Songland season 2 continues tonight on NBC featuring legendary 90s R&B group Boyz II Men. In the episode, songwriters will pitch their compositions to the the guest artist and the panel. Afterward, songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean work with the artists. The group will then choose one song to record.
Everything you need to know about tonight’s episode featuring Boyz II Men:
Boyz II Men are looking for songs that are memorable, easy to remember and hard to forget. But they also are looking for something contemporary, “more modern day.” Ryan calls the group the “original GOATs” because of their string of hits in the 90s. Some of you may remember band member Shawn Stockman as a judge on the NBC a cappella competition from a few years ago, The Sing-Off.
The Artists Pitch their Songs
Zak Waters – Bad Things – Zak is a musician, singer-songwriter, DJ, and record producer from Los Angeles. After highschool, his band got signed to Universal/Motown. He grew up on early R&B stuff like Boyz II Men. Zak wrote the song he’s pitching after a break up. The lyric, “Try to remember the bad things,” serves as a reminder to stay clear eyed about a relationship, even as times passes. The jazzy, soulful verses lead to a surprising chorus, that the panel really digs. Ryan calls it a “unicorn chorus.” They all like it so much, they work on the verses to make the chorus pop even more.
Juan and Lisa Winans – Maybe – Juan is a third generation member of the famed gospel family, the Winans. Mom & Pop Winans are his grandparents. He is the son of Carvin Winans a member of The Winans singing group. Lisa Kimmey was a member of the group Out of Eden. The couple married in 2007. The song was inspired by Lisa and took Juan two years to finish. The song has a retro vibe that feels suitable for the group. But with Lisa handling the vocals, the verse is limp, and the melody boring. But when Juan takes over the vocals at Ester’s request, the song comes alive. The lyrics are trite either way, but he imbues so much feeling into the words, it changes everything. The panel agrees, however, that the story needs to be clearer. Interesting that the panel never acknowledges their famous family.
Charles Infamous – Jukebox – He is a hip hop producer and artist from Lancaster, Penna. The song is about nostalgia “taking the vibe back to the classics,” says Charles. The tune has a fun, bouncy vibe. Very chill. The mentions of specific nostalgia like “Michael J Fox” are a little too referential. He effortlessly breaks into a rap half way through the performance. He’s very smooth. Shane loves the melody in the verse. But group member Wanya Morris suggests a bigger melody for the hook. He’s got a point. The melody is sweet, but a little monotonous. Ester notices the “sight” references in the song. She suggests changing the name to “20/20.”
ChrisLee – Love Struck – A singer/songwriter and record producer from Essex Fells, NJ, Chris moved to Los Angeles six months ago to pursue a musical career. Currently he’s doing production work and “sync stuff.” Plus, he plays live music for his girlfriend’s yoga class. The song is about her. “Love Struck” is another smooth, jazzy effort, but with a sexy vibe. The group seems really impressed. They play with the melody a bit, while Shane tweaks the lyrics. Ryan wants to simplify the words, make them more human.
Boyz II Men make their choice
Results! Zak Waters, ChrisLee and Juan and Lisa Winans advance. The group likes the song from Charles Infamous, but feel they don’t have the time to get the song where it needs to be. Charles is eliminated.
Ester Dean produces ChrisLee – In a Facetime call, Wayna confesses that he thought Chris’ song was the closest to complete. He wants to retain the vibe, but make the story clearer in the second verse. Next, Ester and Chris work on harmonies.
Shane McAnally produces Juan and Lisa Winans – Shane works to make sure the concept that the group understands–a solid couple who nevertheless has hard times–is clearly understood. He admires the couple’s willingness to be vulnerable. Later, they chat with Shawn about changing the hook. “It has to feel real,” he says. After changes, Shane feels the song is “more digestible, less dated.” He suggests Juan sing lead with harmonies from Lisa.
Ryan Tedder produces Zak Waters – Ryan wants to steer the song away from Neo Soul. Which frankly, I don’t understand? But apparently the group wants to go in a pop direction. Ryan’s idea is to “pop up” the verses, but keep what’s best about the “unicorn” chorus. After Ryan makes some changes, Zak notes that “it sounds more like a radio song now.
The Artists present their newly produced songs
Chris Lee – Love Struck – Ester added a pre-chorus at the beginning of the song, which seems pointless? Although I like the song, it’s hard to imagine Boyz II Men cutting this record. It sounds more like a Robin Thicke joint. The group loves the vibe.
Juan and Lisa Winans – What If It’s Love – Shane notes that he drew from his own life when rewriting the lyrics, bringing real life in order to scratch below the surface. Even the title is more specific now. This song has come a long way from the original. The hook is 1000 percent more listenable. And I don’t understand why Juan didn’t sing lead in the first place.
Zak Waters – Bad Things – Zak mentions several times how much the song has changed. I get the sense that his feelings are mixed about the result. If he sells the song, he’ll probably get over it! Hm. The neo soul version of the song is better. The verse is so busy and straightforward, when it comes, the chorus is less of a revelation. Shawn calls it “a bop.” Eh.
The songwriters gather! Wanya calls all the songs “extremely great…they all took a major turn.” Shawn thanks them for trusting the changes. The song Boyz II Men choose to record is “Love Struck.” Wow. I’m surprised. But wait. THERE’S MORE. They love all the songs! They’re going to record all of them! They’re all winners!
You get a song! And you get a song and YOU GET A SONG. Hooray. Love Struck is the main pick, though. It gets a music video. Last season will.i.am also recorded every song presented to him.
Boyz II Men – Love Struck – The recorded version by Boyz II Men sounds completely different. The group deserves credit for staying creative and on top of trends. There are so many aging artist who get stuck in the decade they came from.
Next Monday: Bebe Rexha