On May 28, we were introduced to NBC’s newest competition reality series, Songland. Filling the void left by the 16th season of The Voice, which returns in September, Songland focuses on three aspiring songwriters who earn the opportunity to work with hit songwriters and record producers Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean and Shane McAnally. After their coaching sessions, the rising writers are allowed to perform their finished tune in front of an established artist who will record their song.
The show kicked off in fine form with hit Nashville songwriter, Shane McAnally, and his protegé, Tebby Burrows, producing the winning song, “We Need Love,” for John Legend.
On the June 2 episode, contestants were writing for the multi-dimensional entertainer, will.i.am, who was shopping for music for the next Black Eyed Peas album.
In the intro, he explained that he wanted a song to connect different walks of lives. “Fathers with daughters, moms with sons. Make old people feel young, make young people feel important,” he said.
The first songwriter to appear was Josh Logan of Chester, New York. The marketing management executive performed his original tunes, “Boxes” for the coaches and received positive feedback. Shane told the novice writer, “That chorus was such a cool surprise, and the title ‘Boxes.’ I think the concept is really cool, it’s really interesting.” He then suggested a lyric change that was so radical, will.i.am compared it to “Harry Potter magic.”
Charisma Dixon from Kolkata, India was next up with her original composition, “Invincible.”
She described her song as a tune about “spreading love, compassion and coming together and being united.” First to speak was will.i.am who said he liked the chorus, but had concerns about some of the word choices, but Ester suggested they just required a bit of tweaking.
Adam Friedman of Phoenix, Arizona got started songwriting after struggling with reading and writing. His song, “Be Nice,” played more on the Black Eyed Peas hip-hop sensibilities and the record producers raved about his performance.
The final contestant to perform was 18-year-old Ray Goren of New York City. Although young, Ray is already a touring musician with lofty goals. Performing the original song, “Oh Lord,” the young man captured the producer’s attention with a surprise vocal chorus that fell into the song after his Eminem-esque rap.
In the first episode of Songland, three of the rising artists were chosen to continue on working with one of the three producers. However, on this episode, Josh, Adam and Charisma were chosen to continue on in the show, but will.i.am asked Ray if he could take him into the studio to produce his original song for the young artist’s own career.
After the coaching sessions, Josh, Adam and Charisma were given a second opportunity to perform their revised original songs.
Following their performances, will.i.am selected Adam’s “Be Nice” to be the next Black Eyed Peas single, but in a night full of fun twists, he also decided to take two other songs off of the album that was already recorded to add Josh’s “Boxes” and Charisma’s “Invincible.”
Perhaps the best part of Songland is that since the pressure to choose a winner is taken off of the writing and producing coaches, viewers get to see three incredible artists experiencing the unmitigated joy of loving their jobs.
Next week, country star and crossover artist Kelsea Ballerini appears as the celebrity judge.