Another Monday, another episode of American Song Contest! Except tonight marks the final night of Qualifiers, where we’ll see the 11 remaining states/territories battle it out with 11 original songs.
Before the last 11 artists hit the stage, tonight’s episode will begin by announcing three artists from last week’s episode who will be joining last week’s winning song “A Bit of Both” by Allen Stone from Washington in the semi-finals.
Voting is conducted by a jury representing all 56 states, territories and Washington D.C., but fans have the opportunity to vote as well! Fan-voting takes place online, on TikTok, and on the NBC app. Full voting details can be found HERE.
Snoop Dogg and Kelly announce the next three artists moving on to the semi-finals… Jared Lee, Stela Cole and Mari!
We’ll also be introduced to a member of the jury at some point tonight.
Justin Jesso – Illinois – “Lifeline”
Justin shows us around Chicago and tells us how his great-grandfather played piano for mobsters like Al Capone. Justin eats some signature deep dish pizza and shows us a drawing he drew in school of his dream, which was of him on stage.
I wasn’t prepared for a pop ballad, and I as even less prepared for that piano break in the middle. “Lifeline” is a good song, but it’s definitely missing something; like Justin tried mixing far too many genres and the song became a little all over the place.
Sweet Taboo – California – “Keys to the Kingdom”
Sweet Taboo is made up of three young ladies who want to showcase both their sweet sides and their taboo sides. The group want to be a voice for young girls, and keep the importance of their Latina culture with them.
It’s been a bit since we’ve had a female trio with hit music. The song itself was fun, a bit Destiny’s Child-esque, but with a Latin flair. The whole performance looked and sounded like one you would see on a music award show.
Andrew Sheppard – Idaho – “Steady Machine”
Andrew shares with us his love of skateboarding and punk rock music before fishing along Boise River. “Steady Machine” is about trusting your intuition with its rock ‘n roll sound and folk-style of storytelling.
As usual, I’m here for the simplicity of just an artist and their guitar. The song has some major “Wagon Wheel” vibes with an unexpected hint of rock.
Khalisol – New Mexico – “Drop”
Khalisol’s “postcard” package shows us the hot air balloons that people come from all over the world to fly in New Mexico. He also introduces us to the “two little dudes” who look up to him, his sons.
Khalisol’s rap performance is themed around aliens as a way of representing New Mexico. Both the song and the performance had a lot going on. It reminded me of something you would see at a Jingle Ball (take that as you will).
Kelly announces after the break that “New Boot Goofin” by Ryan Charles from Wyoming is the first song to be redeemed and moves on to the semi-finals! Only one more redemption remains.
HALIE – Missouri – “Better Things”
HALIE shows us around her hometown that’s on the state line of Arkansas. She says the part of Missouri that she’s from is more country compared to St. Louis, and she carries the family tradition of country music after her brother wrote songs for several country artists.
I’m personally still having a hard time differentiating between judging the artist and judging the song. Thoughts on the artist aside, the song itself is a good country pop song. I can imagine it on the country stations, but it lacked a standout moment compared to its competitors.
Tenelle – American Samoa – “Full Circle”
Tenelle says they carry alofa (love) in their hearts and leave you with a lasting impression of their ancestors in American Samoa. “Full Circle” is about Tenelle bringing it back to her roots, and hopes to make American Samoa proud.
Tenelle’s performance was a gorgeous depiction of American Samoa, with some island pop vibes. “Pray for the ones that we’ve got, and blessed by the ones that we’ve lost,” the lyrics chant. And that bridge! Wow!
John Morgan – North Carolina – “Right in the Middle”
John says people in North Carolina are on “mountain time” and are never in a hurry. Although the singer-songwriter not only opened for Jason Aldean and was a songwriter on the Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood song “I Didn’t Love You,” he says the local support means more to him than anything.
The song, to me, sounds like every other male country artist on the radio. Definitely good lyrics, but it’s another one that didn’t have that spark likes some others have had.
Josh Panda – Vermont – “Rollercoaster”
Josh says by day, he’s a normal dad making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and by night, he finds the music inside of him and becomes Josh Panda. He says Vermont is a place where you can be yourself, and that’s what makes the state special to Josh.
Something about Josh’s package made me expect a much more upbeat performance, but the song itself was enjoyable. It had a lot of Disney/”Try Everything” from Zootopia vibes, and I say that in a good way. It was another motivational “you can do it” song (this show has been full of ’em).
Jason J – Guam – “Midnight”
Jason says you can visit the entire island of Guam in less than a few hours. Jason says his genre is island-reggae-alternative, and that he enjoys helping his fellow musicians.
“Midnight” joins the handful of songs on this show that have had island vibes. The chorus sounded like another song that I can’t pin point. The performance had a fun backdrop but the song itself seemed a bit slow.
Ada Leann – Michigan – “Natalie”
Ada introduces herself as a 16-year-old singer-songwriter, and hopes to continue the legacy in Motown and be a voice for young people all over the world. “Natalie” is about a teenaged girl who got cheated on and is already giving me major Taylor Swift vibes.
Yup, still getting those Taylor Swift vibes as Ada performs. She’s got an edge in her voice just like Swift, and the song tells a story with its lyrics over its pop country tune.
Sisqó – Maryland – “It’s Up”
Sisqó welcomes us to Baltimore and tells us he was the first black guy to dye his hair blond in the new millennium. His early hit “Thong Song” got four Grammy nominations, and Sisqó says he’s showcasing Baltimore club music with “It’s Up.”
Sisqó definitely puts on a fun performance! I think the song could’ve stood well on its own without all the theatrics, though the dancing was hot. I enjoyed the tempo changes in the song, and that dance break! Woo! I can definitely imagine this playing in a club!
Kelly and Snoop introduce us to one of the jury members, the Chief Programming Officer for iHeart Radio, who represents New York.
And tonight’s winning song is… “Natalie” by Ada Leann from Michigan!
Another episode with a twist ending as Michigan beat out California in their night-long first place spot! Next week, three more artists will advance, plus one more redemption artist will be announced, and the semi-finals will begin!