For these unfamiliar with the worldwide sensation that’s Eurovision, Clarkson defined: “It’s the biggest and longest-running music competition in the world, and has launched huge stars like ABBA, Celine Dion and Måneskin,” she stated. “And now it’s our turn, y’all.”
“American Song Contest” will have 56 performers total, with one artist from each state, as well as five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Eleven of them performed Monday — here’s what to know from the mildly chaotic two-hour premiere:
Audiences and a professional ‘jury’ will vote for the winners
Not like different American singing competitions, this isn’t just audience participation. For the first five weeks, around 11 acts will perform each episode — and at the end of the night, a jury (made up of 56 “titans of the music world,” Clarkson said, representing each state and territory) chooses their favorite act to go to the next round. Viewers can then spend the next few days voting via the NBC website or app or TikTok, and the top three vote-getters will move forward as well. (According to Variety, jury rankings will also contribute to those three choices.) Eventually, after a semi-final round, 10 acts will compete in the finale on May 9.
During the premiere, the first act sent to the semi-finals by the jury was Hueston, an indie-alternative singer from Rhode Island who described himself as a mix of Chris Stapleton and Adele and “Sons of Anarchy” (“but in a good way”) and delivered a very emotional backstory about growing up in poverty before offering up a ballad called “Held on Too Long.”
There’s a mixture of very well-known and non-famous names
Like Eurovision, the rivals vary from stars with inescapable hits (Jewel, Sisqo, Macy Grey) to names you’ll solely acknowledge if you happen to watched “The Voice” (Jordan Smith) to lesser-known native acts.
The biggest star power on Monday came courtesy of Connecticut’s Michael Bolton, who grew up in New Haven and raised his kids in Westport. (“He’s the heart of the entire state,” one local venue owner explained.) Bolton, who boasted quite a bit about the state’s pizza, went with a classic Bolton ballad called “Beautiful World,” which he said was about kindness: “Something the world really needs,” he added before belting out the song, accompanied by a gospel choir.
Breakout K-pop singer AleXa also captivated the audience with an elaborate set covered in ribbons for “Wonderland.” She acknowledged that coming from Oklahoma (her mother is from South Korea and her father is from New York, and they met in Tulsa) people probably expected her to break out a guitar and sing a country ballad. While she does enjoy country music, she said, she discovered K-pop in high school and started releasing music several years ago –— she now performs to big crowds in South Korea.
“K pop is my guilty pleasure!” Snoop Dogg exclaimed after AleXa’s performance. “That was amazing.”
The present desires to function each musical style
Minnesota’s Yam Haus was a pop boy-band; Mississippi’s Keyone Starr mixed blues and rock; Arkansas’s Kelsey Lamb was country; Indiana’s UG Skywalkin was a rapper; Wisconsin’s Jake’O went “Nuvo-Retro”; Iowa’s Alisabeth Von Presley described herself as what would happen if Lady Gaga and Pat Benatar collided and then exploded into glitter.
However, unlike most reality singing shows where splashy ballads impress viewers, singers who have the most upbeat tracks may steal the spotlight here thanks to many enthusiastic backup dancers and wild set pieces: One prime example was Puerto Rico’s Christian Pagán, whose extremely catchy jam “Loko” was filled with neon screens and smoke machines and fireworks. (Though Starr did slightly upstage this during “Fire,” when her band member’s guitar literally shot fire.)
At least one artist will be primed to go viral every week
So, back to “New Boot Goofin’,” a country-rap situation courtesy of Wyoming’s Ryan Charles. Though that phrase may sound familiar thanks to “Reno 911!,” Charles explained that the song is based on “the confidence you have getting a new pair of boots” — because in Wyoming, boots bring your whole outfit together. The track sounded ready made for TikTok, judging by the reaction from viewers on social media who had no idea what to make of the neon spectacle.
Get able to study some state enjoyable information
“American Song Contest” producers have been very excited to coach individuals between performances, through the contestant intro movies: Do you know Wisconsin loves cheese or that folks in Minnesota are identified for being over-the-top good?? Some have been much less apparent, however largely this was a present that reveled in geographic cliches.