‘Platinum Hit’ and the Triumph of Manufactured Pop

I know we’re supposed to give extra credit to artists who actually write their own material. But I’ve always kind of dug the people who figure out the alchemy of hit-making in any given moment in pop. Yeah, yeah, maybe Dr. Luke and Max Martin homogenize the airwaves, yes they make it easier for the corporate pop machine to march forward, but how am I supposed to complain when they deliver so consistently? So I’m probably the prime audience for Bravo’s new next-top-songwriter competition, Platinum Hit, which premiered last night.

If Platinum Hit works, it’ll be because it’s the one of Bravo’s competition shows where viewers actually get to experience the full product. There’s no imagining how the food tastes on the various iterations of Top Chef, no seeing the clothes in small dimensions on The Fashion Show. Whether you’re in the room with the judges or watching the performances on screen, you’re having essentially the same experience of a rough cut of a final product.

My sense is that the show is going to be a lot more fun to watch the closer we get to a finale. With this many teams in the early running, there’s less room to see how the groups work together, how one slightly irritating hook gets lifted by the jaunty material that ends up framing it

while another gets flattened and distorted by pretentions to edginess.

So far, there’s nothing that’s quite as rewarding as the scene in Music and Lyrics where Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore’s characters record a demo of the song they’ve been writing together and realize they’ve actually got something decent on their hands. As anyone whose had writers’ block on deadline will tell you, that movie was a decent approximation of the most rewarding moments of the creative process. Platinum Hit needs more time, if not that kind of time, for each song in each episode.


It will also be a lot more fun if the show gets better guest judges. I guess it’s adds layers to know that Jewel has a pretty incredible poker face. But having Jermaine Dupri tell me and a bunch of songwriters that he needs a song to hook him in the first few seconds is depressing confirmation of the worst shallownesses of the music business. It would be a lot more revealing to hear Skylar Grey talk about writing for Rihanna and Dr. Dre, and what happens after those first bars.