Platinum Hit, Top Chef the Musical

Cast Members: Blessing Offor, Nevin James, Jes Hudak, Brian Judah, Sonyae Elise, Nick Nittoli, Melissa Rapp, Jackie Tohan, Scotty Granger, Johny Mornell, Amber Ojeda, Karen Waldrup

The Cast:

Sonyae Elise is an R&B songwriter who grew up in a musical family, doesn’t play an instrument, and would like to write for Lady Gaga and Beyonce, among others.

Scotty Granger is an R&B/ pop songwriter from New Orleans. His brother is NBA allstar player Danny Granger and great nephew of Mahalia Jackson.  He is openly gay and would like to write for Celine Dion.

Nick Nittoli writes a blend of pop, rock, and alternative, is from Garfield NJ, and is a self taught songwriter.

Nevin James who was cut last night, is from Pittsburg PA, writes a mix of folk and rock, and wrote and directed a rock opera while attending Pepperdine University.

Melissa Rapp writes soulful pop music, is from Honolulu HI, and left a successful career at Google to pursue songwriting. She wants to write for Norah Jones, and Rihanna.

Karen Waldrup writes a mix of folk, rock, country and blues, is from Mandeville, LA and was named top 25 country songwriter by American Country in 2008. She wants to write for Alanis Morrissette.

Johny Marnell is a pop singer songwriter whose style includes rock, soul, R&B, and dance. He comes from Kingston, NY has toured with Ingred Michaelson and played sold out venues such as NYC’s Webster Hall.  He wants to write for Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Taio Cruz.

Jes Hudak writes pop and soul music, is from Saratoga Springs, NY, and has toured with Maroon 5 and Enrique Iglesias.

Jackie Tohn writes folk, pop, blues and reggae, is from Ocean Side, NY and has been named one of top 100 unsigned artists in Music Connection Magazine.

Blessing Offor writes pop, R&B and soul, is from New Haven, CT and has opened for the Temptations and Tower of Power. He wants to write for John Legend, Cee Lo Green, Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Keys.

Brian Judah writes alternative, pop rock, dance and country, is from Studio City, CA and is the only artist to win the singer-songwriter of the year award in back to back years. He would like to write for Florence and the Machine, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry.

Amber Ojeda writes new soul and jazz, is from San Diego, CA and her heros are Etta James and Billie Holliday.  She would like to write for Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, and Joss Stone.

Episode 1: 

I didn’t hate it…

In this episode we meet each of the 12 contestants, learn their history, and get a flavor of what type of artist they are. Nick is cocky, has a punk vibe, calls himself a musical genius and is sure he will be the next king of pop. Sonyae is sassy, fashion forward, and claims she was put on this earth to make music. Karen is a bubbly blond, southern girl, who falls in love with Tommy the guide dog. Each of the other song writers brings their individual talents and personal flare to the table.

Jewel welcomes the contestants as they meet up at the Grammy Museum in downtown LA and explains how the competition will be structured. Each episode features a “musical quickfire challenge” where contestants compose a hook in 30 minutes and then they all proceed to the elimination challenge where the hooks were incorporated into finished song lyrics. In tonights episode there were 4 “winners”  from the “hook challenge.” and these winners were told that they would have an advantage going into the final round.

I was suprised when Sonyae was selected  as the overall winner of the hook challenge.  To me her hook was loud and not very catchy.  The judges stated that the singing was not a criteria in the judging but it’s hard to ignore completely. My favorite was Jackie. I could actually understand her hook and I thought it was well thought out and had a soulful tone.  Johny, Scotty, and Nick also did well.

The winners advantage was that they would be team leaders and would be able to select the members of their team as well as use their hooks to compose the final song.

Team 1 – Sonyae, Blessing, Amber

Team 2 – Nick, Jess, Karen

Team 3 – Jackie, Johny, Melissa

Team 4 – Scotty, Brian, Nevin

When the 8 hour time limit was up all of the teams completed their lyrics and were prepared to go before the judges.  Jackie was told that her strength was melody and stucture.  Feedback to Nicky was that he was edgy, not afraid to push the envelope and wasn’t scared to express what LA meant to him.  Scotty was told that his song was not memorable, not emotional and didn’t speak to them.  Sonyae was told that the song was trite, confusing and uninspiring.  Nicks team was selected as the winner and Scotties team was the loser.  Nevin was sent home because the judges didn’t think his lyrical contribution was strong enough. I’m not really sure how they selected Nevin versus Brian.

My complaints about the show are mostly related to the format. Given the unique concept I was hoping that the executive producers would avoid putting out a re-hashed version of Project Runway and Top Chef.  It would have been nice to have been given more background on the contestants and how they were selected.  Also, I think it would be interesting to see how they interact when they’re not in studio to get a better flavor of their personality (from the preview of upcoming shows it looks like that may happen).

What I really liked about the show was the diversity of the song writers and their unique skills and talents.  In typical BravoTV fashion the drama between team members keep the show interesting and the performances in front of the judges displayed their musical and vocal talents well.

I say stay tuned because I think the show will improve over time as we get to know the contestants better and as their songwriting skills improve.

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