Michael Bolton and a Cowboy Western Rap Artist Kick Off American Song Contest Premiere

The premiere of NBC's American Song Contest featured K-pop, indie rock, country ballads and Michael Bolton. Yes, Michael Bolton. Find out everything that went down!

By Daniel Trainor Mar 22, 2022 2:36 AMTags
Watch: American Song Contest: Meet All 56 Performers!

Get ready to go to bat for your hometown because American Song Contest is finally here!

Hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, the singing competition—which features a representative from all 50 states, five U.S. territories and the nation's capital—is an eight-week, winner-take-all battle for musical supremacy. Contestants perform original songs for an esteemed 56-person jury—one representing each state/territory—and for viewers at home.

American Song Contest follows a point system in which every state and territory votes with equal power, regardless of population. A combination of public and jury votes will decide who will advance in the competition.

The first episode introduced viewers to the first 11 contestants.

Up first, it was Yam Haus from the great state of Minnesota. They performed "Ready To Go," a poppy, uptempo dance track harkening bands like Maroon 5 and Walk The Moon. Snoop Dogg was impressed, calling it a "hit record."

Next up, it was a K-pop artist from Oklahoma! AleXa performed a high-energy version of her song "Wonderland." Donned in a blue wig, her dance moves were just as impressive as her vocals. The performance ended with AleXa falling backwards off the stage to a rapturous response from the studio audience and her high school choir classmates back home. Consider us impressed!

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Country singer Kelsey Lamb repped the state of Arkansas. A self-described mix of Blake Shelton and Avril Lavigne, she performed a song called "Never Like This." The slow-burning ballad was definitely more Blake than Avril and Kelly said it sounded like a country radio smash.

UG skywalkin represented Indiana with a fiery performance of his hip-hop original track, which is not an easy thing to do with Snoop Dogg in the building. Snoop was impressed, though, even singing some of the lyrics to himself afterwards. Not a bad way to start!


Puerto Rican singer Christian Pagán, already a star in his home territory, brought his talents to the stage with a performance of "Loko." The Spanish-and-English language hybrid jam had Kelly and Snoop dancing in the crowd and the audience on their feet. Kelly even celebrated with a rum cocktail, which suddenly made us very thirsty.

Next up was singer Michael Bolton.

Yes, that Michael Bolton, best known for power ballads "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You."

The New Haven, Conn. native represented his home state with the debut of his song "Beautiful World." The Grammy winner's performance featured pyro, a choir and plenty of classic Michael Bolton drama. You never know how much you need to see Michael Bolton until you see Michael Bolton.

Iowa's Alisabeth Von Presley, who describes herself as a mix of Lady Gaga and Pet Benatar, rocked out with girl power anthem "Wonder." Decked out in pink thigh-high boots, she stomped around the stage with the confidence of a seasoned performer. The energetic performance culminated with Alisabeth playing a keytar. What's not to love?

Chris Haston/Dave Bjerke/NBC

Jake'O, who used to work at his family's cheese plant, sang for the state of Wisconsin. He sang his song "Feel Your Love," which gave off some young Elvis vibes, right down to Jake'O's hair. We can hear the young girls—and boys—screaming from here. 

Mississippi's own Keyone Starr, who has previously worked with mega producer Mark Ronson, performed her song "Fire," which made for an upbeat, dynamic spectacle. Keyone's got star power for days and she made us tired just watching her. 

The penultimate performance of the night was Wyoming's Ryan Charles, who describes his genre of music as "cowboy western rap," which is apparently a thing! He performed his song "New Boot Goofin," featuring lyrics like "I'll never let them change me / Rap game Brad Paisley." It won't be for everybody, but those who love it are going to really love it.


American Song Contest: Meet the Performers

The smallest state was saved for last, as Rhode Island's Hueston wrapped up the first night of the competition. Describing himself as "if Adele, Chris Stapleton and Sons of Anarchy had a baby," he performed his song "Held On Too Long." Sitting on a barstool, his emotional ballad about love gone wrong acted as a strong cap to the evening. Snoop Dogg said it almost made him cry!

At last, it was time for the jury to send their favorite performer automatically into the next round. 

The panel voted that the best was indeed saved for last, sending Hueston directly into the April 25 semifinals.

Next week, the remaining three spots from this group will be determined through a combination of jury and fan votes.

Find out who will join Hueston—and meet a new batch of competitors—when American Song Contest airs March 28 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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