Let’s be real: You might not be able to pinpoint the last time you heard a winner of The Voice on the radio. But NBC is hoping you'll be hearing the winners of its newest musical reality competition, Songland, for a long time to come. It won't be their voices you'll hear, though, because this is a songwriting competition, not a singing competition. Instead, the songs will be performed by some of the biggest names in music today.
That's not an empty promise: the premiere episode saw the newest Voice coach (and latest Voice winner) John Legend choose a new song to record, which was then released the day of the series premiere (let's hope everyone watching can keep from Googling the song long enough to avoid spoiling the episode!).
Here's how Songland aims to give singers a brand new hit single: Rather than focusing on up and coming performers, four undiscovered songwriters present the tracks they've written for a panel of Grammy-nominated or Grammy-winning songwriting pros — OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Pitch Perfect's Ester Dean, and country singer Shane McAnally — and the week's guest artist, who will eventually record and release the winning tune. The first round of the competition sees each of the four contestants meet with the panel and the guest artist, where the pros offer suggestions and tweaks for the writers to make. In the second round, Tedder, Dean, and McAnally each pick one person to work with as they tweak each song into a customized track for the guest artist.
At the end, they perform the finished tracks for the guest artist, who chooses one winner. By episode's end, each single will be available to purchase, add to playlists, and watch in music video whenever you please. Which brings us to Mr. Legend.
In his case, while one of the songwriters seemed to have a song with the perfect throwback vibe for the EGOT winner, he actually ended up picking the track that he said had “made the biggest journey from where it was to where it is now.” Instead he chose “We Need Love” by a Miami marketing executive named Tebi Burrows, which was shepherded by McAnally.
The new John Legend song is literally already online on Amazon and iTunes (spoilers!) and Spotify (go ahead, put it on a playlist):
Originally, the tune was a bit more upbeat, but Tedder in particular urged her to make the lyrics and melody contrast a bit more. Legend suggested she strip down the production to just a guitar — which ultimately proved to be the right choice, because he chose Burrows’ song.
Others stars who will appear in the 11-episode series include the Jonas Brothers, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, will.i.am, OneRepublic, Kelsea Ballerini, Macklemore, Aloe Blacc, Old Dominion, and Leona Lewis. And yes, their songs will up and ready to be listened to, playlisted, and poured over from all the usual spots as soon as the credits roll.