By: Rosanne Simunovic
This week, our Top 3 performed three songs apiece – their Personal Choice, Judges’ Choice and Record Producer Jimmy Iovine’s Choice.
This was, as expected, a very big week for this triumvirate. They were grandly treated to individual homecomings, where they had time to visit, perform and thank their hometown supporters. This was a very emotional journey for all three.
However, their performances on the Top 3 show were even more important, determining their spot in the Top 2 Finale. It was an evening of surprises, peppered with some peculiar song selections, to say the very least
So, let us move forward and explore those reasons with a look at my Vocal Masterclass evaluations. 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.
Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips
Strengths: Jessica – I loved your first song, “My All”, wisely selected by Jennifer Lopez. You performed this song exquisitely, with the tender vocals that the emotion called for in this number. I even loved the intentional breathy quality in your vocal timbre, making certain that the purity of your head voice still glimmered in the mix. Perfect! Such a beautifully, expressive performance.
Your second number by Aerosmith was a surprising choice but a great one. It allowed you to once again showcase your sensitive vocal style. You moved seamlessly from key change to key change and from soft to loud dynamic levels.
While watching you, I realized that this is actually a very difficult song to sing. Lots of tricky intervals and key changes, dynamic shifts – the whole nine yards – but you adorned this song with your personal style and gave an expressive performance from beginning to end.
Now, I loved your “I”ll Be There” performance but I question Jimmy Iovine’s decision to saddle you with your third ballad of the evening. However, you sang this song so beautifully and your vocals soared on this number so maybe Jimmy was on to something. And you looked relaxed and glowing throughout the song.
This was a lovely showcase, Jessica. I was hoping for an upbeat song but you had little choice in the decision process for two of those songs, possibly three.
Critique: Jessica – remember to enunciate those words when singing softly and/or through your lower register. Your Mariah Carey number was a sultry song, so I understand that you wanted to inflect those words properly, but a little more crispness to the consonants would have added more direction to your voice throughout your register.
Also, at times, I felt that your voice became a little vague and lacked some bite. Intensity is important at every dynamic level, so make sure that your bring this element to your quieter numbers, using the diaphragm to harness your sound.
Your second number, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was, unfortunately, missing head voice – big time! Your voice sounded very tight, almost tired. I am sure, given your schedule this past week, fatigue was a huge factor here. You are burning the candle at both ends. Therefore, when the body is tired then a singer cannot adequately support his or her voice with continuity and energy. I feel this is what happened with this song.
Your face looked tight and strained and so those resonators were blocked, not allowing you to focus your voice with freedom. Therefore, these was too much chest voice in your vocal mix.
Your final song was beautifully showcased but you do have to watch that horizontal mouth position when sustaining your vowels. A circular mouth would assist the focus and ease of your vocal projection, ensuring that head voice is always central to the vocal mix.
However, because you were more relaxed and open in this performance, the chest voice did not overwhelm your voice as it did during your second performance. Amazing what a relaxed demeanor can do for a singer, isn’t it?
Great work Jessica! Congratulations. You are so very talented and the sky’s the limit for you.
Strengths:Joshua – your Etta James song was nicely paced from start to finish and a strong selection by Randy Jackson. I loved how you milked your lower range. You have a beautiful baritone range – rich and resonant. I wish you would visit this area of your range more often.
Loved the scat singing at the end and the way in which you totally immersed yourself in the heart and soul of the music.
Your second song, “Imagine”, was beautifully performed in a perfect acoustic environment. How I loved the exposure of your pure head voice on the word “you”. You added some lovely inflection and nuance in this performance. You reined in the screaming and, for me, I could totally enjoy and feel the music. This song is so beautiful – it just needs a sincere connection to the lyrics, which you have, and nothing else is necessary. Just beautiful sincere vocals.
“No More Drama” was a genius song choice by Jimmy Iovine. And, I have to say that, even with all of the yelling during this song, you transported me to another world. I was absolutely astounded at the depth of your emotion and how willing you were to share it with all of us.
