Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIII Top 13: This Is Me

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

I am presently on vacation for the month of March, so I may miss a couple of Vocal Masterclass submissions. 

However, I  thought I would get the ball rolling by reviewing the Top 13 performances.

I won’t lie – there were some hiccups this week, but let’s just say it was nerves and call it a day!

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 (last name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.

Also, as the show moves along, the evaluations will be longer so do not be disheartened if they do seem short at this time. As I become more familiar with the singers, I will be able to dig deeper and provide more depth in my critiques.

Ben Briley, C.J. Harris, Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson

Jessica Meuse, M.K. Nobilette, Kristen O’Connor, Emily Piriz

Alex Preston, Dexter Roberts, Majesty Rose, Malaya Watson
Sam Woolf

BEN BRILEY: “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

Strengths: Ben – okay this was all sorts of good!! What a showman you are! Incredible really!

Also, I am here to say that you are in this snow for the long haul, my friend, because you have pretty much everything going for you.

You have an innate passion for performance, an indelible artistry, a unique tenor voice – instantly identifiable – and professional confidence and poise.

Also, part of me wonders if the quicker tempo allowed you to fit more of the song in the allotted time period? If so, smart call. If not, so what? The quicker tempo just made it more unique, playful even!

The manner in which you changed the melody line and gymnastically had your way with it was stellar, stellar, stellar! One could not have asked for anything more in the performance. You squeezed the juice out of this song and left everything on that stage.

Brilliant showcase, Ben!

Critique: Ben – no critique this week. But make sure you hone your vocal delivery via consistent diaphragmatic support.

I observed your circular mouth position and the manner in which you sustained and glued your vowels to your melodic line. This was great to see and hear.

I just want to caution you to always keep the technique central to your rehearsals and performances. This competition is exhausting and you want to preserve the longevity and health of your voice.

Congratulations on a fine performance, Ben!

C.J. Harris: “Radio” by Darius Rucker

Strengths: C.J. –  you gave a very strong visual performance I thought. In as much as you were standing in one position, strumming your guitar, you did try to connect and energize your audience. Good for you!

Unlike some of the other singers who accompanied themselves on guitar, you were more invested in the audience. Toward the end of the song, you took the mike in hand and established a strong rapport with the listeners – looking at them, trying to connect. I really appreciated this very much.

You have a beautiful vocal instrument which will grow with time and patience and PRACTICE.

Good work, C.J.!

Critique:C.J. – be careful of the tension in your facial features and your throat. You need to work at relaxing your jaw and throat, adopting a circular position with your mouth in order that your vowels can sustain and elongate your melodic line.

You always want the sound resonating in your facial features via the support of the diaphragm. So, try to educate yourself in this bel canto technical skill and you will be surprised by the additional freedom in and depth of your voice.

Like many of the singers, you tend to sing from the throat up and, in reality, you need the strength and precision of your diaphragmatic muscles. This will not only strengthen your voice but also, it will strengthen your intonation which did encounter some problems throughout this performance.

Good luck C.J.!

JENA IRENE: “The Scientist” by Coldplay

Strengths: Jena – this was such a smart song choice – for many reasons.

First of all, it set you apart from the pack. You are a singer-songwriter and very sophisticated in your approach; you slam dunked us with the full extent of your musical talent via this superb number.

Secondly, I loved the slower pace of your song choice. This takes courage and confidence, elements that seem to come alive via your artistic approach.

Thirdly, the breadth of your vocal range was highlighted. The pure head voice and the resonant chest voice were delivered with technical security. There was a seamless sound throughout your vocal range.

And I can’t believe you learned this sing at the tender age of 9 years. And another piece of the Jena puzzle falls into place. Testament to your artistic maturity!

Brava! Excellent work, Jena!
Critique: Jena – amazing, singular performance perfectly executed! Guess what? You are critique – free. It does not get better than this.

Oh, one thing – be careful! Do not push your voice. You have the technique and you have the vocal strength so make sure that the freedom of delivery is always central to your vocal delivery.

Other than this, brava young lady! Loved it!

CALEB JOHNSON: “Pressure in Time” by Rival Sons

Strengths: Caleb – you are our rock star! Awesome! And you worked the stage like a rock star. A real pro up there on that stage!

Your voice had presence and punch and grit and passion – all the things we look for in a rock artist. This is quite the voice you have! I love the rich quality in voice. There seems to be a technical presence to your voice and yet the expressive and communicative qualities in your voice are genuine and palpable.

Great artistry and style! Bravo! Bravo!

Critique: Caleb – you are critique – free.

However, the true test will be how you manage a ballad at some point down the road. I will be a-waiting!

But for now, you ROCK!

JESSICA MEUSE: “The Crow And The Butterfly”

Strengths: Jessica – right off the bat, I loved the timbre of your voice. It pierces through the background music – but in a great way. Your voice has presence and evokes great emotion.

I felt that you communicated this song extremely well. And I loved the nuances in your voice. We heard head voice mixed with rasp and rich mid vocals – so much wrapped up in your vocal package!

This was a signature performance, Jessica. I absolutely loved it!!

Critique: Jessica – critique free day for you!

