By: Rosanne Simunovic
And then there were two! After four months of wonderful performances, amid the usual controversy and drama, Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips have emerged as the Top 2 Finalists of American Idol Season 11.
If anyone was to take his place, however, I am glad Phillip Phillips stepped up to the plate. Despite incredible health problems, he still managed to turn out some pretty fantastic performances, especially during his Top Three showcase last week. And he seems like a sweet, lovable guy – totally genuine. Can’t argue with those qualities.
This week, the singers sang three numbers: a reprise of a song performed earlier in the competition, a Simon Fuller selection and, of course, the traditional Idol single composed especially for their voices.
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.
Strengths: Jessica – your first song, “I Have Nothing” was beautifully vocalized. You added tons of inflection in your voice, lending an expressive element throughout the performance. We heard your pure vocals intermingled with your gritty nuance – loved it.
Your poise and elegance throughout this number was very professional. I loved the dramatic walk forward to the front of the stage. It was beautifully paced and your vocals were front and center at all times.
This was followed by “The Prayer”, which was an interesting personal choice. It was a lovely, tender performance and, as always, you gave a sensitive and meaningful performance.
“Change Nothing”, although not suited to your style, was wonderfully interpreted. You actually made this song sound better than it actually was so that alone requires skill.
Critique: Jessica – your first number was just beautiful. I found little to fault in this number. It was the perfect complement to your district style and substance.
I did, however, have problems with your second song, “The Prayer”. It really exposed your poorly controlled vibrato – which was a problem throughout this song. You need to work on supporting your vocal sound via your diaphragm, particularly when sustaining at a quieter dynamic level and/or through the lower recesses of your vocal range. This will add control to your vibrato.
And, as the song moved forward, your lack of proper diaphragmatic support carried through to your upper range. Your were pushing the vocal forward rather than letting the vocals project freely via an unconstricted throat. I was missing the head tone clarity in your voice. It was chest voice all the way and this song, in particular, requires a more classical bel canto approach.
Your third number, “Change Nothing” was lovely – although I could hear the fatigue in your voice. Once again, you must be careful not to push your vocals from your throat. Chest voice was too prominent in your vocal mix and your voice sounded very strained. Remember, head voice adds clarity and center to your voice.
However, It has been an absolute pleasure to adjudicate your performances each week. You are destined to accomplish great things in the music industry and have started to pave the road to international success via your American Idol journey.
Strengths: Phillip – first of all, I have to say that your song selections were wonderfully distinct and extremely entertaining. I felt I was at a Phillip Phillips concert and so, in terms of song selection, you definitely won the day here.
You were totally in the zone, lending your nuanced vocal sound to every song. You poured your heart and soul into each number and I honestly cannot say that there was one song that disappointed me or your audience.
I loved your eerie version of “Stand By Me”. It was so different and a very good find on your part. All those funky minor chords added a different and interesting dimension to this song. You are so capable of adapting the color of your voice to mirror the emotional core of the music. Such a gift!
Billy Joel’s “Movin Out” was performed with the same quirky charm that we came to love when you showcased this song earlier in the season. You approached this upbeat song with intensity and energy and added some great inflection into your vocal delivery.
Your new single, “Home”, besides being one of the best original songs written for an American Idol contestant, was also one of the best performed songs by a Top 2 finalist. We were transported into another dimension while watching you. Your face was so expressive, drawing us into this performance.
You impeccably interpreted this song so well, giving it a unique, refreshing sound that solidified you as an artist. And that marching band? Stroke of genius right there!
Brilliant showcase, Phillip! Brilliant!
Critique: Phillip – what can I say? I loved your performances so much that I feel almost guilty nit-picking at them.
I think that, overall, you will have to continue to work on the tension in your facial and throat muscles. Once you are healthy and strong again, this will be a zillion times easier. The diaphragm needs to play a bigger role in your vocal production to ease the pressure and tension on your vocal cords.
Remember, those tense facial muscles are closing off vital resonators that enhance and strengthen your vocal sound.
It has been an enormous pleasure to evaluate your performances each week. I was particularly happy to see you finally perform without your guitar – something I was looking for in your earlier performances. For me, those performances were some of your best and allowed you to interact more fully with your audience..
Thank you for working so hard, in spite of your enormous health issues. You are such a trooper and a talented one at that. I wish you the very best in your promising musical career. Congratulations, Phillip!