The new music competition Songland returns to NBC after a five week hiatus. on a new night and time. 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 artist/producer/songwriter Macklemore. He’s looking for a song. It could be either emotional or fun. He’s not picky! However, he does want to be inspired and moved creatively.
The show opens with a card that reads, “This episode was filmed prior to the devastating events in El Paso and Dayton Ohio earlier this month. Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedies. The reason: Songwriter Chris Jobe is a Dayton, Ohio native. Folks who don’t know better may wonder why he never mentioned the tragedy. ETA: Also, incredibly, Chris presented a song that dealt with the issue of gun violence. The team–Ester in particular–felt the song’s lyrics and presentation were insensitive. A big “whoa!” all around.
The songwriters present their originals:
Iro – Shadow – He was born in Israel and has worked extensively in Europe. Currently, he’s a full time busker based in Brooklyn. He describes “Shadow” as a song about being “trapped inside your fears.” The song is very pretty. The panel’s ears perk up on the chorus. “The pre-chorus took me out of my chair,” says Shane. It sounded very Irish to Ryan. They aren’t so sure about the lyric “tripping on your shadow.” They fiddle with the tempo a bit–turning it into a march. Shane calls the song a “classic.”
Pop Culture – City Kids – The two are a producing duo out of Kansas City. The song’s lyric sheet consists of: “la la la la la la la la.” And that’s it! For real. Needless to say, the song is very unfinished. It’s meant to be an uplifting “feel good” track. It is absolutely bare bones, but the melody is upbeat and catchy. A ton could be done with this track. Macklemore calls it “triumphant” while Ryan likes the “swag.” Ryan calls it the “slacker anthem.” Ester begins to freestyle some lyrics and the others join in.
Chris Jobe – It Could Have Been You – He did a bunch of odd jobs, but now he spends 80 hours a week in a studio. His song is a commentary on gun violence. No wonder the show threw up that card. He’s originally from Dayton Ohio! And remember, this episode was shot months ago. The coincidence is breathtaking. He’s lost friends and classmates to gun violence. He explains to the panel that he wrote the song with a friend after an unspecified shooting. The lyrics are thoughtful and emotional. However, Ester has problems with how he presented it. She didn’t like that he evoked the sound of gunfire (“pop pop pop”) in the lyrics. Macklemore and the panel say he needs to write from his own point of view. Also, they don’t care for the bright production juxtaposed against the dark lyrics. They go to work on it right away. They strip down to piano. Ryan and Shane like parts of the song. But it’s obvious that Ester is really bothered. She says the words need to be kind. “Right melody, wrong words,” she says. For his part, Macklemore does not seem impressed.
Casey Cook – Judgements – She thinks the song could be turned into a “dope urban track.” She’s a part-time caterer, presently. In its current form, it’s a straight up pop track, though. The chorus soars. Macklemore thinks the production is too much. After they strip it back to piano, they like it better. Shane doesn’t care for how the song opens up lyrically. “Keep it vulnerable, intimate,” he says.
Results time: Moving forward: Pop Culture, Casey Cook, Iro. Ha. Macklemore tries to fake Iro out Simon Cowell style. Go back to your day job, Macklemore! Eliminated: Chris Jobe. It was clear during his session that the panel didn’t connect to his song.
And, in the end, Songland producers decided not to upload the song. In the current climate, it’s just too hot to handle. But who could have known that ahead of time?
Time to produce some songs! Pop Culture collaborates with Ryan Tedder. He wants to focus on the arrangement. “He speaks our language,” the duo say about working with Ryan. Ester Dean works with Casey Cook. They consult with Macklemore. “Don’t make it trash!” he jokes. He stresses keeping it simple. Iro and Shane McAnally work together. Macklemore want to go HARD on the Irish elements. Yet, feel it could be universal. They change up the tempo, and Macklemore is happy. Ryan and Pop Culture begin working on the lyrics. Ryan volunteers to sing the chorus when the song is presented. Ester and Casey work on the song’s message–making the lyrics more specific and detailed. Shane changes the lyric “tripping on a shadow” to “running from my shadow.” Shane stresses that room needs to be made for Macklemore’s rap.
The new songs!
Pop Culture – Unforgettable – The title has been changed and lyrics added. Ryan sings the chorus that goes “let’s make it unforgettable.” Ryan sings the rap too, which I imagine Macklemore would change? The song is about a happy slacker dude. The tune is still slight–it could use more work. Macklemore calls it “super fire.”
Casey Cook – No Judgements – Ester added some lyrics to the chorus. The song gets a choir of gospel backups. Ester REALLY improved that chorus. It hits hard. But I just can’t imagine Macklemore recording this song. Where would the rap part go?
Iro – Shadow – There’s a violinist on hand to add that Celtic touch. The tempo changes improve the song immensely, giving it an insistent beat, driving song’s message of fear and loneliness. Desperation just rolls off that melody. Macklemore shares that he has Irish ancestry. He loved it. He can imagine engaging a large crowd of Irish festival goers with a performance of the song.
Macklemore makes his decision. It’s tough. He connects to all three songs. But he chooses Iro. Not surprising at all. Also, he wants to feature Iro on the song. “If you write the lyrics, you end up on the song,” he says, “I’ve never done it any other way.” Iro is so overcome he cries. Twelve days later the two performed the song at Lollapalooza in Sao Paulo Brazil! Check out the performance below.