SONGLAND Boss on Usher's 'Incredible' Season Finale Episode and a Potential COVID-Impacted Season 3 - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

SONGLAND Boss on Usher’s ‘Incredible’ Season Finale Episode and a Potential COVID-Impacted Season 3

June 12, 2020 by  

Songland season 2 finale

SONGLAND — “Usher” Episode 210 — Pictured: (l-r) Usher, Shane McAnally, Ester Dean, Ryan Tedder — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

As SONGLAND wraps up its sophomore season on Monday, June 15, a familiar face to the NBC music world is dropping in to potentially find the next great hit: Usher!

SONGLAND boss Audrey Morrissey, who also runs THE VOICE, was delighted to reunite with the former VOICE coach in a different way. “It was so exciting to have Usher on the show,” she says. “We’re obviously super close and love him; he’s such a world-class singer. It was sort of like ‘old home week,’ because a lot of people that work on SONGLAND also work on THE VOICE.”

“It was just exciting: What would happen? How would he take to it? He’s such a great collaborator and he’s such a master artist,” she continues. “The thing about Usher is he doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. So, I knew that if he was going to do this, he would really dive in. And he did. He was just his amazing, classy, masterful self.”

Usher’s past experience on THE VOICE—and his past guidance of other artists—proved to be extra helpful when it came to working on SONGLAND. “Usher is such a natural mentor,” Morrissey notes. “He just deeply cares about helping people. So it was a really natural role for him to play, and to see him in this light, with [the aspiring song]writers. He is a great writer himself.”

When it came to the winning song, what “he ended up choosing and where he’s taken it has been incredible,” she previews. “Like, I think it like surprised everybody. He almost semi-schooled the panel there on what you can do with a song and where he can take it. We’re all very, very excited for this episode.”

And the producers aren’t alone. With more than two decades of success under his belt, an artist like Usher (or Boyz II Men and Martina McBride, both of whom appeared earlier in the season), adds an extra layer of pressure—and stakes—for the budding songwriters who are hoping to catch a big break.

“They’re living legends,” Morrissey points out. “So the fact that a young songwriter could get their song in the hands of someone like that is incredible. It’s incredible to get their song in the hands of anybody, but [it’s different]…I distinctly remember that being the case on the Boyz II Men episode, too. People were just in awe.”

“When you have an artist that joins the show, and [the panel of songwriters/producers/mentors] Ryan [Tedder], Ester [Dean], and Shane [McAnally] are acting silly, schoolgirl giggling and freaking out as much as the [aspiring] songwriters, you know you’re dealing with really heavyweights,” she continues. “That was the case with Usher.”

But with the library of past music behind an artist like Usher, that also makes a moment like this a potential turning point. “For a lot of [artists who have been performing a while], it’s a really thoughtful, heady moment to really consider what they should sound like now,” Morrissey says. “They already have a legacy, they already have a sound that got them famous. And oftentimes, that might not be the mode of the day in terms of what’s popular now. For many of these heavyweight artists, navigating the waters, and creatively figuring out what you should sound like now is a big deal.”

“Not only is it sound, but [often] they’ve grown up, they’re in a different place in their lives,” she continues. “What do they want to be singing about? I know that happens to a lot of female artists: They’re [positioned as] super sexy and young and single. And then they’re moms with four kids and they’re just in a different place. But the same is true for male artists. It was really interesting to watch that unfold with Boyz II Men and that was definitely another part of the discussion with Usher.”

Songland season 2 song selection

SONGLAND — Screening — Pictured: (l-r) Dave Stewart, Executive Producer; Audrey Morrissey, Executive Producer at The Sunset Tower Hotel, Hollywood, Calif. on May 16, 2019 — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

With the season winding to a close, Morrissey is still waiting to hear from NBC about whether the show will return for a third season—and what that might look like as production worldwide has been grappling with COVID-related restrictions.

Though SONGLAND had to adjust during the season—with the artists performing their final song at home versus at a concert or a proper music video—”I think you need [everyone to be together] in person,” Morrissey says of a potential new season. “It’s funny I just finished doing THE VOICE live shows remotely, and we did coaching remotely, so I guess I’m being a little bit of a hypocrite; I’ve just done remote coaching and it was super effective. But I do think that was almost like two-way coaching [between the coaches and their artists]. To really get the get the collaboration [between the artist, the songwriter, and the mentors on SONGLAND] with a round table…I guess, if forced, honestly, we probably could do it that way.”

But the nature of SONGLAND’s production could end up making it an easier show to try to start up with distancing restrictions in place.

“What I’m hoping is that shooting SONGLAND is actually inherently COVID-friendly,” Morrissey says. “We have no audience, it’s a rather small crew. We can space the writers, guest artists, and producers out in their chairs more. And we could have the songwriter stay a safe distance away. I actually think it’s one of the more inherent COVID-friendly shows to produce.”

SONGLAND, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC


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