'American Song Contest' Finale Recap: Our Long National Nightmare Is Over


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Songstresses, what a wild ride it’s been. Watching this show for the last eight weeks has been an exercise in bafflement, and this finale was no exception. I feel safe in saying that this was, without a doubt, one of the most confusing, bizarre, and anticlimactic episodes of television I have ever seen. I understand now why people were so upset about the Lost finale.

Despite all that, there is a lot to cover from last night, so let’s get right to it. The show opened with Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg performing their own songs live, which they honestly should have been doing every week. There was immediately an energy that had been missing from nearly every episode, and an energy that would not return for the rest of the show.

They then got right into performances, but before we cover those, I’m going to go over how they explained how voting for a winner worked.

With the help of an animated man who was supposed to look like Snoop Dogg, we learned that everyone voting at home during the show was voting on behalf of their home state. The song with the most votes from each state got the maximum number of points, 12, and every following song would get a slightly smaller amount of points — this system is almost identical to that of the original Eurovision, where the allotment of points among countries occasionally also functions as a sort of very soft diplomacy. The jury votes worked the same way until last night, when they decided to give “America’s votes more weight.”

The jury was grouped into 10 regions, and each region got one set of points. If this is confusing, which is okay. All you really need to know is that the jury votes straight-up did not matter. I myself had to watch this explanation two or three times because I was so distracted by the fact that they were trying to tell me that this was Snoop Dogg:


Time for performances. The people who moved on from last week were revealed before airtime on the E! show Daily Pop, presumably to save time. They were Oklahoma's AleXa, Colorado's Riker Lynch, Kentucky's Jordan Smith and Alabama’s NiCo. We’ll keep this brief, as this was the third time we’ve seen these songs and what we actually need to discuss is the last 20 minutes of this program.

Connecticut - Michael Bolton, “Beautiful World”

It is such a testament to Bolton’s talent that he can look completely dead in the eyes and still deliver a great performance. This man is SINGING. I can’t say as much for some of his competitors.

North Dakota - Chloe Fredericks, “Can’t Make You Love Me”

Hell yeah, baby. I like to believe that the show stacked the deck with the heavy hitters early on so that they’d get the most votes. Spoiler: That is not how this played out.

Texas - Grant Knoche, “Mr. Independent”

Avid readers of these recaps will know that I absolutely hate this song. It has that certain joie de nothing that just makes me want to look at my phone when Knoche comes on stage. This might have actually been his worst performance of it yet, completely lifeless and bland.

Alabama - Ni/Co, “The Difference”

I would like to take this moment to offer a sincere moment of gratitude to my own interracial parents for never being this fucking corny about their relationship.

Kentucky - Jordan Page, “Sparrow”

The first time I heard this song, I loved it. The second time I heard this song, I thought it was fine. By the third time I heard it it had completely lost its charm for me. I’m now immune to its uplifting message of… rebirth? independence? love?? I don’t know anymore.

Washington - Allen Stone, “A Little Bit of Both”

Kelly and Snoop revealed earlier in the show that Stone was missing the finale due to personal reasons, and that we would be seeing his dress rehearsal performance. It was still very good, and I hope everything is ok!

American Samoa - Tenelle, “Full Circle”

She looked gorgeous, the song sounded great, what more could you ask for?

Oklahoma - AleXa, “Wonderland”

One thing I can say about AleXa is that she always looked like she belonged on a stage. The production design was admittedly doing some of the work, but whatever the case may be, she has seemed like a real pop star throughout. Good for her.

Tennessee - Tyler Braden, “Seventeen”

Not much to say here. I still love this song and it’s probably one of the only ones that I might listen to after today. That is huge praise.

Colorado - Riker Lynch, “Feel the Love”

I’ve cracked the code on this song. It’s not meant for 2022. This is a song that was created to be played in every Uber/grocery store/CVS in the summer of 2016. We have no place for it in the current pop landscape. This song was supposed to come on in a very basic bar after “Closer” by the Chainsmokers, at which point you would look to your friend and say, “Do you want another drink?”

Okay, so after all that was done they had country singer Jimmie Allen perform. I guess they needed to fill for time, but could they not have gotten someone a little more famous? Allen would be a big get for, say, The Bachelorette, but this is a music competition where one of the actual competitors was Macy Gray. Was there no amount of money that could get a Voice judge on this show? I would have accepted Blake!

There were 20 minutes left in the show at this point, and I thought, “Surely it won’t take 20 minutes to reveal who the winner of this damn show is.” Folks, it did.

First they revealed the jury votes, and former contestants from each region revealed who their jurors had selected. I did not recognize a single one of them; it is probably not a good sign that I have repressed so many memories of this show. This took, I kid you not, seven minutes to complete this process. At the end of it, Allen Stone and Tyler Braden were in the lead, which is what I expected.

Here is how the jury voted (this will be important later):


Then “America’s votes” were tallied, the results revealed from the bottom to the top. Riker Lynch got 478 points from voters, which set a high bar to clear for the rest of the contestants. We basically watched everyone realize they lost over the course of the next six minutes. It’s hard to capture in a screenshot, so you’ll have to believe me when I say that Michael Bolton’s face was incredibly heartbreaking.

AleXa quickly took the lead, but I still held out hope for my guy Tyler from Tennessee. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Here is how the final tally looked (please note the distinct difference between this and the jury vote):


As you can tell, she was very excited.

They then tried to quickly usher AleXa to the stage to accept her trophy (what I assume was a spare Eurovision trophy that had been spray painted gold) and perform her song one last time. Listen, I understand that she was overwhelmed with emotion, but she sounded awful. It quickly threw into stark clarity that every other time she had performed she had either been lip syncing or the mic was configured in a way to make her sound good. I cannot explain how funny it was to see such a huge deal made of the winner only for the winner to get up on stage and be really bad. Kind of a perfect way to end this show.

American Song Contest will never matter again. Last night I discovered that most of the performances from previous weeks were no longer available to watch, as they had been set to private on YouTube. I think viewers, Kelly and Snoop, and, most importantly, NBC would like to forget this ever happened. The idea of making a Eurovision for America made sense in theory for a few seconds during the lowest points of quarantine, but in practice never found its footing.

For everyone’s sake, I hope I never have to write another recap of this show. The experience of spending two months watching it was like being forced to witness the world’s slowest trainwreck. I couldn’t go anywhere, and the whole time I knew there wasn’t even going to be a cool explosion at the end.