The new music competition Songland continues tonight on NBC. Songwriters compete to have their tune recorded by that week’s mega-artist. Songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean will help the contestants bring their ideas to life.
Four songwriters will present their tunes to pop group and former Disney stars the Jonas Brothers. Ryan Tedder executive produced their latest album.
Able Heart – Greenlight – He’s a Philadelphia based singer, producer, songwriter, and engineer. He loved skateboarding and snowboarding and was headed to the Olympics. But after he injured his back at 15, it was over. Music saved his life. He says it’s the first time he’s ever performed. Hm. I like the song, but not his voice really. He’s nasally. But this is Songland, not The Voice. Right? He tosses in a little rapping that is pretty seamless. Ester calls it a “rock rap” song. Able did everything on the song–producing, mixing and mastering. He “ghosts” for other artists, which means he produces, they take the credit. Nick goes immediately into producer mode. He’s got ideas that actually improve the song.
Remmi – Flickering – She grew up in a Christian household and wasn’t really allowed to listen to pop music. She’s an Orlando native but lives in Nashville now. This breezy bit of EDM is pretty great. The rest of her repertoire is impressive as well (check out the spoilers link above for more). She’s got a real pop sensibility. Ha ha. We all knew Nick was the talent of the family. He’s proving it here, stepping in once again with creative ideas for the song. Ryan tweaks the lyrics and plays with the melody a bit. He’s looking for a “linear melody.”
Ori – No Pressure – This young songwriter won a 2019 BMI Abe Olman Scholarship. Nick says the song reminds him of Bon Jovi and Springsteen. Uh. I’m not hearing it. Right away, Shane tinkers with the lyrics to make the person singing more vulnerable. Ryan tweaks them even further. Nick adds a few “Jay Zee” flourishes. It’s cracking me up how Joe and Kevin barely have a thing to say. Nick is clearly the Brian Wilson of the trio.
Rynn – Crowded Places – Los Angeles based pop singer/songwriter Kathryn Kempthorn, better known by her artist name Rynn, studied songwriting at Belmont University in Tennessee. She lives in Los Angeles now. Her music has an ethereal quality. Her vocal is thin, but the song has a really smooth hook. Shane LOVED the hook. The group tweak the lyrics. Nick thinks it would make a great ballad. He thinks Joe could sing the verse, while he handles the chorus.
Time to choose three songwriters. Remmi, Able Heart and Rynn will move forward. Ori is eliminated. They give Ori some good feedback. The song wasn’t exactly right for them. It was, I think, the right call.
Ester Dean teams up with Able Heart. Shane McAnally collaborates with Rynn and Ryan Tedder works with Remmi. Shane, as a country writer, always goes to lyrics first. He thinks the lyrics need to be tightened up. Also, the lyrics need to be tied to the Jonas Brothers’ lives. As the trio are international stars, he moves some of the scenarios to Europe. Ryan wants to give Remmi’s song “teeth.” The brothers don’t like “safe,” he says. Ester and Able work together to transform the track into a group song–a true collaboration. Ryan, as Jonas’ executive producer, knows what they want. He adds a gospel feel to Remmi’s song, with layered harmonies.
Rynn – Crowded Places – She sits behind the piano this time. While I prefer the original, the new production is probably more commercial. However, the heavy-handed EDM feels disconnecting. The ethereal vibe I enjoyed on the original has vanished. The brothers liked the “worldly” lyric changes. But, the lyric changes seem contrived. Maybe this is a song Rynn should keep for herself.
Able Heart – Greenlight – It’s hard for me to get past his whiney voice. But If I imagine the Jonas brothers singing it, the song, including the production, becomes credible. Shane loves the changes. Nick calls Able “an artist.” Joe thinks the song has “heart.” See what he did there?
Remmi – Flickering – The song starts off with the chorus. Hm. All those voices at the beginning are overkill. Yeah, I hate the drums and the overdubbed vocals. When the verse quiets down, the song I initially liked comes back. Ugh. Ditch those backing vocals. The production here is so heavy handed.
Results: Nick says the three are so talented, they will call all of them in the future. The Jonas Brothers unsurprisingly choose Able Heart’s “Greenlight.” That was pretty obviously the choice, even early on. The snip of song we hear is really, really good!
The brothers made the right choice. It was the only choice, really. Remmi and Ryn’s songs lost all their initial charm after production’s attempt to shoehorn the tunes to fit the Jonas’ requirements. On the other hand, Greenlight turned out better than the original.
Next week: Meghan Trainor.