Cast Blog: #PLATINUMHIT

I Write the Songs

Hip Hip Sonyae!

Default image

The Write Girl

Sonyae Elise: Platinum Hitmaker

Sticking With You

Dare to Suck

DJ Have My Babies

It's Poppin'

I Like The Way You Move

On Pause

The Exorcist

Reign Over Me

Nice Guys Finish Last

When Egos Collide

The Word is Hubris

Like a Tohn of Bricks

A Safe Bet

Sincerely Yours

10 Things I Love About You

All You Need Is Love

Dr. Jekyll and Melissa Hyde

Lovin' It

Not Hot

Clever Girl

Rap Battles

Join the Love-Fest

The Weakest Link

I Get Chills

Speak And Spell

A Place of Truth

Straight to the Vein

Panic at the Disco

Keep It Simple Stupid

Sicker Than the Remix

Get Loose

Setting the Bar

30 Minutes or Less

On the Hook

You Only Got One Second to Save the Song

I Write the Songs

Jewel shares some songwriting insight and lets us know why she wanted to be a part of 'Platinum Hit.'

Hello!

Welcome to my first blog for our new Bravo show, Platinum Hit!

Gosh, there's so much to talk about, I don't even know where to start! So let me give you some context first -- background on what being a hit songwriter even is, the show itself, and what my fellow judges and I are looking for from the contestants.

We shot our episodes in order obviously, so Episode 1 is my first time hosting a TV show of this nature. The result you will see is me learning a new skill, as well the contestants, who as they grapple with delivering fresh creativity in a high-pressure environment -- something every professional songwriter must do every day in the music business.

The reason I got involved with the show is because, as a songwriter myself, I am very passionate about songwriting, but it's a world many people don't know exists -- especially the world of the behind the scenes hit-makers. Bravo has a great track record of taking somewhat obscure topics, like dressmaking or cooking, and helping to educate the viewer about what the process is and what it takes to be great at it. I am excited to give people a glimpse into the world of these hit-makers -- writers whose job it has been to make hits for others since the Tin Pan Alley era and beyond, when writers like Gershwin and Cole Porter were tasked with writing hits that are still standards to this day.

The market has undoubtedly changed. Most hits come from radio now, and not from show tunes or musicals. Popular music is a constantly moving target, just as much as fashion is. But the job remains the same: you are given a job to do, a target to hit, and you must write a song the world will fall in love with; one that will hopefully stand the test of time, and write it all in a very short amount of time. After all it is art -- but it is also a job, and like all jobs there are deadlines.

I have had people ask me if the challenges on the show are realistic. I can assure you they are. Most co-writing sessions last three hours -- period. A whole song is written in that time. If the hook doesn't come in the first 20 or so minutes, then you have to abandon ship and try a new direction or face the fact that you and your co-writer are going to be very disappointed, and you won't be able to submit a song for whoever you were writing for.

This is a highly competitive field. Here is how it works: an A&R person, like our co-judge Keith Naftaly, will be doing a record for -- let's hypothetically say Ke$ha. He will put the word out that she needs material for a new album or a first single, and he needs it by a specific date. Writers from all over the world will begin to write what they hope is the first single, or at least an album cut, or a second or third single. The big money is at radio. One hit can yield millions of dollars, so everyone wants to write the radio hit.

It's the writer's job to listen to Ke$ha's sound, and be true to it to a degree, but look forward at where she might be going in the future. They must listen to where pop and club hits currently are, but keep in mind that the song won't hit the radio for at least nine months from when you write it. The song has to look forward to where you think music is going, so it sounds fresh and not dated. Sometimes there are guidelines to work within -- like an A&R will say the artist doesn't want to talk about relationships, or to stay away from anything that mirrors their personal life, or they want it to be about their life, or they want the song to be socially conscious...

The majority of all songs on the radio are co-written, and so we have our contestants learning to co-write on our show. This helps you, the viewer, see the actual writing process (instead of seeing a person alone in a room thinking!), and it lets our contestants learn the give and take and the delicate balance of being stubborn and tenacious enough to get your idea heard, while being open and yielding to an idea that's better than your own. How you behave in a co-write and how original the thoughts you bring, will determine if your co-writer will want to write with you again and if that writer will tell other writers you are worth their time. We have all been in sessions that were particularly slow or lackluster, and halfway through we make vows never to write with that person again. No one wants to waste time or have their own time wasted.

My goal in being involved was to give each contestant a better shot at being hit songwriters, whether they won the show or not. This is a hard business to break into, and there is NO SCHOOL that teaches it. As an artist and songwriter, I benefited so much from other artists taking me under their wing and schooling me. From Bob Dylan to Neil Young, they took me aside and gave me straightforward advice and information I badly needed as an aspiring singer-songwriter. And it became words to live by.

