NBC’s new hit “American Song Contest,” returns for episode 2 on March 28. Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg host this reality series modelled on the Eurovision Song Contest. This round-robin tournament features representatives from each of the 50 states, five US territories and the District of Columbia to find the best original song in America.
Last week’s season premiere saw 11 artists competing for the votes of the viewers and the jury. Rhode Island’s Hueston won over the jury with “Held on Too Long”; that sent him straight through to the semi-finals. The other 10 singers will find out on Monday night which three of them received enough combined votes from viewers and jurists to join him there.
Singing for their places in the semi-final on week 2 are:
Almira Zaky (Virginia)
Broderick Jones (Kansas)
Chloe Fredericks (North Dakota)
Cruz Rock (U.S. Virgin Islands)
ENISA (New York)
Jonah Prill (Montana)
Jordan Smith (Kentucky)
King Kyote (Maine)
Macy Gray (Ohio)
Below, follow along with all the action in our live ‘American Song Contest’ episode 2 recap.
8:06 p.m. – Snoop and Kelly opened the show with a rundown of last week’s 11 performers before revealing how the jury ranked them. First place finisher Hueston was joined in the top four by AleXa (Oklahoma), Kelsey Lamb (Arkansas), and Christian Pagan (Puerto Rico). After America’s votes were factored in, all but Lamb were solidified as semifinalists, with Grammy winner Michael Bolton (Connecticut) taking the last spot. Lamb and the other six artists who sang on the premiere episode are out for now, but two could be brought back at the conclusion of this first round of performances.
8:09 p.m. – First up this week were Oregon duo courtship. with their song “Million Dollar Smoothies.” Clearly influenced by their touring experience with alt-rock bands like Weezer and Passion Pit, guitar player Eli and keyboardist Micah presented their feel-good tune against an animated neon backdrop, jumping around enthusiastically as an infectious “Na na na” hook flashed across viewers’ screens. Their nostalgia-infused hipster vibes and the rousing power of their indie pop bop could help them go far.
8:18 p.m. – Next came Tiktok star Jonah Prill from Montana. His country song “Fire It Up” is fun, flirty, and sure to appeal to lovers of the genre. Decked in full denim and a classic white cowboy hat, Prill gave this performance his all, drawing the crowd in with his wholesome brand of down-home energy. His passionate lyrics resonated even more strongly thanks to the set design, characterized by dark lighting and bursts of flames.
8:29 p.m. – Hailing from New York was ENISA, who set out to create a “concrete jungle on the stage” with her performance of “Green Light.” The electronic pop song, written from the perspective of a woman longing to take the next step with her partner, is typical of the genre in that it progressively builds up to a “can’t-help-but-dance” kind of chorus. A tracksuit-clad ENISA was backed up by dancers on a geometric jungle gym and capped off her performance with a visual tribute to the Empire State – a giant neon outline of the Statue of Liberty.
8:39 p.m. – The delegate from Nebraska was Jocelyn, who touted her professional relationship with Darius Rucker which began after a video of her busking on the streets of her home city went viral six years ago. After introducing herself as a rocker with powerful pipes, she diverted from that image by appearing on stage in a white suit with a matching guitar against a soothingly swirling blue graphic. Her “Never Alone” is sweet, keep-your-head-up type of ballad that perfectly reflects her idea of what it means to be “Nebraska nice.”
8:45 p.m. – Cruz Rock, who was born to Trinidadian and Puerto Rican parents, represents the U. S. Virgin Islands in this contest. His “Celebrando,” an upbeat party song with a mix of Spanish and English lyrics, is naturally and broadly appealing, and his stunningly colorful presentation sent a shock wave through the room. As the second representative of a territory rather than a state thus far, the vibrantly-dressed singer took care to stand out at every turn as he grooved around the stage, flanked by a full ensemble of lively female dancers.
8:57 p.m. – Nearly seven years after winning “The Voice,” Jordan Smith returns to NBC in the hopes of bringing home a victory to the state of Kentucky. His song, “Sparrow,” is a faith-inspired anthem with heartfelt lyrics that convey a message of hope for the downtrodden. During his performance, Smith consistently exhibited a clear sense of confidence that proved he is in it to win it once again.
9:09 p.m. – Chloe Fredericks of North Dakota introduced her song “Can’t Make You Love Me” as a blend of Upper Midwest and Native American cultures with a “direct, straight-forward rhythm” reminiscent of the pow wows she has participated in all her life. The cattle rancher delivered exactly what she sold as she ardently belted out the starkly simple, repeated lyrics “I can’t make you love me / Wouldn’t wanna make you anyway” while under a thick veil of bright red lights.
9:19 p.m. – Next up was Broderick Jones, representing Kansas with “Tell Me” (ft. Calio). After communicating his goal to give hope to small-time artists living in the middle of America, he performed his tenderly romantic number in front of a bright white crescent moon and behind a thin cloud of blue smoke. With a velvety smooth voice similar to that of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, and with lyrics driven by the powerfully simple line “Tell me that you love me,” Jones certainly has what it takes to win over young voters.
9:30 p.m. – “Over You” was the song from Virginia’s Almira Zaky, a first generation American from an Indonesian Muslim background. After praising her state’s diversity and its “amazing, loving people,” she promised a tune with a nostalgic R&B feel. Her sparse set design consisting only of movable black boxes as well as her culture-reflecting look allowed the audience to focus on her controlled delivery of the song (which is more lyrically complex than most of the others heard tonight).
9:42 p.m. – The penultimate song, “Get Out Alive,” was performed by Maine’s King Kyote. The bearded, long-haired surfing aficionado sang the praises of his state’s people, who he described as having “hard exteriors, but warm interiors.” He set the mood by painting images of “drinking whiskey under pine trees” and sitting around a campfire, and then sang his heart out about the pain brought on by love gone wrong.
9:54 p.m. – The night’s final performer was Grammy champ and multi-platinum recording artist Macy Gray, representing her home state of Ohio. Joined by rapper Maino and The California Jet Club, she sang “Every Night,” which ended up falling a bit flatter than one would expect. Even with her distinctly raspy voice and well-honed stage presence, it was not easy for Gray to stand out from such a distractingly large group of singers and dancers.
9:59 p.m. – After the performances, the jury members ranked the artists and chose a top song. The National Jury Selection pick was Kentucky’s Jordan Smith, who automatically joins Hueston in the semifinals.
SEE Everything to know about ‘American Song Contest’
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