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Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIV Top 7/6 Show: The American Classics


American Idol 

 By: Rosanne Simunovic 

I had other commitments last week so I am finally submitting my VM article for the Top 7. 

It was a great week of singing and, quite frankly, it is going to be difficult to see any of these singers leave at this point.  And this is the week where the Top 5 will be revealed. This is huge because only the Top 5 will be touring. 

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

Clark Beckham, Jax

Joey Cook, Nick Fradiani

Quentin Alexander , Rayvon Owen, Tyanna Jones,


Clark Beckham: “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Moon Fiver by He Roy Mancini

Clark Beckham – Superstition by Stevie Wonder – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Clark –  with both numbers this week, you highlighted not only your musical diversity but also the depth of your musicianship.  The skill and finesse your bring to your performances each week cannot be overstated. Bravo!

I loved the opening strains of “Superstition” – the scat singing in harmony with your guitar licks were wonderful.  Perfect pitch, perfect harmonies, perfect everything!  And nice to see you bookended this performance with a smiling approach. Again, a very well-rehearsed, wonderfully conceived performance. 

I also enjoyed hearing the mixture of nuance in your voice – the pure vocals mixed with some grittier vocal sounds added to the aural texture of this song. And your intense facial expressions delivered the visual. You were rhymically and emotionally in sync with this great number and, as a result delivered an excellent, clean performance. 

Your second number, “Moon River“, featuring you behind the piano, provided perfect contrast to your Stevie Wonder number. I absolutely loved the 4/4 time signature you incorporated in to this arrangement. Originally composed with a 3/4 time signature, it was great to hear the rhythmic change in arrangement as it allowed you to become more inventive with your phrasing. 

For the most part, you looked and sounded very relaxed through this number and added some beautiful melodic moments. I loved the chord progression before you sang “two drifters“, followed by the upper voice entry when you sang these words.  The simplicity and beauty of this song is so perfect for personal interpretation and I am glad that you bended the original phrase line in a subtle, yet unique manner. 

Very good show case this week, Clark!  Bravo! 

Critique: Clark – your focus and thought when working on your numbers cannot be underestimated. It is to be applauded and recognized. 

My only problem now is that I can see the wheels turning in your head as you perform.  This was not as evident in the first number but it was clearly evident during “Moon River“. The slower tempo gave you more time to think and analyze and, as a result, your facial expression during this number looked very pre-occupied with the performance. You were not fully “in the emotional moment“, but rather “in the technical moment“. 

You have to learn to get out of practice mode when you perform. I know – easier said than done!  However, you have to trust your instincts and let yourself go.  If you have prepared properly and feel confident with your technique, then giving yourself permission to live the song will result in a more memorable and connected performance. Because, believe it or not, technical problems fall by the way side when you emotionally connect with the song you are singing. 

I hope that, during your Top 6 performance, you will be able to cut the technical thread and thoroughly and completely immerse yourself in your music.

However, one last technical correction: relax that mouth and let your voice flow via the support from the diaphragm. Work on this one technical glitch, correct it and you will relieve yourself of considerable tension in your vocal style. 

Good luck, Clark!! 

Jax: “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson

Jax – Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Jax – both of your songs were fantastic this week. You are such a superb vocalist and I am fully and completely in love with your singing style. 

“Piece of My Heart” was an excellent song selection because your voice and presence are so similar in style to Janis Joplin.

It’s funny, though. I never realized how truly difficult this song is!  It is so difficult to balance pure vocals with the grittier sounds. You need solid technical skills to do so and, to a certain extent, you managed to carry through with this mission. 

This is one of those songs that is so strongly identified with the original artist that it was difficult to remove the original version from my mind. But, I am hear to say, that I loved the Jax version as well. 

Your style was perfect and you gave a strong performance of this number from beginning to end. And your technical prowess became more evident as the song evolved. I loved how your entire body became part of the singing process – very important to establishing a physically strong diaphragmatic presence. 

You know how to sing over your upper notes – you never reach – and this makes all the difference in your vocal precision. And that bending technique really assisted you in your your freedom, while, at the same time, added a strong visual dimension to this performance.  Fantastic work, Jax!

However, your “Beat It” number was a tour de force. You were noticeably more relaxed than the first number because, at this point in the show, you knew you were in the Top 6. 

Boy, I cannot stand these Performance/Results show combo. But I digress.

You came out swinging with this number and your passion and strength as a vocalist and a performer was never more visible  than during this number. It was Strong was a capital S!  And so well-paced!  This song could have run away from you but it never did. You grabbed the reins and controlled the direction of this performance from the onset!  Wonderful!  

