An incredibly hyped Kelly Clarkson promised that “American Song Contest,” which premieres Monday, March 21 on on NBC, has “everything but a polka artist.”
During a virtual panel on Monday, Clarkson said the songwriting competition from producers of “The Voice” and Europe’s long-running annual contest Eurovision, is exactly what viewers need right now.
“People just need [something like this]. They need to be lifted up because the world is heavy right now,” she said. “It represents so many different pockets of the world… It’s going to open up all this conversation. We’ve been divided in this country for quite a bit, but we’re all more similar more than not.”
She added, “It’s been a very hard couple of years [because of the pandemic] and now it’s getting even more serious in the news. I think feeling like you’re not isolated and that you are a part of something bigger than your everyday world… it sounds cheesy but it’s so important. It makes us happy: That’s what this show is gonna do for people. No one is left out. This show is for everyone.”
The competition will see “legacy artists” Michael Bolton, Macy Gray, Jewel and Sisqó competing with lesser-known artists from across the country for the best song as voted by viewers. Unlike talent shows where the singer’s personality and presentation is key, Clarkson and producers insisted this show is about the song itself. “I’m excited to hear things I will listen to for years, and that’s what great songs do,” she said.
Established musical stars competing against unknowns? You’d think the scales would be tipped in one very obvious direction, but Clarkson insists that is not the case. “The legacy artists are going to have to work harder,” Clarkson said. And showrunner and executive producer Audrey Morrissey, agreed: “People love an underdog.”
Morrissey promised that every contestant, famous or not, is getting “an even playing field and being given the same support.” There are also systems in place to make sure that each viewer’s vote counts the same, whether it’s from a small territory like Guam or a big state like California. Each region will be worth 12 points, regardless of size, just as it is with Eurovision.
We’ll also see the same level of over-the-top costumes and stage productions as in Eurovision, Morrissey said. Clarkson quickly chimed in, “We better! I’m very excited about that part.”
Much to the dismay of many viewers, no doubt, Clarkson won’t be singing on this show. “I perform five days a week on television. I’m actually second-guessing that idea for my talk show,” she laughed. “This isn’t about me; this is about these other artists. I’ve had my moment.”
She’s extremely excited to host with Snoop Dogg, whom she’d previously teamed up with on “The Voice.”
“I love Snoop. The thing I loved the most [when he was on ‘The Voice’] is he really took his time listening to each performance. We were there for hours, but he still took the time to invest, and he really cared. He was into it. It’s very transparent when they’re for lack of a better word, bulls—ing you or really into it.”
“American Song Contest” will feature live performances from 56 artists of all genres representing all 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington D.C. The live competition consists of three rounds as the artists compete in a series of qualifying rounds, followed by the semi-finals, leading up to the grand final where one state or territory emerges victorious.
The two-hour series premiere will air live from the NBCUniversal lot in Universal City, California, March 21 on NBC.