‘American Song Contest’ premiere recap [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

American Song Contest” is a new NBC reality series modelled on the Eurovision Song Contest, which began modestly in 1956 with seven countries and now boasts a roster of forty-four countries and a worldwide audience of 200 million viewers.

Representatives of each of the 50 states, five US territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia will take part in this round-robin tournament to find the best original song in America.

Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg are the hosts and executive producers of “American Song Contest,” which kicks off on March 21. There will be three rounds: the first five weeks will be qualifiers followed by two semi-finals and the final. Voting will be by both fans and a jury of music industry professionals.

Each locale will be showcased with an original song that will be performed by a home-grown talent, be it a solo singer, duet or band. Some of the participants are already well-known including Jewel (Alaska), Michael Bolton (Connecticut), Jordan Smith (Kentucky), Sisqo (Maryland), The Crystal Method (Nevada) and Macy Gray (Ohio).

Below, follow along with all the action in our live ‘American Song Contest’ premiere recap.

8:03 p.m. – After an intro from Snoop and Kelly, the live premiere kicked off with the representative from Minnesota, Yam Haus, with their song “Ready to Go.” The four members of the band connected in college and have an objective to teach people to treat others like they want to be treated — that’s why their band name is an acronym for “you are me.” True to its anthemic form, the song is a fun, uptempo track with “get the party started vibes.” The band performed it on a neon stage with a guitar solo and a crew of dancers incorporated into the set to emphasize the hype aspect of the song.

8:15 p.m. – Next up was the unexpected selection from Oklahoma, the K-pop artist AleXa with her song “Wonderland.” Despite not being a country artist, AleXa described being inspired by it and finding music through her love of Carrie Underwood. The song’s lyrics are full of “Alice in Wonderland” allusions and the stage performance matched with a checkered floor and trippy imagery and choreography. K-pop fans will be drawn into the song easily because of its high energy and elevated pop aesthetic, but it could alienate audiences not used to such an imaginative performance style.

8:26 p.m. – Hailing from Arkansas was Kelsey Lamb, a country music artist who describes her sound as a mixture of Blake Shelton and Avril Lavigne. Her song “Never Like This” was inspired by her recent marriage with a message of hope that “everyone finds their someone.” Both the lyrics and the performance, set in a circular stage surrounded by golden flowers, were traditional, evoking the saccharine flavor we’re all used to in hit country love songs.

8:38 p.m. – In the hopes of putting the Indiana hip hop scene on the map, UG Skywalkin arrived with his song “Love in the City.” The UG in his name represents his home country of Uganda while the song is an homage to his new home in the state he loves. The song is built off of the African guitar and has a nice groove to it that is meant to bring friends together in a party atmosphere.

8:48 p.m. – The delegate from Puerto Rico was Christian Pagán with his song “Loko.” He is already well known on the island and has performed on big stages before, but his goal for this opportunity to was make it the performance of his life. As the title suggests, the song is a plead to make someone fall in love with you and drive them “crazy” and is performed as a mixed language track with English verses and chorus and then a Spanish bridge. He began the performance from among the crowd and then made his way to the stage, giving it an air of confidence that we’d expect from a seasoned performer at an awards show.

9:00 p.m. – The first already-famous singer to be seen in the Contest was Michael Bolton, representing Connecticut with his new song “Beautiful World.” He said the song is about kindness, something “the world really needs.” He kept the staging simple with a black and white projection of images behind him while he belted the uplifting and inspirational lyrics about changing the world in positive ways. Despite a shaky first verse, his voice soared in the chorus and a triumphant bridge that culminated with a choir joining in with him on stage at the end.

9:10 p.m.Alisabeth Von Presley said she embodies both Lady Gaga and Pat Benatar, a figure of liberty that is also referenced in the motto of her state Iowa. With four albums of her own already out and a resume of national tours under her belt, she was well prepared to debut her song “Wonder” on the show and delivered on the expectation of being a strong stage performer. Clad all in pink, which seems to be her thing, Alisabeth’s song was about female empowerment in the tried and true anthemic style.

9:20 p.m. – “Feel Your Love” was the song from Wisconsin’s Jake’O, a fourth generation member of his family born in the state. He describes his sound as “nuvo retro” in that its “vintage, but also futuristic.” The performance was styled in that exact way, evoking Elvis vibes in a contemporary and sexy way with a quirky edge to it. As he promised in the package, his song began fairly chill and then escalated into a bouncier track that would certainly get audiences on their feet to groove along.

9:32 p.m. – The second to last performance came from the Mississippi singer Keyone Starr with her song “Fire.” She describes her style as a mixture between Aretha Franklin and Lenny Kravitz, and is proud to be in the Mississippi tradition of being music innovators. Bringing together church and soul tradition with the heat that the title suggests, her song is a big vocal production delivered in the classic rock way. She owned the stage from beginning to end, showing off immense confidence and charisma as a performer.

9:42 p.m. – Introduced as a “little hip hop and a little country,” Ryan Charles came from Wyoming with his song “New Boot Goofin’.” He says his music is about describing Wyoming culture while still encouraging a good time from his audience. The song was inspired by the importance that people from his state put on boots in their outfit, keeping pace with the way that hip hop music and fashion are closely related but adding this aspect that is true to country life. The stage was set like a neon western bar, adding to the personality of the song and underscoring the party atmosphere it’s mean to evoke.

9:52 p.m. – The final performance of the night came from the Rhode Island delegate Hueston. He explained that he comes from a rough past in a part of the state that some people don’t survive and so his song “Held On Too Long” and his music serve to give something back to that community. He wanted the “intimacy of a dive bar” in his performance and he delivered on that promise by starting from a stool at center stage and keeping the rock ballad focused on his vocal performance.

9:58 p.m. – After the performances the jury members ranked the artists and decided on a top song. The National Jury Selection pick was Rhode Island’s Hueston so he’ll go straight to the semifinals.

SEE Everything to know about ‘American Song Contest’

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