Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 2 Singers: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips

American Idol

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.

Although I had a hunch that Jessica would make the Top 2, I was anticipating Top 8 Finalist DeAndre Brackensick to be her worthy opponent. And I still think he should be there but what can you do?

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.

Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips

JESSICA SANCHEZ: “I Have Nothing”, “The Prayer” and “Change Nothing”

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.

Congratulations Jessica!

PHILLIP PHILLIPS: “Stand By Me”, “Movin’ Out” and “Home”

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!

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

14 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season 11 Top 2 Singers: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips”

  1. Rosanne,

    You are a very nice lady. Very nice. That’s all I have to say. I love reading all of your posts and hope to continue reading them for a long long time.

    Good luck Jess and Phillip!


  2. MCL:

    And I am also in agreement with your critiques.


  3. Taymaro – thank you so much. I try my best, but it’s always nice to hear.

    James – I was so disappointed with Jessica’s last two performances tonight. Her performance of The Prayer cannot compare to the absolutely splendid performances I have heard from other artists in the past.

    Phillip’s voice isn’t perfect but he takes what he God has given him and works so hard within these parameters. Pours his heart into his performances.


  4. Rosanne,

    We were having storms here in NC during Jessica’s first performance. The TV screen froze a couple of times. What I did hear of the performance was great but I did not hear it all.

    I loved Melanie Amaro’s rendition of that song on “The X Factor”. I didn’t ever hear Jess reach anywhere near the intensity and power that Melanie or Whitney projected with that song. I understand it was technically pretty good but it was rather subdued in what I could hear. That took away from the performance for me. I like big ole female power ballads along with other things so I didn’t really appreciate that performance as much either. I think Jessica had a pretty miserable night all the way around. I don’t know what list they gave her to pick her Winner’s Single but she made a bad choice IMO.

    Still wishing them both the best.


  5. Yes, I was hoping Jessica was going to shine. But three ballads – again? Ridiculous. She needed an upbeat song to showcase her young persona. Something more vibrant.


  6. Oh but I think she could have had a shining moment. Just an example of what a truly great performer can do with that song. And yes I realize she is only 16 and she is well on her way. But just look at this. This is the moment that she needed.


  7. Is it typical for an AI contestant to do a remake as their Winner’s Single? Has it been done before. I thought this was supposed to be an original.


  8. nothingspecial May 23, 2012 at 1:00 am

    The British X Factor has used covers as the winners single. “A Moment Like This” was Leona Lewis’ coronation single.

    I don’t think that it has been done on AI.


  9. I was so incredibly moved by “Stand By Me” and “Home.” And “Moving Out” was a bit of aggressive fun. But, Wow!, “Home” was just about perfect. I didn’t notice it was a 1:30 (or did they allow them longer?). I loved the instrumental interlude. I loved his head voice in the song. I loved the tone of his chest voice in the last line. I loved the pursed lips at the end. (Reminded me of a boyfriend (WGWG!) from college.) I was nearly tearing up. The song had enough hope in it to salvage it from being a sad song a la Sarah McLachan/ASPCA. I always think that a song that has a driving clappable beat with a slow crescendo, that all in all gives a good feel, is a wonderful way to end a show. If he wins, I bet he ends everynight. In fact, I could see this song being a retrospective song sports networks use to summarize poignant victories in the
    NCAA Basketball tournament, the Olympics, etc. like Natalie Merchant’s “These Are Days” and “Glory Days” (featured on Glee) and “I’ll Be There for You” and “Beautiful Day.” Seriously, I was holding my breath. I can’t explain it. It was that good. I just bought the iTunes release.

    Phillip is so humble and self-effacing. He’s been so stoic and has deferred attention away from his illness. That of course is no reason to vote for him, but … I have enjoyed him and so many others this season. While I totally respect Jessica and her instrument, diva ballads are not my thing. Not her fault, just taste preference. Bruce Springsteen, U2, Sting, Carole King, John Mayer, Neil Young, Paul Simon are some of mine. I guess you can see my affection for Phillip. I wish everyone well. Good luck to both kids.


  10. Hello everyone and thanks for your comments. I was very tired last evening and was typing with a foggy brain and half-closed eyes. So, my Top 2 article is more abbreviated than I would have liked.

    Jessica – thanks for adding your comments about Phillip’s rendition of “Home”. I noticed everything you so astutely pointed out and I am glad you added them as an addendum to this article. Kudos!!


  11. I think both Philip and Jessica did a great job last night. I didn’t quite get Phillip’s Stand By Me, though. I realize he sang it his way, but it just didn’t seem strong enough to be a finale performance. Perhaps part of the issue for me is David sang that song, and no one can compare to his take on it. But maybe I need to cut Phillip some slack. What’s the deal with so many Idols performing songs David has sung on that show anyway? It’s kind of interesting!


  12. I was so in love with Jessica’s performance of The Prayer! It was absolutely fabulous. But I was disappointed Simon Fuller picked I Have Nothing for her. It’s a lovely song, but I wish he would have picked a really awesome R&B number for her. She could have really had another moment like she did with The Prayer. Phillip’s best performance of the night was certainly Home. I really enjoyed it I’m proud of him for working through the pain he’s had to deal with! Wow, another season is coming to an end. I just have to attend one of those summer tour concerts!


  13. I thought Philip Phillips gave a much better and close to flawless performance this time around on Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. I really hated his first performance of Movin Out and I actually enjoyed last night’s performance. And, he gave the best performance of the evening with Home. I wasn’t a Philip Phillips fan, and am still not, but I think he hit a home run with Home. The song was suited for his artistic style, temperament and voice. I did not see Jessica’s first performance. I saw her last 2 performances. I think she has given better performances in the past. I enjoyed this season much more than last season when it become so transparent that the powers-to-be wanted Alaina in the finale that I stopped watching. I am not a regular poster here but I always ready your your blog, CML, in fact, I have your RSS feed on my igoogle homepage and I usually read all the comments. Not only is your blog very enjoyable to read, but I learn a lot about voice and the techniques of singing.


  14. Taymaro. This is an absolutely blockbuster video of Whitney performing “I Have Nothing”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for adding this. It makes me wish that Idol would allow the singers to perform complete renditions of a song. I would much prefer to hear a song in its entirety than one that is edited to fit the 90 second time frame. It gives the viewer a better sense of what these singers can actually I accomplish with their voices.


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