Once again, the contestant sent packing on this week's Platinum Hit (Mondays, 10/9c, Bravo) was the one who had contributed the least. At least that's what we were led to believe: according to Melissa Rapp, it was simply her time to go, and she couldn't hang on because she didn't bring the strategy that reality TV calls for.
Below, she shares her naive involvement in the genre, and her surprise at the machinations that were taking place all around her (alleging that Nick's attitude is a pose and that Jes and Johnny's relationship is contrived). While the narrative that goes "hindsight is 20/20" is common, especially for those chewed up and spit out by reality TV, Rapp articulates her experience particularly well, especially for someone who left a show about writing so early.
It was very bold of you to tell the judges they were wrong when they sent you home.
Melissa Rapp: Well, there is some backstory to that. I had contributed, but they have to come up with a reason to send someone home when it's time. That was the reason they often came up with. I think you saw it with Amber last week. She felt frustrated because she had contributed. Blessing, they told the same thing. When they started telling me that, I was kind of flabbergasted.
What's interesting to me about that critique is that it's contradictory: if you didn't contribute a lot to a song the judges didn't like, didn't you do the right thing?
Rapp: You would think so. And when I heard Jes' hook, I thought it was rambling, but they picked it [as the winner] I think mainly so they could capitalize on the romance with Johnny some more. That was frustrating. Not only would you be fighting against not really feeling passionate about the hook ... but then you had the team dynamic. Once people figured out that those who contributed the least were getting sent home, they started dominating the sessions and you had to almost yell to be heard.
It sounds to me like the reality show-ness of this informed the competition more than you expected.
Rapp: Definitely. I think because it's the first season, there's a lot of pressure on the producers to get people talking and to put something out that will be a strong show. I work so hard doing music that I never watch TV. We only found out the week before we started that we were chosen for the show, so I didn't watch TV even before I showed up to research-up on it. I was very naïve. Scotty kept saying, "What's your strategy?" I said, "Scotty, there's no strategy. It's just about writing good songs, right?" He would say nothing. The truth is, it was all about strategy. Nick purposely acted like a jerk because he knew it would get him a bigger role. Other people fell in love or spoke their mind or cried. But even if I went out there again, I'd want to do so with the same mentality: write good songs. I think if there's a second season, the producers should rely on that to make a stronger show instead of this contrived drama.
It's interesting that you say you were naïve, because I wondered if you too were playing to the camera by emphasizing your quirkiness.
Rapp: I guess I am quirky, relative to a normal person, but in the editing of the show, they seemed to pick every quirky moment and show that. In the first episode, every face they showed me making was weird and extreme. Certainly, it did get people talking. People thought I was a strange girl.
Nick did say that it's like you have your own language.
Rapp: I guess I kind of choose to have my language and be in my own world because it's more interesting and fun to me to be silly, especially in the creative world. To write good songs, you have to let go. For me, to release the right side of my brain and just be creative, that's probably where a lot of the quirkiness comes out.
Is there any kind of a trade-off to be had for the exposure the show offers?
Rapp: Yeah, it was an honor to be chosen and it really was a good songwriting boot camp. A lot of the feedback the judges gave us was legitimate and I took a lot away from it. Emotionally, the show was a lot harder than I expected. They sequester us, taking away our phone, our Internet, our contact with the outside world. It was quite a shock to be taken away from my support network.
When you mentioned strategy, you said, "Some people fell in love." Do you think that Jes and Johnny's relationship was less than sincere?
Rapp: I guess the politically correct answer would be: I can't speak to that. My true feelings are: definitely. Johnny was always flirting with me on the side, and Jes broke up with her boyfriend right before the show and got together with him right after. It was almost as if she had planned to start a show-mance. I think it was brilliant on her part. ... Rather than being a jerk like Nick, starting a romance is quite a good way to get yourself a starring role and be loveable at the same time. I think she was a good strategist and I was out-strategized.
Any resentment for the judges?
Rapp: No. I think there's the world of the show — the world that's going to make a good TV show — and then there's who those people are outside the show. I don't have resentment for the judges or the rest of the cast. I think Kara [DioGuardi] was trying to be stern because she was criticized on American Idol for not having much of a voice. She really wanted to stand out and for her to be critical of our songs to a high degree was what came more natural to her. When they have us up there on the elimination block for about two hours—and they edit that down to a few minutes—those were trying times because they would repeatedly ask us the same questions and be very demanding. Even if we didn't want to turn against each other up there, they really forced people to do that. I think it was a very interesting experiment in human behavior and the things they can make occur.