Why I LoveLoveLove Songland

Sunday, July 28, 2019
It's not a TV show that I watch every week. I don't always remember what night and what time it's on. I didn't know what channel it's on until I worked on getting a link to an episode. What I do know is why I love the show Songland.

I love it because it's writers collaborating with other writers. They're revising and editing, deconstructing and constructing. All in 43 minutes. (Okay, the viewers only see 43 of the minutes the writers work together. Lots more happens in the music sessions--but for time's sake, they're condensed.)

The episode I watched most recently was a repeat, I guess. It featured the Jonas Brothers as the starring singers.

You've never seen it? Here's the lowdown: Four songwriters present their song to a panel of three music producers and the featured singing star(s). The group chooses three songs to work on (each producer works with one writer). Each song is revised and presented a second time, and the singer(s) choose the one song they're going to record. On a record. For real.

I adore the show because it's a great example, week after week, of true collaboration.
  • When the songwriter initially performs their song, the producers and the highlighted singer are listening, but their mind is already focused on how they can improve the musical piece. One might pick up a guitar and add something. Another one might shift around so they can tap something out on a keyboard. The others are taking notes, or singing harmony... and this happens while they're hearing the song for the first time. (They do have a hard copy of the song to refer to.)
If you belong to a writing critique group, aren't there times when someone jumps right in with a comment or a suggestion... while you're still reading it aloud? As the piece unfolds more, there will be other praise, critique and advice. But when you're collaborating, sometimes you have to share your idea right away, or it'll get forgotten.
  • After the song is first performed, right way the producers and the featured singer discuss what works for them and what doesn't. Each professional singer is different (John Legend is different from the Jonas Brothers), so their needs are different, too.
As a writer, you have to keep your audience in mind.  For example, a story for Chicken Soup will be quite different than a story for Highlights magazine. 
  • As each songwriter-producer team is working on their song, lyrics are added and deleted, the melody might change, and the style. What started as a pop number might morph into a ballad. I've seen these songs take a complete left turn as they head off into a different direction, and the songwriters embrace the changes. 
As a writer, you have to embrace critique. Suggestions and ideas that result in the story/essay becoming a stronger, richer piece--that help needs to be accepted with an open mind and an open heart. The aspiring songwriters on Songland don't say, "That's not how I envisioned this song." They are thrilled with the revision process, and are passionate about their craft.

Here is a link  to all the episodes if you'd like to check out Songland. And now, I'm heading off to rewatch the Jonas Brothers' episode. (I fell asleep, drooling on the couch, before it got to the end. I didn't get to see which songwriter is going to get their 15 minutes of fame... along with a jump start to their career.)

Sioux is a middle school history teacher,  a teacher-consultant for the Gateway Writing Project, a dog rescuer, a freelance writer, a novelist-wannabe and a traveler. (She just got back from Iceland. Ice, ice baby!) Sioux has just launched a website so check it out (and be gentle in your thoughts... she's still working on it).


Renee Roberson said...


That sounds like such a cool show. I'll have to check it out, as you know how much I love music! Collaboration is something I need to do more of in my writing. I don't belong to a critique group, and I bounce around so much on different projects I know it would be helpful. The few times I've worked with other writers to improve a piece have been game changers.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--And for the other members in the group... Your participation in a group would be a game-changer for them.

Linda O'Connell said...

You don't think about the collaboration of other artists. This show sounds interesting. Other's ideas are often helpful and at least give you something to consider.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--I agree. We think of collaboration when it comes to writing, but painting? Sculpting? Not usually.

There have been famous musical collaborations (one writing the lyrics and one writing the melody) but this set-up ("auditioning" songs, and then workshopping them) is unique.

And who are you kidding? You don't have time to watch a new TV show. You're too busy writing and submitting. ;)

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