Crystal Method Represents Nevada, Alaska Fails Jewel and Other Head-Scratchers From the Latest ‘American Song Contest’
If you haven’t been watching “American Song Contest,” you might not know that Scott Kirkland from the Crystal Method is from Nevada. He’s representing one of 45 states that have already competed on on the NBC competition, which is based loosely on Europe’s popular Eurovision Song Contest.
Other well-known names in the semi-finals of the competition include Michael Bolton for his home state of Connecticut, with the former champion of “The Voice,” Jordan Smith, competing on behalf of Kentucky, and “Glee” alum Riker Lynch fronting for Colorado.
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Name recognition, however, isn’t always a guarantee of easy passage through the competition. Of those recently eliminated in the contest –Jewel, who represented Alaska, and Macy Gray, Ohio.
“There is a couple I thought should have stayed around, but I’m not a judge and I don’t have anything to do with that,” said host Snoop Dogg in a virtual roundtable discussion with reporters prior to the show. “So all I can do is just wish them luck and say that if I was a judge, you would still be here. But I’m not a judge, so you’re not here.”
And after Monday night’s show, Kirkland is in danger of joining the elimination station as the Crystal Method’s song, “Watch Me Now,” failed to get enough judge votes over winner Allen Stone, an artist from Washington State and former VH1 “You Oughta Know” artist who earned favor with his groove infused track “A Bit of Both.”
Nevertheless, Kirkland was happy to participate in the show, having been familiar with Eurovision and flattered to be asked to appear.
“When I heard it was coming to the states, I was excited because there is always an act out there that has a song that needs an opportunity, and I was invited to be a part of it,” he said. “Initially I was a little skeptical, but as soon as everybody came on board and they started to tell me how much they loved this song, and they showed me what they can do visually with the song, and I got this band together, I couldn’t be more enthused.”
The format of the show — which follows 56 Artists each performing an original song representing either a U.S. state, territory, or Washington D.C.Stone — was intimidating at first, Stone said.
“I have never been in an arts competition before, so I was nervous, but halfway through the first verse, I looked over and Snoop was grooving,” said Stone. “So that was a win in my book.”
Snoop Dogg, alongside co-host Kelly Clarkson, can be seen standing by like an enthusiastic observer of every performance, dancing along to the music and offering words of encouragement to the contestants.
“I think that I’ve learned about this show is that nobody’s bigger than nobody — it’s all about the song,” Snoop said. “I don’t believe it’s about the artists. I believe it’s about the song, the state, and then the artists. And then you got these artists that are big-name artists that we know that are performing on the show, and they really got to go with their best material, because these people that have not been seen or heard are really shooting their shot.” he continued.
Amongst the field of Davids battling Goliaths of the industry include Oklahoman K-Pop Artist AleXa, Rhode Island’s Hueston, Puerto Rico’s Christian Pagan, Tennessee’s Tyler Braden, Kansas entertainer Broderick Jones, Montana’s Jonah Prill, North Dakota’s Chloe Fredericks, Alabama duo Ni/Co and former Kidz Bop vocalist Grant Knoche who is holding down the fort for host Clarkson’s home state of Texas.
“The thrill of this is that you have the opportunity to be in the same category as a songwriter, who’s written Grammy Award-winning songs,” Snoop said. “And you mess around and knock them off. So if you’re a great songwriter, you’re looking at this experience as the first step into becoming a great songwriter in general.”
The key ingredient to advancement in “American Song Contest,” he said, all comes down to one thing: the song.
“I think it’s the way the song feels. Because a song could sound good, but if we don’t feel good, it’s not matching the intensity of the song,” he said. “A lot of times our favorite songs make us feel a certain way. So we can find people that can write that particular song that has the world feeling like it’s supposed to feel.”
He continued: “And I feel like this show right here is just going to show what American songwriting is all about.”
There’s been lots of online chatter amongst “American Song Contest” fans who say judges are favoring one genre or leaning towards one musical style over another but this, Snoop says, is all a part of a much larger narrative.
“I think America’s open right now. America’s open to all ranges and varieties of music. So that’s why it’s no one particular style that’s just dominating right now. I feel like when we get down to the end of it all, then you’re gonna find out what song really had the most impact. And I believe people will cross genres to find that song that makes America feel like this is the greatest song written.”
As for what he is looking for in an artist, Snoop said it’s all about “showmanship.”
“One of the things I look for is work ethic: the way that they work, songs, concepts, lyrics, selection of music, showmanship, the way that they handle being in front of people, the way that they deal with the ins and outs of knowing that this may not work, you know?” he said. “That’s what I’m mainly for somebody who just loves doing what they do. Because I love my job. I don’t do this for money or fame. I do it ’cause I love doing it.”
Up against heavy-hitters like Bolton and Lynch, Smith says he’s got lots on his mind in regards to the upcoming semi-finals.
“It’s really difficult to think ahead in a competition like this,” says the “Voice” alum. “The last months, weeks, hours of work have all been about this performance and getting to this moment where I get to stand on stage and represent Kentucky and share this song that I’ve been holding in my heart with the entire world. So looking forward, you know, it’s, it’s sort of like, how do you go bigger from here?”
Of the competition itself, Smith — whose song “Sparrow” earned encouraging support from the judges — said he “didn’t know what to expect just because the caliber of talent is so widespread on this show. … It’s so diverse from the genres to the places people are from to their backgrounds. It’s just incredible to see all of the different places represented. It just blows my mind. This is a celebration of the diversity of our country and how incredible it is,” he said.
American Song Contest Airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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