Jose Sena Goulao/EPA-EFE/REX/Shu
The “Eurovision Song Contest,” Europe’s popular music competition, one of the world’s biggest televised events and the platform that helped launch ABBA, is coming to America. “The American Song Contest” is set to debut during the 2021 holiday season.
Hoping to siphon off some of the magic of the beloved six-decade-old show, which draws over 200 million viewers to its grand finale, the premise for “The American Song Contest” will remain similar to the European version. Professional musical artists — solo singers, duos or groups up to six members — from each of the 50 states and across every musical genre will perform all original songs on the live televised event.
The format, as it is currently conceived, will position the artists head-to-head against other states’ representatives in a series of televised qualifier competitions, leading to semi-finals and the ultimate primetime Grand Finale March Madness-style. Propagate Content will create The American Song Contest Academy, a group consisting of music professionals based in the U.S. that represent all genres and backgrounds, from which juries of artists and music industry notables who, along with the regional audiences, will select top talent from all 50 states to compete.
Not unlike Will Ferrell’s character in the recent Netflix hit “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” producer Christer Björkman was himself a fan of the show who ended up competing in 1992, representing his home country of Sweden. “Eurovision has been a dream project ever since I was a child,” Björkman tells Variety, who moved behind the scenes as contest producer and creative director. Of the American version, Björkman adds: “To have a chance to use everything you know about the format and redo it from the beginning and to bring it to an audience that has no history with it is such a privilege.”
Ben Silverman serves as executive producer and it’s not the first show he’s imported from Europe. With “The Office,” “Big Brother” and “The Weakest Link” among his credits, the self-professed Anglophile cites the Eurovision concept as the hardest to bring to American audiences. “I’ve spent 20 years trying to pursue this,” says Silverman. “When I was chairman of NBC, when I was an agent at William Morris and when I started at Reveille. I just love the format.”
Anders Lenhoff who will also serve as a producer adds, “It’s a great product on so many levels. You want to use all your expertise and bringing it to the biggest market in the world is so exciting.”
Silverman points to the unifying power of the show and how its arrival couldn’t be better-timed. “When America is more fractionalized than ever and we are dealing with so many issues that divide us, the one [thing] that truly unites us is our culture. … It can unite it by celebrating its diversity, its distinctions and in pulling everyone around its love of music and its love of song.”
Lenhoff agrees. “We’ve had countries at war with one another and when the contestants come on, we’ve seen them hug or cry afterward,” he says.
Offers Björkman: “It’s a competition where you root for your home state and your home town and there isn’t another show out there that does that.”
Watch a promo for “American Song Contest” below: