Friday, May 27, 2011

More on the Final Results Show

This was a very entertaining show, chock full of stars and variety in styles. It was great to see all 13 of the Idol finalists again, and remember how talented this year's contestants were. I enjoyed how they were paired up with the stars in duets and group numbers to show their strength in their genre. My favorite performance was the duet between Tony Bennett and Haley Reinhart. Jazz is really her forte and she looked so comfortable singing with one of the greats. James Durbin with Judas Priest was also a hoot. Rob Halford could still rock.
Watching Scotty win was exciting, even though he was not my pick, he's just a humble, polite young man and you can't help but like him. Hearing Pia sing again reminded me of how talented the rest of the bunch were, and how I disagreed with her elimination. It's been a fun season 10. We'll see what season 11 brings.

Here is my blow by blow account of last night's show below:

A fun group opening number by Lady Gaga-Baby I Was Born This Way. Good to see all the finalists back.
James Durbin and Judas Priest-That was a lot of fun! James looked like he was having the time of his life.
Kurt Franklin, Gladys Knight and Jacob Lusk did a very upbeat Gospel number. Jacob looked like he was in Heaven. Very entertaining.
Casey Abrams and Jack Black-Fat Bottom Girls was a wild rendition of the song. Both guys were hamming it up and it was a lot of fun.
Group Girl sing was fun to see all the talent from the season, and Beyonce certainly shook her thing. She's shy? Not.
Tony Bennett and Haley Reinhart-Steppin' Out with My Baby, this was a perfect song for Haley, this is her genre, she seemed so comfortable with Tony. Impressive.
Tim McGraw and Scotty McReery-Live Like you Were Dying, nice to watch the two of them singing this well written song.
Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez-Wow, that was wild! Jennfier is quite the dancer! And Shelia E. on percussion. Very hot number.
Tom Jones and the guys-Tom looks good, but his voice sounds a bit tired.
Lady Gaga-Well that was a dramatic performance-interesting, and entertaining and the song wasn't too bad either.
Lauren Alaina and Carrie Underwood-Looked like Lauren was having a great time with her musical idol. Her voice sounded a bit weak, but she did a good job singing.
Beyonce-Make Love to Me- a passionate performance but I thought it was a pretty lame song.
Bono-eh.........Spiderman, didn't really do much for me either.
And Scotty wins! His reaction was sweet, but his song "Love You This Big" doesn't really do much for me either.

See you again!
Vickie Russell

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Finale Results Show

So Scotty is the winner. I knew that would happen. I'm sure he will have a very successful country music career. Good luck to you Scotty. More on tonight's show tomorrow.

The Finale

This was a rather disappointing show, but maybe that's because the 2 finalists are very predictable in their styles. I have been saying for the whole contest that Lauren Alaina was pushing her voice and could do some serious damage and that's exactly what happened during the rehearsal for the show, she blew out a vocal cord. And to make matters worse, the doctor gave her medicine (probably steroids) so she could sing through it, which could make the damage worse. She should have complete vocal rest for a few weeks after that kind of an injury. I guess she couldn't have dropped out at this point because there would have been no final show and what would the sponsors do, sue her? Probably. Well, she made it through and I hope it's worth it for her. To strain such a young voice is so dangerous; it could ruin her voice for the rest of her life. I hope not. Lauren's vocals were quite soft and there was much reverb on her voice so it would appear louder and the background singers were very loud up in the mix, so it gave the impression she was singing powerfully. But she was being very cautious and I could hear there wasn't much voice there at all. She did push her voice on the bridge of Maybe It was Memphis and it sounded very hoarse. Well, hopefully, now she can rest it for awhile, although if she wins, she probably has to go on every talk show and sing. Maybe she won't be allowed to sing if someone is managing her career right. So if I had to choose who should win of the 2, I'd say Lauren because she is a little more interesting. But I think Scotty has his country schtick and he does it well and consistently, so maybe he will win. We'll see.
I just want to thank the Poughkeepsie Journal for another year of publishing my American Idol blogging. It's been fun sharing my thoughts with you all. Thanks for all of your comments. And keep on singing. If you need vocal coaching, you can contact me at And I'll be playing in the Hudson Valley Area this summer. You can get on my e-mail newsletter through my website as well. I'll be performing at the Rosendale Street Festival and at various other local venues. Hope to see you there.

