Vocal MasterClass Article For The American Idol Season 15 Top 8: Grammy Award Winning Songs. 

American Idol
By: Rosanne Simunovic

Although all 10 singers performed this week, two were eliminated at the end of the show.

Therefore, since I am on vacation for a month or so and have limited time to write these MasterClass articles , I will critique only the Top 8 singers.

Also, if any of the singers or members of their families are reading these critiques, it will, hopefully, be a small source of support for their upcoming performances.

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.

To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.

Avalon Young,  La’Porsha Renae

Dalton Rapattoni, Lee Jean, MacKenzie Bourg

Sonika Vaid, Tristan MacIntoshTrent Harmon


p style=”text-align:center;”>Avalon Young: “Earned It” by The Weeknd

Strengths: Avalon – overall, you managed to inhabit the sexy, suggestive lyrics of this song. Personally, I can’t stand this song, but you almost made it listenable to my ears. 

You have a strong, aggressive approach in your singing style that worked very well with this number, yet, paced the the tone and momentum of this song very well. 

Good work, Avalon 

Critique: Avalon – you need to change the manner in which you project your voice. Presently, you are singing with far too much chest voice in your vocal mix. In fact, this entire number sounded chesty and strained and the lack of head voice caused problems with your intonation.

Additionally, I would have loved to hear more nuance in this song.  Everything sounded the same and I was waiting for you to sprinkle some head voice within your melodic line. It would have added dimension and diversity to your vocals  while  heightening the intensity and expressiveness of the lyrics. 

Your mouth and facial features were extremely tense, thus creating a strident element in your vocal timbre.  Also, your pitch wavered, especially in the more sustained moments within the song because your timbre lacked the clarity and ring of head voice. 

Also, your posture while seated was not optimal as it caused your diaphragmatic muscles to collapse, impeding the liberated freedom of your vocal. 

You need to select your songs wisely, Avalon, while working on the refinement of your technical skills. Once you master the basic concepts of Bel Canto vocal technique, you will feel elevated as vocalist and your capabilities as a a vocalist will be endless. 


p style=”text-align:center;”>Dalton Rapattoni: “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons

Strengths:Dalton – well, call me crazy, but I have to disagree with the judges’ comments. I thought this was a fantastic performance.  Mind you, this is not my favorite song in the whole wild world. It is very repetitious – melodically and lyrically.  

However, you threw your entire persona into the song and sang with confidence and power throughout the performance. 

What impressed me was how well you solidified your lower range. You knew how to support this part of your vocal range extremely well and, in particular, you maintained a crisp and coherent approach to your lyrics. Your strong  diaphragmatic support and  clean approach to your consonants propelled your voice forward and assisted you when you navigated your upper range.  

As always, you exuded a magnetic star quality on stage that was very unique. Congratulations on a very fine showcase Dalton. 

Critique: Dalton – although you sustained your upper range very well, it was a little off center and your pitch wavered ever so slightly. Sometimes it helps to ease on to those upper notes, especially if they come out of nowhere after vocalizing for a long period of time in your lower range. A slight crescendo as you sustain a high note will give you time to access the head voice necessary for a ringing, nicely tuned, yet robust upper note. Your diaphragmatic muscles need time to adjust and, if you slam into those upper notes, they will waver and go off center. 

Also, you were very active on stage and I loved it. But remember to conserve some of that energy so that it does not detract from your vocal delivery. It’s all about the pacing.  Good work nonetheless, Dalton. Congratulations! 

Lee Jean: “Use Somebody” by Kings Of Leon

Strengths: Lee – oh my!  You pulled out all the stops, singing a number that was completely removed from your comfort zone and pretty much nailing it. 

I think what impressed me the most was the fact that you are only 16 years old and have the confidence, vision and work ethic of a seasoned pro. You obviously worked very hard on numerous vocal and performing elements required for the successful perormance of this number. 

Although your voice is still young and needs room to grow,  you still sang expressively and with commitment and respect for the music and lyrics. Additionally, the manner in which you shaped your phrases was creative and musical. 

The performance  aspects were strong and purposeful. You commanded the stage, starting at the mike stand and then moving aggressively, while grabbing the microphone, to connect with your audience. Not only was this a strong visual aspect of your performance, but, by moving away from the microphone  stand,  you relaxed and energized your body.  Movement – if planned correctly – can be a great force on many levels, adding a dynamic measure in a performance.  

I loved this performance, Lee, and heartily congratulate you on what I consider your best performance to date!  

Critique:  Lee – now you need to work on developing your young voice.  Because of your age, you are still in change mode. Your voice is still trying to find its mojo. 

However, here is the good news. Technical training will ably assist you sooner than later to achieve a more pleasant, seamless and wider dynamic range in your voice.  

