The new music competition Songland airs on NBC 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.
This week, four songwriters will present their tunes to country group Old Dominion who are recording a song for a Jeep commercial. The finished spot will air at the end of the episode.
Katelyn Tarver – Young – According to her Wikipedia page, Katelyn is an American actress and singer. She is known for her recurring roles as Jo Taylor on the Nickelodeon series Big Time Rush, Natalie on the ABC series No Ordinary Family, and Mercedes on ABC Family The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She also co-wrote a hit song for Cheryl Cole. “Young” is a trifle of a song. Shane calls it “amazing.” He loves the song’s statement. The group discusses adding more “information” to the lyrics. Ester riffs new lyrics, changing the verse to “for you.” The band worries the verses are “too feminine.” Hm. Ryan thinks the song checks “all of the boxes” for themes such as freedom, youth, etc.
Jacobi.e – Westside – Singer/songwriter based in Southern California is currently working at an ice cream shop, “paying my dues,” he says. The young singer has a fresh vibe and writes beautiful melodies. The group notes “so many little melody nuggets.” Jacobi.e sings a bit with only an acoustic song. The band is impressed.
MACI – Take a Ride – MACI is a pop singer/songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. She performs the second song she ever wrote. For some reason, MACI does not get a video package. The song has a pop/electronic sound. It’s hard to imagine Old Dominion performing it. But the chorus has all the words about “taking a ride” and “let’s take a ride.” It’s actually perfect for a car commercial. Ryan notes the sense of adventure the song conveys. The group tweak the lyrics a little. Ryan and Old Dominion give the song a test drive (heh). And now I can imagine the group singing it.
Jake Scott – Is This Love – This Los Angeles based singer/songwriter charted on Billboard right out of college. He collaborated with David Hodges on his sophomore effort. He’s written for artists like Aloe Blacc (Brooklyn in the Summer), Jason Mraz, Christina Perri, Carrie Underwood, Morgan Wallen (The Voice 5 alum) and Sara Evans. The melody he wrote reminds the Fayetteville, Arkansas native of feeling love for the first time. Jake has a definite Mraz vibe. In other words, a 90’s/aughts deal. The sound is a little dated. Shane is having a hard time imagining the song for Old Dominion. The group plays around with the chords, while Ester works on the hook. And that little bit of work made a big difference for everyone in the room.
Results: Jacobi.e, Jake Scott and Katelyn Tarver move on. MACI is eliminated. Dang. MACI’s song was my favorite.
The panel gets to work on the songs.
Ryan Tedder works with Jacobi.e. Katelyn and Shane McAnally collaborate. Shane thinks the song needs a beat, to give it some muscle. Ester Dean works with Jake. She reworks the lyrics, making it an anthem to a road trip. Ryan loves Jacobi.e’s melodies, but feel his lyrics need some work. Shane wants to add some 80’s-style pulsing bass to Katelyn’s song. Meanwhile, Ester and Jake work hard on the lyrics. Ryan and Jacobi.e collaborate on a few production elements. “It’s like working with a master,” the young songwriter says. After, the trio drive themselves to the studio…in a rad Jeep of course.
The final songs! The CMO of Jeep is present to evaluate the songs.
Katelyn Tarver – Young – A country dude, Ted, sings lead while Katelyn handles the backups. Hm. I’m not sold on the Shane’s 80’s vibe for the song. It just plods along. The Jeep guy loves the young vibe.
Jacobi.e – Where the Road Ends – The song is so soulful as produced here, it’s hard to imagine Old Dominion performing it. But the song WOULD make a good car commercial. Ryan calls it “super infectious.” The Jeep guy likes the themes of adventure and freedom.
Jake Scott – Journey – This song has undergone big changes, and all for the better. It’s definitely the most improved song of the night. THIS version sounds like it belongs in 2019 rather than 2005. Actually, this might be the winning song. GOOD JOB ESTER. “Pure poetry” the Jeep guy describes it.
Old Dominion has never recorded a song they didn’t write! So they chose…. “Young” by the ringer, Katelyn Tarver. I ranked her song third. But the actual commercial is reworked even further than Katelyn’s final version, improving the song considerably. I still don’t love the song. But the lyrics fit the commercial’s narrative–a middle aged couple who find youth by driving a Jeep.
UPDATE: Yes, that’s Katelyn Tarver in the commercial playing the young female lead.
— Songland (@NBCSongland) August 22, 2019
Old Dominion releases a music video of the studio version.