photo: John Carucci/AP
On Tuesday night's "Voice" finale, Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin debuted her new single, "Tumbling Down," penned by Midas-touched hitmaker Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic) and his songwriting partner, Noel Zancanella. During the live "Voice" broadcast, Ryan made what seemed like a little dig against traditional "I Believe a Moment Like This is My Now"-type "American Idol" coronation songs, and backstage after the show with Noel, he was happy to elaborate on that comment.
"I hate those songs. Those songs suck!" Ryan blurted out. "'This is my moment! Now I'm here!' Who actually sits around listening to that stuff? I can't name one [song like that] that's actually connected. Like even with Kelly Clarkson, 'A Moment Like This' exploded, but the real hit was 'Miss Independent,' which was the actual first single. So our thought was, why don't we just skip steps A and B and go right to C, which is do a song that you actually connect to? What we were trying to do was give [the contestant] a better chance with the kind of song that we would, without question, pitch to an artist of the caliber of Rihanna or Kelly Clarkson — someone who's killer."
Ryan admitted that it was a "nightmare" trying to pen a song that would work for all three potential winners: Jamaican diva Tessanne, bookish singer-songwriter Will Champlin, or teen pop belter Jacquie Lee. "This is stupid of me, but I assumed going into this, 'Oh, they're going to know who's going to win. I know it's not rigged, but they're going to know.' But they had no idea! Every time we'd ask them, 'Can you give us a clue? What does the name rhyme with? Is it like, Schmessanne, or Gill Cramplin?'
"And they're like, 'No, honestly we don't know. All we can tell you is Tessanne has won almost every week on iTunes. Everyone knows that.' So we rolled the dice. We thought, 'We need to do a song that works for all three of them, but if Tessanne ends up winning because she's won so much, it has to connect with her.' And that's the first thing she said [when she heard it]: 'I connect with this song.'"
It seems that Tessanne shares Ryan's anti-coronation-song attitude. "Three days ago when we were doing the final vocal, she said, 'I just want to say thank you so much for not writing some trying-to-be-inspirational, standing-on-a-mountain song. I was so scared you were going to do an inspirational song and I was going to hate it,'" Ryan revealed. "But this is just a great song. It's about love and heartbreak and staying together through hard times. And she was like, 'I actually relate to it.' And hopefully America will, too."
As for the shelved versions that runner-up Jacquie and third-placer Will recorded, Ryan had glowing praise for Will's very different rendition. "Will's version of this — which I don't think, unfortunately, anyone's going to hear — blew us out of the water. He has a version of this that blew us away. Completely different mix. It's like a Kings of Leon version of the song, and I love it. All three of them killed it."
Tessanne's version of "Tumbling Down" is available on iTunes now; her post-"Voice" album is slated to come out March 25.
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