Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIII Top 4 Performance Show: Break-Up And Make-Up Songs

American Idol

By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week, the Top 4 were faced with three songs.. Three! I do believe this is the first time the Top 4 performed 3 numbers in any season.

Usually this honor is reserved for the Top 3, so I wonder what constituted the reason for the change? I would much rather hear these singers perform 2 FULL LENGTH songs than 3 short

I have elected to NOT evaluate Caleb’s performances this week. In light of his dishonourable and disrespectful comments regarding his fans – not to mention his lack of empathy and sensitivity towards people with special needs – I have decided to give him a pass this week. He apparently doesn’t need or want any assistance in his career so why should I bother? Why? Makes no sense.

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.

Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson

Jessica Meuse, Alex Preston

JENA IRENE: “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga

Strengths: Jena – “Heartbreaker” was a good song choice for you as you have the chops, emotion and stage craft to perform this iconic number.

You held this song in the palm of your little hand, Jena, from start to finish. It was an extraordinary performance and everything necessary to hit a home run with this song was there.

Your sustained notes throughout this song were something else. And that final note? Oh my.
You had this song under such perfect control in style and substance that there are not enough words to describe the gift that you brought to the stage this week with this song.

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, was a great addition to your triumvirate of songs. You worked the stage extremely well and, overall, this was a well-paced number.

“Can’t Help Falling In Love” was a wonderful and welcoming surprise. Very, very nice. For the past few weeks, you have been power housing your way on that stage and it was very nice to see you create an intimate and cozy ambience with another classic number.

Your performance of this number reminded us how well you can how adapt your singing style to numbers past and present. You are so skilled at communicating the emotional core of a song.

The variety of nuances and speech like inflection in your singing voice were integral to the successful performance of this number. It was a heartfelt and sincere showcase, Jena.

And by singing this song at the piano, you reminded us once again what a skilled musician you are. Just exceptional.

Congratulations Jena. All three songs were well-prepared, impeccable rehearsed and perfectly envisioned. Brava!

Critique: Jena – I have nothing to critique in your first number, “Heartbreaker”, except, perhaps, take off your heels, as suggested by the judges. Good call. This is not a song you do in high heels. Ha!

However, heels or no heels, I felt the performance strongly resonated with the viewers and your voice was a technically secure tour de force. Could not ask for better.

Your second number, “Bad Romance” was not the best selection for your voice. I felt that it was too chesty in sound and your head voice was clearly absent. Therefore, your voice sounded strident – almost bordering on shouting at times.

Also, it just didn’t flow like your first number. Something seemed a little “off” about this number, whether it be nerves, pacing or the actual song selection.

Be careful with your song sections, Jena. Because you love a song does not necessarily mean that you are meant to perform it.

Your Elvis song was an absolute gem. Did you come up with the interpretation on your own? Because, if the answer is “yes” then your talent is pretty scary given your young age. You have something one can’t teach. Creativity! Artistry! Vision!

Another phenomenal week, Jena! Another! Phenomenal! Week! Wow!

CALEB JOHNSON: “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney and “Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Strengths: Caleb – NO COMMENT

Critique: Caleb – NO COMMENT

JESSICA MEUSE: “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, “You And I” by Lady Gaga and “So What” by Pink

Strengths: Jessica – “Since You’ve Been Gone” was a challenging song choice. However, your vocal tone is very similar to original artist, Kelly Clarkson, so I can understand the appeal of this number for your voice. You have a bright, ringing sound – which is exactly what you need for this song. It cuts through the heavy instrumental background like a knife and pierces the listener’s heart.

You added some passionate and rustic vocal nuances to this song, especially when you sang the refrain. Your upper range was rich, vibrant and expressive.

I am glad that you took a break from the guitar and started using your arms to reach your audience. This added an extra layer to the visual dimension of this song. Very good.

“So What” by Pink was an interesting song choice, providing great contrast to your first number. And I felt that this was a more comfortable fit for you and allowed you to explore your inner rock star.

