by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff
Ever since the year 2002, when American Idol began on Fox, America has been in love with singing competition shows. These shows seek to discover the best vocal singers in the country through a series of nationwide auditions. The power is put into the hands of the public during the later stages through phone voting. Although shows like American Idol and The Voice have grown to be family favorites for years, Dave Stewart had a unique take on the traditional singing competition.
What if I told you that you would not be driving down the highway with your best friends, belting out “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, if it was not for Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson? Who in the world are those people you may be asking? Well, those backstage assets are the songwriters.
In 2019, NBC aired a brand-new competition series called Songland. Songwriters have the power to shape the anthems and tell the stories of each generation, and this show has brought talented lyricists into the spotlight.
Songland is pulling back the curtain on the collaborative songwriting process. The show provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for talented up-and-coming songwriters to get a foot in the music industry.
Each episode consists of songwriters pitching their original songs to a panel consisting of three of the most well-respected music producers in the world: Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally. Tedder, who is known for writing iconic songs for artists such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Adele, is the lead vocalist of One Republic. Dean has written and produced songs for Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Usher, while McAnally has had a legendary career in country songwriting, with his best hits including “Take Your Time” by Sam Hunt and “T-Shirt” by Thomas Rhett.
Each week, one guest recording artist comes to Songland to hear unknown songwriters pitch their original songs. Four songwriters perform in front of the guest artist and the producers discuss ways to creatively adapt the song for the guest artist. Three of the songwriters are chosen to move on to the production stage, which consists of working daily with either Dean, McAnally, or Tedder to ultimately win the artist over with their song.
Once a winner is picked, the artist will record that song and it is released on all streaming platforms the minute the show comes off air. Winning songs have topped the iTunes and Billboard charts overnight, giving these unknown songwriters their first big break.
Season one featured artists including the Jonas Brothers, John Legend, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, will.i.am, OneRepublic, Kelsea Ballerini, Macklemore, Aloe Blacc, Old Dominion, and Leona Lewis. The artists share their knowledge of the music industry with the songwriters in their own unique ways and give out once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
During Macklemore’s episode, a songwriter named Iro presented his song “Shadow” to the panel. It immediately blew them away and that 90 second pitch completely changed Iro’s life. In response to his performance, Macklemore said, “I just want to perform this song in front of 40,000 people in Ireland. I have a vision. I see it. Songwriting is about human experience. We’re sharing this space together, we’re creating. We’re capturing the essence of humanity in audio form and that’s what it’s about. We’re trying to go give that to the world and you have that ability. You captured that in this song!”
Twelve days after filming the episode, Macklemore flew Iro out to São Paulo, Brazil to perform the song live for the first time at Lollapalooza. This unique show inspires creativity in its viewers and shows the world how your favorite song gets from song journals to your headphones.
Songland has already provided a platform for so many songwriters to jump-start their careers and has inspired creativity in millions of viewers. After a wildly successful season for both the televised broadcast and the songs, NBC has confirmed that Songland will be renewed for a second season.