Country music returned to season two of NBC’s Songland in the form of iconic superstar Martina McBride. Joining the songwriter/producer panel of Ester Dean, Shane McAnally and Ryan Tedder, Martina came in search of a new song with an open mind, but a firm sense of what she loves and what works for her. Fellow Nashville songwriter and her former opening act Shane said, “One of the biggest cuts you can get is on Martina McBride because she records the best songs. When you hear her voice on the radio, you instantly are in a place, even if you don’t listen much, because you know Martina McBride. you know that name.” Ryan added, “Martina’s sound is anthemic. She’s a belter. She’s a hit machine. She’s country royalty.”
Martina told the panel, “I’m excited to be here at Songland to find my next song. I’m really coming into this with an open mind. And the most fun thing for me right now, at this stage of my career, is to just be open to whatever comes along that moves me.”
Fortunately, McBride had an ambitious group of aspiring young songwriters to choose from a new release from and, as we’ve come to expect from the producers of Songland, they are all poised for musical greatness.
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.
CKAY – Nutley, New Jersey
- Original song: “Heroes” – about not answering to anybody and being your own person
MARTINA: “I love your voice. So big and powerful. It sounds to me like a melody a whole arena full of people are going to sing with you when you’re on stage. Because I’m always looking for songs that are going to help our live show.”
RYAN: “I don’t think that’s the chorus. What you think is the chorus is the pre-chorus.”
SHANE: “When you’re talking about an anthem, you’ve got to find a place to land.”
MARTINA: “It needs to explode at some point.”
H A L I E -Thayer, Missouri
- Original song: “Girls Like Me” – “Everybody is trying to be perfect, but in reality, none of us are and it’s OK.”
ESTER: “Great melody”
MARTINA: “There’s something about this melody that evokes an almost physical reaction. You know how a great melody can just make you cry or whatever, and I feel like this is the kind of melody. I would love to sing this from the perspective of somebody who has been through it and I’m sort of mentoring. Believability is obviously very important for any artist. I am a mother, I’m a mother of three daughters. And I do feel like my audience sees me sometimes as a friend, as a mother, as a sister, as someone they can look to for advice or, I’ve just been through it so I’m going to tell you it’s gonna be OK.”
WOLVES (Marc Avery and Sean Carney) – Los Angeles, California
- Original song: “Miracle” – about Mark’s mom
MARTINA: “I love the feel of it, the three-quarter time and the melody. I like the melody of the chorus.”
SHANE: “I like it having that gospel thing to it.”
MARTINA: “Lyrically, there needs to be some hope in here. I understand where it comes from because we’ve all been here, but for the song to connect, it has to have some glimmer of hope.”
JEFFREY JAMES – Nashville, Tennessee
Original song: “We Can Be (Heroes)”
RYAN: “The chords are interesting, that whole walk down.”
MARTINA: “I love some of the sentiment in these verses, but I wonder if ‘heroes’ is the right word. It doesn’t grab your heart. Maybe it pays off in a different way.”
SHANE: “Your melody and your rhyme scheme, it’s just so good, but I don’t know what that hook means.”
Following the original performances, Martina’s picks were:
H A L I E paired with Ester
CKAY paired with Shane
JEFFREY paired with Ryan
WOLVES was eliminated
Jeffrey and Ryan tightened up the verses and renamed Jeffrey’s song “We Can Be Heroes.”
MARTINA: “I got goosebumps. Oh my god, that’s so great. The production is as important as it needs to be to make the song make sense. Changing that one line made all the difference.”
SHANE: “It feels so new to me. I have a totally different feeling than when you came out and sang it before, so congrats to you. It’s really, really great.”
CKay and Shane took the “hero” concept and made a whole new, anthemic song.
MARTINA: “I love what you did with this. It’s a little faster, too. I also love that ‘I got you here, so I don’t need a hero.’”
Halie and Ester made “Girls Like Me” more impactful.
MARTINA: “You know when I said, if this song had the right lyrics it would make you cry? So, that’s what happened.”
RYAN: “Ester is brilliant at moving things around, not ditching stuff if it’s just not working where it is, Ester will repurpose it at another place in the song.”
Following the final song, Martina made her choice telling the performers, “I did not anticipate how hard this was going to be. You are all incredible songwriters. I would like to hear more from y’all, so please pitch me more songs.”
Martina chose H A L I E’s “Girl’s Like Me.” Her version is now available wherever you stream or download music.
Next week’s celebrity guest is Julia Michaels.