
However, your phrasing and musicality, your relaxed stage presence and star quality are brilliant and I know that this is just the start of a very lucrative career for you, DeAndre. Congratulations once again!
Strengths: Elise – I loved the hushed intensity of your voice during the quieter portions of this song, providing wonderful contrast with the more passionate segments of this song.
I could really hear and appreciate the true beauty of your voice and my first thought was: “She should have sung her first choice, “Hallelujah” – using a quiet, acoustic version”.
This would have provided better contrast to last week’s performance. At this stage of the game, it is all about surprising the audience with inspired song choices
The addition of the gospel choir during the key change was an excellent decision adding potency and angst to the lyrical and musical line.
Once again, you poured your heart and soul into this song, showcasing how committed you are to each performance. It has been wonderful to watch the growth of your confidence level and the strength and versatility of your vocal delivery.
Great work, Elise!
Critique: Elise – you must be very careful not to over – extend the raspy quality in your voice. All this yelling and screaming can’t be good for you. You must learn to create a powerful sound via the proper diaphragmatic skills or you risk harming your vocal cords.
Remember – the vowel is your friend: glue your vocal sound to the pure vowels in your words, funneling the sound through the vowel itself. However, in order to do that, you must have an adequate supply of air so that the voice can be heard at the desired pitch or dynamic.
And, relax those throat muscles, allowing the jaw to float free and drop when singing through your upper range.
All of these technical pluses will help you to perfectly center your pitch. You presently sing with too much chest voice and very little head voice. The purity and clarity of head voice must be central in every area of your vocal range and dynamic.
It helps to remember not to slam into those powerful upper notes. Ease into them, making sure that your head voice is central to the mix, feeling the diaphragmatic muscles supporting and guiding the vocal process.
Presently, you tend to sit on those upper notes rather than sing over them. This visual concept will assist the physical diaphragmatic process to work its magic.
Great work, though, nonetheless. Now, be careful of your song selections in the future!
Strengths: Hollie – finally! An upbeat song! It was great to watch you ease into it via the slower tempo at the beginning of this song. I love when songs have two distinct tempos in the melodic structure. It provides great contrast to the upbeat portion.
I chuckled at your innocent flirtation with the judges. And embracing the audience along the way was a huge plus in your favor. It was wonderful to see you break loose from the serious side we have been accustomed to seeing in your past performances.
Also your sustaining power was incredible. You can power-sing like no other in this competition. Your technique is so well-formulated and you use it wisely and well.
However, what really impressed me was the fact that you moved about the stage with energy and finesse. I loved seeing you have blast. You are young -have fun up there, right? Excellent work, Hollie!
Critique: Hollie – now that you have mastered the art of moving around the stage, be careful that the choreography doesn’t upset the technical apple cart.
A couple of times there were some pitch issues – but certainly not to the extent that the judges indicated. And certainly no worse than what I was hearing in other performances this week.
In fact, what I love about you is that you have the technical knowledge to correct these intermittent pitch problems on the spot – unlike some of the other singers. This is very important in the long run and it is a shame that the judges don’t appreciate the skills you bring to this competition.
However, remember to balance the stage movement with your vocal delivery. Keep the diaphragmatic support central to the vocal performance. Remember – baby steps.
And be careful not to get over-pumped when singing an upbeat song – control the reins. You have a powerful, technically enhanced voice so relax your stage movements a tad and become more aggressive during portions of the song that don’t challenge your technical skills.
However, this was an absolutely superb performance, Hollie. I truly love your voice!
Strengths: Jessica – how did I know that you would be doing this song? (smile). Just instinct, I guess.
I am such a fan of your voice and style. Your were such an exuberant presence on that stage. And your technical skills were and are undeniable.
Your performing style is free and easy – so mature and so professional, yet playful at the same time. How did you become so poised and professional at the age of 16-years-old?
That last sustained note told the whole story. Glued to the vowels and resonating freely.
Each week, you adorn this stage with confidence, class and a sophistication that defies your adolescent age. You are a joy to watch – so relaxed, so charismatic and so genuine.
This was a brilliant performance, Jessica – a Masterclass Showcase! Brava and standing “O”!
Critique: Jessica – this was singing at its best. I honestly couldn’t find a thing wrong with this performance. It was seamless from start to finish. Brava!
Strengths: Joshua – this was the perfect song choice for you, probably one of the best of the evening in terms of correct style and substance.
I loved the opening, beginning with the choir. Nice touch. You really speak when you sing – every word means some thing to you and I really appreciate that.
This was an expressive and soulful performance and very well paced. You eased into this song like a pro – making sure that the adrenaline did not overwhelm you. No one could sense the difficult vocals ahead for you, the passionate strength that would be required later on in this song. You performed “in the moment”, grounding your voice and saving the majority of your energy for the 2nd half of this song.
And yet, there was a quiet intensity at the beginning of this song that I so appreciated. So many singers mentally fast forward to the powerful moments in a song while singing quietly and this negatively affects the subdued portions of a number.
But, not you! Every moment in a song is treated equally – no over-thinking from your end. I love this about you so much.
This was a masterpiece performance, Joshua! Loved it!
Critique: Joshua – I have to tell you – I am not a fan of the screaming. It has got to go. Please do not confuse screaming for passionately correct singing. These elements are polar opposites.
What I can’t understand is that you use your voice so correctly during the more subdued portions of the song but yet, when the power dynamics are necessary, all caution is thrown to the wind.
How I wish you would correct your approach to your power vocals, allowing the diaphragmatic support to dictate the strength and placement of your voice. All this tension in your throat will wear you down in the end and cause damage to your vocal cords.