Who do you think will win tonight?

Here's my take on the songs:

Scotty McReery
Pick of the Season: Gone
He did put everything he had into that song. Best performance of the night.
Idol's Idol picks: Yes Or No
Boring, edited version of the song. Didn't do anything for me.
Idol's Hits-I Love You This Big
What a lousy song for his hit song. It's so contrived and boring. the range of the song was so small and he couldn't really do much with it. He did the best he could.

Lauren Alaina
Pick of the Season: Flat on the Floor
That was a lot of background singing, I could really hear how easy she was taking it-she couldn't push her voice at all.
Idol picks: Maybe It Was Memphis
She sang it well, she's definitely holding back, and the background singers were up really loud.
Idol Hits:Like My Mother Does
She sang that beautifully, but again, quite a contrived song. It was sweet at the end when Lauren was crying because her mother was so emotional.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Results Show 5/19/11

So Haley's going home, as I thought she'd be. The finals are next week. I still think Scotty's going to win. What else can I say? It's all so disappointing since James is gone. Did America get it right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Semi Finals night: Beyonce as Mentor

What a boring show. Without James, there was nothing special happening. Everything just seemed ordinary and predictable. The song choices were mundane. Beyonce's mentoring seemed absurd, because her style had nothing to do with these singers. I liked her advice to Lauren however about psyching herself up before going out on stage. That was useful, otherwise, what was the point? Oh, I know what the point was! So that Beyonce could promote her new video, which seemed to have nothing to do with singing. It was all auto-tune vocals and there was no melody whatsoever. Very disillusioning.
My favorite performance of the night was Haley's rendition of Zeppelin's What Is and What Should Never Be. Especially with her father playing lead guitar with her. That was unpredictable, interesting and fun. Besides that, nothing thrilled me. Who should be voted off? Does it really matter anymore? They are all equally talented I think. If I had to guess who will be, I'd say Haley. Who do you think should go home tomorrow?

Scotty McReery

Baby I'm Amazed By You
He sang that well, but his style gets a little tiresome to me. Every line he starts low and slides up to the note. It's an annoying habit that gets on my nerves. But he sang it well for the most part.

Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not
That was a good performance-good song choice for him.

She Believes In Me
Such a corny pop song, hard to enjoy even Scotty singing it, but he did a good job wiht what he was given b the judges.

Lauren Alaina

She's a Wild One
She sang that very well, with confidence. Good job.

If I Die Young
Oops, poor Lauren, got lost at the modulation, but she recovered quickly. It definitely threw her and she missed a few notes at the end because of it, but the first half was beautiful. What depressing lyrics! I didn't think the song matched her youthful age.

I Hope You Dance
Nice singing. What more can I say?

Haley Reinhart

What Is and What Should Never Be
She really sang that song from the bottom of her soul. I've never heard a woman sing this song before. It was so cool having her father up there playing guitar with her. It was a great performance. She tore up the house! And she even tripped in those ridiculously high heels and didn't miss a beat. That's got to count for something too.

She sang it well; kind of slow at the beginning, but it picked up at the end. The wind machine added a lot. I think everyone should always have wind when they're singing. It puts you in the mood for the song. I'm going out to buy one right now!

