The Songland premiere came onto NBC on Tuesday night, and we gotta say that musically, this may be one of the most surprising shows in this genre for some time.
Do we think that it’s going to have a whole lot of mainstream appeal? There’s an argument that it may not, given that this is a show really about the nuts and bolts of creating the right song for the right artist. It’s less about how good your voice is and more about whether or not you’re a good collaborator and can figure out how to write meaningful lyrics that appeal to the artist in the room. It was a slow burn, but it actually was a satisfying one through one episode as the four songwriters entered the room for a chance to cut a track for John Legend. One by one, we’re going to break some of the songs down below.
Max Embers, “Back Home” – We love the idea of German singer-songwriter Max, who apparently does karaoke to “All of Me” rather frequently, getting a chance to write something for John. His song had a certain sentimental feel to it, but after working with Ryan Tedder, he changed the title of “Lookin’ Up” and really worked to make something uptempo and a little bit different. John doesn’t just cut slow ballads, so it was a brave choice … but not one that paved out.
Tebby Burrows, “We Need Love” – This is your winning track of the episode, and we understood why. Tebby entered Songland with a tune that was probably too aggressive in its messaging, but what she was able to do with Shane McAnally was fantastic. This song went from something that was uptempo and ill-fitting for its lyrical content to a more melancholy piece about longing and recognizing the faults in the world. It was also something that John could be malleable on as an artist.
Sam James, “Shinedown” – Sam’s song, unfortunately, was cut before even getting some face-time with the producers. We do understand his thinking that he was more than just a country-pop writer and thought there was some crossover with him and John, but clearly, there wasn’t enough.
Ollie Gabriel, “Something New” – Ollie’s vocals were outstanding — we know that this is a singing competition, but dang. We don’t actually think that his song needed too many changes after the initial run in front of John, but there were some personal tweaks with Ester Dean made to try and perfect it rhythmically for John. We thought at first that this was going to be the one that he picked!
Format-wise, we love a lot of stuff about Songland, whether it be the constructive nature or the show or its bare-bones approach to showing you how songs are really made. There’s no beating around the bush or trying to make anything long different from what it is — everything just feels real, organic, and honest. There’s something so refreshing about that. Also, all of the music is legitimately good and we’re going to have some stuck in our head for some time moving forward.
What did you think about the Songland premiere on NBC? Be sure to share in the comments! (Photo: NBC.)