It was so great to see you own that stage. You were a looser and freer presence on that stage and your face was extremely animated throughout this performance. And this animation transferred to your voice. It was expressive and nuanced.

The pitch issues that you experienced in your first number were gone. All gone! The key selection for this selection was perfect for your voice and this does make a difference in the end.

“You And I” by Lady Gaga was an interesting choice. I never would have attached any Lady Gaga song to your singing style but this song? This song really worked, Miss Jess.

There is a distinct country flavor to this song – lyrically, melodically and harmonically – so what a great fit this song was for your country style persona.

I loved that it also provided ample contrast to your other numbers. This is a laid back, sultry, “come hither” kind of a number and I felt that you communicated these elements extremely well.

Your voice sparkled with nuance and inflection and that beautiful ringing timbre filled the air with resounding brilliance. And the passionate timbre that crept in toward the end was exceptional beyond belief. Perfect song, perfect performance. Brava.

Overall, this was a strong showcase, Jessica. Very good work!

Critique: Jessica – during your first number, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, I was most interested to see how you were gong to work that stage because you simply cannot stand there in one spot and sing this song. Your energy must be through the roof and your stage presence must be huge.

So, I was disappointed that you did not move around and, quite honestly, the guitar seemed all wrong for this song. It impeded you so much during this performance and discouraged you from moving around the stage – which you absolutely must do with this song.

Also, that lower range – at the beginning and conclusion of this song – needs strong diaphragmatic support. Because you did not technically project your voice at the beginning of this song, your pitch wavered constantly throughout this number.

Do not save your technical energy for the higher voiced and/or louder passages of the song. Your voice will sound unbalanced, as if you are two distinct singers.

Also, articulate and feel the emotion of the song even while you are vocalizing through your lower range. Let the head voice pour through your contralto voice and make the words come expressively alive. Articulate your consonants quickly and grab your vowels. This will center your voice and give a forward direction to the vocal sound.

Your second song by Pink was pretty much critique free in my eyes so I have no idea where the judges were coming from. You looked so comfortable on stage and your voice sounded glorious.

So color me confused with the judges’ comments. Very strange. This was an excellent number in every respect so congratulations, Jessica.

And that third song? Killer! Perfection and Critique Free!!

Brava Jessica. Very good work.

ALEX PRESTON: “Too Close” by Alex Clare, “Yellow” by Coldplay and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

Strengths: Alex – I love that you have brought originality in every way to the show this season. Your song selections, your interpretive skills, your stage skills, your vocal style are all distinctly “Alex Preston”. You are your own artist and this was beautifully reflected in all three songs this week.

“Too Close” was not familiar to me in the least but this was good. Very good. It’s the original thing after all. I want new not overdone material and I believe this was the first time this song was performed on this show.

And who is Alex Clare? The composer? He is good.

However, you turned “good” into extraordinary with the delivery of this number. I loved the inflection you added to this number because this song would be lost to the listener without this communicative element.

You are such a gifted, authentic and expressive performer and this song reflects how absolutely musical you are.

“I’m Yours” was a stellar song choice. You have a Jason Mraz vibe or he has yours so how perfect was this song?

I felt that you completely inhabited this song and, as always, added your unique sound and flavor to this song.

“Yellow” by Coldplay was right in your zone, Alex. Out came that expressive Indie voice, resplendent with head voice and clarity.

Also, the articulation of your words were precise and clear – and so expressive. I love how you take chances with your voice and allow yourself to be vulnerable. So very vulnerable. You wear your emotions on your sleeve and I very much respect this. You care.

Excellent work this week, Alex. Excellent

Critique: Alex – during “Too Close”, I was aching for a little more depth in your voice. As I have said in previous weeks, your voice can be a little thin and nasally at times and this diminishes the overall vocal delivery. Not the artistic interpretation, but the strength of the vocal sound.

Oh if only, if only, if ONLY you would adopt a circular formation to your mouth when sustaining your vowels. Added to the constant diaphragmatic support, your phrasing would be more pliable and fluid – as Keith Urban wisely pointed out. How correct he was in his assessment and I totally agree.