You Ought To Know
This wasn't a very convincing rendition of the song, although she did nail the choruses. She didn't have the right attitude for the lyrics, not angry enough. It all seemed contrived.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blog Blip

Wow! I don't know where my blog went. Blogspot was having difficulties and seems to have wiped it away. So I'll summarize:
My favorite performance of the night was James and now he's been voted off the show. That's very disappointing. He's got to become successful with that voice and his performing skills. He really has star power, and I don't think that the other 3 are up to that level. But we'll go with who we have left now, which would be Scotty, Haley and Lauren. I think Haley is the weakest of the three. Scotty is a consummate country singer and will be well on his way to country success when this show is over. Since old school country is not my favorite of styles, I wouldn't be voting for him, but he sings it really well. Lauren sings well too but she and Haley are both straining their voices as you can hear in their hoarse speaking voices. Did America get it right this week? I don't think so.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Inspirational Songs and Lieber and Stoller / Lady Gag Mentors

It was a fun show again tonight: entertaining and engaging. My all around favorite performer of the evening was James Durbin. He's at a higher level of professionalism than the rest; he's consistent, confident, knows how to work an audience, and knows how to sing without hurting himself (hopefully). But these qualities do not a winner make, judging from past Idol years, example: Adam Lambert.
Lady Gaga was intriguing to watch and she had some good coaching points, but I found her quite annoying. But I think that's her gimmick- annoying and shocking. Whatever works, I guess. I like good singing, songs, performing, leave the shock factor at home, it's just distracting. The music should be enough by itself.
There was an article today in the Poughkeepsie Journal about one of my students, Ashley Flow, who made it all the way to Hollywood week this year. Check it out. And come out to hear me perform my original songs in New Paltz if you're free on Sat. night. No gimmicks, just some straight out singing and entertaining. My husband, David Michael Peters will be performing on guitar and bass with me and one of my former students, Fiona Robins who is only 17, will be singing back-up and opening up the night with a couple of songs. Details below:

Vickie Russell in concert

Sat. May 14 @ 8:00 PM

Cliffside Concert Series @ Simply Create

238 Main St. (next to Burger King and Midas) New Paltz, NY 12561 845-255-5056 $10 suggested donation

Okay, back to the blog:

Who should go home? I think Haley. Who do you think?

Here's my take on the evening:

James Durbin

Don't Stop Believing
He's the guy! He sang that as well as my favorite male rock singer: Steven Perry from Journey. James is really an amazing rock singer-he's the American Idol for me.

Love Potion #9
What a fantastic performer! Very exciting and,amazing vocals to boot. He knows how to yell the right way. I don't think he is hurting his voice, and he just has so much confidence.

Haley Reinhart

What About Us
Ouch, I can't listen to Haley tearing her voice up! She's just screaming, her cords must be so swollen from all of this. I don't know if she will make it through the rest of the contest, vocally speaking. I liked the song choice; I like to hear people sing songs that I don't know, it's interesting to me, I don't know why they keep telling people to sing well known songs. As I said last week, doesn't America have any imagination? Except for the screaming, I thought she did alright. I enjoyed the choir behind her.

I Who Have Nothing
Powerful song, She did a good job from a performance point of view but I'll be surprised if she has any speaking voice tomorrow. Again, she really pushed her voice to the max. Is it worth it to win this contest with a chance of rupturing a vocal cord and having permanent damage. I don't know what I would do if I could never sing again; it would devastate me because that is my main creative expression. I once lost my voice for a year so I am talking from experience here. Luckily with lots of re-training and rest, I got it back; but never again will I push my voice or oversing, not for anything or anyone. Listen to the original recording of this song; Shirley Bassey is singing it, wow can she sing! If I were Haley's coach, I'd put her on vocal rest for a month (no talking, singing or whispering).

Scotty McReery

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning
He did a good job singing that song. I'm not crazy about the song, but it certainly suited him and he is the consummate country boy.

Young Blood
That showed a different side of Scotty; he was goofy and fun. I enjoyed it. I guess Lady Gaga scared him a little bit; I don't blame him.