Granted, we are not looking for "singer-songwriters" on this show. We are not looking for the next great singer or even an artist. We are looking for craftsmen who can write the hit songs that great singers and artists need. Elvis did not write his own songs -- a stable of the best in the country did that for him. Where would Whitney Houston be without the song "I Will Always Love You," written by the great Dolly Parton, not to mention the other songs that were written to show off her amazing voice? Or Celine Dion without "My Heart Will Go On," written by James Horner and Will Jennings?

New sounds and great songs can expand an artist's career, help procure that elusive treasure LONGEVITY for an artist, and broaden a fan base, like "Halo" written by Platinum Hit executive producer Evan Boggart, and Ryan Tedder, and "If I Were A Boy," written by BC Jean and Toby Gad for Beyoncé.

I love my job. I love the written word, and I love songwriting and songwriters. They are a raw, emotional, talented mix of brave souls whose job it is to put lightning in a glass. They must be honest about their own lives and put confessions on tape and on page. And it has been my honor to work with this cast.

That brings us to the second, trickier half of my job on the show -- judging. This was by far the hardest part. I certainly don't relish offering critique to new talent, as no one wants to harm the dreams of someone who is working so hard. My approach was to be honest. Period. Not clever. Not mean, but also never to pander or pull a punch.

I also tried to be specific. There's nothing as an artist that I hate more than receiving vague feedback. "You just didn't bring it" is not a helpful critique. You can do nothing with that. If I did not like something on the show, I tried to be exact about what bothered me and also offer a solution. So if a lyric was too generic, I would site the offending lyric and offer an alternative to show an idea of what might work better. This was the hardest part of the show for me, but I figured placating someone gets them nowhere, and being honest is the best thing I could offer them, even if it was hard. And the contestants seemed to thrive on it. This is a serious group of young artists who are in it to win it.

I hope you all have as much fun watching as I did being part of the show.

Until next time,

Jewel

Sonyae Elise: Platinum Hitmaker

Sonyae Elise nabbed the win for Platinum Hit. What's the songwriter up to now?

Bravotv.com: How did you feel when they told you won Platinum Hit?
I felt one step closer to my ultimate goal in life. I felt like I was making good progress. I was happy and grateful and surprised but kind of. . .surprised/not surprised because I was confident in myself all along. But definitely. . .I can't even describe it. It was pretty awesome.

Bravotv.com: The last challenge seemed like it was pretty tricky. You were given this open-ended idea: write the song of your life. What was it like going through that actual process?
I was actually excited because we were given everything I had hoped for in the finale -- because I don't play an instrument, a producer, time (more than four hours), so that was dope, and I was prepared to do or die. Go hard or go home. So I was just focused.

Bravotv.com: Throughout the competition, you were a little different from everyone because you didn't play an instrument. Did you feel like you had to work harder? Did you feel like people maybe underestimated you?
I definitely felt people underestimated me initially, but I worked hard, period, to gain their respect. I wasn't too worried about that. I knew there would come a time if I was given the opportunity to stay, week by week, that my competitors would see my worth, and I was glad, (finally, I don't know what happened) but they started respecting what I do. Everybody plays an instrument, but I can work Pro Tools really well, so aside from having my voice as an instrument, that was also an asset in many of the challenges.

And also, I think that everybody has strengths and weakness, and I think that because I don't play an instrument, I build a strong foundation of lyric and concepts -- and melody as well, because I sing. My lyric and concepts are what I'm known for from this show. I think that were people like Scotty and Brian who were really good at melody because they play instruments, but they kind of lacked what I was strong at, and vice-versa. So, we made a really good team. I think that after a while, people saw that. So, it's cool, you know, you could doubt me in the beginning. See what happens. [Laughter] Bravotv.com: Over the course of the show, what were some of the challenges that surprised you, or that you thought were maybe the most difficult?
Well, everything was a surprise because we didn't know anything. It was all one big surprise for me. The amount of time we had, the fact that we had to work -- I didn't know what the hell I was getting myself into. Having to cowrite with people you don't know from a can of paint and then having to maintain a level of personal respect for each other just because you have to write with each other. When some people want to be rude, and some people get under your skin, and might be annoying, and you kind have to keep it cool because you have to work with these individuals. What surprised me the most was every challenge that they gave was one big f--king surprise. [Laughter] To tell you the truth.

Bravotv.com: What was your favorite challenge?
The love challenge and the rap challenge were probably my favorites. The love challenge is second nature to me. Being a woman and being emotional, just to be able to express myself is so easy. Music is my therapy, so that was a piece of cake. The rap challenge [I liked] because I was just excited to be able to show the contestants and the judges my other gift -- that I can rap. And I like that song, "Miss Make The Boys Cry." 

Bravotv.com: What you would you say was your favorite song that you got a chance to work on during the show?
"Stranger to Love."

Bravotv.com: So, on the other side of the coin, what was your least favorite challenge?
Well, my least favorite week would have to be the first week. I don't know if that would be my least favorite challenge, because I won the first hook challenge, but, it didn't turn out well. It was my least favorite week because I didn't know anybody, and I didn't know how to strategically pick my group so that I could come up with a better end result. That would have to be my least favorite week just because I was like a deer caught in headlights. I didn't have time to adjust first week, but after that I was a little bit more able to gauge what the hell I need to do to get to the next level of the competition. So, the first week was my least favorite week, by far. Hated it.