Generally, you need to explore the purity and ring of your head voice.  There is so much tension in your face and tbis is impeding your ability to properly project your vocal sound. Also, the chesty sound creates a more strident, less pleasant vocal timbre. Sort of one-dimensional.   You are squeezing out your vocal sound rather than allowing it to flow freely via the support from the diaphragm.  

You can start by rounding out your mouth when sustaining the pure vowels in the lyrics.  Watch those diphthongs – the first pure vowel in a syllable is your sustaining vowel and, once you start to accept this, you will be amazed at how easy it is to vocalize and  how your voice takes on a rich, yet pure timbre. And your voice will sound seamless and cohesive from top to bottom. 

However, vocal issues aside, this was a strong peformance. Really, really good. Now let’s play catch-up with the vocals and jump start the technical process. Then, you will be truly unstoppable. 

La’Porsha Renae: “Halo” by Beyonce

Strengths:La’Porsha Renae – okay, seriously, who are you and which planet did you come from?  Because, truly, this was an out of this world, stratospheric, phenomenal performance that is one in a million.  

Only you can stand with quiet emotion behind a microphone and deliver a passionate and resounding  perormance that reaches to the farthest corner of the room and moves beyond our TV screens, touching our hearts in a meaningful way. 

First of all – your voice. That VOICE!  It is a miracle, a blessing, a God – given gift.  No one can teach what you do with your voice.  Your artistry guides you every step of the way and yet there is a strong technical support that grounds your voice while  never gettimg in the way of your highly musical delivery. Everything works in perfect sync, beautifully balanced and wonderfully paced. 

Secondly, your charisma screams – I Am A Star!  But, not in an annoying, condescending manner, but in the professional and confident manner in which you present yourself. You become one with the song – your voice and body enveloping the melody and lyrics with respect and intelligence.  It is wonderful to behold. 

Oh my goodness – you are a gift, not only to American Idol, but the music industry at large. What a career awaits you!  And we will be with you every step of the way! 

Brava La’Porsha!  Standing O and endless applause hereby my virtual desk. Congratulations. 

Critique: La’Porsha Renae – one small little, itsy bitsy thing. Be careful to maintain relaxation in your jaw. Sometimes, I noticed a quiver in your  jaw and, to me, it signalled some tension in that area, putting strain on your vocal cords. Trust your diaphragmatic muscles to power your voice.  This will ensure a healthy longevity in your singing career. 

Other than that, this performance was a MasterClass Peformance. One of the best I have ever seen on that stage. Kudos! 

MacKenzie Bourg: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston

Strengths:MacKenzie – your interpretation of this song was very interesting. Kind of a a relaxed, folksie, Indie vibe. I love when an artist re-invents these classics because it speaks to the depth of his or her artistry. And, as an artist, it is obvious that you know where you wish to take your music. Good for you. 

You had a great charisma on stage during this Top 8 performance.  And, stylistically, your approach is unique and personal. Keep re-inventing the wheel, because that is when true artists are born and brought to the forefront. 

Great work, MacKenzie!

Critique:MacKenzie – you needed to take a page from Lee Jean’s  book and move away from that mike stand. However, in your case, this was even more important because, overall, your voice did not project well and, in fact, at times, was lost in the background music. 

Also, the movement would have relaxed you and/or, at the very least, added some much needed visual dimension to this number.  This was far from being a storybook peformance in that there was no beginning, middle and end.  Everything sounded the same. And looked the same.  The narrative was lost to us. 

Vocally, you need to work on your technique. Your voice is very  light in texture and your range appears to sound limited. Presently, you sing from your face and your diaphragmatic support is AWOL. Those facial features need to relax, your mouth must adopt a circular position when grabbing the pure vowels and the tension must be released from your throat. 

And, the only way to manage this is to explore the diaphragmatic method of breathing.  The power and the fortitude of the diaphragm  and the muscles supporting the diaphragm will assist you with releasing the tension from your face and upper body. 

You may need to take a couple of steps backwards for a while to hone your technical skills, MacKenzie, but, overall you will be amazed and excited at the freedom and confidence you will feel in future performances. Technique does not need to impede musicality. Rather, it will enhance it. 

Good luck, MacKenzie!  

Sonika Vaid: “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson

Strengths:Sonika – what a magnificent vocal gift you have. And you have nourished it with impeccable and undeniable training skills.  

I do not need to tell you how to breathe and relax your upper body nor do I need to tell you to maintain open facial features because everything is there and good to go. 

Also, you effectively moved around the stage and, yet, not too much. You paced this aspect of the performance well in that your vocals never suffered from the physicality of your performance. 

You have such a beautiful tone to your voice – the vibrato is gentle and well-controlled.  I picture you adapting to many genres and, in today’s era of cross-over artists,  this special element will carry you far in the business. 