Lauren Alaina

Do It Anyway
She sang that really well, beautifully performed. Her voice still sounds so hoarse when she speaks, a bad sign of vocal strain. She really does push her voice way too much for a young woman of her age.

That was a strong performance for this 17 year old singer. We saw a confident, different side of her. Lady Gaga coached her well, but I felt sad for her, she seems like a fairly inoocent teenager and somehow it felt alarming to push her to "evil". But I guess she was just playing a character. At the end of the song, the last few high notes, she strained her voice pretty badly, nothing was coming out. Hope she will be okay.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Results Show 5/5/11

I called it last night- but I'm not happy to see him go. We love you Jacob Lusk. You are an incredible singer and you should have won this contest. But America thinks otherwise. Hope to hear your recordings soon! Onward to the last 4 contestants. James should win it, but if Jacob left tonight, there's no accounting for taste. We'll see.
Did America get it right? No!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Songs from Then and Now -Sheryl Crow Mentor-5/4/11

Once again, this was an entertaining night. High quality performances, more than any other season. I think having top producers coach week after week really helps everyone grow. The absence of Simon's nasty remarks and this year's judges' encouragement probably gives them more confidence.
I thought everyone had at least one outstanding performance tonight. It was interesting to see Sheryl Crow mentoring, although I don't know if she really gave any helpful advice. She is one of my favorite songwriters.
Speaking of songwriters, I am performing an evening of my original songs in an intimate setting next week, Sat. May 14th at 8:00 PM at the Cliffside Concert Series @ Simply Create , 238 Main St., New Paltz, NY. If you are in the area, please come out and support live music. But I digress......

Back to tonight's show:
I thought the judges overlooked some pitch problems in various performances. I felt disappointed in some of their advice: like when they told Haley to sing familiar songs. Most artists record songs that have never been heard. And another thing! I wish the music business didn't have to pigeon-hole musicians to have to perform in just one style, and allow them to be more creative, playing it less safe. Don't get me started....

I don't know who should go home. Everyone is just so talented. If I had to predict, I'd say it would be Jacob who will be voted off; not because of a lack of talent, but because he hasn't figured out exactly what to sing to reflect his true persona. If I had my choice of who should go, it would be Scotty. We all know he can sing country really well, and he is the least exciting of the ones who are left. James and Jacob are still my favorite vocalists. Haley surprised me tonight with 2 strong performances. Who do you think should be voted off?

James Durbin

Closer to the Edge
James was flat a lot tonight on this song. The judges didn't seem to notice. Maybe he couldn't hear himself, and maybe they couldn't hear him either. If you ask me, he paid too much attention to schmoozing the crowd, and not enough on singing.
Livin' Without You
Heartfelt, honestly sung. Very touching.

Jacob Lusk
No End
A little too pop for him. What an amazing range this man has. He sings higher than I can, and I'm a soprano. But it didn't feel right on him.
Love Hurts
He sang the ^*#! out of that. Incredible, what a singer! Unbelievable. A little out of control, but always amazing!

Lauren Alaina
Flat on the Floor
She did a good job singing that song. Tonight she seemed like she believed in herself. But I don't think that song was really age appropriate for her, too life weary for such a young woman.
Unchained Melody
Why are they editing all the songs tonight? What a song butchery! It's offensive to me as a songwriter. Wasn't the greatest performance, but it was okay.

Scotty McReery

Impressive for country Scotty. He really got the crowd going. that was the most lively I've ever seen him. But he was pushing his voice, and I hope that he doesn't do that often, or he could hurt that mellow voice forever.
You Were Always on My Mind
He did it straight country, nothing different, predictable, a little boring to me, but he did it well.

Haley Reinhart
You and I
Haley sang this well, soulful, rockin'! I thought she did a great job. What were the judges talking about, that they have to know the song. Why? Is America that dumb that they can't tell if she sings a song well they don't know??
House of the Rising Sun
She did a great job on that song too. She made it her own. Nice a capella at the beginning.