Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 6 Singers: The Music Of Queen And Personal Choice

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

Given that the music was from the Queen music catalogue, I honestly thought we were headed for another scream fest this week.

However, most of the singers were very crafty with their song selections, unveiling numbers that either spoke to their particular style of singing and/or allowed them to take successful risks.

And they had the comfort of knowing that their second selection was chosen from music selected by them and for them. Personal song selections are where it’s at and I wish these kids had the opportunity to do so on a regular basis.

Some of these singers fared exceptionally well during the second round of performances with some surprising results.

So, 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.

Elise Testone, Holly Cavanagh. Jessica Sanchez,

Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Skylar Laine

ELISE TESTONE: “I Want It All” and “Bold As Love”

Strengths: Elise – of all the singers tonight, I felt that you were the most ready to deliver a Queen number. Because you are older and bring more experience to this show, this enables you to tap into sophisticated genres of music with believability and expertise.

And, the music of Queen is all that and more. There is depth in the lyrical and melodic content, diversity of style within the entire catalogue of music and enormous challenges for the singer in terms of range and dynamics.

However, most important this week, this music – and this particular song choice – absolutely and perfectly highlighted the breadth of your vocal and performing skills.

During “I Want It All”, you exhibited some gorgeous bluesy vocals that looked and sounded so effortless. And that upward glissando at the end was spectacular.

I felt that you didn’t even have to try to deliver this song – it oozed from your body. This song perfectly showcased your artistic identity as a soulful, bluesy rock singer.

I loved the mixture of pure and rustic vocals that you incorporated into this number. And by truly living these lyrics, the communicative aspect of this song was fully heightened. I don’t think I have ever seen you perform with such a relaxed and believable demeanor.

Your second number, “Bold As Love”, was another bluesy wonder! And, again, you took your time with this song and allowed the vocals to resonate with freedom in your vocal masque.

Yes, there was the odd scream here and there, but, for the majority of this song, your vocals had a welcomed purity in texture.

The manner in which you caressed those words, your fluid phrasing, subtle inflections – you name it – made this the perfect complement to your Queen number

And your sustaining vocal power was very cohesive, adding flexibility to your phrasing style and continued presence in your vocal quality. You are so musical and, when given the opportunity to shine via perfect repertoire selection, perform with artistic ease and freedom.

This was a very good showcase, Elise. Congratulations!

Critique: Elise – always remember to keep the diaphragm central to your overall vocal sound. It helps to visualize the head voice as the bull’s-eye when focusing your sound. Then, from there, you can use the diaphragm to enhance your voice at every dynamic level.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t feel that the “chest-heavy” voice was as problematic as in weeks past, but it certainly won’t hurt to remind you. You have to be cautioned not to go for the scream element. It is not necessary to go there and the performance of these songs this week emphasize this very fact.

However, all in all, I have very little to critique. I just want to caution you to continue on this road to vocal freedom. Pure vocals, with a hint of the whiskey texture, is the perfect mix for you, Elise. Keep the screaming at bay – not necessary. Brava!

HOLLY CAVANAGH: “Save Me” and “The Climb”

Strengths: Holly – your first song bu Queen, “Save Me”, was absolutely gorgeous. How beautiful are your vocals!

And, no Holly, just so you know, regardless of Jennifer Lopez’s comments. I heard no pitch problems whatsoever. This was as perfect a performance I have ever heard from you.

The phrasing was so musical, the momentum so fluid – always moving forward. You brought great passion and energy to this performance. All this, while singing with that bel canto technique that just does not quit! Your breath control is so disciplined and seasoned – wonderfully innate! Gotta love that!

Ditto times 1000 for your second number, “The Climb”. Everything worked. Everything! And a standing O for such an exquisite performance. What took those judges so long to see what everyone has seen from Day One?

The passion and fervor that you brought to this song was so genuine, so heartfelt. I just appreciated it so very much. The clarity of your voice combined with your innocent, yet animated, facial features, made for a show-stopping and memorable number.

Because of your training and, perhaps that innate British accent, the manner in which you handled the nasty the “eye” diphthong in the word “climb” was wonderfully done. You grabbed the first pure vowel in that word -“ah” – and sustained your voice with ease and clarity.

Why more singers don’t do this is simply unexplainable to me. It certainly simplifies the vocalization process and encourages an evenness of sound throughout one’s vocal range.

However, you have mastered the art, Hollie and that’s all that matters. Brava. Standing “O” here as well, young lady!!

