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Spoilers ahead for the Season 2 finale of Songland on NBC.
The second season of Songland has come to an end on NBC with none other than Grammy-winner and former The Voice coach Usher looking for his next big hit. Usher had worked with Songland's Esther Dean (also known for Pitch Perfect) before when she wrote a song for him, and he was one of the biggest names to ever appear on the show. He was a fitting star for the finale, but I feel that he also made for the best and the worst episode of Songland Season 2. Here's why.
The Best Of Season 2
Professionally speaking, Usher was the ideal musical celebrity to take Songland into hiatus. He has won eight Grammys over the years of his career, as well as 18 Billboard Music Awards, eight American Music Awards, and more. He has an incredible vocal range, and has proved that he can handle pretty much any genre he tries. Songland's songwriters had an incredibly talent and versatile star to write for. It was easy to believe the writers when they gushed about their excitement at the prospect of writing for Usher.
Usher's undeniable talents aren't the only reasons why he made the Season 2 finale of Songland so fantastic. He was all smiles from the very beginning, and he was overflowing with praise for the opportunities that Songland provides for writers. Usher referred to Songland as "a necessity" and shared that he loves "that it teaches people that there's a process" in what they go through in creating a song.
Throw in Usher's connection with Esther Dean and his clear genuine appreciation for the other producers and the writers, and watching Usher throughout the process was just a joy. Songland already became my favorite competition show with Ben Platt's episode the previous week; Usher's episode just reminded me that Songland's format is able to showcase various stars at their best.
The Worst Of Season 2
Unfortunately, Usher's incredible talent and versatility that made him such a big star to close out Songland Season 2 also made him a very challenging artist for the songwriters. Part of what I've always felt has kept Songland from being as popular as shows like The Voice and American Idol is that the talent showcased each episode isn't really performative. Yes, the songwriters are singing, but to showcase their songs rather than their voices.
That's one thing when it comes to a Broadway voice like Ben Platt and a pop/country singer like Bebe Rexha, but Usher has such a range and dabbles in so many genres that the writers simply didn't have the vocals to really show off what their songs could sound like with his voice. The songwriters who pitched their songs at Usher were all talented, as Usher as well as the producers responded well to their songs. Watching them attempt to hit Usher notes just wasn't the most fun to me as a viewer.
Songland is a TV show, after all, and the performers of the episodes are the writers rather than the stars. I wouldn't trade Usher for any other star, but I do wish the writers were stronger in their performances.
I'm not sure if this is 100% because Usher's versatility and star power guarantees any singers trying to imitate him will pale in comparison or Songland's crop of writers this week just wasn't as strong vocally, but the writers didn't really dazzle in their performances in the Season 2 finale.
All of this said, I've enjoyed Songland Season 2, and I'm hoping that NBC renews the show for Season 3 sooner rather than later, even if Season 3 can't necessarily go into production any time too soon. If you want to relive earlier episodes of Songland, the second season is available streaming on Hulu now. For some new viewing options now that Songland has come to an end in 2020, be sure to check out our 2020 summer premiere schedule!