Over the past decade or so, the Eurovision The Song Contest had transcended its ridiculous reputation, becoming a ceremonial force so great that imitators were bound to come at some point. And this month, the world’s biggest imitator ever will be unleashed. That’s right – make way for the American Song Contest.
Starting in two weeks, the American Song Contest will see artists from all 50 US states, as well as five US territories and Washington DC come together to sing original material and compete for the prize that will be awarded in May.
However, unlike the first Eurovision competition—which was held in 1956, with so few participants that each country had to sing two songs—the American Song Contest wants to start with a bang. As long as you can keep some perspective (after all, no one at the top of their career would risk a televised singing competition), his roster is star-studded.
The show itself will be hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, and the collection includes a lot of work that already has its own Wikipedia page. Joel represents Alaska, Cisco represents Maryland, Maisie Gray represents Ohio, and Michael Bolton represents Connecticut. It’s no surprise that performers of this lineage are willing to give everything up for the American Song Contest — Michael Bolton was recently hired to sing silly listening cover versions of a dating show — but it’s a sign that the organizers are taking this seriously.
Of course, the fact that you know the names of these people does not guarantee any kind of success. The UK spent years dumping big-name celebrities at Eurovision, and all of this was reinforcing the idea that name recognition isn’t the magic key you might think. Bleu tried and failed to win once, as did Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck. And every year they were beaten up by a lesser known artist who arrived at the competition armed with a much better song.
This, after all, is what the competitions – both European and American – are all about. It doesn’t matter who you are or how many records you sold. Pick up an undeniable song and you’ll win.
The bigger question is whether or not the American Song Contest will be a Eurovision match. My gut feeling is that it won’t happen. In terms of culture, Europe is everywhere, and what makes it so special is that it allows all these diverse tastes, languages, and attitudes to collide. To watch Eurovision is to delve into a complex web of distorted loyalties, political voting and local cultural focal points that often do not translate as the performer wishes. But, with one country actually making up so much of the United States, we can probably expect to see much less social diversity.
Of course, that may not happen. Like Eurovision, the American Song Contest can redraw the lines of geographical rivalry in a way that rips the scales of many old wounds. If that happens, it might even be useful to explain the US to the world, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.
In fact, you could say it’s just the right time to unleash the American competition into the world. After all, Eurovision was originally designed to help the stricken continent forge a new sense of harmony after the war, by showing that our neighbors are not as far away from us as we thought. It was, quite frankly, a way to bring us all together. And if it took Michael Bolton to launch some old trash on TV to do the same for America, it would all be money well spent.
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