You moved with rhythmic ease on and off and around the stage, never losing your pitch, never sounding breathless, never missing a beat,  it was a very solid, very polished, very outstanding performance. 

Your voice was so clear and your diction was impeccable.  And don’t get me started on your phrasing – your melodic line was beautifully sustained as you seamlessly hopped around from “lower to upper and back again” vocals. 

I loved your little session with your guitarist – this was a great visual moment and spoke to how confident and polished you are as a performer. You live to perform don’t you Jax?  Good for you!  That’s what it is all about!  Brava!  Standing O! 

Critique: Jax – there was a little problem with your pitch at the beginning of your first number but, I suspect, it had to do with the relief on finding out that you advanced to the Top 6.  I have a feeling that the adrenaline rushed out but then came back in midway through this number. At this point, everything started to fall in to place.  

So, it is to your credit and to your technical expertise that you managed to keep this song on track.  It never is easy to bring a song back to the technical fold midway through a performance but you most certainly did that and more!  Good for you. And, the performance only became stronger because of your skillful adjustment. 

However, your second song was exceptional,  I have nothing to critique!  It does not get better than this!  Congratulations! What a great dual showcase! 

Joey Cook: “My Funny Valentine” by Frank Sinatra and “Somebody To Love” 

Joey Cook – Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Joey – the opening refrain of this song was just so beautiful and heartfelt. Your musical intent for this number sounded confident and pure. And your voice sounded transparent and expressive – just what the listener needs to hear when interpreting these classic ballads. 

 Additionally, you dressed the part – giving off what I like to call your “Bette Middler” vibe. Your fashion sense for this – and all your numbers – added a strong visual presence to your performance this week. 

 Then you presented us with a fantastic hillbilly version of “Somebody To Love“. A Tribute to Queen, Bluegrass style. It was a hootenanny up there. Just you and your banjo.

Now this was a performance! A memorable performance! Something unique and the kind of showcase that throughly embraced your remarkable creativity. 

Your vocals sounded energized and nuanced and, more important, you looked extremely relaxed on stage, possibly because the tempo was faster in comparison to the slow and sustained tempo of your first song. 

 I am so happy that you were able to give us two diverse performances during your final competitive week on American Idol. It was a great send – off and you should be proud of all you have accomplished on this show. Brava, Joey, and best of luck. 

Critique: Joey – I honestly could not believe you encountered multiple intonation problems with this song. And, at times, you were out of sync with the music. Boy, you must have had a case of nerves because this was so very unlike you. 

 You seemed detached from the moment and this is why the song ran away from you. It escaped your vocal grasp – one that you firmly had in place from the outset.  Unfortunately, these slower songs can expose the technical flaws hindering the security of your vocal delivery. 

Your voice lacked diaphragmatic support in a huge way and you were vocalizing directly from your throat.

And those nasty interval jumps were like land mines for a technically green voice such as yours. You need to firmly anchor the lower notes and then sing over the upper notes. Never reach – sing over those higher notes and access your head voice, incorporating it in to your vocal mix. You were squeezing out your upper range singing, a strong indication that your diaphragm was not being used correctly. 

 Keep working on maintaining a consistently circular mouth formation throughout your melodic line and grab the pure vowels within your words, leaving the extra vowels within your diphthongs behind. 

 EG: The word “Stay” should be sustained on “eh“, with the “ay” and “ee” vowels at the end more of an afterthought. Think British.

I hope this helps you as you continue to carve out a career in the music business. Best of luck, Joey. Keep the creativity alive but do not forgot that technique ensures longevity and diversity in your vocal delivery. 

Nick Fradiani: “American Girl” by Tom Petty and “Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel

Nick Fradiani – American Girl by Tom Petty – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Nick – you really ruled the stage this week. You came in to this competition a bit under the radar but no more. You have been discovered mainly because you have shown constant improvement each week. 

 It has been wonderful to watch you peel back the layers of your artistry in an effort to expose the passionate and expressive nature of your musical soul.

And,  It was never more evident than during your inspired version of Billy Joel‘s “Only The Good Die Young“. I loved the slower, more soulful, take on this number. It was brilliant.
Your vocals embraced the melodic line with strength and clarity. 