Critique: Holly – your first song, “Save Me” was absolutely beautiful. I have little to critique here.

However, I just want to add one thing Although the bending during the words “Save me, save me save me” was a visually strong position to take on stage, at some point I would have abandoned that stance and elevated to a full, straight posture.

We couldn’t see your face for the majority of the song and perhaps this is why it didn’t resonate as strongly with the judges or viewers.

Now, just to emphasize – the bending technique is a good one, if employed mainly from the knees and not the entire body. It actually frees the tension and raises the hard palate so that your voice can easily project forward.

Your second song, “The Climb”, was an absolute gem of a performance and certainly the best of the night. And how smart you were in choosing this song – a country number to gain more fans, the song that first introduced you to the American Idol judges, a song loaded with a powerful message.

Song choice! Song choice’ Song choice! You are one talented and intelligent performer, Miss Holly. Brava!

JESSICA SANCHEZ: “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Dance With My Father”

Strengths: Jessica – I thought you did a wonderful job with your Queen number. You are like a chameleon in that your voice can take on a new and exciting sound regardless of genre.

However, you do remain true to your personal style and I feel, particularly with this number, that was an important decision on your part.

I loved the “Wizard Of Oz – inspired” color change. Whomever came up with this idea deserves a raise because that was a very neat, very creative lighting design for this performance.

I thought you paced this song very well. Additionally, you implemented some beautiful head voice right out of the gate, securing it admirably once you hit the power vocals.

Your second song, “Dance With My Father”, was better than the first. You thoughtfully dedicated this song to your father and so the message resonated genuinely with the listener.

This song was beautifully showcased via your poignant vocals, highlighting the vulnerability in your expressive style. I loved how you took your time with this song, really caressing the words with meaningful intent.

And when you moved from a seated position to a standing one, you increased the visual component of this song performance. I wish more singers would do this. Not only does it add, as I said, visual interest to the performance, but also the change in position allows the singer to relax his or her body.

Great work, Jessica!

Critique: Jessica – although you sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well as you could given the time constraints, I wish you had been able to select a song that was more conducive to a shorter arrangement.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” does not lend itself to a “cut and paste” approach in the arrangement. The song is a long one for a reason – there is quite the storyline in this song, multiple tempo and key changes and, therefore, really has to be sung in its entirety for a valid performance.

The arrangement of this song was just too choppy. First it’s slow and black and white , then it’s fast and in color, then it’s slow – far too much distraction. It never settled into a comfortable zone, almost sounding psychotic at some point. Not you – the arrangement.

In fairness, you did all you could with this song, except I was hoping that you would stretch your range toward the higher vocals. The faster tempo called for more ad lib in your vocal delivery and that would have been the perfect opportunity to pull off a vocal riff or two via the upper vocals.

And, I needed to hear more intensity in your voice at the end of this song. Those words really have to resonate with the audience. “Nothing really matters. Anyone can see. Nothing really matters to me.”. Those words have to be expressed with purposeful inflection.

During your second number, “Dance With My Father”, you did experience some very slight pitch problems when you moved from a seated to a standing position. I think your diaphragm became disconnected at this point and caused the slight waver in your voice.

Perhaps if you were seated a bit higher, as on some stool, the change of position would have felt more natural? Just a suggestion. Sitting on then releasing yourself from those steps looked so awkward.

Also, overall, you must remember to support your lower and softer vocals. In both songs, I felt that the diaphragm was not fully guiding the vocal process. Your voice lacked clarity and ring and your vibrato was slightly untamed.

Attached to this technical advice is a reminder to keep the facial features relaxed and open. Your mouth and jaw were very tight, adopting a horizontal position which negatively affected the full presence of your vocal quality. I heard far too much chest voice in your vocal delivery.

Always remember to implement more head voice in the vocal mix. It will greatly enable you to project your voice forward, allowing you to add even more shape and variety within your phrase structure.

However, your performances never fail to impress me. You are just so darn talented, m’lady. Congratulations.

JOSHUA LEDET: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Ready For Love”

Strengths: Joshua – a “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was a perfect song for you. In fact, I would have been mega-disappointed if you had not chosen this song. I mean -c’mon! A match made in Heaven, right?

I loved how you navigated that stage. And the character you added to your voice was wonderful. This song and your performing style was a win-win situation all the way.

Your choreographic elements were smooth as silk. Those moves are so fluid. And, surprisingly, they have little adverse affect on your vocal delivery. Not easy!