The weight that he was looking for in your voice is due to the horizontal position of your mouth and lack of proper breath support. Once you get this under control, the magic will happen and it will be a special moment in your life.

With “I’m Yours”, you encountered the exact same problems. I wanted to reach through the TV screen and squeeze your mouth into a circular position. And, this time, your pitch was adversely affected and a circular mouth position would eliminate your pitch problems. It would automatically provide a base for the center of your voice.

Also, as I have said previously, always remember to practice these quicker songs at a slower pace, allowing you time to isolate the sections where you might be struggling with support issues.

I was surprise that you didn’t reinvent this song. As Harry Connick Jr. said: “This is your strength”, so I was confused as well. This song seemed to work for your singing style but I was wondering how much you loved it. Did you? Makes me wonder…

Your final song was your hole in one, Alex. The final song seemed to work for all the singers actually. Y’all saved your best for last. Smart! Very smart.

Standing O Alex. A is for Alex and A is for Artistry. This is what you have in spades. Congratulations.

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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

55 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIII Top 4 Performance Show: Break-Up And Make-Up Songs”

  1. Bravo MCL…


  2. MCL, one of the few reasons I still watch Idol is so I have some idea who you are talking about. I absolutely love your recaps and insights!


  3. MCL, I have seen in several places that Jena’s arrangement of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is actually Ingrid Michaelson’s arrangement. Which they really should have said–for instance, David Cook, as I recall, was always careful to say where he got his arrangements from.)

    The one performance that dragged me out of my seat and over to the tv was Alex with his third song–although his first did make me tear up a bit. (I think he may not have had time to do three new arrangements in one week, so he left the song closest to his own style–I’m Yours–alone. But that’s just my guess!)

    I thought Jena’s voice sounded wonderful last night in her first and third songs, but I had a great deal of trouble understanding the lyrics, especially in the second song, which also left me cold emotionally. And Jessica totally rocked her third song, from start to finish, which is unusual for her–she so often seems to get off to a rocky start, but not on that Lady Gaga number! I did wish she had been a little angrier or something on the Pink song–I thought it needed a bit more attitude.


  4. You know ReReader? I was wondering about the arrangement as well. Which is why I mentioned it in my article. Couldn’t believe that Jena didn’t credit the original adaption of this song. And disappointed. I feel that Alex was a bundle of nerves last night. I wish I was a fly on the wall at these rehearsals.


  5. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 8, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Well…I guess it is what it is! Can’t believe Caleb stayed! So I guess I need to vote Alex goes to the finale!!!


  6. Sad to see Jessica leave.


  7. Vonnie. I think the dye has been cast. Alex will be gone next week, unfortunately. I would,be shocked if Caleb or Jena were not in the Finale. Alex looked so relieved and was so classy when he found out he made it through. I was heartbroken for Jess. She did not deserve to be treated so poorly by the judges. So ridiculous and mean spirited.


  8. Louise – me too. Not,looking forward to this Finale at all now. Worst ever. If Alex is there, I will be happy.


  9. Unfortunately, MCL, I think you’re right about the probability of a Jena/Caleb final.


  10. The judges last night could hardly have made it clearer who TPTB want in the finale, could they? Which is a great pity, because Alex especially has a better shot of being a successful musical artist, being far more current than either Jena or Caleb. Jessica, too, with her brand of country. But I guess the pimping has more to do with trying to boost AI’s falling ratings than coming up with successful artists, and Jena and Caleb are “big show” singers, without a doubt.

    I really do hope Alex makes it to the finale despite any machinations. (If nothing else, you’d think TPTB would realize that the contrast in styles would make for a more interesting finale!)


  11. ReReader. – this has been a weird show from start to finish. Nobody I know watch it anymore. And so many used to be diehard Idol lovers. Obviously, they are doing something very wrong. The show has not been the same since Season 7. Perhaps they should look at that Season and mybe, just maybe, they will understand why.


