Macklemore ‘Songland’ Recap: Finding An Inspiring New Song

Kyle Montplaisir
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After a six week hiatus, new episodes of Songland are finally back! And this time around, four songwriters are competing to have their song recorded by hip-hop artist, Macklemore.

This episode should be a fun one! We’ve missed Songland the past month and a half. So let’s get right into it.

Before the show even started, the screen read, “This episode was filmed prior to the devastating events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio earlier this month. Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedies.” The reason why is because Chris Jobe, a songwriter featured on tonight’s episode, is from Dayton. Since this was filmed before the shootings there and he doesn’t mention them, the show felt the need to address it.

Iro (“Shadow” Original Performance)

Iro was the first artist up. He is a singer-songwriter originally from Israel who started his music career in Europe. Now, he lives in Brooklyn and sings on the streets and in subway stations! But he sees that as “the biggest stage in the world.” “Shadow” is a song about being trapped inside your fears. He talks about how the soundscape is perfect for Macklemore.

The song is meaningful and tender. The melody flows over the beat underneath. Ester and Ryan also suggest some lyrical changes and tempo variations. Macklemore thought it was “fire” with some of the edits they suggested. Iro is paired with Shane McAnally to focus on updating the lyrics.

Pop Culture (“City Kids” Original Performance)

Before Pop Culture took the stage, Macklemore and the producers look at the lyrics for the next song and…there weren’t any! This should be interesting. Pop Culture is a DJ duo from Kansas City. They primarily write and produce pop/EDM music. Matt and Callan met when they worked together and began sharing songs they were writing. Their song “City Kids” is meant to be an uplifting, feel-good anthem.

The mentors said they wanted to jump out of their chairs and dance hearing the track! Ryan Tedder says he doesn’t want the lyrics to be too “triumphant,” but suggests maybe making this a “slacker anthem.” Then, Ester Dean freestyles over the beat. I love it! This is just another reminder of why Songland is so amazing. Surprisingly though, Pop Culture was paired with Ryan Tedder.

Chris Jobe (“It Could’ve Been You” Original Performance)

Chris is a 25-year-old from Dayton. He is in the studio 80 hours a week and works odd jobs to make a living. His song “It Could’ve Been You” is a commentary on gun violence. He has lost loved ones to gun violence and wants to send a message to get people to start talking about the issue. Chris thinks Macklemore is the perfect artist to do that, because he loves inspiring change.

The lyrics were powerful and hard-hitting, addressing the issue of gun violence. The melody was nice along with the track underneath, but the bright, anthem-y chorus didn’t make it as weighty as it could’ve been. The producers say that Chris has to be careful with the lyrics. The production does not match up with the heavy subject matter. Because of all this, Chris did not get paired up with a mentor.

Casey Cook (“Judgments” Original Performance)

The last songwriter to perform for Macklemore is Casey Cook. Casey is a songwriter and caterer from North Kingstown, Rhode Island. She got her inspiration for “Judgments” on a date. When her date shared his story and struggles, she felt his pain. Casey thinks Macklemore can turn “Judgments” into a great, urban track.

Macklemore said he wants to strip away some of the production. He encourages Casey to sing over just a piano accompaniment and when she does, Shane loves the sound. It definitely has a lot of potential! The mentors also want to change the lyrics to make them more personal. Casey partnered with producer Ester Dean to work on her song.

Pop Culture (“Unforgettable” Produced by Ryan Tedder)

Ryan Tedder came into their session with a melody to put over Pop Culture’s beat. They said that “watching him work was cool” and he “speaks their language.” He’s literally bringing their music to life! Ryan said this song “sounds like a hit” and works with Pop Culture to develop “slacker anthem” lyrics.

For Pop Culture’s second performance, Ryan Tedder joins them to sing over the track! The new song has been titled “Unforgettable.” It was honestly hard for me to understand a lot of the lyrics, but the beat under it was still great. With Macklemore on the track, I could definitely see this being a hit for him.

Casey Cook (“Judgments” Produced by Ester Dean)

Ester and Casey start by talking to Macklemore, who wants to make it a hit record. He wants to strip down the production to make it more impactful. Ester wants to focus on the story in the lyrics, discussing how we all have imperfections but there should be no judgment because we’re all the same in that.

Casey comes in with the much more broken down, revised song. And the second it starts, I see the gospel choir. LET’S GO! Take us to church, Casey! She does just that. I love the song, but I don’t know that I see Macklemore singing it. I would rather hear Casey’s version.

Iro (“Shadow” Produced by Shane McAnally)

Shane tells Iro that he wants to pick up the beat to emphasize the Irish undertones. Iro wants to build it up even more and talks about adding bagpipes. What? Shane also reworked some of the lyrics in the chorus to make it more powerful and relatable.

Iro says that the addition of a violin has completely changed the song. It straight up sounds like an Irish anthem, which is a huge revamp from the original! I was about to start a jig listening along. “Shadow” isn’t my favorite song, but I can see how it would be a fun show piece and a lively single. The biggest question is if this is a sound Macklemore wants to take on! But Macklemore says he “wants to sing this song in front of 40,000 people” so I guess that answers that.

Macklemore Selects a Winning Single

When it came time to pick a winner, Macklemore had a hard decision to make. All of these songs were so different! In the end he went with…”Shadow” written by Iro and produced by Shane! A very deserving choice. You can listen to the track below.

But there was yet another twist! Macklemore asked Iro to be featured on the track. Plus, Macklemore flew Iro in from Brazil to perform the song at Lollapalooza last weekend! And as I’m writing this article, “Shadow” is already in the top 60 on the iTunes charts.

Tune in to Songland again next week when it returns with Old Dominion as the featured artist!

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