Bravotv.com: What did you think of the judges over the course of the season? Do you feel like you learned a lot from Kara and Jewel?
Yes. Kara and Jewel are amazing. They helped all of us grow and learn -- I don't think one person would disagree. I love Kara. She's probably my favorite. Because I think we share that kind of. . . you know, she gives the tough love thing, and I think that works best for me. She's the kind of person I am. We definitely identified with each other, someway, somehow. Jewel is a sweetheart. She's a hottie. What did I learn [from her]? I learned a few fashion tips, and some really good stuff in songwriting, I guess.

Bravotv.com: You said that Kara gave you some tough love. Was it ever too tough?
No. I'm not easily offended, and I have really tough skin. I knew that if I took in what they were giving us, took in the lessons without being super-sensitive and offended by them, I knew that I would go far.

You know, in any competition, in life, you have to take the lesson, and make sure you keep a sense of who you are and don't let everything be altered. But also, put stuff in your archive, and as you're building your building of life, take out the tools that you need as you go along. But you have to keep your sense of self. Keep whatever design you wanted for your building, but attack it accordingly with the tools you gained on the way. . .I know I'm being super-metaphorical, it's because I'm a songwriter. [Laughter] I can't help it! Basically, I just love Kara. She was my fave. She would come over when the cameras weren't rolling and say little smart s--t, I just love her. She's sarcastic and fun.

Bravotv.com: It seems like you guys managed to get in a bit of fun amongst everything. Did you have fun with the other contestants?
I had fun with everybody, yes, because I really don't pay people any mind. The one person everyone didn't get along with was Nick, of course. But you know, I really don't give a f--k, because, at the end of the day, you have to be cordial and be able to make a good song. And I think Nick and I proved that no matter what the status of our friendship, or lack thereof, we were able to make a song, and a damn good one.

I do think chemistry is important if you want to continuously make hits though. With Scotty and Brian, our chemistry is we're good friends outside of the competition. Me and Nick went through a lot of stuff. He was really, really disrespectful so. . .I could be around him, and he's apologized and stuff, but it doesn't really matter to me. It is what it is. Nobody got along with him, and I don't not like him, but I don't particularly love him. We're good though. He definitely apologized and whatever. But he definitely apologized when he thought it was helpful to him. So, you know, that's another story. Not to dwell on it.

Who would be my least favorite though? I think my least favorite person -- even though me and Nick didn't get along -- I think Amber is my least favorite person, and my favorite person is Scotty. [Laughter] If you wanted some juice.

Bravotv.com: We always want juice. What song that somebody else wrote was your favorite?
"Betting My Life," with Johnny and Brian is definitely my favorite that I didn't have anything to do with.

Bravotv.com: So what have you been up to since the show ended? Well, I just released my second mixtape, "Lady Rebel Vol. 2." It's on my website, Sonyaeelise.com. It's super-dope, and I'm getting a lot of great feedback from already established artists, huge DJs. It's getting played in clubs. I've been getting tweets about it, that my song's playing in clubs, and I think it got some radio spins. A lot of stuff is starting to trickle down. I think with a lot of help from the show. People started to pay attention to what I was doing and started to listen accordingly.

It taught me a lot, the show. If you go listen to my first mixtape, and you listen to this one, it's tremendous growth, so that's a good thing. What else have I been doing? Shows, recordings, definitely trying to get myself prepared for, you know, what happened, and, just recording, trying to come up with one of those classic, timeless albums and establish myself in the music industry, then go into movies. You know the story. I wanna do it all. Be filthy rich and happy and married and. . .happy, when it's all done.

Bravotv.com: Awesome. Well, can I ask what you're listening to right now?
Hmm, what am I banging'? Linda Jones, always. I listen to that girl all the time. She never gets old. Kendrick Lamar, this new guy -- he's super-dope. Stacy Barthe, this girl who's been my friend for two years, and she's an amazing singer/songwriter. She has written for everybody from like, Rihanna to Beyonce, but now she's doing her own stuff, and she's hustling. A lot of jazz. Oh! Oh, and one more person! Rahman Apollo! I definitely listen to him all the time. How could I forget him? That's like my favorite!

Bravotv.com: So what advice do you have for other songwriters coming up?
I advise them to be aware of their weaknesses, as well as their strength. It's really important to know your strengths -- not only your weaknesses, but your strengths. If you don't know what you're strong at, you don't know what you need to work on, it just all goes hand in hand.

And be real with yourself: from knowing whether or not a song is hot, or whether your hot, and you need to keep your day job. Definitely that. That would be my advice.

Bravotv.com: Anything else you want to share? Any other big news?
Make sure you let everyone know how bad I want them to check out my new mixtape.

Bravotv.com: Well Congratulations! This is going to be good for you!
No, I think it's going be excellent! Excellent.