Songland season 2 continues tonight on NBC featuring R&B singer-songwriter and guitarist, H.E.R.. In the episode, songwriters will pitch their compositions to the the Grammy winning artist and the panel. Afterward, songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean work with the artists. H.E.R. will choose one song to record.
Everything you need to know about tonight’s episode featuring H.E.R.:
“I want to hear something that somebody has written from the heart,” says H.E.R., “And something that I know is going to make me feel something.”
The Artists Pitch their Songs
Axel Mansoor – Scary – Axel is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter who had a major sync on the soap opera, General Hospital, which led to a Daytime Emmy nomination for Best Original Song in a Drama. This 27 year old has lived all over the world–from Belgium to Zimbabwe. He wanted to write a song that made his girlfriend feel sexy. He explains to the panel that he got bullied as a kid. “I want to make the world a better place,” he says. He sings with a beautiful falsetto. He could keep the song for himself. It’s a real nice tune. Shane begins toying around with the lyrics, while Ryan sings the verse. “The melody of the verse needs to come back,’ H.E.R says. Axel joins in to sing along with the suggested changes. “It’s such a vibe,” gushes H.E.R.”You are such a mood.”
MILLY – Safe Place – She got her start singing gospel songs as a teenager. She attended the University of Texas at San Antonio for three years before leaving for a nanny job that took her “all over the world.” She wrote the song about not giving up on love. “It was something I was going through,” she explains. MILLY has been writing songs since 14. Singing in front of the panel is her first time performing. Hm. She sings like she’s been doing it for awhile. The song is a little monotonous. It’s giving H.E.R. Aliyah vibes, and she actually compliments the “stream of consciousness” feel. Shane loves the lyrics mostly, but wants to change unrealistic wording. Unsurprisingly, Ryan wants to add a “b section” to the hook, which adds melodic variety. “You are very talented,” says H.E.R.
Jocelyn Alice – How Could You Not Know – Canadian singer-songwriter, was a runner-up on Canadian Popstars at 16. In 2017, she caught flack after giggling during a rendition of O Canada prior to the MLB All-Star Game in Miami. Watch that HERE. She’s been songwriting for years, but feels one decision away from being a waitress again. She’s pitched so many songs that have never landed anywhere. She was a troubled kid who channeled her emotions in choir. She started songwriting at 20. She explains that the song is about unrequited love. I like her voice and the song’s jazzy vibe. H.E.R. compares it to “Love on the Brain.” Ryan wants to simplify the arrangement, punch up the lyrics. Could the lyrics be more clever? H.E.R. suggests making the verses more vulnerable. Jocelyn does not elaborate, but is tearful explaining a difficult last few years.
Raquel Castro -Wrong Places – Raquel was a contestant on the inaugural season of The Voice back in 2011. But you may also recognize Raquel from her movie and TV work. At 7, she starred with Jennifer Lopez, and Ben Affleck in the Kevin Smith movie Jersey Girl in 2004. She also played Marisol on 6 episodes of the FOX drama Empire in 2015. Raquel wrote the song about a year ago, helping her come out of a depression. She sings like the pro that she is. She brought the right song–a simple melody with lyrics that express tenderness and vulnerability. The panel flips out. Ryan calls the song “insane,” and changes a few chords. Ester and Shane tinker with the lyrics. Ryan notes how she broke songwriter rules, but that somehow it works.
H.E.R. Makes her choice
H.E.R. chooses three songwriters who will advance to the producers round and they are: Jocelyn Alice, Raquel Castro and Axel Mansoor. MILLY is eliminated. H.E.R. had such a difficult time making a decision, that she promises MILLY the two will work together in the studio. “MILLY has so much in her that I know we can unlock,” H.E.R. explains.
Ryan Tedder produces Raquel Castro’s Wrong Places – He calls the melodies “nuts.” He will concentrate on the style production. They also work on the lyrics together. The two work as partners. Ryan is already producing the finished song, playing and adding multiple instruments.
Shane McAnally produces Jocelyn Alice’s How Could You Not Know – Shane feels the verse section is a little vague. They brainstorm with H.E.R. over Facetime. Jocelyn adds an older lyric, that Shane loves. And they will simplify the arrangement. Shane is really happy with the result.
Ester Dean produces Axel Mansoor’s Scary – H.E.R. wants to change the melody hook. Ester works to rearrange the “b section.” Ester wants to emphasize the falsetto melody as much as possible. “We have the song that the world wants to hear from H.E.R.” It’s not typically the kind of song a woman would sing, Ester says.
The Artists present their newly produced songs
Alex Mansoor – Scary – The new version has a slowed up beginning. The band doesn’t kick in until the chorus. The changes Ester made are subtle, but they make a big difference. The song has a punch it didn’t have before. “That was amazing!” says H.E.R. She’s very encouraging.
Raquel Castro – Wrong Places – She explains that the original version was very stripped down. Ryan was very excited in their producer session to add instruments. The new version is less vulnerable, however. It sounds a little too much. I prefer the simplicity of the original. However, H.E.R. loved when the beat came in.
Jocelyn Alice – How Could You Not Know – Jocelyn explains that they changed a lot of the lyrics. The new version is more “heartfelt.” The new song is an improvement. Shane kept the old school vibe of the song intact. The backup singers are a nice retro touch. The new version is exponentially more emotional.
The trio hug as H.E.R. delivers the news. “You guys write like you’ve been doing it all your life.” H.E.R chooses Raquel Castro’s “Wrong Places.” Raquel says it feels like a new chapter in her life. H.E.R. says that Raquel and Ryan took the song out of the bedroom, out of being a really nice pretty acoustic song. Now it’s a record, she says. Ryan believes that “Wrong Places was about nailing the production.” H.E.R. closes out the show with an “at-home” like version of the song, on acoustic guitar. And I will reiterate that I like the simpler version over Ryan’s version, which added uneccessary bells and whistles.
H.E.R’s recorded version of the song is also leaps and bounds beyond whatever the eff Ryan did with that song. He overproduced Raquel’s finished version.
Next week, Martina McBride