It's Poppin'

Jewel explains how she came around to pop music and how difficult this week's elimination was.

Hello all!

How did you like hearing everyone's first solo-written song? I loved it!

The "Queen of Media" Perez Hilton stopped by to help with this week's challenge -- POP music.

I met Perez when I was promoting my pop album, "0304," and was impressed with how much he obviously loved music. He told me he had been to a bar show of mine way back when I was just starting out and he was just 16. Small world! His love for all things music is contagious. He loves all kinds of music, but he is unabashedly a pop fan.

Personally, I was slow to come to pop music. I didn't know I was writing pop music when I started out, and when someone suggested "You Were Meant For Me" and "Foolish Games" were pop songs, I cringed with a feeling of failure. I thought pop music was dumb, as I tended to listen to John Prine, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Merle Haggard types of writing. I had no idea that all the cover songs I grew up singing in bars with my dad, since age 8, were pop songs: "Brown Eyed Girl," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Takin' It Easy," and "Help Me Make It Through the Night." Pop simply meant a great melody and a streamlined concept. I guess, though I never listened to Madonna as a child, (that crush developed much later for me!) pop music slipped into my head through all the songs my dad and I sang and found its way into my music -- and what a blessing that was. Pop is a wide open format that includes everything from Elvis to Roy Orbison. And today's pop charts include everything from Nickleback to Eminem to Selena Gomez.

It was fun to let the high school kids judge the wining song. It must have felt pretty good to Sonyae to see all of them pointing to the exit and making their own little dance move on the first listen. That's huge. Tapping into a concept that's immediately digestible is so difficult, and that's what's great about writing pop music -- it's simplicity is deceiving, making it sound simple and obvious on the first listen is the hardest part of the craft.

I thought all the writers began to come into their own on this show. They all showed a lot of growth from the first episode.

This was a judging panel that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, as we disagreed about who should be sent home. That's the beauty of art -– it's not a science. It's completely subjective, and there is sometimes no wrong answer -– just a difference of taste.

I really thought Nick deserved to stay. His song hit home for me and he finally delivered what we had been harping on him for the entire show. It was honest. It was universal, and I could see more bands cutting it than I could Jes'. I even thought his melody was strong. That's why you don't see me saying much on his elimination. It was hard for me to punish him for doing all the right things. It was a toss-up. But Jes' song was good too. She is starting to come on strong as the competition goes on, and I have to admire her can-do attitude. She knows the others look down on her, and yet she digs in and smiles and writes. You gotta admire that. She has a lovely voice and sells her songs well because she is appealing to listen to. We try to listen through that as judges and just hear the song, and that's where I still wonder who would cut the song she wrote besides herself. . .but she couldn't pick a better time to be turning on, and time will tell who the best writer is on the show. Right now, it's anybody's game.

That's all for now; only one episode left. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter (@jeweljk) or on the comments here.

xo jewel

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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!

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