AleXa, the K-Pop singer from Oklahoma, brought honor to her home state by claiming victory in the first American Song Contest, which wrapped up its eight-week run on Monday (May 9) with a grand final that pitted 10 of the 56 entries from America’s states and territories against each other for the win.
The voting process duplicated the way votes are presented in the Eurovision Song Contest. First, points from the professional jury were counted as the 56 jurors were divided among 10 geographic sections of the U.S., with each one having a representative announce live on air which contestant received their top mark of 12 points, with other points from 10 down to 1 being awarded rapidly on screen.
After all of the jury points were announced, Washington state’s Allen Stone’s song “A Little Bit of Both” was in the lead with 105 points. AleXa’s song “Wonderland” was in fifth place with 60 points.
But as any Eurovision viewer knows, the public’s points are announced next, often resulting in a game changer. Oklahoma received 656 points in the televote and soared into first place with a total of 710 points. Washington state could not catch up, finishing in fifth place with 254 points. Colorado’s Ryker Lynch, who was in last place with 25 points after the jury vote, received a massive infusion of public votes and ended up in second place with 503 points.
AleXa told Billboard after the show that as a Eurovision viewer, she knew she hadn’t lost the game when Washington was ahead after the jury vote. But that didn’t mean she would be the winner, either. “I was a little nervous after the jury vote but knowing how the point system works out, I was holding hands with my mother and father, praying so hard for my dreams to come true. Fortunately they did and I was lucky enough to win this competition.”
And how did she feel the moment she knew she had won? “It felt like my brain exploded because my mother was holding onto my arm and she was crying and shaking and so I cried with her. It was a very emotional experience. Sharing that moment with my team and all the ASC friends who were in the crowd meant the world to me.”
This grand final marked the third time that AleXa performed “Wonderland” on the American Song Contest. She sang it in episode 1 and then again in the semi-finals. There were some differences in the third performance. “First of all, being strung up in the air in a chair is quite different I’d say but it’s also super cool because during the dress rehearsal, I didn’t get to see the dancers’ outfits. I saw them for the first time today on stage and they looked phenomenal and they kicked butt like usual. I’m happy to have this incredible creative team to make everything possible. Every stage felt like a new challenge to overcome and I’m so grateful that we conquered this one together.”
One thing that never changed during the three performances was AleXa’s spectacular backward fall from the top of a staircase. Was she afraid of making the leap? “Oh no,” she told Billboard. “I love stunts. I love doing falling things. I’m not afraid of heights. I talked to [series co-host] Snoop Dogg about this and he is, apparently.”
The series’ other co-host, Kelly Clarkson, stopped to talk to Billboard after the show about AleXa. “I knew of her before because my niece is a huge K-pop fan. She is already obsessed with her, and so are many fans. Honestly, that’s why the vote counted, right? Like Allen Stone was going to take it and America comes in and votes and it’s like, ‘Nope.’”
Talking about the possibility of AleXa appearing on the Billboard charts, Clarkson said, “I’ve never seen anything like AleXa. That’s her biggest pull. Her performance and her vibe and the fact that she’s from Oklahoma is so funny to me, because I grew up in North Texas and I didn’t see any of that hanging out, like those kind of artists. We think people are boxed into these [categories] and we’re not. It was really interesting to see the 56 states and territories expressing that. There’s a lot of different kind of vibes everywhere and I thought that was really cool.”
Thank you so much to every single person working behind the scenes! The songwriters, my fellow contestants, my friends, family, & loved ones…Zanybros & ZB Label…and my fellow Oklahomans- thank you for supporting me!! A.I TROOPERS I LOVE YOU!#AmericanSongContest #AleXaOnASC pic.twitter.com/8foJyH96w4
— AleXa ❤️👑 (@AleXa_ZB) May 10, 2022
As part of AleXa’s reward for winning, she will perform on The Billboard Music Awards on Sunday (May 15) and iHeartRadio had pledged to play her winning song all summer. “Wonderland” is written by Moa (Cazzi Opeia) Carlebecke, Andreas Carlsson, Albin Nordqvist, Ellen Ber and Bekuh Boom.
To discuss the future of American Song Contest and to analyze season 1, Billboard caught up with executive producer Christer Björkman, whose credits include producing the Eurovision Song Contest and the Swedish heat for Eurovision, Melodifestivalen.
“I am proud of what we’ve achieved with the show. The production value of all the acts and the artists and the final was amazing. I’ve lived up to all of my own expectations. I would’ve loved for the viewing numbers to be higher, but we’ve said all along, it’s not a quick thing, this one. It’s different from every other show in the States and it takes a while to get used to it. So hopefully we get to do it again.”