Outstanding performance!  Congratulations!!

Critique: Sonika – you know, I was wondering what was missing from this song because, vocally, this was an exquisite performance. 

And then, the judges hit the nail on the head. You needed to up the ante on an emotional level. This is a very angst-laden song and I felt that the emotional core of the lyrics took a back seat to your undeniable stellar vocal delivery. 

Always remember this:  if the technical aspects of a song have been carefully scrutinized in rehearsal, then, once on stage, you must embrace the soul of a song and reach your audience through a strong narrative delivery. 

However, vocally, you are refined and, as a performer, you are poised and professional. So, you are two-thirds of the way there, Sonika, and that last third is easily within your reach. We saw it last week, after all. 

Oh – one final vocal tidbit:  when you began the song, the intensity of your lower voice did not match the intensity of your upper voice.  Make absolutely certain that you sing with energy and full diaphragmatic support in the lower range. You need to dig a little deeper into those lower notes and crisply articulate the lyrics so they are not lost on the listener. 

Congratulations!  Still a remarkable performance!

Trent Harmon: “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

Strengths: Trent – Update:  My commentary for Trent’s outstanding showcase disappeared into thin air. Thanks WordPress. I  seriously want to move to another format. I will add his VM critique tomorrow. But – in a nutshell – he is the musical monster in this competition. His voice is truly prodigious. Love you Trent. 

Critique: Trent –

Tristan MacIntosh: “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill

Strengths:Tristan – well, well, well. Look who surprised everyone this week. Talented Tristan.  Personally, I have loved all of your performances;  however,  it seems that the majority of your audience truly “gets” you when you become more introspective and serenade us while seated at the piano. 

Sometimes a singer heightens the full extent of her artistry by adopting a quieter, more expressive and sensitive approach when choosing song selections. This was certainly true in your case, Tristan. Although I loved your upbeat numbers, the energy needed to drive home these performances was masking the more intense and deeper level of your artistry. This week’s song allowed you to showcase who you are and where you wish to take your music. 

And once can not underestimate the refinement of your vocal technique. Your elongated phrasing, your seamless vocal timbre, the purity of your vowels, the relaxed jaw, the circular mouth formation – all were key elements in the beauty and clarity of your vocal delivery.  

Additionally, you are most definitely a charismatic and confident singer and, yet, at the same time , relaxed and genuine in your rapport with your audience. You really feel your lyrics and get lost In the music. 

This was a magnificent performance, Tristan, reminding me why I fell in love with you in the first place. Artistry plus Technique = a recipe for success. Standing O and thunderous applause from my virtual desk!  Congratulations 

Critique:Tristan – I have nothing to add to this wonderful peformance. Everything was sublime and all the stars aligned for you on this very special night. You are a studious and intelligent artist – never lose these qualities.  Brava Tristan!

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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

9 Responses to “Vocal MasterClass Article For The American Idol Season 15 Top 8: Grammy Award Winning Songs. ”

  1. Thank you, MCL–I always learn so much from your analyses!

    (You forgot to put Trent’s comments in… 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What? I wrote Trent’s comments and it was thorough. I am really starting to detest WordPress. Where did it go?


  3. I use the WordPress platform for my professional website, but not their hosting! (Also I usually write in a text document and then copy. I have no faith!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I usually do as well RR. But, I was in a hurry and everything WAS working well. I am going to self-host at some point. This is ridiculous. I have had so many problems with WordPress – this is the last straw.


  5. I’ve heard good things about Squarespace… (I’m super lucky, my site is hosted by a friend.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks RR. I have heard about SquareSpace as well. BlueHost is recommended by WordPress – not sure if that is a good or bad thing. 🙂


  7. Bates Motel has started it’s new season MCL.

    Enjoy your vacation!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rosanne, you wrote regarding La’Porsha: “First of all – your voice. That VOICE! It is a miracle, a blessing, a God – given gift. No one can teach what you do with your voice.” I totally agree with your analysis. She is a special singer and I do believe she may be asked to work with David Foster. She is a favorite of mine – possibly Idol winner.

    Dalton is an interesting singer. He has room to grow and the Idol stage may be helping him. Although his song was a little choppy, I enjoy watching him perform. I think his looks and subtle charisma may extend his career beyond Idol.

    I feel Idol is rushing things with the limited time. With the faithful following it has had, they could give us more NOT less. Cutting 4 weeks from the show really makes a difference. I hate seeing the show end as it is my favorite!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Kariann – it is too rushed. If they had not eliminated two a week, we probably seen another performance from Olivia last week. This is the most talented crop of singers they have had in a long time and rushing them through the process seems so unfair.

    Liked by 1 person

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