A Place of Truth

Kara explains what makes a great song and selects her favorite lyrics from this episode.

How about the drama this week? Who knew all that was going on. Johnny and Jes! Sounds like a good title for a doo-wop song.

I can remember the first sleazy hotel I pulled into when I first started going to Los Angeles to write songs. I thought I would just wing it and find a room after my session. I of course ended up on Hollywood Boulevard at one in the morning, desperate for a hotel where I could grab a few hours of sleep. When I finally got to my room, I was scared to fall asleep and kept waking up to check if my car was still outside...the things you'll do for your dream. I had to laugh when the show decided to give the contestants a dose of the reality of a songwriter in search of hits; nights in crap hotels seem to be a rite of passage. The contestants were definitely good sports and overall did a great job with this week's challenge. 

I thought the contestants really started to inject their personal experiences into their songs, and that is the key to writing great songs. The best songs, which I call copyrights, are not just a bunch of words and melodies thrown together because they seem to fit. Songs are not a random occurrence. They should be coming from a place of truth, but still be relatable to the masses.

I thought Jackie's hook was really headed in the right direction, but the verses her team came up with needed to be stronger and that contributed to the song feeling more like music for a Hallmark commercial (which by the way, ain't a bad thing, but just not the goal here).

I thought Johnny and Jes' teams both had songs that felt like they were written from an artist's perspective. They felt universal yet unique to their experiences at the same time. Jes's melodies were breathtaking and Johnny's lyrics and musical changes showed a musicality we had not seen on the show until this week.

I loved the debate that surfaced this week over what is more important -- melody or lyrics. Songwriters I know always debate this issue. I have come to believe they are both equally important.

Best lines of the week:

Johnny - "I'll let these tire tracks talk dirt behind my back."

Sonyae -"The only compass that I got is the beating of my own heart."

The Write Girl

Kara explains why Sonyae was the winner and what each songwriter brought to the final challenge.

First off, I am so proud of the growth that Sonyae, Scotty, and Jes made over the course of the show. If I were in their shoes starting out, I don't know if I would have been able to take the pressure of the episode challenges. This was a writing boot camp and the strongest (with the exception of Johnny) definitely survived. Their diligence, team work, and commitment to learning is what landed them in the final three. Their songs were fantastic this week, and I believe they all have careers ahead of them in music.

The Winner ---- When we first met Sonyae, we knew she had a gift for lyrics and concepts, which is one of today's most important components to hit songs. But, she was seemingly at a disadvantage because she didn't play an instrument and I wasn't sure how that would translate during the course of the competition. Thankfully we began to see that Sonyae is musical. She knows what chords fit her melodies and that's why she was able to win this competition. Many topliners don't play an instrument but they are responsible for some of the biggest hits out there today. Their voices are their instrument and they sing what they feel and hear in their heads. Her melodies always came from an emotional place and I think that is why she really impressed us as well. She consistently delivered week to week. She would be an asset in any room of writers in any genre. For me, she is a force to be reckoned with and I think we will be seeing a Sonyae song on an album any day now.

And then there's Scotty who was stuck in adult contemporary ballad land when we first met him. During the course of the show, he figured out how to make more contemporary tracks and teamed up with people that pushed him to be younger, more rhythmic, and hipper. His melodic sensibility was always there, he just needed to put it on top of modern tracks. He also started scrutinizing his lyrics more during the season and that culminated in his best work, "Beautiful You." That song is a great personal anthem and I want to commend him for really speaking about such an emotional and personal subject and yet making it so universal.

Lastly Jes, a singer-songwriter with a beautiful voice and passion for writing. When she first started out she would often get lost in her own piano world. Her songs were very niche and her melodies (while lovely) fit her voice more than they did the voices of other artists. Over the competition, she really learned how to condense her songs and make every part of them meaningful. She too has a gift for emotion in her melodies and by the end of the season was writing lyrics that could match the power of her music. "Come Alive" was a brilliant melodic piece of work.

I found it very interesting that all three contestants pulled from their own life stories when they were faced with creating the biggest hit of their lives. We encouraged them from the beginning to always come from an honest place. I don't think it's a coincidence that these were some of their strongest songs. Great writers will tell you their best material came from their real life experiences -- that's the inspiration part of a song, which is so crucial to making it great. The other part is craft, which we spent a lot of time discussing on the show. Hopefully all the contestants feel they are better writers because of the show. If they do, then we all did our jobs.

Good luck to them all. We are rooting for 'em!