The Weakest Link

Jewel laments this week's elimination and Jackie's work style.

Hi all!

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,

xo Jewel

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Sonyae Elise: Platinum Hitmaker

Sonyae Elise nabbed the win for Platinum Hit. What's the songwriter up to now? 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. 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. 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] 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. 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." What you would you say was your favorite song that you got a chance to work on during the show?
"Stranger to Love." 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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. 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! 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. 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. Well Congratulations! This is going to be good for you!
No, I think it's going be excellent! Excellent.

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