The battle for America's best song is officially on.
E! News is giving fans an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at NBC's new Eurovision-inspired music competition series, American Song Contest, ahead of the March 21 premiere.
In the exclusive preview above, hosts Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg hilariously take the stage to prep for tonight's kick-off where 11 of the 56 acts from around the United States will debut original songs in hopes of nabbing top honors: the title of best hit in the country. (Check out the blooper reel for some seriously LOL-worthy rehearsal moments.)
And this isn't like TV's other singing competitions. Like Eurovision (where acts from countries all over the world compete each year), each state's performance will include dancers, tons of stage production and more theatrics to make up a total visual and musical experience.
Each week, the highly decorated 56-person jury of music industry executives, songwriters, radio programmers and members of the Recording Academy, one representing each state/territory, will evaluate each artist's performance based on artistic expression, hit potential, originality and visual impression. Fans at home can also vote for their favorite performances on nbc.com/ascvote, the NBC App and on TikTok to help artists advance in each round.
So what's it really like competing on behalf of your home state on America's biggest televised song competition? E! News got the exclusive scoop straight from two artists during the American Song Contest rehearsals on March. 19.
Read on for our exclusive Q&As with UG skywalkin (Indiana) and Christian Pagán (Puerto Rico) before tonight's premiere at 8 p.m. on NBC.
UG skywalkin (Indiana)
E! NEWS: How did you first find out about the show and get connected with it?
UG Skywalkin: I was actually on YouTube and I know that Eurovision is big overseas. It popped up and I started to see some performances over there and I started to hear that they're gonna do one over here in the States. I submitted my song and after a couple months, they gave me a call. I had a Zoom meeting and they told me I was gonna represent the state.
E!: There are many singing competitions out there where people are singing other people's songs. What's it like singing an original song?
UG: It means a lot, because it's our art. Everybody's performing what they wrote, what they put together themselves. It's coming from their heart, so it's amazing to put your art into the world and show everybody your talent. The platform in itself is just amazing alone. It's national TV; [there's] nothing better than [getting] your original song on national TV in front of the world. You can't beat that.
E!: These performances look more like something you'd see on the Billboard Music Awards or the Grammys.
UG: It's amazing. It's surreal to look at it and watch it because this is something you dream of as an artist, being able to create your own stage, have you tell your vision to somebody and then bring it to life. That's what they did. Literally, everything I told them, everything I wanted, they made happen.
E!: So this was more than writing and performing the song, this is your creative vision of what you want to see?
UG: Yes. I told [executive producer Anders Lenhoff] what I envisioned and they put it together. So crazy with the lighting and the coloring and it's exactly what I asked for, dancers, everything. Every little thing you saw, I asked for it and they provided.
E!: Now that you've seen your rehearsal, how excited are you for the show to debut?
UG: I'm so excited for it...We're going all out.
E!: How do you want to represent Indiana, your home state?
UG: Our good energy, our rhythm, our vibe. Indiana is a great place, it has good energy, great people. We love the people in the end and we want to represent them in the best way.
Christian Pagán (Puerto Rico)
E! NEWS : How did you get involved with the competition?
Christian Pagán: A good friend of mine, she's a singer/songwriter, she called me about this huge opportunity. I was doing a new release of my single and I was like, "Let me think about it." I was not very familiar about Eurovision, so when I looked at the content and I know that it's going to be [for] an original song I said, "I'm down because this is an amazing platform to show who Christian Pagan is." I feel blessed to be here.
E!: A lot of song competitions have artists singing other people's songs. What's it like singing one of your own songs?
CP: I was like, at the beginning, "I don't want to sings covers from other artists." I do respect that, but I'm trying to perform my own songs and my own project. So for me it's very important that this kind of contest came to America and [to give] us the opportunity, not only for the Latino [people] but also to Puerto Rico, to perform and show new songs and having songs original songs with different vibes.
E!: This doesn't look like something that you would see on The Voice or American Idol. Did it feel more like something that you would see on the Billboard Music Awards or the Grammys?
CP: Yes, it feels like that...the production, the explosions they have on the stage, the vibes, I respect that a lot. I just feel so happy and blessed to be on the first season of American Song Contest. It's going to be amazing with a lot of good energy. It's going to be my first show in this way. I've never been on this kind of stage. I feel so blessed and happy to be here and just enjoying the moment.
E!: How do would you want your home of Puerto Rico to be represented on the on stage?
CP: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so I have all my influence coming from my island. I grew up seeing Daddy Yankee, Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi and now recently Bad Bunny. I'm seeing these artists all representing Puerto Rico and I want to be representing Puerto Rico with that kind of pride. I know that Puerto Rico, they're going to enjoy my performance. They're supporting me on my island and I'm just looking forward to seeing how it goes.
American Song Contest premieres tonight, March 21, at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family)