I also appreciated hearing the different textures in your voice; it highlighted the expressive elements in this showcase.

This performance was first-class entertainment and you even managed to add your own twists and turns, stamping this song with your personal performing style.

However, as great as your first number was, I absolutely coveted your second number, “Ready For Love”. The emotion and the passion you brought to this performance were so genuine and heartfelt.

This is the Joshua I have been waiting to see. A Joshua singing with controlled vocals. A Joshua singing with vulnerability and sensitivity. A Joshua who doesn’t scream.

You emoted your lyrics as you would speak them, feeling and genuinely meaning every word with controlled refinement and finesse.

And that downward spiral at the end was absolutely haunting, so beautiful. And, more important, wonderfully centered. Not one note of that run was misplaced.

And, best of all, no screaming. No! Screaming! (okay, so now I’m screaming with delight because you’re not screaming). But this is what I mean. It’s not necessary to yell your vocals in order to be expressive. Your pure voice and your gentle demeanor carried the day during this number. Now please promise you will show more of this kind of performance in the remaining weeks. Please? And thank you!

Bravo Joshua!!

Critique: Joshua – watch, the. screaming! You don’t need to do this, Joshua. Just sing through your power vocals to get your point across. This was a problem in your first number – certainly not your second.

You need to exercise restraint when you sing. Sometimes, in your enthusiasm to deliver a song, you go full throttle and that’s where the screaming starts. Over the long run, you will preserve your voice if you curtail this strident vocal approach.

Use your diaphragmatic breathing muscles and relax that throat. This is where the power for your vocals lie – not in the constriction of your throat muscles.

However, your second number was just exquisite and a reminder to you that screaming is highly over-rated. Please keep performing like this through the remainder of this competition. Congratulations, Joshua!

PHILLIP PHILLIPS: “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “The Stone”

Strengths: Phillip – yay no guitar with your Queen song! I love it! And what a number this was! Your vocals were energetic, your performance was powerful, your face was animated. You basically took that stage by storm.

You break me up on that stage! You have a performing style that is so unique and you apply it to whatever song you are asked to sing.

The clarity of your diction was outstanding and this helped to fully project your sound toward your audience. And, with this song, your grabbed those pure vowels and, as a result, your phrasing had a superb ebb and flow

I didn’t quite understand your second song selection, “The Stone”. However, I did appreciate the fact that it was a step away in the right direction from previous numbers during the past few weeks.

I see the female saxophone player was back on stage a la Rod Stewart, so there was that piece of familiarity.

However, I applaud you for selecting a more obscure number. We needed to see you stretch and move beyond that nice comfortable box you’ve built for yourself of that stage. I applaud you for this! Great work, Phillip!

Critique: Phillip – you need to work on all that tension in your face. Some of it is what makes you -well – you! You are just so expressive.

However, make sure that you are keeping that throat open and free so that you can project sound with even greater ease. Also, in doing so, the diaphragm will provide even greater to support to your vocal sound.

During your second number, “The Stone”, your voice was as flat as a pancake and part of this had to do with the repetitious melody. You have to make sure that you add inflection in your voice when you sing these cyclic melodies, as it adds expressive interest to the melodic line. Without variation in your vocal sound, the melodic line sounded very linear and stagnant.

And, honestly, I absolutely feel that when you grab that guitar, your vocals suffer. You would have been wise to at move away from the microphone at some point in the song toward the direction of the audience. It would have added, at the very least, a much needed visual component to this number.

So many of the singers are doing this during the course of this season and I am questioning the reasons for this. In previous seasons, I recall singers moving around with their guitars and/or abandoning the guitar midway through a song, dragging a mike stand toward the audience. This sure increases the entertainment value of a number.

I am sure if you had taken this approach with “The Stone”, the song would have received a totally different aka positive response from the judges and the audience.

Something to think about for next week, Phillip. However, overall, you are on the right track. You just need to adjust your footing a bit and you will accomplish even greater things on that stage. Kudos!

SKYLAR LAINE: “The Show Must Go On” and “Tattoos On This Town”

Strengths: Skylar – your Queen number is a very intense, emotional song. And you certainly brought these elements and more to this number.

Over the course of this song, you increased the momentum very nicely and totally surprised me with those upper notes.

Additionally, you performed with unbelievable confidence and undeniable star power during this number. This is not an easy number but you just ran with it like the little pro that you are.

