The Word is Hubris

Jewel discusses how pride comes before the fall and what she learned watching the Nick/Johnny co-write unfold.


If you have not heard, I'm in baby heaven! My husband and I welcomed our first child into the world this last Monday, and we are over the moon excited!

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of Platinum Hit, and it felt like it took forever for him to come! It will be fun one day to show him these episodes and be able to tell him he was in my tummy.

But -- I suppose I better get to the business at hand. . .this week’s show was a doozy! (Yes, I just used the word doozy.)

When it comes to our latest episode, the word of the day is:

Hubris: extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Hubris has been rearing its ugly head as some front-runners have been quite comfortable labeling other writers as less than or inferior to them. Scotty obviously looks down on Jes but was still able to make the session work. My advice to Scotty is everyone has a strength and a co-write can only benefit from seeing the best in your co-writer and bringing it out while being realistic about their weaknesses and trying to compensate for them. And you can hope the co-writer does the same for you. Sonyae, who is quite talented as a lyricist, does not seem to let her opinion of herself get in the way of collaborating. She and Brian come from different angles, but they are able to meet in the middle. Nick and Johnny were a mess.

What a crazy episode this was. Johnny is the LAST person I thought we would be sending home. But more on that later. . .

As judges, we are not privy to what goes on behind the scenes. All I see is what happens when I am giving challenges or sitting in the judging chair. I enjoyed watching this episode on TV because I got to see our contestants actually pitch songs in a real, professional environment. None of the co-writes for hooks were that productive, but two teams -- Scotty and Jes, and Sonyae and Brian -- were able to improvise and work with what they had and flip it into what was asked of them on the spot. Lots of respect to everyone for that.

Johnny was lucky he got to pitch first, and he was lucky that what he wrote naturally kind of worked for the surprise guest Gavin DeGraw. As I watched the show I, like Nick, thought I’d get to hear a Nick hook, but it was not in the cards, and so we will never know if what Nick wrote was any good or better than Johnny’s.

Writing for a specific artist is fun and helps the writing process by giving a specific goal and framework to work within. The mission becomes clear: study your target -- how they sing, what they have already said, what they have left to say, and what their vocal range is -- then write to showcase their range and talents. Look to where you feel new ground is for them, while still being true to who that artist is. Scotty had a point when he said Bieber would be 18 by the time the song would ever get cut, and so letting the lyric grow up a bit as well is a good instinct. It was a solid song; however, it was a bit of a Bieber imitation instead of breaking new musical ground and so it won second. You could definitely hear it on a Bieber record for sure, but not necessarily as a first single burning up the charts of a new album. That song would have to really stand out, sound new, and break ground.

Sonyae and Brian's song was pretty solid. I still feel her structure could use some help and the melody could have a bit more range. I have had the pleasure of singing and performing with Beyonce, and I can tell you she is even more talented when you see her in person. She has a great voice with a bigger range than her songs usually allow for, and if she ever cut a song with a big range I know she would kill it. She is so talented. A mid-tempo ballad would be a great platform for this type of standout performance, and as usual Sonyae's lyrical instinct is so strong it makes you sit up and think and also makes up (for now) for the fact that her structure could use work. She did a great job. If she can fine-tune that song's structure and build the melody to a climax, it is a very pitchable and radio-ready song.

OK, back to the elephant in the room -- the upset of the season so far! Let's be honest, we have always known Nick is a bit of a jerk. He is arrogant, but in such a way that smacks of past hurt and insecurity, and I think it's pretty easy to see through, though no fun to live with. Do you guys agree? Johnny's hubris was surprising. Last week when I watched Episode 6, I suspected he might be headed down a bad road, but I hoped not. My worst fears were confirmed this week. When we filmed, I was caught so off guard by the dynamic that unfolded on the elimination panel. We saw none of the co-writing session, so it was his word against Nick's. It was very hard to sort out. It was hard to believe Johnny would take such a risk as to write a bad song on purpose, counting on his good record to save him and to send his co-writer home. It was also hard for us to believe Nick would simply not contribute. We had heard from every contestant that Nick was surprisingly easy to write with, that he always put his differences aside and got to business. He is also desperate to win this. He wants it bad, and it was hard to believe he would put himself in a position to be eliminated by not giving it his best. Songwriting is the only thing he seems to care about. It did not add up that he would willingly be shut out. This is the worst song Johnny wrote, and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was on purpose or if on his own he lacked some needed direction and some soul that was needed to hit his mark of writing for Gavin DeGraw.

Back when we filmed this, we judges did our best to sort it out and came to the hard conclusion that Johnny, for whatever reason, faltered and delivered a bad song, and we felt he most likely did shut Nick out. We had to judge Johnny for this song's merit and not for his track record. He certainly had delivered on a consistent basis more than Nick had. He was a real frontrunner but we couldn't take any of that into consideration. This is a competition where you are judged song-to-song, challenge-to-challenge.

At the time of filming, I felt shocked and wished I could have seen what went down in the co-write. Now seeing this episode I finally was able to, and I feel we made the right decision. Nick is no hero, but it seemed clear he tried to co-write and he did have great melody ideas that were more in line with who they were writing for. Johnny could have made a better song if he incorporated Nick's melodies with his own lyrics. Instead, Johnny made a folky-sounding Jack Johnson type of song instead of a soul-rock-pop track for Gavin. I told Nick it would be impossible to be shut out of a session, but watching the show, I can tell you I have never had someone be so blatantly rude or dismissive in a co-write toward me. I do have pride, and if someone had treated me so condescendingly, making fun of me because of words I don’t know the meaning of, or by straight up ignoring me, I would have walked out and vowed never to co-write with them again.

I don't think Johnny wrote a bad song on purpose, hoping to get in the bottom and get Nick kicked off, at least I hope he didn't. My guess is he hated Nick and just felt better than him, shut him out, and it bit him in the butt. What do you guys think? It was hard, because there was no clear-cut hero here, and Nick hardly seemed to learn a lesson in humility as he gloated at the end. I wish so badly someone would hug him and tell him he is going to be ok, as I suspect there is a sweet, sensitive, giving guy under the false bravado and scrappy exterior. But alas, Nick will keep being Nick I suspect in the competition, and Johnny will continue to be very talented -- but sadly it will be back at home. Nick did say one thing right though -- he better start getting his rear in gear and delivering some better songs and growing, because he almost got kicked off.

Let me know your thoughts and ask me questions by following me on Twitter.

Until next week,


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.