The new music competition Songland continues on NBC tonight (Aug 28). 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.
This week, four songwriters will present their tunes to pop star and X Factor UK season 3 winner Leona Lewis. Ryan Tedder’s first No. 1 was with “Bleeding Love” with Leona. She’s looking for a song that will allow her to express ALL the emotions.
Olivia Lane – Perfect Skin – She’s a pop country singer/songwriter who calls Leona “the emotional queen.” Olivia is from Houston, but she works in Nashville now. The song’s theme is about loving yourself no matter what. The song’s got a pretty melody. Leona wants to sing songs that empower people. Shane loves the chorus. Ester relates to the lyrics. Ryan doesn’t have many changes, he makes a few small suggestions. He asks Olivia to sing with a slightly different melody. Leona would need the lyrics to be less “American” As a Brit there are words she wouldn’t use!
Rozee – Fighting For Us – From the St. Croix, her dad passed away when she was 8 and her mom when she turned 21. That’s sad. Rozee wrote the song as a relationship that was tough to let go of ended. The songs so far are so emotional! This one has a really good hook. I can imagine Leona singing this one. She thinks the chorus needs to be re-written. “The ear wants to be surprised,” says Shane. The group wants to re-work the lyrics. Ryan calls the chord progression “very now ” and suggests a Spanish rap. Hm. I don’t know about that. “You can write so many hit records over that progression, he enthuses. Ha that reminds me of Ryan’s Kelly Clarkson debacle, which highlighted how he recycles the same track for different artists.
Rafferty – A Heart Full of Love – We already previewed him. Click the link above! Rafferty attended USC and had a band. He quit music and worked as a real estate agent. But music pulled at him and wouldn’t let go. So he quit! The song is about starting over. He thinks this simple, but powerful song will be perfect for Leona. He tells the group a story about how getting booed off stage by the school jocks at 12 years old did not stop him from pursuing what he loved. He sings the first verse a cappella. This melody is absolutely gorgeous. On the chorus, Rafferty shows surprising range. I like his voice. Strong, with a beautiful tone. ” WHAT JUST HAPPENED!” Shane yells after he finishes. He had the same jock experience as a kid but unlike Rafferty he quit music for awhile after that. He says the song “tore my heart out.” Leona likes how he’s not afraid to be vulnerable. The group wants to hear the first verse with music. Ryan wants to keep the lyrics personal. Leona wants to figure out “where the light and the dark” come in. Pain, with a happy resolution is her thing.
Annabel Lee – Ugliest Love – She has four jobs, presently. She picked the her name, based on the Edgar Allen Poe character. Natch. Hm. I can’t imagine Leona singing this bluesy joint. She accompanies herself on keys as she performs. An organ kicks in, giving the song a New Orleans feel. Good song. But maybe not for Leona? “I can tell you love music,” says Ester. Leona likes the juxtaposition in the title. Shane is confused by some of the lyrics. She explains what she meant which does not bode well for the song’s prospects. Ryan finds the melody interesting technically, but feels the lyrics need work. He finds some lines hackneyed. Leona tries it out. It sounds decent. Maybe the song will be suitable if they work on it?
Results: Rafferty, Olivia Lane and Rozee move on. Annabel Lee is eliminated. Not surprising. The song needed a lot of work to make it suitable. Leona gives her the old “The song is so unique to you” line. Which is standard on this show for letting an artist down easy.
Time to produce the songs:
Rozee and Ryan work together. Ryan is determined to add a Spanish rap to her song. OK then. He drops the guitar part down, and adds some whistling and a beat. He really, really loves the chord progression. Rafferty collaborates with Shane. Shane hears melancholy. “Sometimes the melody needs to dictate the story, he says. Olivia and Ester join forces. Leona joins them via facetime. The three will share their experiences, and make the narrative stronger. Ester will add some melodies, too. Shane re-works Rafferty’s hook. He and Shane work together to sharpen the lyrics and turn it into a heartbreak song. They work together well. Ester wants to add “soaring” moments to Olivia’s song. Rozee, in the meantime, is completely OK with a total transformation of her song.
Olivia Lane – Perfect Skin – The finished song has more EDM elements. I don’t know. The new song feels slight, cliched–not big enough for Leona. She loves the message. I would be surprised if she picks, this though. However Leona does talk about making the song part of a “campaign.”
Rozee – Solo Quiero (All I Want) – Ha. Ryan basically yoinked the chord progression away from Rozee and wrote a completely different song. Har. Ryan brings in a Latin rapper to do a feature. The Latin music is all the rage these days. The song is current. And I can actually imagine Leona performing that, but it’s not a song that would showcase her vocals.
Rafferty – When You Fall in Love – I HATE the way this song is produced. The chorus remains unchanged. But the original version was more impactful. Ester calls him a superstar. Rafferty shares how he became so emotional while singing the song that his brain turned off. You just learned how to be a woman!” she jokes.
Time to pick a winner! Leona admits that the decision was hard. She came from a show “similar to this and it gave me a huge platform” she says, so she realizes how important the moment is. She’s emotional when she delivers the news. Leona picks Rozee’s song.
Leona explains that the song “speaks to my Carribean roots” (she’s from Guyana). She wants a song with an international feel that would allow her to “jump on” with another artist. Really, it was the smartest, most contemporary choice. Check it out below.
Next week’s artist is Charlie Puth. And the season ends the following week with Ryan Tedder’s band, OneRepublic.