However, I do agree with Jennifer Lopez that you need to relax your upper. body. If you add some slight movement to your performances, this should not only relax you but also it will add a higher degree of visual dimension to your performance.

M. K. NOBILETTE: “Satisfaction” by Allen Stone

Strengths: M. K. – you performed a song with greater energy and verve in its tempo and mood. Good for you. Previous to this performance, we were accustomed to seeing you perform ballads, so thank you for making the change for your audience.

This was a very cool, very interesting song choice and you delivered it with authenticity and innocent confidence. You are a risk taker and I love seeing this element in a young artist. So, kudos for you for finding a song that highlighted your individual artistry.

You are a unique young artist and I see great potential for growth, so rehearse diligently and methodically every week to increase your vocal and performing skills.

Thanks M.K.

Critique: M.K. – you were very tentative during this performance so I do not think we saw the best that you can give.

There were pregnant pauses at times and your head voice was airy and lacked substance. Make certain that you support your vocal range via your diaphragm and use it to project and mould your vocal tone. Your need to strive for a seamless, even sound from top to bottom.

Good luck M.K.

KRISTEN O’CONNOR : “Beautiful Disaster” by Kelly Clarkson

Strengths: Kristen – this was a very challenging song to select. But select it you did and you sang it just beautifully. Your technical approach is solid – circular mouth position, relaxed jaw, great posture.

I also enjoyed watching you move slowly toward your audience. Not only was this an important visual component but also it assisted you to release physical tension during your performance.

Good work, Kristen.

Critique: Kristen – you will need to work on establishing a stronger emotional connection to this song.

Technically, everything seemed to be working properly; now you have to work on internalizing the emotion to a fuller extent. Your performance had a karaoke feel to it and I didn’t gather a sense of your personal style. Hopefully this will materialize over time.

Good luck, Kristen.

EMILY PIRIZ: “Glitter In The Air” by Pink

Strengths: Emily – such a beautiful song for such a beautiful voice. This was a match made in Heaven.

I loved your phrasing – it had a forward momentum and the quality was seamless and pure. So pure.

Your singing skill is tremendous – extremely solid and strong. There was barely a glitch throughout this number. Your vocal technique was absolutely stellar and that ascending scale was wonderfully executed. Perfect intonation!

And, your emotional delivery was heartfelt and meaningful. I so enjoyed this performance. The whole ambience had a professional and well-rehearsed feel to it!

Brava, brava, brava!!

Critique: Emily – this week, you are critique – free except for one small point.

Make sure you support and focus your lower voice with the same skill you use for your upper voice. I felt that your lower vocals fell backward and we lost the purity and presence in your voice for a brief second or two. So, be careful in this respect.

Otherwise, congratulations! It was a beautiful showcase, Emily.

ALEX PRESTON: “A Beautiful Mess” by Jason Mraz

Strengths: Alex – you established a very beautiful mood throughout this number. By selecting this ballad, you strike me as an introspective artist, sophisticated and deep. Almost an old soul.

Good work, Alex!

Critique: Alex – you need to work on supporting your lower range and softer dynamic. For the majority of this song, your voice wavered and lost its center; the vocals sounded very white and airy, lacking substance.

You need to work at strengthening your diaphragmatic support throughout your vocal and dynamic range. This will assist you in strengthening your vocal presence at every point in your song.

Good luck, Alex!

DEXTER ROBERTS: “Aw Naw” by Chris Young

Strengths: Dexter – I love your Southern charm. It is very contagious and your personality immediately tethers you to the listener.
Vocally, this was a very sound performance, one that accentuated your country-style performing style to perfection.

Good work, Dexter!

Critique: Dexter – this was a pretty good vocal performance but how I wish you and your guitar had moved away from the microphone. I understand that you are constrained by the time limit given but you have to find a way to add a higher degree of visual dimension to your performances.

Also, make certain that you select songs that highlight a wider degree of your vocal range. The song seemed to sit in your mid to lower range for the entire time period and I was aching for some variation.

Also, you need to release some of that facial tension and relax your jaw and throat when vocalizing. Use your diaphragm to support and project your vocal sound.

MAJESTY ROSE: “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae

Strengths: Majesty – I absolutely fell in love with this performance. It was excellent in every way. You possess stellar performing skills, moving with ease and abandon and your voice was totally in the pocket.

Obviously, you have honed your craft very well – not only are you a strong vocal artist but also you have great style and confidence. You popped on that stage.

And – stellar, stellar song choice. This was hard to pull off but you absolutely did and more.

Congratulations. Excellent showcase, Majesty!

Critique: Majesty – right of the bat you are critique – free. You showed everyone how it is done! Brava young lady!

MALAYA WATSON: “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars

Strengths: Malaya – you chose a number by one of my current favorites, Bruno Mars. It is a great song, upbeat and seductively playful.

The frenetic tempo of this song highlighted your performing skills, allowing you to communicate and interact with the audience. I loved and embraced your energy. It took courage to do this right out of the gate.

Vocally, it was set in the perfect pocket of your voice, allowing your vocal delivery to project beautifully toward the audience. Your vocal timbre is naturally rich and resonant in your mid range, therefore allowing you to sing with playful ease throughout this number.

