American Song Contest

Michael Bolton, Cowboy Rap Artist, 9 Others Kick Off ‘American Song Contest'

The first episode introduced viewers to the first 11 contestants from 11 different U.S. states and territories

Keyone Starr AMERICAN SONG CONTEST
Trae Patton/NBC

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.

(l-r) Snoop Dogg, Kelly Clarkson
Trae Patton/NBC
(l-r) Snoop Dogg, Kelly Clarkson in the “The Live Qualifiers Premiere” of NBC's "American Song Contest."

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."

Yam Haus (MN) american song contest
Trae Patton/NBC
Yam Haus (MN) in the “The Live Qualifiers Premiere” of NBC's "American Song Contest."

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 backward off the stage to a rapturous response from the studio audience and her high school choir classmates back home.

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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 Shelton than Lavigne and Clarkson said it sounded like a country radio smash.

Kelsey Lamb (AR)
Trae Patton/NBC
Kelsey Lamb (AR) in the “The Live Qualifiers Premiere” of NBC's "American Song Contest."

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 afterward. 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 Clarkson and Snoop dancing in the crowd and the audience on its feet. Clarkson 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."

Michael Bolton (CT)
Trae Patton/NBC
Michael Bolton (CT) in the “The Live Qualifiers Premiere” of NBC's "American Song Contest."

The New Haven, Connecticut, 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 the 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 Von Presley playing a keytar. What's not to love?

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. Starr'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.

Ryan Charles (WY)
Trae Patton/NBC
Ryan Charles (WY)

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.

Hueston (RI)
Trae Patton/NBC
Hueston (RI)

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 again on March 28 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Hueston (NJ)
Chris Haston/NBC
Hueston (NJ)
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