The Jonas Brothers have already had two smash hits from their reunion album, Happiness Begins, but that didn't stop Nick, Joe and Kevin from paying a visit to Songland on Tuesday night (June 18) in search of their next "Sucker" or "Cool." Luckily for them, they were in a comfortable spot in their return to prime time TV, because the co-producer/co-writer of those two hits (and the album's executive producer), OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, holds one of the permanent mentor seats on the NBC songwriter competition show.
"Lookin' for a big 'ol hit today," Nick said as the brothers took their seats on Tuesday night's (June 18) show. "I think the thing we're looking for most is something that hits us right between the eyes. That we know we can take around the world and play for our fans everywhere we go." With Tedder certain that the talent could serve up the right mix of pop/rock/R&B that has become the trio's signature, he and fellow producers Ester Dean and Shane McAnally let this week's contenders loose to do their best to impress the JoBros.
First up was the Los Angeles artist known as Able Heart, whose promising Olympic skateboarding dreams were derailed when he injured his back at 15, throwing him into a tailspin. "A well-written song can save somebody's life," he said of how songwriting helped his recovery. His offering was the love ballad "Greenlight," which he performed live for the first time ever. "You say I got the green light/ The things we do past midnight/ Just me and you don't need a light," he sang in his falsetto over a skittery beat.
"Eminem meets Travis Scott… it's like a rap-rock song with an alternative twist," Dean raved, with the whole panel impressed that Able wrote, produced and engineered the track. Nick had some ideas for how to tweak the vocal and add some deep bass to the chorus.
Pollock, Louisiana native Remmi, 30, grew up in the church sneaking bits of top 40 when she could. Her moving love song "Flickering," felt like it had the perfect sensitive JoBros vibe, with a bit of a country get-up to the beat. "That's a beautiful song, and the message certainly comes through," said Nick, immediately offering up his thoughts about adding some harmony to the chorus, with Tedder noting that the "I don't want to be alone tonight" refrain is something everyone can relate to.
With a panel that includes two newlyweds, Tedder suggested that the song about missing the one your love while you're out on the road certainly lands with his guys. Kevin instantly heard a way for Nick and Joe to harmonize, with Nick searching for the perfect big beat to spice it up. "I could hear the Jonas Brothers singing this song to all the girls… the girls don't care that you got a girlfriend," said Dean.
The third songwriter on deck was 18 year-old New Yorker Ori whose song, "No Pressure," may as well have been about presenting his tune to one of the biggest acts in the world, but which was, in reality, about taking it slow in a relationship and then having that person turn on you. "You've been giving me the wrong impression/ Say you're cool with where this thing is headin," he sang in a Bieber-ish whisper over a spare piano and rising beat.
Noting that they grew up in New Jersey and that the song reminded him a bit of Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi, Nick said there was definitely something to "lean into" there, though McAnally thought there was room to make the subject of the tune more likeable and less of a playboy. Of course, Tedder had a nice twist on the lyric and Nick threw in some Jay-Z-style rhythms and harder-hitting melodic line. "That's insane that they flipped the song like that," and elated Ori said after the masters had done their magic.
The final songwriter was Canton, Ohio's Rynn, who moved to L.A. a year after graduating from college to pursue her songwriting dreams. Her track, "Crowded Places," was about living so far away from the people she loves and wishing they were closer. "Streetlights flicker in the morning/ Checked the weather where you are it's storming/ Want to call but I know that you're already working," she sang in a whispery voice over a bubbling beat.
McAnally loved the hook, saying it gave him an image and made him miss someone, which is what songs are supposed to do. Dean quickly gave the chorus a polish, with Nick seeing it as a perfect ballad for the JoBros, hopping up to play his keyboard and work out how he and Joe could harmonize on the hook, leaving Rynn speechless.
They wanted Remmi to work on her "perfectly weird" song, as well as Able Heart and Rynn, though teenager Ori was sent packing with some warm words of encouragement from the siblings. Working with Dean, pink-haired Able Heart immediately tranformed his track into a group song, with a lower range for Kevin and a falsetto for Nick, while making room for Joe to vocally shine. "You gotta know where you belong, because you are incredible," she told the soft-spoken self-proclaimed ghost writer who she said should get his own shine.
McAnally wanted Rynn's song to figure out why she goes to crowded places. "For me the idea of going to crowded places because you just need to be surrounded by people is such an original idea," he said, playing around with the song's concept to make it fit the JoBros' more wordly story.
Meanwhile, Tedder told Remmi that her song needed sharper teeth to make it more Jonas Brothers-y. "One simple truth that people resonate with," is all it takes to make a great song, he told her, keying in on the line "I don't want to be alone tonight." Knowing how good McAnally is at zeroning on a lyric, Tedder flexed his muscle as a Jonas Brothers exec producer and told Remmi that he knows what kind of music they're looking for, changing up the title to "Do You Think of Me." He then added a choir and a "gospel-mixed-with-Kanye-beat" rhythm, as well as layers of stacked harmonies that blew the song up to Jonas proportions.
The three performed their transformed songs for the Brothers — with Rynn's shifted into a rich, yearning ballad about a globe-trotting lonelyheart and Able Heart's "Greenlight" reworked into a slinky, funky R&B jam that Nick said he would consider a instant, slam-dunk hit if he'd written it. Remmi never imagined her song would sound "this big," with "Do You Think of Me" now opening with a gospel choir before settling into a dark pop groove with a soul top note.
And then… it was decision time. "We feel that the song we want to share with the world, as a statement from us," said Nick, after praising all three and hinting that they might be called upon in the future to help out with some of the Brother's solo projects, "… is 'Greenlight.'" Dean gave Able Heart a huge hug and crying, he said, "it doesn't seem real for one and for two it's definitely been a crazy long road here."
Joe thanked Dean for "sprinkling her magic dust" on the song and bringing it to life and then the brothers went in the studio with Tedder and Jonased it to death. "Greenlight" is available now to stream on Spotify.