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This week's challenge was. . .the love song! One of the most universal and written about topics in history. So many great love songs have found their way into our hearts, from Bob Marley's "One Love" to Leona Lewis' bittersweet "Bleeding Love," written by this week's guest judge Ryan Tedder.
I really enjoy writing love songs. Some of my biggest singles like "You Were Meant For Me," "Foolish Games," and "Standing Still" were all love songs, written from different angles of the multi-faceted topic. There are so many subtleties in love; it's at once simple and complicated. It has so many shades ranging from childish abandon to crushing vulnerability, from the tender vines of renewed hope to the indigo moods of doubt. Love is always changing and is an endless topic. No matter how many people have written love songs before, you can always find a new way to say it. That's the trick. Nothing has greater potential for being cheesy and cliché than a love song. You definitely have to strive to be original and make people listen by expressing a unique angle on a highly overwritten topic.
Did you guys love Sonyae's concept as much as we did? "Love Me to Life." I love that. If I was in a co-write and that title was offered up, I would have been so into writing it. She really started to show her lyrical strength, and I thought she did well in choosing her co-writers. The sessions are starting to shape up into organized co-writes. Well, for some teams, that is. Sonyae's co-write had everyone working on their strengths: Scotty and Brian doing melody and music and Sonya working on lyrics.
The same can't be said of every session though. Nick, Johnny, and Jackie were fairly organized, and while Johnny's clever idea of introducing two new characters was a heady and smart ambition, the original focus of Nick's feeling got diluted.
Watching this episode was fun for me, because as I have mentioned, I am not privy to all that goes on behind the scenes. I come and go for my hook challenges and for judging, and so I was slow to catch on to Jes and Johnny's romance.
It was also interesting for me to see Jackie in her co-write. On the last episode I really got onto Jackie to task herself harder to realize she needs to listen to her co-writers, and not just talk over or steam roll everyone. It shuts co-writers down. And if you can shut the highly opinionated Nick down, that is saying a lot!
This was the first time I saw Nick trying to be honest in a song. Usually he is superficial lyrically, emotionally un-invested, but very, very hooky in his melodies. I had pushed Nick to be honest before. He obviously has a lot brewing under his gruff exterior. His hook won based on his willingness to finally do that. I wish Johnny and Jackie would have asked him about his heartache, asked him about his hurt, because I feel like a great song was missed. And Nick seemed happy to avoid the uncomfortable task of opening old wounds, and having them bleed onto the page.
Johnny's clever idea could have worked, but it would have had to make us feel more emotionally invested than it did.
The most dysfunctional co-write was Jes and Melissa. Melissa has struggled to get respect, and sadly in her sweet attempt to support others and not step on toes, she had failed to show her stuff. Don't get me wrong -- I was a bit surprised when I watched the show and saw that Jes had perhaps exaggerated about how sick she was. She told us judges during filming that she was nearly passing out every few minutes and that she was near being hospitalized. . .it did not appear that way seeing the show. Look, I know I'm old fashioned, but I was raised singing with my dad, he was also a rancher and cowboy, and he trained me to do my job no matter what. If we showed up for a gig, we gave it our all. Work ethic is everything and knowing people can depend on you helps build your reputation in a small business. You can't give a half-hearted effort and then cry about it later. As I said on the show, Kara, Ryan, and I have all written, worked, and performed when we were not well with a cold. And if one of us were truly that sick, we would get ourselves to a doctor. I don't want anyone to harm themselves for a co-write or for a TV show. If you're really sick, get to a doctor. If you just are not feeling well, cowboy up and push through, especially if you think your future dreams and happiness depend on it -- and especially if you think your co-writer is not picking up the slack. Maybe that's harsh, but that's how I feel.
However, Jes and her illness gave Melissa a golden opportunity to shine. It should have been a godsend to Melissa, a chance to finally take over and show her stuff. But her small whimpers about "do you like this line" were not very convincing arguments, and of course Jes liked her lyrics. And that's where it ended. This was Melissa's one chance to prove everyone wrong about her -- to write all the lyrics if that's what it took, as Jes clearly felt in no shape to do it. Or Melissa could have helped guide the structure and help Jes reign in her rambling chorus. Ryan asked Jes to get to the hook quicker as a note when she won the hook challenge. Her chorus felt like a double chorus instead of a tight concise weapon meant to infect you with its beautifully crafted melody. If nothing else, Melissa could have helped deliver on Ryan's advice. For whatever reason, Melissa did not take the opportunity to shine.
I hated seeing Melissa have to get on the defensive. Elimination is so uncomfortable, and I think all the contestants do a good job being up there and getting grilled by us -- I certainly don't relish their position! But only the truth helps you grow, and all our contestants really seem to be growing by leaps and bounds. Their use of partners, their recognition of each other's strengths, their willingness to continue to be so open and tenacious in a very high pressure environment is inspiring.
This episode marked for me a milestone: we got our first truly pitchable song. Sonyae's song was the first one all of us judges thought would work to give to other artists and actually get on the radio. Very exciting.
See you next week,