And, yes, Jennifer hit the nail on the head. There is spontaneity in your delivery. It is not learned or cultivated, it just “is”. You don’t know how to NOT sing expressively – your musical passion is inborn and very special.
Critique: Joshua – in your first song, “I’d Rather Be Blind”, you started the screaming and yelling again, particularly in your upper range. I honestly wish you wouldn’t go there. If the diaphragmatic support is used correctly, there is absolutely no need to implement the screaming element into any area of your range.
And it becomes even more grating when you employ the screaming approach of singing to your upper range. Everything sounds the same, the words lack nuance and inflection and, for me, I don’t hear a melodic sound – just noise. Sorry, but it’s true.
In your John Lennon song, there was less screaming, therefore less to critique. However, in a melody like this one, where the words are so important, it would have been wise to eliminate some of the pumped up singing which was evident toward the end of this song. It just detracts from the message and is not necessary with this song.
Also, because your singing was more pure, I could more fully assess your voice. All in all, you sing with far too much chest voice in your vocal mix. There is incredible tension in your throat and your mouth has a horizontal spread which diminishes the head tone clarity in your voice. All that push and pull from your throat is wreaking havoc on your voice.
During “No More Drama”, you were back to the screaming and yelling but at least I felt that it worked with this number. However, you cannot continue on this self-destructive road – you risk irreparable injury to your vocal cords. And, as I previously stated, it is not necessary if you are powering your vocals via your diaphragmatic support muscles.
I really hope you heed this advice – it will only make you a much better singer in the end.
Strengths: Phillip – I never heard your first song by Madcon but I thought it was a great selection by Steven Tyler. You are so musical. It’s crazy! This song truly exemplified the depth of your musicality. I loved how, during the midpoint section of this song, that you just closed your eyes and magically slowed the pace. It was one of those: “What the heck just happened, here” moments. Truly special!
Your second song, “Disease”, was unfamiliar territory for me yet again so I could be truly objective. And once again, I loved the quirky style you showcased during this number. Every word was crystal clear and expressively communicated.
Your third song, “We’ve Got Tonight” was an exquisite pick by Jimmy Iovine. I loved that you ditched the guitar and simply sang this song from your heart – because you have a great big heart! I loved the gentle bend in the original melodic line toward the end of this song. This was a tasteful rendition of this song, so sensitive and heartfelt. I loved it!
Congratulations, Phillip! You have a wonderful future ahead of you.
Critique: Phillip – during your first song, your vocals weren’t perfect but, that’s okay because you truly worked within the limitations of your vocal ability. And I mean this in a good way. Sometimes the mouth was round, sometimes not. But, what I did appreciate is that you never over sang.
That being said, you must work on maintaining that circular position to your mouth, keeping that jaw relaxed and free. There is incredible tension in your facial muscles and this tension is inhibiting the resonators located in your vocal masque. I think you would be surprised at the depth and focus of your voice once you make these changes and apply stronger diaphragmatic support.
Your second number, “Disease”, was a little sleepy for me. It wasn’t challenging enough for you and I question this choice of yours. Was this really your first and only choice or was this a last-minute switcheroo made at the whim of the producer?
I felt your vocals and performing style looked and sounded so one-dimensional. And yet again, all that tension in your face really impeded the full complement of your vocal strength. It makes me wonder, given your health problems, how well you can support your voice. Hopefully, once you regain some strength via rest and medical attention, you will work on enhancing the diaphragmatic support for your voice.
During your third number, I was aching for you to become more inventive with your phrasing. Your breathing was very square and block-like. I was hoping to hear a couple of phrases carried through in one breath.
In a song like this, it was very important not to repeatedly breathe after the same number of bars. By making this change, the momentum and intensity would have increased, adding excitement to this number
You need to be more creative in this respect, especially with the slower numbers where, obviously, your phrasing is very exposed. This is what keeps the song moving forward with a fluid and cohesive sound.
However, it was still a solid showcase, although your first number knocked the other two out of the park!