I Get Chills
Keith Naftaly explains how he can spot a hit and what he thought of this challenge.
Hey whatsup it's Keith from RCA/JIVE A&R! I'm psyched to have joined Platinum Hit as a judge on what I feel was a pretty kickass episode.
A couple of quick facts about me. . .First and foremost I am incredibly passionate about music and have earned the reputation for having what's known as "great ears". . .the ability to identify and/or help build hit songs, whether it was programming a musically innovative Top 40 radio station in San Francisco back in the day, or, for the last zillion years, as a record executive, finding hit songs for superstar artists.
We can certainly break down what most say comprises a hit song -- a killer melody, compelling lyrics, something that's super-catchy and "sticky," but for me there's something more. Don't laugh. . .it's a physical feeling of euphoria that rushes through my body, often resulting in chills or goosebumps. Cheesy, but true. And I am incredibly blessed that I've been able to build a fulfilling career around this unique feeling.
I believe that what I add to the panel is a slight reality check. I'm not listening with the ears of an iconic singer/songwriter like Jewel, or a mega-successful songwriter/entrepreneur like Kara. I'm offering the perspective of a regular "record guy" who listens to hundreds of song demos per week, from the hottest songwriters and producers in the world, in the hopes of finding the next smash single for anyone from Usher to Britney Spears; Kelly Clarkson to Jennifer Hudson. And let me tell you, that process defines the cliché "needle in a haystack."
Not having any significant on-camera experience I was kind of a nervous wreck going into this episode. (Not that you'd notice, but I am physically shaking right after Natasha sits down.) Speaking of Natasha Bedingfield, I was so relieved to find out she was the guest judge because (a) she is completely down-to-earth, bright, and talented and (b) I was her A&R for both the "Unwritten" and "Pocketful Of Sunshine" U.S. albums, and we had a blast making those albums. So thankfully her presence had a total calming effect on me, and we got right to work.
Oh, also please factor in that I had zero exposure to any of the hook challenges or behind-the-scenes shenanigans, so I had no idea at the time that Nick was, um, egomaniacal, or that Sonyae had diva tendencies, or that Johnny and Jes were hooking up. So by design, I was appraising the songs completely objectively, just like I would at the office or on my laptop at home. I can't lie. . .I was pretty skeptical about the notion of up-and-coming songwriters serving up something compelling surrounding a very specific challenge in such the short period of time, when the odds of A-list songwriters delivering smashes in "real life" are so tough. That said, I was pleasantly surprised, relieved, and, OK, STUNNED by what they all came up with in this episode.
Jackie's team was first up and though the song was just average to me, it was catchy enough and professional sounding. . .nothing overly special, but decent.
Next up was Jes and all I could think of was, damn, she sounds exactly like Sara Bareilles. What a cool voice. "But this is a songwriting competition," I kept reminding myself as she was singing her heart out wistfully. . ."focus on the song!" At the time I felt it was meandering and sleepy (though admittedly my co-judges "got it" right away). But I have to admit that it's really grown on me and sounds pretty damn amazing as a finished, produced recording.
Finally, Johnny's team performed. Go watch the full version online so you can see exactly what we saw. Better yet, buy the fully produced song on iTunes! Their performance was so on point and that song. . .well that is my s--t right there. There's some exceptionally clever wordplay that knocked me out, not to mention the killer melody and tight harmonies. "Where I Need To Be" = big winner!
There was an article in the NY Post a couple days back saying that Platinum Hit finally hit its stride this week and I have to agree. Everything kinda clicked on this episode, and though the energy on-set had the tension of a true competition, at the same time the vibe was very chill and really fun.
Thanks SO MUCH for watching the show...we're getting into a groove now and there are some killer episodes and unexpected surprises up ahead, not to mention some excellent music!