Remember- your vocal cords are a delicate muscle and, when one is young, one can conquer mountains using improper technique. But, as the muscles age with the body, the wear and tear start to become evident and, if the technique has not been ingrained in you over the years, the damage can be irreparable.
I hope that you will focus on eliminating this screaming element from your vocal delivery.
Less is more – remember that! And simple can be a beautiful and healthy approach.
Good luck, Joshua!
Strengths: Phillip – once again, we were treated to your voice and guitar this week and what a treat this was! You are a tricky one to evaluate because you move from technically good singing to just the opposite.
You do have a pretty consistent way of gluing your voice to the vowels in your words which is a definite plus. This method was responsible for your strong vocal presence through parts of this song.
I loved the arrangement – the quieter bridge provided such a great contrast for the more vibrant portions of this song.
You sang with joy and abandon – although, at times, a sensed a level of detachment in your performance. This was a tough one to evaluate.
Critique: Phillip – you, as well, must be careful of the intermittent tension in your throat. And that periodical horizontal mouth position is lessening the inherent quality in your voice.
There is more there, Phillip, and a round mouth and relaxed jaw, when coupled with strong diaphragmatic skills, will allow your true voice to shine and rise to even greater heights in a more consistent manner.
Presently, your voice is lacking a consistent level of depth and clarity – sometimes, we get a glimmer of it and sometimes not.
Performance-wise, I wish you would lay your guitar aside and tease the audience a bit. All this standing at a mike, strumming your instrument and singing in pretty much the same linear style, is not an exciting road to travel on your American Idol journey. Everything sounds the same from week to week.
We need you to “change it up” – perhaps start with the guitar, then toss it aside and go crazy. Something! Anything!
Good luck, Phillip!
Strengths: Skylar – what an unpredictable song choice. But, boy, you nailed it! We needed to see this level of depth from you. The timing of this particular number at this point in the competition was perfect.
Your voice was a sparkling, seamless presence. I loved everything about this performance – how you changed up the melodic line, took amazing vocal risks, the whole nine yards – it was truly unbelievable. You really reached for the stars with this song.
Your confidence and poise never ceases to amaze me. I truly believe that you are the strongest country artist that American Idol has ever introduced to this program. It’s as if Reba McEntire went back in time and planted herself on the American Idol stage. You are that good.
And you have excellent technical skills – that circular mouth position and relaxed jaw speak volumes. Your sustaining power is excellent and your breathing skills strong and consistent. As a result, your phrasing was very musical and extremely creative.
This is not an easy song to sing – the depth and delivery have to be just right in order to impact the audience in a meaningful way. I feel you did all that and more. Brava Skylar!
Critique: Skylar – I think toward the end of this song you threw caution to the wind and became slightly over-pumped. I thought that your vocals were quite forced at the end of this song, although there was that mouth, nice and round and the jaw relaxed. So, it confused me.
Make certain the delivery of your power vocals is coming from the diaphragmatic support and not from added push and tension in the throat and neck muscles. As much as you do do many things correctly, even the best technical singers must be cautioned and reminded not to force the issue when singing.
However, your performance was powerful and the risk you took with this song selection worked for you in a monumental way. I am speechless here. Speechless. Brava!
“Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton as performed by Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine.
Colton, your voice sounded so beautiful – rich and resonant. And, Skylar, when you came in to join Colton, I absolutely loved your pitch-perfect harmonies. There was lovely interaction between the two of you.
Skylar – I heard some gorgeous head voice coming from mouth – you really have such an expressive voice with great range and capability.
Colton- I credit you for adapting your Indie style to this country-flavored song. This emphasized your immense versatility – in vocal and performing style.
This was a pretty seamless performance from start to finish and I so enjoyed these two kids together. Both singers looked relaxed and carefree and gave me an idea of what to expect on the Idol tour this summer. It’s going to be a great show!!
“I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters as performed by DeAndre Brackensick and Hollie Cavanagh
Hollie and DeAndre – the two of you blew me far away. Who knew your voices would blend so flawlessly? And the choreography was superb
DeAndre – your ascending scale was absolutely, crazy spectacular. I don’t know if many people caught it, but I sure did and my jaw dropped. And your voice sounded strong, robust, better than ever. It is just amazing to see what happens to all of the singers when they are relaxed and having fun, Fun, FUN!
And Hollie – no more shy little girl for you. And your voice, as well, sounded increasingly vibrant and delicious as a result. You glue your vocal sound to those vowels like there is no tomorrow, resonating your voice in your vocal masque. Your technique is just breathtaking.
This was just an exceptional duet from start to finish! Bravo and Brava and Standing O from Masterclass Lady.
“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty as performed by Phillip and Elise
Phillip and Elise – this was a great pairing. Your voices are perfectly suited to one another. And I loved the interaction between the two of you.
Generally, I thought your voices sounded more pure during this duet than during your solos. I wonder if there was a sense of relaxation that accounted for this change in your vocal deliveries? I suspect there was! It seemed that both of you were wrapped up in the vocal collaboration and just performing for performance’s sake. It is always amazing to me the change in singers’ voices when the competitive factor is removed.
“I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael as performed by Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez
Joshua and Jessica – I would not have paired the two of you, but, somehow, it worked – gospel choir and all. This was an exquisite duo, so expressive and so “in the moment”.
There was an honest interaction between the two of you that I loved. I could sense the mutual respect and admiration for each other’s unique talent.
Joshua – again with the screaming, but, man, can you sing! I find it hard to believe that you are only 19-years-old. So much depth and maturity.
Jessica – you are a vocal wonder. And what I love about you is your ability to flawlessly adapt to multiple genres. Nothing fazes you. Nothing!
This was an unbelievably good duet! Left me breathless! Kudos!