Welcome back for week two, songstresses. American Song Contest proved once again that it is the most confusing show you are probably not watching. Last night’s episode had everything: a horrible attempt to explain the show’s mechanics, some cross-network synergy with a winner from NBC’s other singing show, Michael Bolton looking confused, and fellow actual famous person Macy Gray.
This week we got to see the judging process in action, as we learned which contestant from last week was moving on to the semi-finals. ASC’s approximately eight other viewers (not including me) may remember that Rhode Island’s Hueston earned the jury’s pick last week and was locked in to move on. On this show they denote who is locked in by showing a padlock next to their name, just in case you’re stupid.
Hosts Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson stumbled their way through an explanation that, while the jury had picked a top four, America’s votes would also somehow factor into the final decision. The jury, made up of music professionals from all 50 states, five territories, and Washington, D.C., selected Oklahoma’s AleXa, Arkansas’s Kelsey Lamb, and Puerto Rico’s Christian Pagán as their top picks. With the fan votes included, AleXa and Pagán made it to the semi-finals, along with Michael Bolton. Sorry, Kelsey. Let’s see how excited Bolton was to hear the news:
What are the odds that this man knows where he is and what he’s doing right now?
I guess now it’s time for the performances.
Oregon - courtship., “Million Dollar Smoothies”
Once again, we are kicking off the night with an uninspired number from some white guys who I know I would go on at least one date with. These cool cats met as backing artists for a different band, and their biggest show ever was when they once opened for Weezer. “Million Dollar Smoothies” is an indictment of wellness culture that tries to rhyme “latte” with “yacht”; it is tailor-made to be in a Squarespace commercial about starting your own business.
Let’s take a quick moment to uplift the dancers of ASC, who kept their big grins plastered on their faces while they performed wearing giant plastic cups and lid headpieces (complete with paper straw). They are the backbone of this entire show.
Montana - Jonah Prill, “Fire It Up”
Prill has amassed a sizable following on TikTok, where he makes inspiring videos with captions like “POV: You’re My Truck,” in which he shows us things in his truck. That is really all it takes to make it on that app when you have a nice jawline. As for “Fire It Up,” it is a perfectly serviceable country song that would probably sound better if it were being performed by someone with a modicum of stage presence. This would be a massive hit for Blake Shelton.
New York - ENISA, “Green Light”
I would have loved for the New York representative to be from, like, Rochester or maybe Syracuse. Spice it up a little bit! Predictably, Enisa is from New York City, so we got to hear all about bodegas and pizza in her introduction. Putting that aside, though, “Green Light” is a good song that reminded me that ASC is supposed to be our version of Eurovision (fun, poppy, and with lyrics that I immediately knew by heart). It is probably the third best song called “Green Light,” but considering the fact that the other two are very famous songs, I think that counts as praise.
Nebraska - Jocelyn, “Never Alone”
I’m sorry, but you can’t be mononymous if your name is Jocelyn. It just doesn’t work. Jocelyn’s claim to fame is that she is one of those people whose busking video went viral, and then she got to meet Darius Rucker. While watching her perform “Never Alone,” I couldn’t help but wonder if it was vaguely Christian. Donning all white, Jocelyn looked and sounded like she was singing from the perspective of Jesus when he’s carrying you in the sand. Hillsong wishes they wrote this one.
U.S. Virgin Islands - Cruz Rock, “Celebrando”
You guys really should be watching these episodes in their entirety. What you can’t see from these YouTube videos is stuff like Kelly Clarkson being very proud that she pronounced “archipelago” correctly. Anyway, I loved this song. It was one of the only moments of the night that brought real energy to a show that desperately needed it. Rock has all 10 of my votes. (Remember, you can give any or every artist up to 10 votes, and it’s up to you to figure out how many everyone gets. I hate this system.)
God bless the halftime report. Snoop said that the night had been “bonkers” so far, which I knew wasn’t true but I was ready to believe him. As always, our hosts are the best part of the show. Kelly then showed us a compilation of TikToks that used last week’s “New Boot Goofin,” most of which were about dogs wearing shoes. She also did some vocal riffing of her own, which sounded better than any of the singers up to that point.
Kentucky - Jordan Smith, “Sparrow”
Smith won The Voice in 2015, and went on to write a song for Celine Dion for the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. What I’m going to say next will sound like an insult, but I mean it with all love: His performance of “Sparrow” sounds like a Glee cover of a song that didn’t make the cut for A Star Is Born. It sounded great, it was dramatic, and he’s already headed for regionals, er, semi-finals. The jury selected Smith as their pick to move on to the next round.
North Dakota - Chloe Fredericks, “Can’t Make You Love Me”
By now you know that I think this show is stupid, but I do appreciate that the producers got at least one Native American singer on the roster. She’s really good, too! It’s harder to write these blurbs when the song is good and the singer has a strong voice because there’s nothing I can make fun of, but let me just say that Fredericks is kind of a classic music competition star in the vein of Kelly herself — a woman who just lets her voice do everything, no dancers needed.
Kansas - Broderick Jones, “Tell Me”
Performing from the Dreamworks moon, Jones’s song sounded like Purpose-era Justin Bieber, which is a big compliment. The falsetto, the EDM breakdown, the lyrics about asking a woman to tell you she loves you, it’s all Bieber. That is to say, it’s good and I would have listened to it on repeat a lot in 2015. One thing Jones has that not all of his competitors have is charisma, which will probably shoot him straight into the semi-finals.
Virginia - Almira Zacky, “Over You”
Zacky and I are both from Northern Virginia, but we evidently have very different reads of its vibe. According to her, everyone there has a “hustler’s mindset” and uses slang like “there’s something in the water out here.” That is not my experience, but I’m glad to see some representation for all that NoVa has to offer (malls, Panera, proximity to D.C.). Her song “Over You” is a perfectly serviceable R&B song about a man who sucks. I’m starting to think that this show might be boring. Where is the drama? Where is the camp?
Maine - King Kyote, “Get Out Alive”
This show has really forced me to consider how much of an impact Chris Stapleton has had on men with guitars. I rarely ever think of him, but he seems to be front of mind for any dude with facial hair and a raspy voice.
Ohio - Macy Gray, “Every Night”
I’ll give ASC this: It’s a great way to learn exactly one fun fact about a famous person. For example, did you know that Macy Gray’s first job was at the Football Hall of Fame? Unlike Michael Bolton last week, Gray seemed to be present in her body during her performance. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this song is powerful or memorable enough to advance her to the next round. Are they going to eliminate one of the only famous singers on the show this early? We’ll have to wait and find out next week.