Your vowels were fully sustained and, as a result, your voice sounded rich and robust. Like a fine wine

Also your phrasing was impeccably creative – so fluid and full of momentum and drive. The trajectory of this performance was conceived so well and I loved it as much as the original version. It was just a different concept – but an excellent one. It takes courage to fiddle with Billy, so I admire and applaud the risk you took to showcase this arrangement. 
Your first song, “American Girl“, was equally impeccable. Your vocals were beautifully  sustained and, as Jennifer Lopez stated, you have a radio-friendly voice.  It is ready to record. Like now! 

You never left the mike stand but, honestly, this was one of those performances where, you, your voice, your guitar and strong visual presence permeated the audience with strength and tenacity. You didn’t have to move because you were powerfully and confidently committed to this performance. 

Honestly, I was so impressed. And I had a hard time picking up my jaw from the floor because it kept hitting the floor multiple times during both performances. Your evolution on this show has been nothing short of remarkable. I believe it was always there but it just took time for you to establish your groove.

And now you are unstoppable. Oh boy, the others better watch out for you!  Bravo BRAVO!!

Critique: Nick – you are critique- free. You are singing with great technique now and your performances were loaded with charisma and creativity. Keep the ball rolling, Nick!  Excellent work!  

Quentin Alexander: “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz and “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkle

Strengths: Quentin – you totally and completely channelled Lenny Kravitz in your first song. What an exciting performer you have proven to be for American Idol. You creatively attack every performance with such skill and finesse and, this week, your vocal skill matched your artistic vision. 

 In particular, your intonation really improved this week. Because you paced your first song so well and minimized your choreographic elements, you were able to control the delivery of your voice. As a result your voice sounded rich, centred and wonderfully sustained for the entire number. 

 I loved how you grabbed the pure vowel in your lyrics, rounding out that mouth and dropping your jaw classical style. This is how you fully access your diaphragmatic support and this is how you create a seamless, controlled and resonant vocal. 

 Harry Connick Jr.’s advice about becoming more physically aggressive during this performance would have compromised the vocal in this case.

I think you were out to prove that – yes – you can sing in tune. You just have to monitor when and how you move. Balancing the choreographic and vocal elements can be tricky – both should complement each other and never overwhelm the other. And this week you achieved the perfect balance. Bravo! 

Your second number, “The Sound Of Silence” was beautifully and poignantly interpreted. I felt that every word, every phrase held great meaning for you. You accented some words over others, thus lending a sense of momentum in your singing style. 

 I also applaud you on the creative approach to your phrasing. I loved how you bended the melodic line, subtly changing the original melody so as to heighten the dramatic pulse of the song. 

 And that sustained note on the first syllable of the word “silent” was wonderfully conceived and very well delivered. This is where one could gain a sense of how technically proficient you have become during this course of this competition. The round mouth, open facial expression, relaxed jaw, pure vowel “ah” in the “eye” diphthong – all these elements came together in this one moment and it brought a smile to my face. 

 This was just a beautiful and memorable performance and a well – conceived contrast to your Lenny Kravitz number. Kudos to you, Quentin. A dual showcase to remember! 

 Critique: Quentin – your first number was excellent. For me, it was one of the most controlled numbers you have performed on that stage and I could not see how you could have improved on this performance. It was the perfect blend of substance and style. 

However, during your second number, you did encounter a waver in your pitch. It was a little confusing as to why and then I figured it out.  For some of the notes, you had a tendency to “scoop” on to the note and then find its center as you sustained the note. It was very subtle, very quick, but it was there. 

 Also, added to this, I felt that your diaphragm was not releasing your air consistently, especially in the lower end of your voice. The consistent use of your air is necessary in order to create a seamless, clean vocal line.  And, the scooping didn’t help because it momentarily dismissed the action of the diaphragmatic muscles. 

 So make certain that you are applying your technique consistently throughout your song. Slower songs expose any flaw in your technique and, in many ways, you have to work harder to achiever a cleaner sound. You cannot take short cuts. Grab those pure vowels and create a smooth melodic line with your voice. No scooping allowed.

Rayvon Owen: “Long Train Runnin'” by The Doobie Brothers and “Always on my Mind”by Willie Nelson

Rayvon Owen – Long Train Runnin by the Doobie Brothers – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Rayvon – you were rhythmically connected to your first number. It was a strong visual and aural performance, probably the best I have ever seen from you on that stage.

And, I don’t even like this song so there you go! You made me like it so there something to be said about that. 

 Your voice sounded vibrant and nuanced and technically secure. It was entertaining and thoroughly authentic. You come out each and every week to embrace and connect with your audience and, in many important ways, you do this better than any other on that stage. You are an approachable performer – someone familiar – and this comes through with every one of your performances. 

