Platinum Hit

Platinum Hit debuts tonight on Bravo at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Given the absolute glut of reality shows that spotlight live singing—not to mention the endless cultural obsession with Glee—it's completely logical that Bravo would eventually debut its own career-related competition show focusing on the subject. But as an added surprise, they smartly veered away from Idol-style professional singing dreams and went for the largely unheralded talent that goes into making music careers: songwriting.

Platinum Hit comes pre-packaged in the mold of Top Chef or the network's former hit Project Runway, angling starry eyed, young hopefuls against each other as they compete for a whopper of a prize. Essentially, any Bravo watcher can relax into knowing this format: just insert the competitors, watch them toil away under a ticking clock and awkwardly debut their hard work for a panel of grumpy judges and then, of course, say goodbye to one competitor each week.

For Hit, singer-songwriter Jewel plays the part of Heidi Klum/Padma, swathed in glittery dresses and tank tops each time she addresses the group. While Klum's German accent and "auf widersehen" sendoff helped make her a massively likable star on Project Runway, Jewel appears to be a bit of a charisma black hole on the show's debut, her small voice barely audible at times. Luckily Idol alum and über-successful singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi brings a hefty dose of expertise and presence to the judging panel, hopefully throwing a few tips Jewel's way between takes over the course of the season. 

Thankfully, there's also the wide spectrum of songwriting hopefuls to spice up the mix, from hyper-cocky Nick to Ciara-clone Sonyae. And with Nick's opening line of the episode, wherein he declared himself "a musical genius for sure," there's clearly no putting egos on the back burner. To start things off, the 12 were first pitted against each other in a sort of quickfire-style, 30-minute "hook challenge," which had them sprawled out in various corners of LA's Grammy Museum, frantically strumming guitars and attacking their keyboards to deliver a catchy hook inspired by their new temporary city.  Add to their frenzied effort the fact that Jewel laid out the season's eventual grand prize: $100,000 and a juicy record deal with RCA/Jive.

Some, like throaty Jackie from Long Island and the John Mayer-esque Johnny, clearly have the goods to be full-fledged performers in their own right, while the very vanilla Melissa barely delivered a full line of a song for the judges before awkwardly breaking and nervously giggling. It wasn't really until the contestants broke up into groups of three to finish hammering out the winning four hooks into complete songs that personalities (and conflicts, of course) began bubbling up. Alone in studios stuffed full of expensive, eye-popping instruments, some immediately found a groove to work together in, while others struggled to blend their disparate influences and writing styles.

The final performances for the panel of judges, including hit maker Jermaine Dupri and Sony record executive Trevor Jerideau is far more cringe-worthy than expected, particularly when when one contestant sings a solo with nothing but a tinny backing track behind forced delivery. Of course, much like Top Chef, the episode ends with celebrating for some, followed by some intensely awkward blame gaming for others before the judges as the losing contestants desperately tried not to get sent home. Jewel gets major credit, too, for peeking out of her shell just long enough to stick it to the losing team and hammer home her points about the failed nature of collaborative songwriting.

And by the episode's end, it's one step closer to songwriting dreams realized for the remaining contestants. There's certainly residual curiosity about learning the intricacies of crafting memorable songs, especially given how much attention just the singing voice gets these days. But in order for the show to secure its footing and not end up like the poorly received, Sarah Jessica Parker-produced Work of Art, Bravo's newest competitive baby will need to find what made Project Runway, and continues to make Top Chef, such exciting programming: showcasing a decidedly difficult craft in jazzy ways with large personalities to fill in the dull spots. So far, it's a definite draw whether that's down the road for Jewel and company.

Stray observations:

  • Goddamit "Love It Or Hate It" really does get stuck in your head
  • Nevin's quote deserves some attention, right?: "I am a leader of men and I try to give them direction as honestly as I can."
  • We'll all be better off not hearing any more references to the "City of Angels" in combination with words like "dreams" and "hopes." Let's just call a moratorium on it.
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