  12. I could not agree more!!!


  13. Also, I loved the theme nights. If nothing else, it forced the singers to sing out of their comfort zone and explore material they never thought possible to include in their repertoire. It was exciting to watch and the mentors were established artists which were great for ratings.


  14. Delurking because I listened to Ingrid Michaelson;s arrangement and i don’t know, it’s a similar arrangement but it’s not the same so I’m not sure what the proper etiquette is in this situation. Maybe Jena should have said she was inspired by it?

    Also, some food for thought.:there’s been some talk among people that Idol might only be on one night a week next year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, that would cut out a lot of filler, shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance that have been cut to one nigh haven’t been able to figure out how to do the elimination in a way that isn’t awkward/unfair to the contestants. I’m curious how people would feel about that? (We’ll find out next week at that the network upfronts.)


  15. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Hi Laura,

    Welcome!!! That would be interesting to have only one night of idol…I think if they were to do something totally different with the voting, maybe instant voting for each contestant as the show goes on! IDK

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful concept to not do eliminations, but keep a running tab of votes and go back to the themes and make them stick to the theme no making it their own and it not even sounding remotely to the theme! Then on finale night, the one with the highest amount of votes won! The only way this would work though is if the judges and TPTB actually put through the best of the best and then allowed America to vote starting at the top 30 to get to the top 10, it is not fair to put 12 through and only 10 get to tour!

    I think this because Sam could have knocked the standards out of the park, we never got to see that!


  16. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I would say also that a cap on the votes for next year would be vital…


  17. “make them stick to the theme no making it their own and it not even sounding remotely to the theme”

    I don’t know about not letting the singers make theme songs their own–for one thing, if you were going to see these singers in concert, you would expect and want them to make over the songs to fit their own style, even if it’s just a matter of changing up the intonations. And as jazz musicians will show you, really good songs are awfully robust–you can do almost ANYTHING to a pop standard and it will still be that song!

    “I listened to Ingrid Michaelson’s arrangement and i don’t know, it’s a similar arrangement but it’s not the same”

    Hi, Laura–I was careful to qualify the statement about Jena’s “Can’t Help” that I had seen that comment in several places (and expressed most passionately, I should add!), because I hadn’t had time to listen to it myself. Yes, I think she–or Ryan, or one of the judges–should have at the very least said that she was “inspired by” Michaelson’s arrangement, or, more accurately, that she based her version on Michaelson’s arrangement. It wouldn’t have taken anything away from her, and would have been the right thing to do.


  18. Yes I agree. I love when singers become inventive with classic melodies. It heightens the artistic appeal of the performer. Michael Buble is a perfect example of this. He is current and retro at the same time. Very, very neat to see and hear.


  19. Welcome Laura and pleased to see that you deluded to,provide your commentary. I will have to listen to Michaelson’s arrangement but,,been at the time, I couldn’t believe that Jena came up with this arrangement herself. It seemed awfully complex. She adapted the arrangement, for sure, but the original artist should,have received credit.

    Please stop by again Laura. 🙂


  20. But this is what you miss when you allow them to take themes and make them sound like the same rock song that you sang last week!!!


  21. Not necessarily, Vonnie! Fitting a song to one’s own style doesn’t have to mean making it unrecognizable (although it can), but it does allow for creativity to come through. I wouldn’t like to shut that valve off.


  22. Vonnie-You can be sure that the buses are getting gassed up for Alex. I’ve decided I’m giving all my votes to him next week, but I hope Jena will be in that finale as well!


  23. Doing away with themes is something that fans far and wide begged for. “Let them sing songs that represent who they are as an artist,” said the masses. Hmm.

    My issue with themes is that they were used as just one more tool in the manipulation toolbox. There must be a hundred or more ways they manipulate the outcome of these contest but themes are a very powerful one. One of the ways you could spot the chosen one is the themes seemed to work for them OR they received extraordinary latitude in defining the theme. It would be less suspect if they announced the theme schedule at the beginning of the season or the top whatever.

