American Song Contest's Sisqo And More Performers Talk Advantages And Disadvantages Of Going Last In The Qualifiers

Sisqo on American Song Contest
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for Week 5 of American Song Contest

The fifth week of American Song Contest marked the end of the Qualifiers round, with the final eleven artists representing the 56 states and territories of the United States taking the stage. Only four of those eleven will advance, and only one was guaranteed to continue to the next stage at the end of the April 18 episode thanks to the jury vote. ASC saved some of the best for last with the final Qualifiers episode, including famed "Thong Song" singer Sisqó. He and the rest of the performers weighed in on the advantages and disadvantages of performing in the last night of Qualifiers.

By the time of Week 5, no fewer than 45 singers or groups had already taken the stage, and eleven were left to try their best to reach the semi-finals. When the singers spoke with press on the virtual red carpet after their performances, I asked whether they'd watched the earlier episodes and how appearing in the last Qualifiers round affected (or didn't affect) them. 

Sisqo on American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

Sisqo - Maryland

Each week of ASC so far has boasted at least one artist who was already a big name in the music industry, ranging from Michael Bolton to Macy Gray to Jewel. Sisqó was the star set for Week 5, and his performance of his new song "It's Up" was quite literally fire, with flames shooting around him and the crowd on their feet. The singer – best known for the undeniably catchy "Thong Song" (which made an unexpected appearance in The CW's Legends of Tomorrow that could have ended in disaster) – weighed in on going last on the night:

I'm just honored that they asked me to close the night with all of this fantastic talent on American Song Contest. Me being on this show is like being a brand new artist, because there's a lot of kids out there that wasn't even born when my biggest hits came out. So, you know, this was like a brand new experience for me.

Sisqó may have the advantage when it comes to decades of experience in the music industry, but American Song Contest has leveled the playing field with the jury vote and format. Whether or not he advances to the semi-finals still remains to be seen in the 2022 TV schedule, but he clearly enjoyed the experience. He went on, describing what it was like to go last on the last night of Qualifiers: 

I was ready for it. The crowd was so pumped. They had really great energy, and I was just really excited about getting out there and singing something new and seeing how the people felt about it. And I'm not sure how the rest of America felt, but in that room, they seemed to be feeling it. Or maybe it was just the fire. Maybe it was just the flames. I don't know. [laughs] But they were moving.

They certainly were moving, and Sisqó may be one of the acts to beat when it comes to moving forward. Still, nothing is guaranteed for the Week 5 performers other than jury vote winner Ada LeAnn, so it's up to voters now to determine who moves forward! 

American Song Contest Tenelle

(Image credit: NBC)

Tenelle - American Samoa

Tenelle came to American Song Contest to represent American Samoa. Although American Samoa certainly isn't the biggest territory included in ASC, her performance of "Full Circle" was larger than life and proved that she may be as much of a contender as the performers from Texas and California. She shared her own perspective on watching the earlier episodes and performing in the last Qualifiers episode: 

You know what, it wasn't so much that it helped me out. It just sharpened me a little bit more. You know what I mean? In all honesty, it made me want to sing not about myself, not about a female, not about sex, not about love, not about none of that. It made me want to sing about what's going on right now. I feel like the time that we live in right now is so much self. So much self, like selfies. Like, you can't even have a conversation with a person these days, you know. And so I feel like, I needed to be that person that just sets myself apart, which I've always been set apart. Because as my dad says, I'm different. But I just wanted to make sure that my first impression is a lasting impression, and that's it.

She made a doozy of a first impression with her performance; whether or not it's her last impression on the NBC stage is up to voters at this point. The competition is stiff, and a lot depends on how viewers feel about her song. 

Josh Panda on American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

Josh Panda - Vermont

Josh Panda came to American Song Contest from Vermont with teddy bears for hosts Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg (with Snoop's wearing a teddy-sized version of his Super Bowl Halftime Show outfit) as well as an energetic performance of his "Rollercoaster" single. His experience of going from watching the first Qualifiers to performing in the last was truly unique, as he shared:

So Week 1, I'm sitting on my couch, myself, my wife and my oldest son, we all have COVID at that point. So there's just tissues everywhere, snot running out of my nose, which is nasty. And I'm watching Week 1, and I'm looking at the lights and the stage and Snoop, and I'm like 'That's going to be my reality. This is my reality right now. Just nasty with snot and I'm gonna go do that.' It was a crazy feeling, like the distance between those realities at that point. But ultimately, I just got excited. I just wanted to get out here. I'm going to do every week. Just put me on every week! I'll do it again.

Dazzling the crowd definitely beats being "nasty with snot" on the couch, so it's no wonder that he's ready to take the ASC stage again already! Getting to see Snoop Dogg (who explained why he hates the rehearsals for the show) as a performer is an improvement over sitting still and sick. 

