Platinum Hit: TV Review of Jewel, Kara DioGuardi's New Show
Monday, May 30 at 10 p.m. (Bravo)
Jewel, Kara DioGuardi
Glenda Hersh, Steven Weinstock, Faye Stapleton, Evan Bogart, Tim Bogart, Marvin V. Acuna
Musician Jewel hosts Bravo's new competition series, which features head judge Kara DioGuardi.
They’re young, they’re attractive, and they really want to write catchy pop songs.
Sticking to the formula set forth on shows like Project Runway and Top Chef, Bravo’s latest reality competition, Platinum Hit, follows 12 fledgling songwriters in their quest to become, of all things, the next Kara DioGuardi. Well, if not her, then Michael Jackson will do.
“I’m a musical genius for sure,” says Nick Nittoli, a 23-year-old telemarketer as the cast assembles at Hollywood’s Grammy Museum in the premiere episode. “I’m pretty confident I will be the next king of pop, definitely.”
Guiding our troubadours on their journey is none other than Jewel, the pretty blonde singer-songwriter, poet, and — in her new role as host — wearer of Heidi-Klum-esque low-cut mini-dresses.
“The way this competition works is simple,” Jewel tells the contestants with nap inducing charisma. “There are two parts. Each week, you’re going to start by writing a hook — the catchy part of any song — and the next, you’re going to expand that hook into a full song.”
At stake, as the ample-bosomed Jewel informs us, is a $100,000 cash prize, a publishing deal with Sony/BMI and a recording contract with RCA/JIVE. Those enticements — as well as the promise of good lighting, makeup and a national audience — are more than enough to lure a cast of six women and six men to Los Angeles for that proverbial “chance of a lifetime.” So, let the hit parade begin.
Mimicking the Top Chef Quick Fire Challenge, the cast’s first task is to come up with a toe-tapping jingle about “the city of angles” in a scant 30 minutes. Our songwriters disperse to secluded corners of the Grammy Museum (which just so happen to be equipped with an array of musical instruments) to try and force out history’s next great ode to Los Angeles.
“I’d rather not be rushed, the great artists are never rushed,” says Nevin James, 22, but by this point in the show James has already ditched his credibility by naming Billy Joel as a songwriting influence.
When the time is up, “head judge” DioGuardi joins the fun to help pick the four catchiest ditties. Being that this is DioGuardi’s rebound gig following her much maligned stint on American Idol, director Anthony B. Sacco (who produced Project Runway before its migration to Lifetime) seems to feel the need to remind us of more positive highlights on her résumé.
“Kara is intimidating as hell,” Jes Hudak, 29, obligingly informs us. “She’s written for like every top artist that is out there.”
Once the four winners are picked, teams are formed to help transform hook in to hook line and sinker. Groups of three separate into private recording studios handily located on the lavish premises where are to reside during the competition.
From the get-go, Scotty Granger, 23, fails to click with James, and the two engage in an amusing debate about cliché. “I’m telling you, it’s not OK,” Granger informs him, “because cliché in songwriting is not gonna get you far.”
Off camera, James’ rebuttal sounds a tad like a defense of Platinum Hit itself. “I don’t really think it’s a bad thing to say some cliché terms, like sometimes the best way to say it is in a way that is said often.”
With the group songs written, it’s off to a sound stage. Jewel dons a revealing red dress, and DioGuardi keeps pace in a blue number with a keyhole cutaway collar. Trevor Jerideau, a vice president at RCA/Jive (mind the cross-promotion!) joins the judging panel. “He’s worked with everyone, from Alicia Keys to Dido,” Jewel explains as though having selected the two most logical bookends in the business.
Hip-hop songwriter and record producer Jermaine Dupri also lends a hand, and unwittingly ends up offering the show’s most trenchant critique on the current state of pop music.
“I got ADD, if you give me a record and it don’t catch me in the first two three seconds, I’m on my Blackberry and that song is out the window,” Dupri tells the songwriters.
Despite all its shortcomings, Platinum Hit succeeds in holding your interest. First off, save for Jewel, the personalities here are quirky enough that you can’t predict how they’re going to interact with one another. Second, and more importantly, you find yourself wanting to hear what kind of songs they’re going to write, however arbitrary the constraints that have been laid out.
Producers Glenda Hersh (The Real Housewives of Atlanta), Steven Weinstock (The A-List: New York), Faye Stapleton (The Swan), Evan Bogart, Tim Bogart and Marvin V. Acuna (Going Platinum) have done their homework in selecting their cast, and more than a few of the cocksure contestants do seem to have a knack for pulling inspiration out of L.A.’s thin, smog-ridden air. To be sure, some of the 30-minute hooks and their resulting compositions are downright terrible, but gawking at failure is also part of the fun of competition shows.
Is this the way great popular songs should be written? Hell no. But whoever said writing platinum hits was what Platinum Hits was really all about? Not every single sells a million units, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still sing along to the ones that don’t. As Granger, says of, Nittoli, the guy who wants to be the next M.J., “Nick can definitely be a douche, but at the same time, I really enjoyed that song.”