    I feel strongly both ways. 😉 I think that the themes have produced some of the most extraordinary performances ever on Idol and you have to have higher caliber contestants and mentors for it to work well and I also feel strongly both ways regarding staying true to the theme. Do we really want to hear 18 year old kids sing disco in it’s original form? Uhh, NO. Chris Allen, Allison Iraheta etc. etc. put some great twist on disco though. On the other hand, Vonnie points to one of the best performances ever that stuck to the songs original concept and melody.

    I really like the concept of keeping the top five together, having longer performance times, two songs per night, honest qualified, non superstar judges (10 million dollars total judges budget) interesting mentors who aren’t there just to use the stage Thursday night and maybe paddle scores with a leader board from the judges combined with fan votes held in secret from all parties until the accountant with the brief case shows up.

    Here in the real world, all TV shows have more competition from many forms of media for the viewer’s time than could have been imagined in the day of Kelly Clarkson or even season seven. Audiences are aging and advertisers’ believe they need younger audiences, and because they are not reaching them, the advertising dollars are shrinking. Therefore the show’s budget is shrinking and the show itself is shrinking. I have said several times before that I think they are trying to remodel the show to fit the new budgetary realities and even in the midst of this lack luster season they have accomplished many changes for the good. They did manage to get to a top that many people are interested in. It will take a lot of changes at a level much higher than American Idol for the conditions to be right to allow for another season seven level competition, in my opinion anyway.

    I guess after this week I’m a junkie or a sucker for abuse or something along those lines, because I hope that this season was the tough one in terms of reduction of the traditional American Idol and that next season will hold positive surprises and that they will retire Randy, fire J-Lo and stop abusing young women.

    The only thing remaining in this season is erasing the target they started painting on Alex this week and push him to the confetti bath.


  24. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm


    I agree on the buses! I hope that it is an Alex Jena finale, but I guess like MCL said TPTB have been pushing for a Caleb/Jena finale since the beginning! I will be throwing every vote I can to Alex!


    I get what you are saying! I don’t like karaoke versions of songs, I like enough of the artists flavor to twist a song a little…but I don’t want every song sounding the same!

    That is why I think the themes kept these guys honest (contestants) it takes them out of their comfort zone makes them sing something that is not in their wheel house and introduces them to different genres!

    Now, that said, some of the themes got old and tired, I would like to see a new year a new theme! This year has felt like everyone on the show just don’t care any more!


  25. I do like themes–I just don’t like the tired ones! (Songs of the 60s? Songs of the 70s? Songs of the 80s? Really? C’mon.) Most of the contestants don’t have the musical chops to change songs substantially (there aren’t too many Alexes out there!), so even if they nudge theme songs towards their own genres, good themes still make most of the contestants stretch, which is a good thing.


    (And now that it won’t matter to her any more, I have to say that I wish Jess hadn’t picked “Since U Been Gone” because when I hear that song nowadays, I don’t hear Kelly Clarkson, I hear this:

    I just hope there weren’t a whole lot of voters hearing it too!)


  26. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm


    Bravo, Bravo! 👏👏👏

    I agree! I think back to Adam and think of each week we seen something new from him all wrapped up in a theme! Mad World, Feeling Good and Summertime by Oh! Good gracious what’s her me? Somebody help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!!! Blah…


  27. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Lol, I agree Rereader, some of the themes were tired! I love the standards and do wish they kept that!


  28. Yes, Vonnie, Gene, ReReader. I agree. There was more good than bad with the Themes. I remember Adam saying that it forced him to properly prepare before his Idol journey. He researched every possible theme and worked songs to suit his style. This is how all singers should approach this show. I wrote about this approach ages ago and Adam finally brought it to fruition. Presently, The singers have it much too easy on this show – and, from a viewer’s point of view it is the same ole, same ole every week Very boring format this year.


  29. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    MCL…I think Adam (In my opinion only) changed the idol stage forever!

    I agree whole heartily, it forces them to think about a song, to get into character for a song!

