Songstresses, I made a terrible mistake last night. In an attempt to make American Song Contest more watchable, I took several puffs of a weed pen. Big mistake, big, huge. Under the influence of marijuana, this show becomes even more of a house of horrors. The sound engineering was worse than ever, the artists’ intro packages cornier than ever, and the songs… oh the songs. Learn from my mistakes, dear reader — do not do this.
At the top of the show, as always, we learned who from last week would be moving to the semi-finals. Tennessee’s Tyler Braden was the jury pick, so he was a lock. In second place was Colorado’s Riker Lynch, who got bumped up from sixth place with the help of America’s votes because this country is a sick place. In third place was Alabama’s NI/CO, who you might remember as the duo whose whole thing is that they’re an interracial couple from the Deep South. The final act moving on was Texas’s Grant Knoche, whose schtick was that he is also a dancer. This is probably the worst group that have moved onto the semi-finals so far.
Hilariously, Jewel was not even in the audience to learn that she and her fake ABBA song would not be moving on. Good for her. There’s a possibility that she’ll be back though, because as we were reminded by Kelly Clarkson, two songs from the qualifying round will be brought back in a redemption round based on streams. Based on Spotify numbers, this means that “New Boot Goofin’” will be coming back to haunt us in a few weeks.
Time for this week’s songs!
New Hampshire - MARi, “Fly”
MARi, who calls herself the “Latin Lizzo,” marks the first time a white guy hasn’t opened the show. I believe this is some kind of growth for the people who make the setlist. While watching this performance, I came to the brilliant conclusion that I think this show needs real judges. I know that would basically just make it American Idol, but I would really like someone to just be like, “That was a little pitchy, dawg, but you have good energy.” I’m desperate to be validated by a professional.
This song sounded like it was meant to be in the credits for an animated movie about a bird who falls out of the nest and can’t figure out how to get back to its mom. In this instance, my belief was validated when Snoop Dogg said almost exactly the same thing, but as a compliment.
Nevada - The Crystal Method, “Watch Me Now” feat. Vaal and Koda
I think this was supposed to be our famous performer for the night. Unfortunately, I was born in 1995 and do not like electronic music, so I have no idea who this is. Okay, after a cursory read of Wikipedia, I learned that The Crystal Method did the theme song for Bones. I guess they are famous. Well, now it’s just one guy, and the song is not what I expected! I do think he kind of bent the rules by having a completely different artist sing the song while he played the keys, but in this cut-throat competition you have to do whatever you can to stand out. “Watch Me Now” doesn’t sound like anything else that’s been on ASC thus far, which I think tricked me into thinking it’s good. It’s like a harder version of Imagine Dragons, and for the purposes of this show that is enough.
Utah - Savannah Keyes, “Sad Girl”
Country is “missing some women,” Keyes said in her introduction package. Then she got up on that stage, put on the thickest Southern accent she could, and sang what sounded like a Kacey Musgraves song that wasn’t good enough to make it onto an album.
Washington, D.C. - NËITHER, “I Like It”
According to NËITHER, Washington, D.C. has “big government, politics, education, I.T., just about everything you’d expect from a city at the center of the world stage.” I.T.? As in information technology? Like the guy who fixes my work computer? I guess he could be from D.C. I haven’t asked.
Anyway, after the requisite mention of Go-go music and the fact that D.C. is not a state, we heard NËITHER’s song. I actually kind of liked it as a song even though NËITHER himself sounded bad live. It sounds much better in the recording, and if I heard it in an H&M dressing room I might even Shazam it.
Massachusetts - Jared Lee, “Shameless”
This fucking guy. This is a man who looks to be (generously) 35 years old singing a Shawn Mendes song. The vibe is atrocious. But my enemies on the jury — who, if you remember, are mostly radio DJs — loved it. It sat at the top of their ranking for almost the entire episode, which makes sense because this would have been a huge radio hit during Obama’s second term.
Georgia - Stela Cole, “DIY”
This song was made in a lab to go viral on TikTok. Specifically for a trend where people roast their loser ex-boyfriends to the part where she goes “Did you try… calling your mom? I believe in you.” Cole was not singing so much as she was talking melodically, but she had a lot of attitude which is more than a lot of these other performers can say.
The halftime report is back! Snoop Dogg put on his best sports commentator voice, and Kelly tried but couldn’t really keep up the bit. Then they read some tweets. For a second I considered tweeting using #AmericanSongContest to see if I could get on the screen, but that was the weed talking.
Hawaii - Bronson Varde, “4 You”
This guy was cute, he had a fun set, and the song is sweet. We will never hear from him again.
West Virginia - Alexis Cunningham, “Working on a Miracle”
It’s interesting that Cunningham said her music was a combination of “retro, rock, and a little bit of punk,” because the obvious inspiration for this song is Taylor Swift. This is a pop song about being in love with someone who has green eyes, that’s what we in the business call the Swift Special. Unfortunately that means I liked it.
Arizona - Las Marìas, “De La Finikera”
This is what ASC should be! Twins from Arizona whose parents were deported, forcing them to spend their youth crossing the border to go to school, then going on a nationwide singing contest to perform a very good song about their experience. Las Marìas is one of the only acts on this show that actually has something interesting to say about the country, and the fact that they are immensely talented? That’s the cherry on top. Obviously, the judges put them in eighth place.
Pennsylvania - Bri Steves, “Plenty Love”
I’ve saved this as a surprise for you all, but earlier in the episode it was revealed that The Office actors Kate Flannery and Creed Bratton were in the audience last night to support Pennsylvania. Remember how The Office takes place in Pennsylvania? Well, now you can stream it on Peacock.
Anyway, Steves is so good. She rapped, she sang, she had an ounce of charisma. Much like Las Marìas, this means that she is certain to not move forward in the competition.
Washington - Allen Stone, “A Bit of Both”
Apparently Stone is a little famous. Kelly was fangirling about him over the course of the night because she loves his songwriting capabilities. He has a Grammy nomination? Never heard of him. I did not want to like this man because when I see a tall, blonde white guy in glasses from the Pacific Northwest, the Kill Bill siren starts going off in my head. Unfortunately this is one of those cases where you begrudgingly have to hand it to him. This song is good and he did a really good job of performing it. The jury agreed, and Stone became the locked-in pick to go to semi-finals.