Have you ever wondered how a No. 1 hit gets made? Songland is pulling back the curtain on the process of how a song gets taken from a rough idea to the top of the charts, perfect pitch not required!
The NBC competition series, which debuted earlier this summer, is pairing up undiscovered songwriters with superstar recording artists and music producers to not only get their ideas heard but also to find the next big hit song.
So far, artists like the Jonas Brothers, John Legend, will.i.am, and Kelsea Ballerini have all chosen winning songs to be their next single. Others like Macklemore, Aloe Blacc, OneRepublic, and Charlie Puth are waiting in the wings.
But what makes a song a winner? Listen to all the Songland winning songs so far to hear what the artists are looking for. Who knows, one of these winning tunes could turn out to be the song of the summer (our money’s on the new Jonas Brothers track).
John Legend — Tebby Burrows, “We Need Love”
What started out as an island-inspired anthem from songwriter Tebby Burrows turned into a more John Legend-friendly ballad with the help of Grammy-winning music producer Shane McAnally.
OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder immediately loved the “best part” of the song: “the chorus melody.” And after they toned down the “preachiness” of the message and made it more “mournful, like you’re crying for the world,” the song was ready for Legend to record.
Will.i.am — Adam Friedman, “Be Nice”
Technically, Adam Friedman won will.i.am’s episode. But in the end, the Black Eye Peas star chose all three songs featured on the episode to be on his next album, including Josh Logan’s “Boxes” and Charisma’s “Invincible.” However, Friedman’s “Be Nice” was declared the official winner.
“That’s a bumper sticker. That’s a t-shirt,” will.i.am said after Friedman first played his song. “You know what I would do though? I would just keep it all about the bass.” And with that one idea, the audition turned into a jam sesh and ultimately led to Friedman’s win, with the help of Ester Dean.
Kelsea Ballerini — Darius Coleman, “Better Luck Next Time”
Turns out heartbreak really can be good for the soul. Darius Coleman’s “Better Luck Next Time,” written about a girl he knows was cheated on, ended up catching country superstar Kelsea Ballerini’s ears (and heart), taking home the top prize.
“I want you to keep going. I don’t want it to end,” Ballerini said. “That’s a country hook, whether you meant it that way or not. That is something that would fit on country radio right now.” After a few nips and tucks with Tedder, including lifting the chorus up to fit Ballerini’s range, Coleman’s soulful song was ready for her to record and release.
Jonas Brothers — Able Heart, “Greenlight”
After “Sucker” and “Cool” catapulted the Jonas Brothers back to the top of the charts, Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas turned to Songland to help them cement their comeback with a third hit. That’s where Los Angeles artist Able Heart, a ghostwriter for other musicians, came in with “Greenlight.”
The sensual, alternative ballad had the Jonas Brothers and panel of producers raving. “What’s crazy is I see the video already,” Kevin said. “It’s such a visual representation.” Nick’s idea to add in a “mean bass note” in the background completely transformed the song and after a quick jam sesh right then and there, boom: it instantly turned into the next JoBros hit.
Meghan Trainor — Kole, “Hurt Me”
The first words out of Meghan Trainor‘s mouth after Kole finished performing her song, “Hurt Me,” were, “This should be your first single, I’ll take it!” So the fact that Kole ended up winning the night hardly came as a surprise. She couldn’t stop gushing about the song. “I love everything,” Trainor said. “It’s just ear candy that I want to sing forever.” Eventually, Kole beat out Brandin Jay’s “No Money Alright” and Josh Wood’s “Alone” to take the top prize. With a little help from Tedder punching up the production and tightening the whole package, Trainor’s next single was born. Check out the final version below:
Aloe Blacc — Kyle Williams, “Getting Started”
To find the perfect track for Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, the movie’s director David Leitch recruited singer Aloe Blacc. But it was songwriter Kyle Williams that impressed with motivational song “Getting Started,” and with Ryan’s producer help, he edged out TVTE’s “Call For a Hero” and Steve Fee’s “Same Blood” as winner, as well as eliminated Afika’s “Chosen.”
Macklemore — IRO, “Shadow”
Hailing from Tel Aviv, IRO started as a busker and climbed up all the way to Songland to perform his song, “Shadow.” Macklemore immediately felt connected to the vibe of the song, but revealed that he writes all the verses to his songs and IRO’s lyrics would need to go. He ended up winning, beating out duo Pop Culture’s “City Kids” and Casey Cook’s “Judgments,” as well as eliminated Chris Jobe’s “It Could Have Been You,” which Macklemore cut due to its theme of gun violence.
Old Dominion — Katelyn Tarver, “Young”
Country group Old Dominion and Jeep are partnering for the next commercial jingle, and Songland is here to help find the perfect song. Former actor Katelyn Tarver (Big Time Rush, Secret Life of the American Teenager) ends up winning with “Young” after McAnally helps work on making her “feminine” lyrics more masculine for the all guy group, beating Jacobi.e’s “Westside” and Jake Scott’s “Is This Love?” and eliminated MACI’s “Take a Ride.”
Leona Lewis — Rozee, “Fighting For Us”
This week’s Songland reunites Leona Lewis with Tedder after their hit “Bleeding Love” topped the charts in 2008. They’re hoping that winner Rozee’s “Fighting For Us” has the same result, with Tedder adding a Spanish rap to the song and renaming it: “Solo Quiero/All I Want.” That’s too bad for the other contestants, Olivia Lane’s “Perfect Skin,” Rafferty’s “A Heart Full of Love,” and eliminated Annabel Lee’s “Ugliest Love.”
Charlie Puth — Zach Sorgen, “Bad Habit”
Charlie Puth threw caution to the wind and broke the No. 1 rule of Songland. No, literally, he didn’t end up doing what the show is meant for, and didn’t record his own version of the winning song. Despite Zach Sorgen winning with “Bad Habit” over Sam Derosa’s “Pill for This,” Joel Adams’ “Hate Love,” and eliminated Parisalexa’s “Pity Party,” Puth decided that Sorgen should be the one to record and release it. So there is no final version of “Bad Habit.” That’s definitely different for a show meant to connect well-established artists with fledgling songwriters!
OneRepublic — JT Roach, “Somebody to Love”
In the season 1 finale, Songland judge Tedder takes on a new role as the artist looking for his next hit with OneRepublic bandmate Zach Filkins. This is actually the first time that OneRepublic will record a song not written by the band, so it’s a pretty big deal! In the end, JT Roach’s “Somebody to Love” captured Tedder’s heart, beating out MADI’s “Darkest Days,” Brigetta’s “Be Somebody,” and eliminated Tyler James Bellinger’s “Giving You Up.”
Songland will return for season 2 on NBC.