I loved the choreographic elements you introduced to this number. They were terrific and you were in perfect sync with your backup musicians/dancers. Also, it established a strong connection with your audience – I wanted to get up there and dance with you.  

Your second song, “Always On My Mind” was wonderfully expressed and vocalized. You sustained some phenomenal phrase lines during the course of this song and your voice sounded incredibly secure.  Your energetic approach to this slow ballad was the ticket here.  So many singers sort of wallow In these ballads but you sold us the goods – the core of the lyrical narrative – and communicated this song to your listenersin a meaningful and polished way.

The energy provided direction and glue for your vocals and, in my opinion, you gave two of your best performances in this competition. Bravo!  

Critique: Rayvon – both of your numbers were wonderfully and passionately performed this week. You really have earned every placement in this competition and your tenacity and resilience, coupled with your positive energy, have surpassed whatever technical flaws may come your way. 

Although your first number was not  the most challenging number in the music catalogue,  your energetic and playful demeanour and spot on vocals made for a very enjoyable presentation.  You demonstrated how one can turn a somewhat ordinary song in to something special. It’s a dancing song, one that no one takes too seriously, so I am glad you had fun with it and shared the love with us. 

For me, you second song was your challenge and you rose to the occasion.  I loved every moment, every breath, every sustained note!  Kudos Rayvon! 

Tyanna Jones: “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Tyanna Jones – Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival – Download On iTunes

Strengths: Tyanna – you grabbed two solid song choices this week. There was such marked contrast between the two songs and they worked beautifully with your voice and youthful personality. 

Your first song, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love“, was brimming with youthful enthusiasm and candor. I loved the natural head voice component mixed in to your vocal timbre – it adds such shine and ring to your voice and the result is an extremely pleasant vocal experience for the listener.  

Even though you remianed stationary at the mike stand, your facial expressions and body movements established strong communication with your audience.  You truly embrace your audience when you perform, Tyanna, this instantly establishes a strong rapport between you and the listener.  You love to share your gift and this was so very evident in this and all of the songs you have chosen to sing throughout this competition. Brava!

Proud Mary” was performed with fantastic style and substance.  One could not ask for anything more, especially given your young age.  You handled the changes in the tempo so well and further highlighted the fact you could maintain control over your vocal delivery whether the tempo was slow or fast. 

In fact, the slower tempo at the beginning of this number gave you pause to reflect and really ground your voice in a technically assured manner. Then, when it was time to kick it up a notch, you were “good to go“, as the technique was already in place.  

Performance – wise, you ignited the stage with your youthful enthusiasm and passion. Your movements were fun to watch and were executed with such ease and professionalism. How old are you?? Ha! 

And that voice with its gentle vibrato?  This is what defines you – your unique vocal sound. Never lose that. Never!  Just learn to control that vibrato because you want to be able to turn it on and off at will. 

This was a controlled, flawless performance, Tyanna!  Congratulations. 

Critique: Tyanna – you experienced some minor pitch issues in the first number, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love“, the reason being that you sustain your melodic line through that beautiful smile of yours! 

Believe it or not, you need to smile with your eyes and maintain a circular formation with your mouth. This will bring your pitch back to its center while further enriching your vocal sound. 

Also the round mouth/relaxed open jaw approach will further encourage you to access your diaphragmatic support with more consistency. It may take you a while to adjust to your new and improved sound but, once you do, you will not go back to the old. 

Because you are still so young, you are using your natural vocal ability without enhancing it with stronger  technical skills. Our vocal cords are muscles – they are flexible and resilient in our youth but, with time and use, they need the added comfort of technique in order to ensure longevity. 

However, both performances were excellent this week and wonderfully animated. Now, let’s get the technique working for you!  

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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

3 Responses to “Vocal Masterclass Article For American Idol Season XIV Top 7/6 Show: The American Classics”

  1. Oh, wow, thank you for this, MCL! Between my disappointment at losing Joey and the whole stretched out “controversy” about Quentin and Harry, I totally lost sight of how good Nick was this week. I’m a huge Billy Joel fan all the way back to my high school days, and yet Nick’s take on “Only the Good Die Young” gave me chills. Between his two performances last week I’d have to say classic-style rock should definitely be his go-to.

    Like

  2. I hope Quentin reads this, MCL, because your epiphany could really shoot him to the top.

    Like

  3. again i loved reading your comments. i learn so much when i read them. i see so much more than i do when i watch the performance.

    Liked by 1 person

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