Jewel explains the difference between a country and a pop song, and addresses which contestants need help with the distinction.

on Jul 7, 2011

A great country song can be played solo acoustic and move you. . .which brings us to Scotty. On most songs, it is really important to have a good track to sell a song, and Scotty has been complimented on his tracks that help won challenges (like the rap challenge). But being a good songwriter means adapting to different challenges, and it may have behooved Scotty, Sonyae and Jes to all sit down with nothing but a guitar and make sure the structure and story were solid. Scotty did make great improvements in the chorus melody. Those small pop-influenced melodic changes are right in step with where some country radio chart toppers are today, but he neglected to make sure those changes set up the hook line of the song "Say It Back." As it was, that line just floated, plopped, and landed awkwardly, lending no heartbreak or poignancy to the song.

This song concept was all about the terrible feeling of those terrible seconds when someone waits to hear "I love you," back. Those seconds are a lifetime. This song should have melodically and lyrically made you feel the agony of a love that might not be returned, the self-reflection of doubt, the "should I have said it in the first place. . ." and ultimately, it should have helped us resolve and go somewhere in the story -- that love is worth the risk, or that no matter what comes out of your love's mouth you feel you did the right thing, or. . .it could have gone any number of ways. The point is they needed to choose a concept and write a short story to music complete with a beginning, middle, and end. Something that went somewhere and that conveyed the original potential heartbreak and baited breath of waiting to hear those words back. . .and it failed. It was a superficial treatment with an oddly happy melody that had some hooky parts, but failed to hit your heart... I hated to see Jackie go. I liked her scrapper attitude, and her obvious experience with touring and live crowds helped her get far on the show. But being a quirky live touring musician is a different skill set than delivering hits in a small writing room, and that was a tough lesson to watch her struggle with.

I know Nick and Jes were surprised to hear the judges did not consider their song a true pop song, but again -- listen to what's winning at pop radio: like Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," that our guest judge Bonnie McKee wrote on -- starting with a strong concept and followed through with clear lyrics. When Bonnie said pop music should be clear to 5-year-olds, what she meant is it cannot be vague. It can't be a bunch of lines that talk without saying anything, and the structure has to hit you over the head with its clarity. Jes naturally has a cool Tori Amos vibe, kind of darker and moody, and Nick has a lot of melodic pop sense but they both lack in the lyric department. It doesn't mean you have to be deep lyrically, but you have to have a clear-cut goal and execute it. Ask "what do you want people to feel" and then make sure every lyric and melody and chord makes them feel it.