American Song Contest: Originality and tame commentary rules supreme in premiere

Universal City, California – Originality was on full display during Monday's live premiere of American Song Contest.

Co-hosts Kelly Clarkson (l.) and Snoop Dogg (r.) kicked off American Song Contest in juxtaposed style.
Co-hosts Kelly Clarkson (l.) and Snoop Dogg (r.) kicked off American Song Contest in juxtaposed style.  © Collage: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire & MediaPunch

Though the grandiose costumes and pyrotechnics weren't exactly on par with that of Eurovision, American Song Contest's first-ever episode was quite a legendary one.

Still, Monday's premiere highlighted obvious room for improvement in terms of providing looks and commentary oozing with pure ridiculousness – something Eurovision commentators and Pitch Perfect's writers have mastered.

The task at hand for those on American Song Contest is simple: to be the last man standing. After all, only one artist or group, along with their original song, can take the cake when it's all said and done.

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The premiere featured 11 contestants representing varying states and regions, with artists from Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Puerto Rico, Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Rhode Island getting their first dose of the competition's limelight.

Some areas are being held down by music legends, like Michael Bolton who competed on behalf of Connecticut during Monday's episode.

With such a variety of genres on full display, artists carried out Grammy-caliber performances that were "[as] varied as our country," as co-host Kelly Clarkson so perfectly stated.

From an Oklahoma native singing an original K-pop bop to a bolo tie and boots-wearing Cowboy flaunting his highly unique "country-western rap" style, original artistry showed up to show out.

Clarkson and her co-hosting counterpart Snoop Dogg seemed to enjoy nearly every performance, likely because it wasn't hard to catch a vibe during any of them.

Fashion forward talent hits the stage

K-pop singer Alexa from Oklahoma (l.) and country-western rapper Ryan Charles (r.) took the stage on Monday's premiere of American Song Contest.
K-pop singer Alexa from Oklahoma (l.) and country-western rapper Ryan Charles (r.) took the stage on Monday's premiere of American Song Contest.  © Collage: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire & MediaPunch

While Snoop openly admitted "K-Pop is [his] guilty pleasure" following Alexa from Oklahoma's choreographed and noticeably lip-synced K-pop performance, the musical magic of the night was far from over.

If there's one thing the premiere of the American Song Contest proved, it's that putting on an error-free showcase doesn't necessarily mean you'll emerge victoriously.

This is especially true given each contestant is competing against a blend of industry legends and impassioned musicians who all probably think they respectively deserve the crown.

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Translation: they're all here to bring it, and bring it they did.

In addition to K-pop, there was also a showing of Latin Pop thanks to Christian Pagán of Puerto Rico.

With a performance of his original song, Loko, which showcased many similarities to the legendary Ricky Martin, Pagán had Snoop and Clarkson dancing in a way only Latin beats can inspire.

Honestly, it was refreshing seeing this unlikely co-hosting duo play off each other's personalities, though it wouldn't hurt to add a pinch of pointed commentary into the mix.

Room for improvement

Hueston from Rhode Island automatically qualified for the show's next round thanks to the expert panel voting in his favor.
Hueston from Rhode Island automatically qualified for the show's next round thanks to the expert panel voting in his favor.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

But maybe that's NBC's way of diversifying the American Song Contest from the likings of Eurovision. Though the "main" point of Eurovision isn't to necessarily hear colorful commentary, it's definitely part of the reason people tune in.

It's similar to The Bachelor in that regard. Do people watch every episode solely to follow along with the live tweets? Not entirely, but checking in during the broadcast surely makes digesting the dumpster fire a lot easier.

Aside from the impressive lineup of contestants featured on Monday's premiere, its production value and videography were just as engaging.

With visual effects like laser beams and fires, highly skilled backup dancers, and camera pivots that felt like the workings of MTV in its glory days, American Song Contest clearly has quite the budget to work with.

If producers can just figure out a way to take the current "everybody wins" feel and transform it into a competitive one with spicy commentary and questionable styling choices, the show could very well be a gem in the making.

As far as moving to the next round goes, it was the soulful, face-tatted crooner Hueston from Rhode Island who automatically qualified thanks to a nod from the show's undisclosed expert panel.

The jury is still out for the fan-voted portion of first-round performances, which will likely be announced during next week's episode.

Tune into the second round of live qualifiers when American Song Contest returns to NBC on March 28 at 8 PM EST.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire & MediaPunch

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