It seems as if the talent keeps building on NBC’s new hit reality show, Songland. The show, which pairs novice songwriters with seasoned producers and invites a hit recording artist in to find their next record has given music fans a behind-the-scenes look at how songs are written and how they find their way to recording artists.
And, as mentioned, the line-up for the tenth episode of the series boasted incredible talent and even a personal connection to the special guest artist, Charlie Puth. “I want to open my mind up to what the next progression of me could be,” Charlie told producers Ester Dean, Shane McAnally, and Ryan Tedder.
The first contestant to present her original song was 25-year-old Sam DeRosa from Poughkeepsie, New York. As soon as she entered the room, Charlie recognized her as a former classmate from Berklee. “Sam DeRosa! Look at us,” he exclaimed. Sam’s performance of “Pill For This” received overwhelming approval from everyone on the panel, with Ryan pointing out that the hair on his arms was standing up. Ester confronted Charlie asking if he knew about Sam. “No,” he replied. “All we did was get clam chowder and write horrible English essays.” He added, “She killed it. She really, really did.”
Berkeley, California’s Zach Sorgen began writing when he was nine, but had consistently been writing a song a day for the past five years. His song, “Habit,” was about an on-again, off-again relationship and the panel was pleased. “This is a giant box of ear candy,” Ryan told him. While Shane was concerned that the gist of the lyric had been buried, Charlie loved it.
Next up was 19-year-old Paris Alexa from Seattle. She explained that her original music, “Pity Party,” was about someone who felt bad because they had messed up a relationship. “It reminds me so much of a record I worked on with Sam Hunt where there was an element of this moodiness, this sadness, there’s melodies everywhere,” Shane told her. “It’s not a country song, but that melody and that lyric took me to a country place.”
The final aspiring writer of the night was 21-year-old Aussie, Joel Adams. He, too, had written a song every day since he was 15, but his song, “Hate Love,” was a more mature offering since the subject was make-up sex. Following his performance, Shane told him, “I have a funny reaction to the hook. The word ‘hate’ is such a strong word, and a lot of times music is supposed to do that. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. I don’t really know what to feel here, but that melody is gold.”
After all four of the writers had presented their original work, Charlie admitted he was “floored” with what he heard. He also explained, “I’m looking for a song that people are going to have stuck in their head forever.”
With that, he chose Zach Sorgen and “Habit,” Joel Adams and “Hate Love,” and Sam DeRosa with “Pill For This” to continue with consultations with the producers who were given instructions to not do anything that Charlie has already done.
All three songs underwent significant changes as the writers met with their respective producers, with the most challenging being Joel’s “Hate Love,” which went in an EDM direction that he didn’t seem completely on board with. However, as he performed the revised version, he did an outstanding job. As did Sam, whom the panel believed could have a recording career.
It was obvious that the decision of which song to perform was difficult for Charlie. A tear rolled down his cheek as he addressed the artists: “A lot of people all my life looked at me, ‘Why doesn’t Charlie get a real job’ and ‘What’s he going to do? Write songs about his life forever?’ And I would wait outside record labels and they would tell me that my songs were corny and that I should just stay in school and get a normal job, and no one would actually ever care about what I had to say. It’s just kind of surreal that I’m sitting here in this chair and having people consider songs for me right now.”
But he felt confident that he had chosen the right song to record and it was Zach Sorgen’s “Habit.”
Check out your favorite digital service provider to hear all of the music from Songland. And tune in next week when the season finale features producer Ryan Tedder’s band, One Republic.