In early episodes, Johnny said he felt underrated. The best remedy for that? Proving people wrong by coming up with the goods -- and that is just what Johnny did in Episode 3, and now again in Episode 4, writing in a genre foreign to him -- rap.
This was a tough challenge and I was really impressed with how all the contestants stepped up to the plate for their hook challenges. I relied heavily on our expert guest judge, Rodney Jerkins, and it was fun getting his take on who he felt should win the hook challenge.
When it came time to pick teams, this episode I began to see some strategy take place. I definitely saw the hook winners pick people based on their strengths -- like Sonyae putting her feelings aside and using Nick for his strength as a rock guy, so she could fulfill the second challenge of incorporating a different genre of music into the rap.
But I also saw a new strategy emerge -- I think people started to pick what they considered weak members for their team, as an insurance policy in case their song came in last, in the hopes that the weak person would be the one to go instead of them. I can't know for sure, but I think this is also why Sonyae picked Melissa over Amber. Who knows? What do you guys think?
I know Melissa can be wacky, but I like her and feel her ideas are from a unique perspective -- just very unformed. If someone with lyrical talent and more mainstream sensibilities would take her seriously, they could ground some zany ideas into something original. However, it doesn't seem like anyone is at a place where they feel they can take the time to do that with her yet, which is understandable. I know everyone is very focused on keeping themselves alive on the show, and rightly so.
Despite Melissa's kooky personality, the team came up with a solid song. Nick and Sonyae were both able to be willful, be heard, but also accept other ideas if they were better than their own for the good of the song. That attitude paid off. Here is where the song lacked: structure. I loved her song. I loved her rap. I loved her concept. Like Keith said, this is where we began to be a fan of Sonyae's. Her lyrics are solid, original, and based on personal experience. You believe what she's saying. However, she is not as strong when it comes to song structure, and as you heard, there were three different sections to their song, which can work on a song like "Teenage Dream," but here it was not as clearly defined. That's the only reason she came in second, and I know coming in second in her own preferred genre hurt. I hope she was able to get the message that she needs to work on song structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. A writer does not have to follow these rules -- but if they don't, the hooks and sections have to be so solid and clear that the listener isn't confused as to where the hook is.
Johnny, Scotty, and Jes made a good team as well. Scotty has a solid music background and was a smart choice for Johnny because the track and musical bed were crucial to pulling this song off. I loved Scotty's opera theme mixed in with the rap, as it added to the drama and the supernatural ghostly theme. It was hard to tell what Jes did lyrically for the song, but her voice did help sell the opera theme in the chorus.
Jackie was a winner in the hook challenge because Rodney and I liked her originality and felt that if she could take that humor the direction of Missy Elliot or other rappers who used humor, it could be a big win. No one else seemed to agree with us. It seems every other contestant hated her song and dreaded being picked for her team. In Amber's case, it seemed she actually channeled a real superpower of her own in the form of a supernatural premonition -- she really dreaded being picked for her team.
Jackie's song made me laugh. Don't get me wrong -- all of us judges enjoyed it, but the writers went further into the spoof and campy nature of the song, instead of figuring out how to make it more mainstream or even deep. Rodney hit the nail on the head -- they didn't add any social commentary at all to give the humorous topic some weight and a sting of truth. He brought up Eminem, who no doubt is a master at walking that delicate line of being funny and creating satire and social commentary at the same time.
I applaud Amber's willingness to jump in. The "canopy bed" line was kitschy and funny, and she totally "went there" with Jackie. The problem was where they went was further down a very narrow lane, in the wrong direction.
This was my least favorite judging session so far. Watching it I kind of cringed listening to myself! I was hard on Jackie because it's the third or fourth time I have seen her come up with a decent starting idea, and then fail to make it into a great idea once she won the hook challenge. I'm a fan of hers, and I really want to see her push herself to the next level. She needs to get her head in the game and realize just because she won the hook challenge doesn't mean she gets to be the boss of the song and dictate where it goes in the writing session. She doesn't know everything. If she did, she wouldn't be on our show; she would already be a hit writer. She really needs to listen more to her co-writers because she does not yet have all the skills necessary to deliver a stand out mainstream song on her own.
It was interesting to watch this episode for me because apparently her fellow contestants feel the same way. It came to a head that they feel she steam rolls them in sessions and doesn't listen to their ideas, and this dynamic works against Jackie. She keeps ending up in the bottom. And sadly, this week Amber paid the price. Had Amber been picked by another team, she would probably still be on the show. I hate seeing that. But we have to judge based on who the weakest link in the group was, and since Jackie at least came up with the winning hook to begin with, Brian did the track, and the worst lines were written by Amber, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances. I really like Amber and wish she found an opportunity to show us and her teammates what she had. We never got to see her as a writer or what she's capable of, but I hope to see it in the future. It broke my heart to see her leave in tears. She is a lovely, talented girl, and I'm sure this is not the last we have seen of her!
Until next week,