It was obvious that Songland celebrity guest artists Boyz II Men had inspired and influenced producers Ester Dean, Shane McAnally and Ryan Tedder as much as they did the aspiring songwriters when they appeared on season 2 of the popular reality show. In fact, Ester squealed with delight when the iconic R&B trio, made up of Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman, joined the producers in the performance space.
Before the young writers presented their original material, Shawn told Ester, Ryan and Shane that they were looking for a song that was “easy to remember, hard to forget.” Nathan added, “We want to find something that’s more contemporary, modern day that we can splash in a little bit of who we are and kind of introduce that to the audience of today.”
If you’re new to the Songland audience, four songwriters start out in the competition performing an original number. One writer is eliminated and the three remaining are paired with either Ester, Ryan or Shane who helps them to refine their composition and prepare it to be presented again to the celebrity guest. The guest then selects their favorite, which they record and release immediately.
The writers were:
ZAK WATERS – Los Angeles, California
“It’s kind of about that moment when a couple of months have gone by and you’re like, ‘Dang, do I miss this person? I do.’ And you tell yourself, ‘Try to remember the bad things.’”
- Original song – “Bad Things”
RYAN: “That’s a unicorn chorus”
SHAWN: “If you space out the actual verses, it leaves room for that chorus because that chorus is so flippy and busy, but in a pleasant way.”
WANYA: “I like simple and lyrical content. You can still do the syncopation, but not on every word. It’s real wordy.”
RYAN: “I’d be careful in the production to not get too neo-soul-funk.”
LISA and JUAN WINANS – Washington, DC (husband and wife writing team)
Lisa: “Juan has told me I’m the inspiration behind this song.”
Juan: “Absolutely a moment where we hit a rough patch, and we had to figure out, are these things that we’re gonna allow us to throw in the towel or things we’re gonna use to motivate us?”
- Original song – “Maybe”
ESTER: “When you come from a ‘maybe it’s love’ standpoint, that’s more of a man’s way of saying, ‘I’m trying to figure this out.’”
Lisa sang the audition and Ester asked Juan to sing and it gave the song a different tone.
SHAWN: “One of the guys that we were fortunate enough to work with is Babyface and Babyface is a master at creating a story and setting you up for that chorus, but he gives you a clear understanding on what the song is about.”
SHANE: “Your authenticity and the way you came out here and told your story, that’s very vulnerable, especially for a married couple.”
NATHAN: “Music is the tie that bonds. It’s really that tie that a lot of people lean on when things don’t go right in their life. They’re looking for some inspiration and you guys found that.”
CHARLES INFAMOUS – Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Original song – “Jukebox”
About nostalgia and “taking the vibe back.”
SHANE: “That melody in the verse, that would stick with me all day”
WANYA: “But it sounds like it could be more of a verse and there could be a bigger melody for the hook.”
ESTER: “Think about if this song was not ‘Jukebox,’ but ’20/20.’ He said, ‘I see you like 20/20. I don’t have to wonder like Stevie.’ Everything you’re talking about is sight. Or you could say, ‘Girl, you’re 20/20 in my eyes.’”
CHRISLEE – Essex Falls, New Jersey
About the drama that comes with love.
- Original song – “Love Struck”
NATHAN: “I like the verse, the vibe, the mood…The speakable lyrics are a lot better singable, as well.
After the four songwriters had performed, Nathan, Wanya and Shawn narrowed down the four to three:
ZAK was paired with Ryan
CHRISLEE was paired with Ester
LISA and JUAN was paired with Shane
CHARLES was eliminated
CHRISLEE and ESTER refined some of the lyrics of “Love Struck.” They rewrote the verses to make them more relatable.
NATHAN: “I like the harmony, the stuff that they’re doing in there. And again, you left space that they could do rounds. Like, stuff can move all over the place.”
LISA and JUAN worked with Shane to make “Maybe” more specific.
WANYA: “I love how you delved into the lyrical change. It definitely hit. It definitely hit. It felt relatable.”
SHAWN: “Y’all left room for us potentially to add our Boyz II Men-isms.”
ZAK and Ryan reworked “Bad Things” to make it have more pop flavor.
NATHAN: “You could feel how it’s grown. It feels a little more poppy. It’s a bop.”
SHAWN: “But because the fact that the track is so punchy, I think the lyrics had to be as punchy.”
ESTER: “When you are trying to ride the beat, you can’t have that many words.”
With that, Boyz II Men selected “Love Struck” by CHRISLEE to record. Then, in an extreme plot twist, they announced they would record all three songs. Nathan explained that good songs were hard to come by, so they were going to be “greedy” and Shawn added, “It’s also an opportunity to have a song written by three of the dopest writers in the game.”
“Love Struck” is now available wherever you download or stream music. Next week’s Songland celebrity guest is Bebe Rexha.