American Song Contest: the American Eurovision is a chaotic copy | American television

ONEcrossing the United States Monday night, many Americans asked a simple question: what is the American singing competition? The NBC music competition, which aired for two hours last night, is trying to bring Eurovision to the United States. It is not necessarily an easy task; despite his track record of success abroad – you can thank Eurovision for Abba and Celine Dion – the 65-year-old annual singing tournament is not widely known in the United States.

While Eurovision showcases one artist in a country and offers a web of political intrigue and often untranslatable local culture, the American version, somehow not called “Amerivision”, original songs by 56 artists from all 50 US states, five territories (Puerto Rico, US). Samoa, Guam, US Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands) and the nation’s capital in a bracket-style showdown. The multi-stage competition is broadcast over the course of six weeks.

The American Song Contest, hosted by Kelly Clarkson (the first winner of American Idol ever) and Snoop Dogg, has the backing of the producers of the European competition and a showrunner, Audrey Morrissey, who executive-produced NBC’s highly successful singing competition The Voice. It has legions of Eurovision fans who are curious about what exactly separates the US states and territories. It has a process that combines the votes of an expert jury panel with fan votes on NBC’s website and on TikTok. (According to Variety, the 56 jurors – one from each state / territory, including a former member of the band the Fray and the president of iHeartMedia) are supposed to evaluate each performance based on “artistic expression, hit potential, originality and visual impression”. )

And it has a series of March Madness-style rounds that set artists with different levels of name recognition and professional experience up against each other. Established stars like Michael Bolton (Connecticut) and Jewel (Alaska) will compete against amateurs (Michigan sends a 16-year-old high schooler, for example).

So how did the games start? The premiere packed a lot of enthusiasm and wound up state rivalries into two chaotic hours. (Full disclosure: I’m from Ohio – shout-out to Macy Gray, the Grammy-winning R&B singer representing Buckeye State – and the only Eurovision appearance I had seen before this was the unbeatable Latvian pirate group, so I came with confused about the concept.) Clarkson and Snoop applied their characteristic energies – irresistible, motherly exuberant for her, a little stony vibration for him – on short intermediate images between the 11 performances. The actual (almost entirely optimistic) performance reached a cornucopia of genres, from hip hop to Latin pop to a country-rap earworm called New Boot Goofin ‘, thanks to Wyoming’s Ryan Charles, who was apparently designed for TikTok (it was the clear winner of the night). of social media.)

The hosts only explained the formula loosely, so here’s the logistics: The first five episodes will contain 11 performances each (one will have 12), from which an act will automatically proceed based on the jury’s vote, announced at the end of the evening. Fan votes determine that the other three acts go on per. episode, announced the following week. The two semi-final rounds feature a total of 22 acts offering “slightly elevated” performances of their original songs, according to NBC. Ten artists come to the grand finale, where a combination of jury and fan votes determines the winner.

Back to the initial harvest of competitors representing areas of the country as geographically diverse as tropical Puerto Rico and frozen Wisconsin. All in all, the evening was a mixed bag of quality – to be fair, it’s very difficult to sing live in a studio, especially when some of the artists had not performed for more than a few thousand people – even though Clarkson was uniformly excited and Snoop rose for each song. Several of the artists explained their styles through mashups of famous stars. Pink-haired Alisabeth Von Presley of Iowa described herself as if Lady Gaga and Pat Benatar had collided and exploded in a pile of mica; Rhode Island’s Hueston said he was Chris Stapleton mixed with Adele and the Sons of Anarchy, “but in a good way”; Wisconsin’s Jake’O, black hair straight back like Elvis, invented his “nuvo-retro” style.

Some played to the expectations of their state: Minnesota’s participation, the pop-boy band Yam Haus, consisted of four very serious white guys who embodied “Minnesota nice” (“Open!”). Mississippi’s Keyone Starr, who has recorded with Mark Ronson, paid tribute to his state’s rich history of black music traditions – delta blues, gospel, rock’n’roll – with a fiery performance heavy on belt and guitar. Arkansas’ Kelsey Lamb sang a rather conventional country ballad in a wide-brimmed hat. Michael Bolton, very sincere from Connecticut, sang a serious Michael Bolton song called Beautiful World.

But there were also several conscious efforts to surprise and complicate the image of different regions of the country and highlight the diversity of American musical talents. AleXa, an established K-pop artist who used to perform for large crowds in South Korea (you could see – she owned the stage, and the hosts knew it), said that because she’s from Tulsa, Oklahoma, people expected her to should wear a cowboy hat and sing country music. Her choreography-intense performance of Wonderland was the highlight of the evening. Indiana’s UG Skywalkin ‘, real name Josh Kimbowa, is an immigrant (the UG represents Uganda) who openly strives to put Indianapolis’ hip-hop scene on the map. Puerto Rico’s contribution, Christian Pagán, sang in English and Spanish in a leather pop-punk outfit. The night’s jury winner, Rhode Island’s Hueston, pressed on the state’s image of sun-drenched beaches and tourism by talking about its tough upbringing and the loss of friends to addiction.

The deliberate control of the spotlight is perhaps the best argument for the American Song Contest. The performances were almost secondary compared to the three to five minute long intro videos, which offered less talked about excerpts and experiences of the country a moment to connect and explain. This is especially exciting for the areas that many Americans know very little about, if they even know they exist as part of the United States. As chaotic and haphazard as the American singing competition was last night and probably will be, this opportunity for low-stakes exposure is valuable.

That exposure may be more limited than NBC hoped. The premiere got just under 3 million viewers, less than the new episode of ABC’s longtime American Idol, which aired at the same time. So Eurovision fans will probably want the Americans to want this. Several NBC executives and a panel of 56 members of the music industry want Americans to want this. But do Americans want their own Eurovision? We have six weeks to see.

Leave a Comment