Straight to the Vein

Jewel tells us about the joys of writing a great song really quickly and explains this week's winner.

Hello again,

I hope you all enjoyed Episode 3 of Platinum Hit!

It's been fun watching the show, as I see and learn so much as a viewer now, that I was not privy to as a host or judge. How about the relationship developing between Jes and Johnny? No idea how that will work out for them, but one has to admit they would make a super cute emo couple.

Being a songwriter is such a bizarre job in so many ways. You are trying to take something that does not exist and has never existed, and pull something beautiful and real out of thin air. The process is everything. Learning to let it flow through you quickly before it can be too tainted by too much thought is important. Having the skills and craft down so that you can capture an emotion, and embalm it, if you will, in a flash -- as quick as it's felt -- allows the process to stay pure. The more you muddle and question and mess with a great, pure feeling, the more diluted it becomes -- and the more watered down it becomes to your ears. That's why spending time and practicing and developing your instincts is so important. Then when a great idea comes, it can flow through fast and not be missed by too much mucking about.

Great professional hit-makers are usually quite fast. It's quite a thrill to be in the room with great writers. They have finely tuned instincts and move quickly toward the best idea -- toward the best melody, words, and chords that deliver an unadulterated emotion that can be like a drug straight to the vein. We all know that feeling when a song comes on and it is like a prayer you needed to hear. It can make you cry with sorrow or joy, or it can make you feel free and alive. . .

In this episode, I see our writers coming to terms with identifying the fact that they each are not perfect and they each have room to grow. They are trying to identify what their weaknesses are and how to compensate for them by using the strength of their co-writer. We all have weaknesses. No writer is so perfect that they have nothing to learn. It behooves each of us to know our own weakness, or to know when someone has a stronger idea than us. Otherwise what's the point of a co-write? Sometimes being a great song writer is the ability to identify your own weaknesses and supplement them with the strength of another songwriter.

As the hook winners split into groups and begin to write their songs, we see some writers use the strength of their co-writers and others who choose not to, and the consequences of their approach became obvious.

No one wanted to pick Nick because, let's face it, he is a handful. But he does seem to behave himself in a co-write, and while he is weak on content, he is strong on structure, hooky melodies, and motifs. Jackie was lucky to get him by default, as she came up with a good chorus melody, but needs some extra pop and pizzazz to make a song stand out. Sonyae is quiet, but she showed strength in lyrics -- but she was drowned out by a very eager and well-meaning Karen. Karen is tenacious, which is great, but the stuff she was coming up with just wasn't as original as it needed to be. Jackie's lyrics were a bit pedestrian, so the overall effect was a good melody, but watered down lyrics that failed to follow up on the melody. There was a great guitar riff that failed to be turned into a musical hook, as it never returned after the intro. There was potential in this team to make a better song than they did.

On the other hand, we saw Johnny was able to maintain the momentum of his original idea and capitalize on that good energy and use Scotty for his role as "concept cop" and Brian for good lyrics input. You could tell that all three were seeing the same vision hanging in the air, and all three were able to help bring it into song. It was a clear with hooks on two of the three levels: hooky lyric, hooky melody. The only thing it lacked was a musical hook, which is OK, as a producer could always add that later.

Jes' song was very distinct and moving. I know Melissa's ideas can be a little whacky, but Jes could benefit from a deeper lyric. Amber seems to have good ideas, but it's hard to tell yet if she will insert herself. However, I always tend to bet on people who have ingested a lot of American standards and jazz, as generally that should give you a good taste for a good turn or phrase. It's usually a great foundation to build on -- sort of like how even Picasso or Klimt, who are most famous for their radical departures like cubism and highly unique painting styles, first learned the classical and traditional art before they departed from it. They learned to master the rules before they went and broke the rules. Having a solid back ground in all types of traditional music, and literature, helps songwriter enormously.

The end result of Jes' song was very pretty and very nice to listen to - if it came from a singer-songwriter. But this is not a singer-songwriter competition. We are not judging the writers on what kind of artists they would be, and this is something our new judge Keith Naftaly pointed out.

Keith is a top A&R man, and he knows his stuff. He is the man who is pitched hundreds of songs to get cut for Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears. He needs hits -- real hits. So a cool, vibey song like Jes' that we all loved, came in second because we really want to get it through their heads that we need hits to pitch to other artists who do not write for themselves.

I loved when Keith came on as a permanent judge to the show. He is smart and knows his stuff, and I know you will fall in love with him like Kara and I did over the season.

All the contestants have a way to go, but I think they are all well on their way.

Talk to you after the next episode,

xx jewel

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!