Songland, the new music competition, ends it’s first season on NBC tonight (Sept 11). Over the course of 11 episodes, songwriters competed to have their tune recorded by the week’s mega-artist. Songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean were on hand to help the contestants bring their ideas to life.
Panelist Ryan Tedder jumps over to the guest artist side for this last Songland episode of the season. He and his hit-making band, OneRepublic are looking for a new song. Ryan brings along band mate Zach Filkins and songwriter/producer Jason Evigan (Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Clean Bandit) to help out. The band has never taken an outside song, so we’ll see how that goes!
JT Roach – Somebody to Love – He quit his job after reading a book. JT decided to follow his bliss… JT describes his tune as a “heartbreak song.” The chorus is very catchy. His vocal is weak on the falsetto. That would really pop with a great singer. Ryan calls the lyric “classic.” He loves the chorus. “Familiar in the best way.” He can sing it right back to JT. The chorus also blew Jason away. He would speed up the tempo, but not anything else. Ryan admits the only break up single was their first, “Apologize.” They tiner around with the melody. Ester plays with the lyrics in the verse. Ryan wouldn’t change much!
Madi – Darkest Days – Songwriter Madi Yanofsky hails from Burlington VT. She’s been hustling! Had songs on hold! She’s waitressing in the meantime. The song came out of loneliness. Her voice is good, and this melody is gorgeous. Both the verse and chorus are beautiful. Ryan loves the title and melody. Jason wasn’t grabbed by a big “moment.” The group works to give the chorus a much bigger hook. Jason wants more pain. Ester wants to make it even darker. Ryan changes up the chord progression to make it punchier. He wants to make it feel euphoric–transform it into a dance record!
Tyler James Bellinger – Giving You Up – Earlier this year, Tyler released a solo EP and single, “Feel Like Home” which “celebrates belonging and acceptance for LGBTQ+ homeless youth. He works 30% of the time with his dad’s paving company in Jersey. Shane advises him to move to either New York City or Nashville. He wrote “Giving You Up” for his partner. The lyrics depict a lover who realizes the selfishness of his need to control. Tyler is a good performer! When the chorus explodes, he pretty much nails a high note. Shane felt that he bared his heart. Jason didn’t connect to the song, though. Ryan tries the notes. He can hit them. But they lower the key anyway. Shane dials the arrangement back, giving the song a more paintive feel.
Brigetta – Be Somebody – This 20 year old left high school at 16. She moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting full-time. By age 19, she signed her first publishing deal with Prescription Songs. She’s been performing since 5 years of age! She’s written thousands of songs ever since. Her song “Be Somebody” is about struggling to find her place in the music business. She’s an emotive singer. Ryan “genuinely loves the song.” He would change some lyrics, though. Because OneRepublic is already somebody! The lyric surgery begins immediately.
Results: JT Roach, Brigitta, Madi advance to the studio. Tyler James Bellinger is eliminated. That result is not surprising. It was obvious Ryan and James weren’t feeling the song.
With Ryan on the other side this week, he enlisted Jason to play producer. Jason teams up with Brigetta. Shane works with JT Roach and Ester collaborates with Madi. Brigetta is so excited! Jason wants to make the song moodier and darker. But he completely changes the concept from a young person finding their way in the world to a straight up love song. Brigetta isn’t completely sold on the drastic change. On to Shane and JT’s session–in order to tailor the lyrics to OneRepublic, Shane wants to hear JT’s story behind the song. Shane explains that Ryan writes from a personal place and it’s important to craft a song that’s relatable to him. Shane works to make the lyrics clearer. Ryan facetimes into Madi and Ester’s session. He is DETERMINED to turn Madi’s song into a dance record. Back to Jason and Brigitta– Jason adds an urban touch to the song including guitar and percussion flourishes. Brigetta is now on board. Meanwhile, Ester and Madi lower the song’s pitch. And finally, to them, it sounds like a OneRepublic record.
The finished songs:
Madi – Darkest Days – I don’t know if I’d call this a dance record exactly. Maybe with a remix, it’ll suit the club. But I like this more than I expected. The song retains it’s soul, even against a click track. Ryan loves the chorus and the lyric. He’s happy.
JT Roach – Somebody to Love – This song didn’t change much. The underlying production adds some punch. Shane really found a way to improve the song, while staying within its framework. Ryan calls the song “gut wrenching.” He’s still happily married, but he’s surrounded by divorce and understands that pain. He tries out a bit of the song–it fits in his range nicely.
Brigetta – Be Somebody – After Jason performed major surgery on the song’s concept, Brigetta is a little wary of the changes. But she really wants Ryan to pick her song. And it shows–she sells the heck out the new lyrics, giving Ryan goosebumps.
RESULTS! The song that “knocked” Ryan “off his feet” is…”Somebody to Love” by JT Roach! with Producer Shane McAnally.
Shane knows Ryan so well–his writing style and point of you–that he knew exactly HOW to change the song to suit the customer. He made only subtle changes, didn’t turn it into a OneRepublic knockoff, yet the finished product suited the band. Tailoring songs to fit a “client” is Shane’s job, after all, and he does it well!
OneRepublic perform “Somebody to Love” Live at Red Rocks
OneRepublic’s studio recording of “Somebody to Love”
Yes. Songland is over for the season. But don’t cry kiddies. The show has been renewed for a second season. Not a surprise. The ratings were solid and stayed steady over the course of 11 episodes. This show was fascinating to watch. Watching a song receive a major overhaul from world class songwriters is never boring to watch. And, some decent songs came out of the process. I am looking forward to season 2.