Good work, Malaya
Critique: Malaya – as much as I did enjoy this number, I hope that you will strive to find songs that are more melodically challenging for you.

And, if the melody is very repetitive, as in this song, then you have to find a way to change the structure of the melody line to make for a more appealing and multi- layered performance.

Also, pace these faster tempo songs carefully. You have to make certain that the vocals and choreography are perfectly balanced. I felt that, at times, your intonation was compromised because of your movements, so make sure the technical support for your voice is working properly.

However, the song was a comfortable fit for you for your first Top 13 performance, so I understand why you chose it. Just make sure you change direction from week to week and choose songs that highlight every aspect of your artistic vision.

SAM WOOLF: “Unwell” by Matchbox 20

Strengths: Sam – accompanying yourself on guitar, you established a confident presence on stage right from the top of this number.

This was a great number for you – your voice wrapped nicely around the melodic line. You have a very pleasant vocal delivery and your intonation was spot on.

Good work, Sam!

Critique: Sam – you need to loosen up and move around the stage. Honestly! It is energizing, freeing, visually appealing and more.

All your fans are waiting to embrace you with open arms so make certain that you establish a stronger connection with them. Do not stay glued behind that mike stand. In fact, avoid it like the plague unless you are singing a heartfelt ballad and the mood calls for it.

I see great potential in you Sam. You are a diamond in the rough! Keep rehearsing studiously every week so that you can develop further confidence in your vocal and performing skills.

Best of luck!!

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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

13 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIII Top 13: This Is Me”

  1. MCL always so kind. I appreciate that in you. It was almost a total train wreck for me.


  2. Ok, I watched a few of last night’s performances on You Tube, and there are for sure at least two girls who shouldn’t have made the Top 13! That’s Malaya and Kristen. Kenzie and Austin should have definately been there instead of these two! I was never impressed with Malaya and Kristen does have a pretty voice, but she reminds me of Haley Scarnato from Season 6 which isn’t such a good thing!


  3. I love Majesty too. I like the way you said that she “popped on that stage.” I agree!


  4. Bye Kristen


  5. Yes. Bye bye. I actually liked her. Oh well…..


  6. When Candace Glover sang tonight, did it make any of you think that this year’s talent does not compare?


  7. That Candace sure gave them all a lesson in singing didn’t she? And also in being a star! What a stunning performance! Between Kristen and Malaya, I was hoping Malaya would have gone, but oh, would that have ticked off Jennifer, wouldn’t it? Her performances have just grated on me since Hollywood Week. Boy, I’m being so mean tonight! LOL!!


  8. Yes, Candace was brilliant tonight. Top 13 – take note. !!


  9. It was really a toss up as to who should go. I liked a lot about Kristen as well, but I didn’t see her as a contender. Not to be a wise ***, but seriously there was a segment of her song last night that was maybe 15 or 20 seconds that was outstanding and her plea for her life performance tonight was her best, which happens so often you would think they would use that to inspire the kids to do better the first time around.

    Idol is downsizing and sort of resetting to their earliest days, not only due to economic pressures but to distinguish themselves from The Voice instead of trying to compete head on with them. The eliminated contestants aren’t coming back even if it was the most ham handed elimination process ever devised. I don’t think the top 24 will ever be back because the live broadcast shows are more expensive to make than editing together a show from audition and Hollywood video etc. Falling ratings and aging viewers equals a lower price for their advertising time. Couple that with the loss of AT&T revenue and we are lucky to have a show left at all. I think they need to close the Dawg House ( retire Randy) and renegotiate the contracts of ALL of the major players (Ryan and J-Lo in particular) before they kill what is left of the goose that laid the golden egg.

    None of that excuses the process but I think it was actually the less skilled, less polished contestants that they wanted as well as the water cooler buzz generated by the unjustifiable cuts. Think growth arc.There may be cultural differences as well with a Swedish producer at the helm. This may be his idea of exciting. After all, wasn’t the Sweeds that brought you a car that looked like the box a Volvo came in? They had the bikini tem right though.

    I hope you enjoy your vacation MCL.


  10. When Gene mentioned “aging viewers” in his post, it made me think that is probably why the contestants this year are so young and not very experienced. Last night I noticed that the group number of “Radioactive” was a fairly new song for the group to be singing, as opposed to some of the group songs sung in previous years. The producers probably are trying very hard to appeal to a younger audience, and not the old fogies any longer. The Voice has a mix of ages. And last year’s Idol winner, Candace Glover, seems older even though I believe she is probably still in her 20’s. Jessica seems to be the oldest contestant on Idol this year, but maybe I’m wrong about that.


  11. I was struck by the insecurity/nervous chatter in the after performance dining segment. I think the performances reflected that. I don’t think AI knows what it wants or how to get there if it does, and is on a journey of self-discovery every bit as much as the contestants are.

    Candace was Candace, but I wondered if that performance was enough to get anyone other than AI Candace fans to buy her songs or to go to one of her shows.


  12. Just listening to the top 13 this week (I missed most of the run-up), I found Alex the most interesting and I saw the most potential in Sam. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out!



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