You have an innate manner in the utilization of your energy. Your pacing mechanism is so disciplined and I think it is testament to the absolute confidence you feel in your vocal ability.

Also, I am sure that your vocal training has greatly increased your capacity as a performer. What I love about you is that you don’t sound trained – but are! Very much so!

And, this is why this dynamic, yet difficult number worked so very well for you. Vocally you had the technical skills and performing skills to pull it off!

For your second number, “Tattoos On This Town” you grabbed your “gee-tar” and let ‘er have it country-style. I loved watching that nice, relaxed and oh-so-free jaw during those upper vocals. Is it any wonder that the vocals poured freely from your tension-free throat? That’s how it’s done !

This was a great week for you, Skylar. Congratulations!

Critique: Skylar – in your first number, “The Show Must Go On” I would have preferred to see you move earlier during this number. I think it would have liberated your voice even further.

Also, the connection to the audience would have been more profound. I just didn’t like the intrusion of that mike stand for the majority of this song. This is a showpiece of a number and you need to involve the audience to a higher degree.

I never usually add video examples, but check out this video of Elton John performing this number (below).

Do you see whatI mean? Just a handheld mike and an intimate delivery! That’s what I was looking for with this number.

Also, make sure you round out the position of your mouth on those high notes – the sound will be less shrill. You have inherent head voice in your vocal mix so you have to be very careful to add more depth in your upper vocals. It will increase the richness and refinement of your voice.

Since your second song, “Tattoos On This Town” wasn’t as challenging there was little to critique. However, in keeping with Steven Tyler’s comments, I too was hoping for something with more variety in style and substance.

The number seemed sort of “ho-hum” to me. It was fun and cute and all that, but, on the whole, I am more drawn to your sophisticated performances.

However, you are a bubbly and contagious entertainer and, perhaps, given the amount of preparation that must have gone into your Queen number, I can understand your decision to go with a relaxed song choice.

And, it did show two disparate sides to your performing persona! So, all in all, a celebratory week of dual showcases for you, Skylar!

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

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

Bookmark and Share

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 “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 6 Singers: The Music Of Queen And Personal Choice”

  1. I would just like to start off by saying that I am not musically trained nor do I play any instruments. I have, however, loved music all of my life and that is the only thing I have to go on when evaluating performances on talent shows such as American Idol, The X Factor, The Voice and others. I also follow these shows around the world in other countries via Youtube.

    I think I can recognize a good performance from a not so good performance and sometimes I can even tell you where it all went wrong in layman’s terms but I don’t have the correct technical terms to describe what I am hearing.

    There is a huge disconnect between what the average individual hears when listening to a song and what a person who is listening for the purpose of evaluating the technical aspects of the performance hears.So many more dynamics come into play for the average listener/viewer than just the technical aspects of the vocal.

    A lot of people tend to disagree with me when I give my opinion of performances on American Idol this year. Some of those people are sitting at the judge’s table and one is bald and wears a ball cap and glasses. I think his initials are J.I. They don’t always disagree but more often than not. However, I have been reading your reviews for a while and have never posted a comment until now.

    It always amazes me how spot on you are with all of your evaluations. You always seem to mirror my opinion of the performances exactly even through my untrained or uneducated ear. I am always reassured that I am not going crazy or deaf and that my ears aren’t playing tricks on me when I read your posts. I would like to thank you for offering a constructive but yet completely objective analysis of these performances. You’re expertise is badly needed if the individuals that enter these contests have any hope of leaving a competition like this as a better singer/performer than when they entered.

    I would like to ask, is vocalization really that susceptible to subjective views or is there a definite good vs bad vocal deliverance? I tend to think there is a definite right and a definite wrong way to sing. When it is done the wrong way it is not pleasing to the ear and I tend to pick up on that even if it is just a single line or note in the song. When that happens it ruins the whole song for me.

    The perfect example was the “Dance With My Father” performance of Jessica Sanchez. I heard the pitch issues when she stood up. I also felt as if she was trailing off too much and singing too low on some of the words and even not pronouncing the words clearly at times. This song is all about the words and that ruined the performance for me. I think her problem is in breath control. I have read your posts before referring to it as “diaphragmatic support”. I think that is where Jessica’s weakness lies. Hollie on the other hand does not have this problem at all! I personally think that Hollie is the best vocalist left in the competition. You can agree or disagree with that. It doesn’t even matter to me that her motions are not that fluid or graceful. The emotion of the song comes through the inflections in her vocals and that is the most important thing to me. If I am listening in my car, I can’t see how she is moving anyway.

