The new music competition Songland continues on NBC tonight (Sept 4). Songwriters compete to have their tune recorded by that week’s mega-artist. Songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean are on hand to help the contestants bring their ideas to life.
Here’s a fun fact. Tonight’s episode with hitmaker Charlie Puth is the Songland pilot. In other words, “Charlie Puth” was taped first, and before producers knew whether NBC would pick the show up or not. Now, it’s the penultimate episode. Next week, Songland season 1 ends with Ryan Tedder’s band, One Republic.
Apparently, Charlie is a “piano prodigy.” He’s looking for a song with emotional lyrics, and melodies that make people want to dance. That’s an interesting juxtaposition.
Sam DeRosa – Pill for This – She’s from Poughkeepsie New York. Sam graduated from Berklee with a degree in songwriting. She wrote the song after finding out her ex and ex friend were getting married, and at the time she could barely endure. It turns out she and Charlie attended Berklee at same time. They know each other! The song is giving Ryan GOOSIES. The panel gives her a mini ovation. Ester declares that the song belongs on the radio right now. The hook is stuck in Ryan’s head. He wouldn’t change a thing. Shane wants to strip off all the tricks. Ester wants a duet–Sam and Charlie sing a bit of the song together while Ryan plays the keys.
Zach Sorgen – Habit – From Berkley, California, he was born in 1990 but has always loved 80s music. He began writing songs in his teens and had been writing a song a day for the last five or six years. He also studied classical music, and thought he would score movies. The song has a cool jazzy vibe. His voice is pretty limited. But he’s a songwriter, right? Ryan calls it a “giant box of ear candy.” He likes the Bossa Nova vibe. Shane would work on the “convoluted” lyric. Ester fiddles with a drum machine, adding some “heartbeats” which Ryan feels adds “swag” to the song. He declares it a “smash.” The song makes Charlie excited.
Paris Williams – Pity Party – This 19 year old’s mom says she could hum before she talked. The song is about someone feeling bad after messing up a relationship. Paris is from Jersey, but lives in Seattle now. The song has a really nice groove. It’s so smooth, with a bit of a retro soul vibe. NICE. So far, this song is my favorite. Ryan actually jumps up to hug her. “That melody was a 10,” comparing the hook to something Prince would write. The lyric took Shane to a country place. Charlie adds some Hall & Oats realness on the piano. This is VERY nice! Charlie isn’t sure about the jazzy, Scotty parts of the song. Ester would strip it all down and customize it for Charlie. Oh no. They’ll ruin it. Hm.
Joel Adams – Hate Love – The 21 year old is from Brisbane Australia. He moved to the States after he graduated school. He came out of a rough relationship, and…he made hate love? I’m a little confused by his explanation. Oh. It’s about makeup sex. ‘It’s time we make some of that hate love,” goes the lyric. This seems like the kind of thing Charlie would sing. Shane doesn’t care for using “hate” as a hook, but he likes the melody. The group tinkers with the lyric. It’s true, the lyric is a little s & m icky. Charlie wants to make it playful, but with hard percussion.
Results: Zach Sorgen, Joel Adams and Sam DeRosa move on. Paris Williams is eliminated. And that’s a good thing. A pity party would have been in order if the group ripped her wonderful song apart just to suit Charlie. He would have needed to completely rewrite the lyrics, and he didn’t want to do that. He confesses that he likes “Hate Love” as a title, but wants to add some softness.
Ryan and Zach collaborate. Ryan wants to process the guitar as if it were a James Taylor sample. The whole idea is about making the song more hip and edgy. Ester works with Joel. She wants to work on the lyrics. She’s not a fan of “hate love.” Shane and Sam join forces. Shane keeps a piano base, transforming the song into a ballad. Ryan and Zach work on “bringing the swag.” The chorus has to be “mean” Ryan says. Charlie will pass on it otherwise. Ester wants to transform the song into a dance track, but Joel isn’t digging that. Ohhhh. Disagreement! He seems reluctant, but still allows her to turn the song into an EDM track.
Sam DeRosa – Pill For This – The song isn’t exactly a ballad, but the final version is moody and atmospheric. Slowing down the beat allows the song’s pain to emerge. Shane made some smart decisions here. Charlie calls it “angsty.” and compliments her singing.
Zach Sorgen – Bad Habit – Zach thinks the final version is less risky. I’m not sure I’d call this edgy, actually. But then, what would Ryan Tedder know about edge, right? The song has a nice vibe. I don’t love what he did on the chorus. That weird rhyming scheme with the ba-ba-ba vocal is not doing it for me.
Joel Adams – Hate Love – He’s still unsure about the direction Ester took the song. But he’s willing to trust the “experts” here. It’s not a bad song, though. “I don’t want to be the fool that makes you hate love,” That little twist on the lyrics serves to soften them up, making them palatable. “I did not see that coming,” says Ryan. Charlie liked the way she flipped the lyrics.
Results: Charlie becomes legit emotional as he reveals his decision. He calls the experience “humbling.” All his life, people wondered why he didn’t have a “real” job. He knows what they’re going through as aspiring songwriters. Oh. Labels told him his songs were “corny” (Narrator: They are).
Charlie chooses Zach Sorgen’s “Bad Habit.” He feels the song is different for him, but still in his lane. It’s a reasonable choice for him.
Hm…in the end, Charlie didn’t release the song. He wrote on Twitter, “I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work with so many talented songwriters on Songland, including “Bad Habit” writer, Zach Sorgen. As a singer-songwriter myself, it is important or me to recognize that sometimes a song deserves to be released ty by the person who rote it. “Bad Habit” is truly something special and should be Zach’s song to put out into the world. I could only have dreamed of having a platform like Songland as a launching pad when I was starting my career. Zac is so incredibly talented, so please go support the song and give this songwriter the spotlight that he deserves…” In other words, he didn’t want to record ANY of the songs presented to him…
— Charlie Puth (@charlieputh) September 5, 2019
Sorry there was no “Meet the Songwriters” post. NBC did not release photos from the episode until this morning.