Most Americans who watch the premiere of American Song Contest on NBC this Monday (March 21) night will have never seen the original source material, the Eurovision Song Contest.
Co-host Kelly Clarkson does not fall into that category.
During a virtual press conference on March 14, Billboard asked Clarkson if she was familiar with Eurovision, an annual event that was first broadcast in 1956 and helped launch artists like ABBA, Celine Dion and Måneskin to international stardom.
“I found out about Eurovision when I was 20 and went overseas for the first time,” Clarkson responded. “People kept bringing up (Eurovision) because of American Idol. I kept being compared to this contest I had never heard of. Everybody talked about Eurovision anywhere I went in Europe. I finally found out about it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I had no idea that some of the artists that I had heard of were from it.”
In the U.S., season one Idol winner Clarkson was used to people putting down the show in its early days as a joke. “Nobody knew anything would come of it and I had to defend it everywhere I went.” Not so in Europe. “It was awesome to find out they were very accepting about the whole idea, like ‘You compete your way here and you earn your way to possibly having a career.’”
Clarkson took to the idea of Eurovision right away. “I loved how all of the countries were represented because I’m very much an inclusive person and love any kind of team sport.”
While she loved Eurovision, she didn’t yet know the origins of the competition, that it started in 1956 with the intention of uniting the countries of Europe just one decade after World War II. One night after a broadcast of The Voice, Clarkson had a conversation with that show’s executive producer, Audrey Morrissey, who is now showrunner and one of the executive producers of American Song Contest. Learning more about Eurovision, Clarkson told Morrissey that it was a “cool concept” for America.
“We are so unfortunately divided and having (my) talk show and (hearing) all of these different human interest stories and having so many things going on – it’s been a very hard couple of years and now it’s getting more serious. Feeling like you are not isolated and that you are a part of something bigger than your everyday world is so important. That’s what this show is going to do for people. Everyone is being represented. It’s a really great concept in general but one that is very needed right now.”
Clarkson thinks it is “awesome” that she and Snoop Dogg were asked to host the American Song Contest. “We love people so much and while we are very musical, we are also very fun‑loving and easygoing with everyone. We are going to be so passionate about it and involved in it and, like, hardcore into these artists. I think people need that. They need to be lifted up because the world is heavy right now. And so (this) competition (that) started 65 years ago is what is needed now in this Year One for America.”
There will be 56 artists competing in American Song Contest from the 50 states and six territories of the United States. The series will run for eight weeks, with songs being eliminated along the way, with a live grand finale and the crowning of a winner on May 9. Songs from the show will be released on Atlantic Records.