    I have enjoyed Adam on Glee so much!


  30. I agree Vonnie. I never watch Glee but I should try. For Adam! He talent is stellar.


  31. I like the theme nights. So many amazing performances have come out of them. Why didn’t they have a Crooner’s/Classics/Big Band Night with Harry there? What a waste of a valuable resource …

    Caleb: Always amazed by his stage presence and voice, but I was never moved by him. Now I’m just disappointed.

    Jena: Stunning. I was bummed that “Bad Romance” didn’t turn out to be the best choice for her. The first and last songs confirmed my love for her. My mom thinks she’s a little disingenuous … from the clips of her expressions when watching others perform. I wish she had given credit to Ingrid Michaelson, too, but things move fast on live TV. Maybe she didn’t get a chance?

    Jessica: When she has the right song choice, she nails it. I loved her expression on the first two songs, but just didn’t think they were good for her. I think she could be a commercial radio success, and I think her performing skills will improve with experience and confidence. The fact that it was her first time playing an electric guitar shows how green she may well be, despite the tact Idol has taken making her seem like she is an old hand. I also think she did a great job on her “Blue Eyed Lie” singing out despite her emotion. I know MCL will love that she was bereft of her guitar. To be honest, she’s not an accomplished player (says my stepdad who IS a genius), for that matter. Maybe she needs some acting lessons for stage. Emma Stone could give her some. Here’s Emma and Jimmy Fallon doing the lip synch battle. Granted, they don’t have to worry about the vocal delivery, but look at the commitment and expression Emma has! Look at 2:55 where she puncuates the lyric with a head toss and finger wave. And can the girl command the camera, or what?

    Alex: A is also for amazing, awesome, and accomplished. I think he didn’t change up “I’m Yours” because he just didn’t have time (as someone mentioned above). I think he’ll learn to relax in performances, but I wish they’d stop making him smile. How often does Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.),

    Deconstructing three songs in a week is a bit much. I always think the performances are the weakest when they perform three. I wish they’d let them do two songs full length!

    Hoping desperately for an Alex-Jena final.


  32. Vonnie,
    Thank you and Fantasia?


  33. Great synopsis Jessica. Now, hopefully, all the singers are reading to critiques on this website and learning. It is all positive and constructive. Thank you so much.


  34. I am with Gene on the final five until the end, cumulative vote. (I suppose they could rejigger like they do in the FedEx Cup point system to keep it close if that is too much of a concern.)

    I am with MCL also. In my world of perfect idol, I would have the theme weeks for each season planned out in advance plus several more. Those themes would be given to contestants who get the golden ticket with about ten songs (cleared songs!) per theme, plus a couple for Hollywood week itself. That way they should be way ahead and far more prepared than I thought they were this year when it gets to the actual final ten or so.

    I also toy with the contestants having to watch and be able to imitate in some believable form certain videos on youtube as preparation for performing. Patti Lupone’s With One Look or Anne Hathaway’s Les Miserables solo or Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You or the equivalent for the males.


  35. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Yeah! That’s it…Fantasia!!! Thanks Gene!

    I love, love reading everyone’s thoughts! I think this is the absolute best site! 👏

    Don, that is a great idea to give themes and song lists at auditions when given a golden ticket! That would put added pressure on the judges to find the right people to fill those requests!

    Gene, I agree with replacing Randy and JLo…

    Not sure who said have the judges mentor, but I like that!

    This is a crazy show, but you have to admit out of all of the singing shows idol has had success putting their contestants out there and giving alot of them careers!


  36. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Jessica, my phone won’t let me watch the video you linked, but I understand completely what you are saying, if they could put forth that believability into their performance, it would be wonderful.


  37. Don,
    You know they have several layers or levels of auditions that we never see prior to the celebrity callback auditions. Something I have proposed in the past, that is similar to your last suggestion, is that every contestant has to sing the same song at one of these lower levels of the audition process. Given that the competition is named American Idol, and that most finalist who remain in the public eye as singers will be called upon to sing the National Anthem many times in the future, what better song to use as a requisite?