    What I would like to know is what are your views on subjective vs objective when it comes to vocalization? Can I ever learn to appreciate a song/singer even when their deliverance of the song is not so perfect?

    I am going to take the risk of you not agreeing with me and say that I was not a Pia Toscano fan because of what I have described above. Most of her vocals were great but when she really reached for some big notes I just cringed sometimes. It entered my ears as a squeal and unpleasant. I think maybe she went too sharp at times and slightly missed the note but it was just piercing and painful to me. Each time she would do that it was just over for me. I couldn’t take it. Everyone else thought she was the best thing since sliced bread but I wasn’t in that buffet line. Was I hearing something wrong or what?


  2. Taymaro – first of all – welcome and thank you! And I am happy to read your analysis. Remember, here in the MCL community, we are here to share and learn from each other. There is no right or wrong – well, generally speaking anyway. We love who we love and that’s that!

    However, objectivity comes with teaching experience and that’s where I have based my knowledge. Each singer comes to me with varying amounts of talent, charisma, drive, intelligence etc. and it has always been my job to nurture and develop all these aspects in each singer.

    You will notice, this week, that I have been more lenient with Joshua and Elise. That’s because I have noticed considerable improvement in both. They have taken whatever advice and grown. It is self-improvement that is so very important to an artist’s development and not development in relation to another artist. That is not fulfilling. Athletes learn this right out of the gate.

    Also, oftentimes, a singer’s style will attract certain viewers and that makes a difference as well in terms of how well you are going to judge, be it objective or subjective. The reason why certain singers move me or you more than others is based on on so many different factors – the song choice, song style, the charisma of the singer, the sensitivity of the singer etc.

    Hope this answers some of your questions. Please stop by again.


  3. Sorry,

    Gave you the link to the performances, not my critique. Although, if you want to watch them, that’s fine as well 🙂



  4. Thanks so much Chad. That was a very good read. To all the other readers, please check out his X Factor Forum for another great synopsis of what went down last on the Top 6 Performance show.


  5. Amazing how different the show was without Jimmy throwing in his 2 cents before the preformers had the chance to sing, The show seem to move much smoother and the preformers seemed so much more at ease. It’s to bad that DeAndre didn’t have the chance to do a little Freddie Mercury with that voice he’d have slayed it. Thanks again for the wonderful positive blog you have.


  6. NP48 – thank you for your kind comments and for stopping by to add your thoughts. You know, I was wondering why the show had a relaxed flow last night. You reminded me that Jimmy wasn’t involved. What a HUGE difference.

    And, yes, DeAndre would have sung the juice out of these songs. We needed his free upper range for this music – even in the group number. What a darn shame!


  7. Unfortunately, I was hearing in Joshuas’ vocals some hoarseness and almost tiredness. Plus he–and Skylar–are giving almost the same perfs each week. In fact, to my lightly-trained ears, it sounded like Mr.Ledet may have even MISSED a couple of notes and I am wondering if his insistnece on going for the high notes is leading to possilby permanent damages to his vocal cords.

    And–just based on the ‘backstage vids’ shown last nite–I wonder is Mr. Ledet properly caring for his instrument. Just as Mr. Ray Chew would probably have a SERIOUS conniption fit if one of the concert grands were to have a dull sheen, missing keys, bad soundboard and non-functioning pitch controls, Mr. Ledet needs to also respect his voice.


  8. What was Mr. Tyler talking about in reference to Skylar?

    “Everyone always sings dry, right out of the box, right out of the car but tonight they put a little shine on your voice and it just enhanced it over the top.”

    Just wondering? And Yes it seems that Mr. Brackensick left just in time for R&B theme and Mr. Dixon left just in time for Queen week. Too bad. Was pulling for DeAndre in the beginning and now I have to switch to Hollie. Both of them have been at a disadvantage from the start.


  9. I’m a great music lover, of most genres, and I lean strongly toward musical theatre and country – I need to ‘feel’ the performance, which was sadly lacking in several rendititions from those would be stars. I was not impressed with the ‘top 6’ in fact mighty disappointed.
    My best two artists of the night were Phillip and Skylar, with whose performances I could believe and ‘luxuriate’ in. They were real. Hollie was most certainly in the ‘top 3’.
    I miss DeAndre, he went far too soon, and I reckon he would have given worthy performances with his amazing vocal ability



%d bloggers like this: