Platinum Hit Premiere: The Write Stuff?

The producers and judges of Platinum Hit clearly do not care about widows and orphans. How else to explain the craven ouster of Nevin James, a self-described “leader of men” and “great artist,” who had grand plans to spend the inaugural season of Bravo’s new competitive songwriting series at the intersection of Late Husband Lane and Motherless Child Blvd.?

In all seriousness, though, judges Kara DioGuardi and Jewel (along with guest panelists Jermaine Dupri and Jive’s Trevor Jerideau) probably made the right move in booting the contestant whose sole contribution to his team’s composition — the line “they want you to lose, they need you to fail” — didn’t showcase the kind of vivid wordplay needed to overcome his prior argument championing the use of clichés in song lyrics.

As for the show itself, I’m not sure I’m ready to pass official judgment just yet. Episode one had the feeling of a movie scene (think The Fifth Element) where a blank-minded character gets strapped into a chair — eyelids pried open — and forced to consume a rapid-fire sequence of words and sounds and images. It was too much, too fast, too relentless — so much so that it was hard to retain any information after the credits stopped rolling and Bravo returned to its steady diet of Surgically Enhanced Women Creating Self-Induced Drama While Living in McMansions. I mean, in the course of a single hour, we had 12 contestants writing a dozen hooks that got turned into four songs and critiqued by a panel of four judges. That’s a lot to take in, and so I’m willing to give the show – with a winning prize of $100K, along with a publishing and recording deal — a second week to hit its groove and work out its various harmonies.

A few thoughts on Monday night’s kickoff:

* I found it a wee bit unfortunate that most of the contestants’ introductory clips made them look like pompous foolios, from unfortunately coiffed Nick Nittoli stating his confidence in eventually being crowned the “next king of pop” to Jes Hudak proclaiming herself an “uber quirky songwriter.” (Side note: When Nick yelled “done!” 30 seconds into the hook-writing challenge, wasn’t that an indicator he was using material written prior to the show? And if so, shouldn’t there be some kind of rule against it?)

* I also wish the opening challenge had centered around a topic a little less trite than “City of Angels.” I mean, yes, every struggling troubadour probably has his or her own “fighting for success while trying not to sell my soul in the bright lights/big city” tale, but as themes go, it’s as threadbare as a three-year-old gym sock, no?

* Granted, it’s a challenge to try to separate the melody and lyrics from the voice that’s delivering ’em, but to me, Sonyae Elise’s winning hook was as pleasant as getting snared in the gills, reeled onto the canoe, and clubbed over the head with an oar. I’m going to have to agree to disagree with my former nemesis Kara on this one, although her assessment that the final track was “trite, confusing, and uninspiring” was right on. “Poppin’ bottles like an automatic”? 1-800-No-to-the-Nyet.

* I had to agree with the judges that Scotty Granger’s third-place hook was passionately sung and kind of pretty, but it didn’t really hold up as a full-length ditty, especially with that infusion of bongo drums. The thing is, I won’t feel too heartbroken for the dude if he gets booted and has to return to his day job as Jordin Sparks’ creative director.

* If I was a judge, I might’ve booted Blessing Offor from the competition on the awfulness of his “Smile for Me L.A.” snippet alone. (My only note as the catastrophe washed over my ears was “Oh. No.”)

* The winning composition — Nick, Jes, and Karen’s “My City” — was an interesting example of the judges being able to hone in on a reasonably catchy melody and decent lyrics triumphing over nasal, juvenile vocals. Still, the lyric “to Hollywood I move, to seek destroy and prove” felt as forced as a too-small lid on a Tupperware dish. (Okay, fine, my simile’s no less overwrought!)

* Nice to see American Idol Season 8 semifinalist Jackie Tohn (who auditioned for Fox’s ratings behemoth using an original song) getting another shot at success. Her “City of Dreams” featured a few kicky turns of phrase (“I got holes up in my Chucks but they are tied real tight,” “pretty is the city where admission is free”) and a melody that was simultaneously catchy and subtle. And, well, it doesn’t hurt the woman can actually sing.

* I wanted to punch through my TV screen right into Jermaine Dupri’s noggin when he said he dismisses any song and returns to his Blackberry if it doesn’t catch win him over in the opening three seconds. So much for championing subtle compositions and complicated melodies. Why not just wave a banner that says “Death to Carly Simon! Viva Ke$ha!” Here’s hoping Kara and Jewel keep that kind of toolosophy at bay.

What did you think of the Platinum Hit premiere? Did any song or lyric or contestant strike your fancy? Will you tune in for Week Two? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality news and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. CandaceTX says:

    meh. not really feeling it. I think that a lot of the ‘hooks’ the contestants came up with were things that they already had in their arsenals and were just trying to shove into the challenge (yup, I’m talking to you, Ms “love it or hate it, love it or hate it”.

    Tiring of this Top Chef/Project Runway/Shear Genius/Work of Art/Name My Hampster format that they roll out over and over. It’s like the person in charge of new programming at Bravo just takes one idea (Real Housewives, anyone?) and repeats it ad nauseum with a swap of locale or occupation.

    • SallyinChicago says:

      Well, what clips I saw, the two “stars” are uninteresting…and the premise is a bit boring. I’m not feeling this show.

    • Stephanie says:

      I’d totally watch “Name My Hampster” and think it’s Bravo’s next Big Hit…

  2. MEL31602 says:

    I watched this show mostly because I was a fan of Kara’s on AI and still don’t really understand all the hatred towards her. It does seem like this show will be mostly about the drama with all the collaborating each week, especially since I can’t really tell a poorly written song from a well-written one (I actually liked Jackie’s team’s song the best and Scotty’s would have been second if not for the annoying drums. Nick’s was way too fast for my taste in the chorus though the backing vocals were quite good). I’m not a big fan of contestants yelling at each other constantly though I will probably still with the show for now at least.

    I disagree with your take about Dupree’s comments during judging. With so many musical options nowadays if people aren’t hooked by a song from the beginning they will just change the radio station. And based on Kara’s blog on the Bravo website, I think she agrees.

    My early favorite is John the computer geek who was on Jackie’s team, though at this early point in reality shows I find reasons NOT to root for people and then pick my faves from who is left. I already dislike Melissa, Scotty, Nick, and Sonjaye, and I disliked Nevin too before he left.

  3. Anna says:

    I’m reserving most of my dislike for Sonjaye. She’s totally full of herself.

    • Stephanie says:

      and lyrically, “Love it or Hate It” was just repeating that line three times, and then explaining why SHE loves it. You present two sides of the coin and only explain one? Besides, the fact that she doesn’t play an instrument yet lives to write songs doesn’t bode well for me. I would think if you want to write songs for a living, you’d learn guitar or piano and I’d doubt any record company would take anything she’d written if it’s just lyrics on torn-out notebook paper.

  4. Elle says:

    I actually thought it was good but I seem to be the only one.Anyways I thought it wasn’t as good as The Voice but entertained me more than any AI episode in years.Kara was annoying but Jewel was great and all the contestants have large amounts of talent apart from that screeching girl who looks like Ciara how did she get to the top of the pile for the hook challenge?

  5. Debbie M says:

    It was just meh for me. Agreed it was nice to see Jackie Tohn getting another shot at stardom one way or another. But I’m not sure how much longer I can take Sonyae. Girl is way too full of herself. Shame it’s full of crap and not songwriting ability, at least judging by that first effort anyway.

  6. Anise says:

    It was a bit of a sensory overload, with 12 people singing (or in Sonyae’s case, screeching) at the same time. I also don’t like that it seems as though many of the contestants are doing a “find/replace” with the weekly theme into hooks they’ve written previous to the competition. More extemporaneous songwriting, please!

    That said, I really enjoyed watching the creative process go from a messily-scribbled line in a notebook to a full song. It reminds me of when I was young and I would watch Bob Ross make happy little trees from blobs of green and white paint. The collaboration between contestants gives this show a bit of an American Idol Hollywood Week vibe, and I’m okay with that.

  7. Nat says:

    I think I’m going to need a few weeks for my senses to get used to processing so many songs in such a short span of time. I have a feeling that musicians and songwriters may have an easier time with that, but with my musical resume limited to singing in my local choir, it’s sort of tough to follow.

    It definitely had a ‘Project Runway/Top Model’ feel and was more craftily edited than organic. You could tell some were cast as pot-stirring ‘characters’ as opposed to genuinely creative songwriters (Sonyae being the obvious example – the first time I’ve heard of a songwriter that doesn’t play a single instrument!) – but it makes for good guilty pleasure viewing. Plus it’s nice to see Kara both in her element and in charge (as opposed to Simon’s lapdog), as well as Jackie Tohn who I liked back in AI8 and felt we never saw the best of her. I have a good feeling about her potential here.

  8. seattlejohn says:

    enjoyed the recap but not the show…would work better for me if it focused more on a singer/songwriter contest than some gimmicky weird group challenge of the week…in agreement how these types of shows get a template that they all follow ad nauseum as they pretend to celebrate creativity…at least Project Runway going to a 90-minute format broke the mold this year and allowed more access to the contestants and having extra time to dote on details

  9. Lyn says:

    I thought it was ok, it wasn’t something that grabbed my attention. I will probably continue to watch, but if I miss a week or two it’s no big deal.

  10. Sabrina says:

    Pretty much agree with you, although I am not against them coming in with previous hooks and melodies written already. Certain contestants on AI have used songs they have performed before stepping on that stage as well as using arrangements from other artists. So I don’t think it is cheating. I think there was waaaaay too much to take in for a first show, as with most of these Bravo competitions. It usually does not really get interesting until you get down to the top 8 or 9 when you really know the contestants. No one jumped out as great, but I was surprised I did not hate on the egomaniac Nick’s composition as much as I expected.

    – – – – –

    But on another note – what the hell happened to Jewel!? Did she decided she did not get to wear enough sparkles on DWTS so she pulled out some leftover duds? It was weird to see the folk singer/song writer of great seriousness (okay ignore that pop try with the video featuring fire fighters) wearing sequined silver mini-dresses and tops!

  11. karenb says:

    So far, I’m interested in how the show pans out. I’ve always been curious about the process of song-writing

    Glad to see Nevin go, tho, he bugged me right from the beginning. And as for the “love it or hate it,” well-hate it! Gah!!

    But “love it” that Slezak’s doin’ the recaps!!

  12. Volcfom says:

    Shows shouldn’t premiere on a holiday – let alone one that is known for all-day barbecues and late-night driving. I completely forgot about it.

  13. Meyling says:

    So far, even with all of the stupid drama, Platinum Hit > The Voice. Though I think I’m in the minority, because I never saw anything great about The Voice. I really like the idea of a competition for songwriters. And I definitely think Jackie’s group had the best song. Though maybe that was because that guy in the group that won had the most obnoxious voice. And I can’t stand when singers over-enunciate. every. word.

  14. Jason S says:

    Loved the show!! It’s everything that Idol lacks. Artists that have to create rather then imitate. OCcasionally Idol will have a contestant that rearranges a song (David Cook’s “Little Sparrow”) for instance. But most of them either Karoke it or try to be clever and do someone else’s version and hope the judges don’t notice. This is the show I always thought should be a sister show of Idol where say this show aired Monday and then the Idol contestants have to sing the songs.

    • Joey says:

      Cool idea! I don’t get Bravo, so I didn’t watch this show, but based on the concept, these people could write the coronation songs, or even songs for the Final 3 or 4 on Idol if they turn out to be decent.

  15. Jorge V says:

    It says a LOT about our times in music when the guy that decides what is picked up for a record publicly says he has ADD and says it like it’s a good thing!

    I’m a drummer, I like my Fiona Apples and my Tori Amos’es and most of their songs don’t hook me after 2 secs! What that makes is for a song that is consumed like gum and thrown up after 2 min. That alone says very important things about the why there are so many artists like Radiohead that decide on another ways to sell and publicise their recordings and why most of the new pop is s**t.

    Even you, my darling Jewel, (and oh! is she like honey for the eyes and ears!), have so many great songs like Hands that are complex and profound and don’t hook right away! Quite the contrary, the 0304 album is the most forgettable, even tho it may have payed for your ranch.

    Still, I agree with the comments, the show is good, and it’s an advantage we don’t like most of them from the first second. Nick, next king of Pop? Yeah right! You are no Michael Jackson. You can be a Lord Gago to Gaga’s Madonna (yes! I said it! Gaga is light years away from Madonna! In 20 years no one will remember her!) but there will never be a more dedicated or professional pop artist.

  16. Grace says:

    Michael, I really hope this show wins you over because I LOVE it already, and I want you to love it too so that you can feed my inner fangirl like you do with the other shows you recap!

    Granted, I’m a little biased going in, because I’m a songwriter, and there’s nowhere else on television where I get to see masters of my craft at work. I love that Jewel is at the helm, because being one of the great songwriters of my generation, as well as having been mentored by some pretty incredible artists herself, makes her well-qualified for the gig. Kara still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth from her Idol days, but from what I’ve seen so far I think she has potential to be useful, and though I wasn’t a fan of this first round of guest panelists, there are some pretty promising guests to come. The drama element is a little bit of a turn-off for me, but at the same time I did wonder when I first heard about the concept for this show how they were going to keep it interesting, and I guess it works.

    Mostly though, I think amid the crazy formula and the crazy contestants, there are a few gems in there that deserve to be showcased for their considerable songwriting talent. And it must be said: at the top of that list for me is Jes Hudak. I’m a long-time fan of hers, so my perspective might be a little skewed here, but Michael, if you don’t stop criticizing her soundbites and vocals and get on that bandwagon soon, we might have a problem. That girl is an enormously talented songwriter and a total sweetheart to boot (and she plays the KEYTAR which is bad a$$!!). You’ll see… I hope…

  17. V says:

    As a songwriter myself, I liked the show. I mean most songs are written extremely fast and then tweaked after in the long run.

    Personally I HATED Love it or Hate it when I heard it the first time. Then I listened to the iTunes version and it was actually pretty decent. As in something I’d listen to. Proof that arrangement is everything.

    Once again, I did enjoy the show, but there were little things that bugged me.
    1) Making CITY rhyme with LA is lame and while the melody was catchy this was to me one of the worst songs. BOO. The iTunes recording isn’t any better.
    2) Jackie Tohn’s song was the best one, but surprisingly the only song that sounds worst on iTunes than on the show.
    3) I actually LOVED “No One Again”. It’s the only song I “bought” on itunes. the melody was beautiful, and the lyrics were corny but fitted the “hook” that was picked.

    Except for those inconsistencies I loved the way the show was structured and (with the exception of Jermaine Dupree who has produced the WORST Mariah Carey songs ever lol) I really liked the judges. I’m excited to see what they’ll write about next week.

  18. Delon says:

    I though it was engaging enough. Since not much is on right now, i’ll give it a try for couple of episodes.

  19. Eran says:

    Personally speaking, I found Jewel as a hostess to be about as charismatic as a speed bump, but the concept has enough potential to it to give it my three-strike treatment.

    Every mistake Kara made on Idol in Season 8, I feel, she more than redeemed herself for last year, being in my opinion, season 9’s best judge, but I digress. The Platinum Hit pilot all felt a bit like a watered down, fast forwarded Project Runwasy-esque programme, with guitars and 10 dollar blowdries replacing sewing machines and 10 dollar dresses (yes Gretchen, I do mean you).

    Jackie is so far my favourite and while Nick’s a bit of a cocky sod, I’d be interested to watch him grow in the competition.

    *dismounting soap box* :)

  20. Robin says:

    I’ve been wishing for a “Top Chef for writers” and I think this is as lose as I’m gonna get, so I’m definitely watching.

    And I think that a full season of J. Lo has made me wish longingly for the good old days of the 2nd half of Kara’s second season when she gave substantive critiques. Although, gotta say when I heard she wrote Good Girls Go Bad I wasn’t impressed because I felt like song choice was why rocker dude didn’t get Blake to turn his chair around the first time he sang on The Voice. But I digress.

    Con: They cast way too many freaks. Give us talent, please!
    Pro: Dude with the software engineering job. He can write, sing, and I respect the fact that he isn’t saying “I just can’t work a day job!”

    Con: Jewel has no charisma as host. How is that even possible?
    Pro: Love the hook challenge.

    Con: Really don’t love that they’ll always be working in teams. It always stresses me out when they have to do that on Top Chef and Project Runway. Transference, perhaps?

    I hope it sticks around and finds its groove…

  21. Larry says:

    Thank you Michael for calling out Jermaine Dupri! Kind of explains the sorry state of today’s top 20. I am tired of the format, tired of contestant drama being more important to the producers than talent (Sonyae)….BUT…will watch because I am in love with Jewel. She could host a fishing contest and I’ll watch.

  22. Erin says:

    Like most of these kinds of shows, I watch hoping to find a few good minutes. I will admit that I really liked the song, My City. I played it back over and over and it did “hook” me. Ok, so it is not the Beatles or anything, but it was catchy. I liked the guy who sang it, and I thought the girls made fantastic backup singers. What can I say? I like bubble gum pop and always have.

    I am excited about a show that shows creativity. Who knows what will emerge from all this? If one really great song comes from it, I think it would be very exciting.

    I actually think the contestants should be able to use work they created whenever they created it. Why not? I want good, not fast.

    I will watch it.