    Many things besides vocal quality could be determined by the contestants’ performance of that song. Plus, it’s a useful exercise for the future.

    A few years ago they posted a fan survey on the American Idol site. Several of the regular posters here, past and present, took that survey and I think many of the suggestions that were ferreted out were incorporated into the last few seasons. If it’s what they fans want, makes for good TV, the sponsors are on board and it doesn’t impede their ability to manipulate the competition, they seemed to be willing to adopt many of the suggestions. If they are considering going to a one night per week format many more changes will be necessary, so, write up a proposal and send it to them. There is more than an even chance they may use it.


  38. Vonnie,
    Fantasia for 10 points… It’s the Daily Double!!!

    It was MCL that suggested the judges mentoring and, once again, I feel strongly both ways.

    When the judges are trustworthy and competent at the craft they are judging (DWTS) or VERY trustworthy and competent in their craft (The Sing-Off) this system has been used with the top three teams to great success. In both cases, the mentoring sessions went well and the audience and contestants learned from them.

    Having seen J-Lo’s example of her skills just this week as well as her LIVE ; performances on Idol, I’m not sure that I want to see the teen contestants, or those who can sing, or the more thoughtful musicians, following her example. Kieth is at least halfway in the bucket with J-Lo but as mostly pop-country singers go, he has good performance skills and has demonstrated a knowledge of music, so he has something to offer if he will offer it fairly to all he deals with. I think Harry is still resisting the temptation to be a script reader for the producers and I know that he has a strong musical background and has strong traditional performance skills and, with the exception of using poor judgment on his trip into the mosh pit, Harry has demonstrated a sense of respect for age appropriate behavior in performances. I find Harry the most trustworthy to be a mentor or a judge but I wish he hadn’t wasted the beignets by throwing them all around the audience last night!


  39. That was supposed to be a winking smiley face after “LIVE.”


  40. Just popping in. My favorites this season have been Jena and Caleb. Now I think it’s only Jena.

    Overall, I’ve been more pleased with the judging this year than in previous years. I also like hearing the contestants sing more selections each evening. It’s time for a new mentor.


  41. Hi Sue. Thanks for the “pop – in”. Nice to hear from you. I love reading all the comments on here. Everyone has been so constructive and insightful in their comments. I love it. 🙂


  42. Hate to burst anyone’s bubble if you’re hoping that J-Lo won’t return next year, because I read today that all of the judges will be returning.

    I also read that Jessica found out the day before her performances that she would not be permitted to sing an original song. So she quickly substituted it with the Pink song and didn’t have much time to prepare.

    I also read a little about Jessica’s background. They always made it seem as if she was just a small town girl from Slapout, Alabama. In reality she moved a number of times from several states because of her mother’s employment and moved to Slapout when she was in 7th grade. She also plays violin and piano in addition to the guitar. She was in the Montgomery Youth Orchestra and is now a student at Auburn University. I just read on the Auburn site that her hometown will be having a parade for her on Saturday morning but it just won’t be filmed by the Idol crew. I’m happy for her that she gets that recognition.

    She also won a Stars of Alabama talent contest.


  43. And hence the tears on Thursday night. They couldn’t tell her earlier in the week about her original song ? I bet the same happened to Alex and he had to substitute the Jason Mraz song. So very, very unfair.


  44. Vonnie 🎵🎼 May 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    It is raining at our house…watching Rio Bravo…just got treated to a Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson serenade!


  45. Reading back some of the comments now. I see a lot of love for my all-time favorite Adam! I’ll be seeing him perform with Queen on their summer tour. I can’t wait. 🙂

    I’d like to see greater use of past Idols as mentors. Melinda Doolittle would an incredible one. I enjoy her weekly video reviews with Michael Slezak. Adam, Chris, and David did well in their mentoring roles this season. I think it’s time for AI to finally say good-bye to Randy Jackson.

    Yes on themes, but the themes should be more current and less focused on music from generations past, as in past seasons.


  46. Jess got her home coming parade. Nice folks in Slapout. Looks like a good time and a lot of BBQ was had by all. I’m happy that they did that for her.

    I knew that couldn’t have been her song choice when they announced what she would be singing. There are countless more appropriate songs but she said that was the closest thing to a fit on the very short song list. Alex was pretty bland this week so he probably hit the same wall. So many tricks, so little time.

    The new producer says that he likes original songs during auditions because it shows them who the kid is a s an artist but not as much during performances because not all of them have that skill and if you sing a familiar song it’s easier to judge how well it was done. I thought I was supposed to watch J-Lo’s face, or the dip angle in Keith’s shoulder for my cues.

    Rick Nelson played his last concert not far from here in Guntersville, AL before boarding his DC-3 and….
    It’s sad to think about that accident and how many other musicians have met the same fate. I grew up with Ozzie and Harriet (not the reruns on Nickelodeon either!) and was a fan in his first run as well as the Stone Canyon Band days.


  47. Gene,

    Have you been to Muscle Shoals?


  48. Yes I have Don. Have you ever been there? What a rice little historic nugget that place is. One of my cousins played bass at one of the studios many years ago. He wasn’t one of the “Swampers” though. It’s a neat place to visit and I believe they have formal tour available now. Besides the old studios there is the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and nearby are WC Handy’s home place as well as Helen Keller’s Ivy Green home place. There is also a recently made documentary that ran first in the theaters, then on PBS and can be seen via Netflix or you may catch a re-run on PBS. I highly recommend it as well as “20 Feet From Fame” that I mentioned before. I’ve seen another recently about Sound City Studio in LA that was very good. I think it was on AXS or Palladia but I’m not sure.

    It’s also a great days ride down the Natchez trace Parkway to Elvis’ birthplace and Museum in Tupelo and not that much further to the Crossroads of Robert Johnson fame. Memphis for Sun studios on my agenda yet but Nashville isn’t very far from the Shoals either. You can get your fill of musical history around here.

    The part of the state that Jess is from is maybe three hours SE of the Shoals area and very close to Hank Williams’ birthplace.

    Why do you ask?


  49. “They couldn’t tell her earlier in the week about her original song ? I bet the same happened to Alex and he had to substitute the Jason Mraz song. So very, very unfair.”

    Good guess–I’m just listening to Michael Slezak’s interview with Jess (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpB_qAEwpbc&feature=share), and she said that all four contestants were going to do original songs last week, and then they were all told they couldn’t and had to quickly pick other songs. Which explains why they each had at least one less-than-stellar choice.


  50. ReReader!! Aha! Busted Idol. You are busted. Now why could they not perform originals? After all, it’s not because they needed copyright clearance. Sounds like they didn’t want any original to steal the spotlight from the pre-selected coronation song


  51. Now that makes sense, in Idol’s twisted way! (Or, the best original songs didn’t come from the Chose Finalists…)


  52. That is an interesting point MCL but there is a disconnect here. Jess said they are all writers but the new producer said they (the contestants) don’t all poses that skill. I don’t recall any original output from Caleb or any mention of his writing skills.

    The new producer also said in his Slezak interview that he liked the contestants to use original material in auditions but not so much during the competition. Reasons for both are given but my point is that Jena famously used her original to great effect to make the wildcard cut yet no one was allowed to use an original, on a night of three performances, to make the most critical cut of the game. Hmmm.

    Keeping in mind that being protected at any particular level doesn’t mean you are the chosen one, just that they want you in the next round. I believe that they are being “cast” for a particular finishing order when they are “hired” with the issue of a golden ticket. There is no need to manipulate the vote, they manipulate the show production and the voters.


  53. This morning on Kelly and Michael, Jessica performed Blue-Eyed Lie and did a really nice job. She also did a nice job in speaking and answering questions.


  54. Jessica Barton May 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Jena’s performance isn’t much like Ingrid Michaelson’s. It’s much more original.


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