American Song Contest Jason J

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Jason J. - Guam

Jason J. came to ASC with "Midnight," which combined the local island reggae of Guam with an alternative edge. He went for a slower song compares to the likes of Sisqó but certainly kept the energy going, and the crowd was loving it. His experience in the last Qualifiers episode was largely shaped by the other contestants: 

I've been talking to a lot of the contestants of this episode. The battle is really between you and yourself as an artist. So we're all artists. We were hoping that no one would be going into like that cutthroat contest energy and nobody did. So we're blessed to like, have people – like the main thing for me was to make sure I hit all my mental notes for my song, whether it's moving more, dancing more. I have my own grade I have my head for my performance, and that's really the person you should be comparing to. Everyone is a different flavor. You can't compare chocolate to vanilla. You know, people love chocolate ice cream, people love vanilla ice cream. You can't say chocolate's the best because around the corner and someone is saying vanilla is the best. So it's all preference. It's all subjective. But there are there are levels. There are levels to this game. So it's just a matter of being as efficient as possible.

There was certainly no other contestant in Week 5 with the same kind of sound as what Jason J. brought from Guam, so perhaps that will be enough to advance him to the semi-finals when the results are announced. 

Halie on American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

HALIE - Missouri

HALIE represented Missouri on American Song Contest, although she came in late in the process when the show needed a replacement for the Show-Me State. In fact, she shared that it was only about a month ago that she found out that she'd be part of the show, but her performance of "Better Things" was no less professional and polished than the others on the night. She shared:

Because I got brought on quickly, I started watching the episodes because I found out I was gonna be on the show. But I like to do things not taking influence from others. So I mean, yes, I have watched it, but I don't necessarily try to be like, 'Oh, she did this,' or 'he did that.' I just kind mute it out. I just go as it comes. That's just how I kind of take things in this business. [laughs]

HALIE's process of joining American Song Contest was fast, so it will be interesting to see if her journey lasts into the semi-finals and beyond after voters have their say. 

John Morgan on American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

John Morgan - North Carolina

John Morgan and his band brought the sound of North Carolina to American Song Contest, with less glitz and glamor than some of the others but packing plenty of power into their performance of "Right in the Middle." According to the singer, performing in the last episode of Qualifiers didn't affect their approach for one key reason: 

I wouldn't say it necessarily changed how we approached our set. We're kind of a one trick pony when it comes to, we're just a band. We're a band, and we played band songs. But it was really interesting and cool to watch all of the previous acts do their thing. Most of them, there's a lot more going on from what we had. [laughs] It's cool, it was a cool experience.

There are more solo singers than groups or bands in American Song Contest, but being a "one trick pony" in this sense doesn't have to be a bad thing. John Morgan put up a solid showing for North Carolina. 

American Song Contest Ada LeAnn

(Image credit: NBC)

Ada LeAnn - Michigan

17-year-old Ada LeAnn came to American Song Contest as the youngest competitor, and her jury win proved that her youth and relative inexperience don't mean that she's not a contender. She's guaranteed a slot in the semi-finals after impressing with "Natalie," and she had high praise for the show as a viewer: 

I watched the episodes before, every single week. I was like 'We have to watch!' [laughs] Just I wanted to scope out my competition. And in general, I like the show. So I've had a lot of fun watching it. I think it gave me an advantage because it's a new show, and they were able to work out all the kinks, which I think was really awesome. And also it's been cool to like be able to see all of the other contestants because I've actually been able to meet them and connect with them. So that's been really awesome too.

Ada LeAnn is the one performer from Week 5 who doesn't have to worry that the ASC ride has come to an end with the Qualifiers performance, and viewers can look forward to seeing what she has in store next. 

Justin Jesso American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

Justin Jesso - Illinois

Justin Jesso was the first performer of the night, and going first can involve a lot of pressure (although another artist who went first on ASC explained that there can be perks). His rendition of his "Lifeline" original song was a winner with the live audience; it remains to be seen whether or not voters from home agree. He shared his process of watching and preparing:

I watched all of the earlier episodes. Did it affect how I prepared? Not really. I think in general, I like to look and learn and take from from other people, but the show has really set us all up well and in our own unique way. And I in general like to kind of put my blinders on and go towards the direction I think is best suited for me. So I didn't really amend anything based off of what I saw. But there were a lot of different things that we were planning that maybe, if I make the semi-finals, we'll get to amp up a little bit. There was talking of me bungee jumping off the top of the stage, so we'll see if that happens. [laughs] That will never happen because of a safety concern, but it was definitely something I wanted to try.

Justin Jesso probably won't be bungee-jumping onto the stage if he does advance, as even the American version of Eurovision has to have some limits! Still, the acts are likely only going to get bigger and wilder moving forward, with or without bungees.

American Song Contest Andrew Sheppard

(Image credit: NBC)

Andrew Sheppard - Idaho

Andrew Sheppard came to American Song Contest to represent the great state of Idaho with a performance of "Steady Machine." He was third in the lineup on the final night of Qualifiers, so he was well before Sisqó and many of the other competitors. According to Sheppard, performing at the end of the Qualifiers round didn't affect him: 

I wouldn't say it gave me an advantage. I don't know if there's really any advantage of what placement you really get on the whole show. You know, you have a lot of really great songs you're going up against. So I think regardless of the episode that you're on, everybody has the same chance, because you're all here for the same reasons.

Andrew Sheppard praised the show for giving everybody "the same chance" on the stage, and considering that the results have already reflected a variety of genres – including K-pop with Oklahoma native AleXa – it truly feels like it's anybody's game at this point. 

Khalisol on American Song Contest

(Image credit: NBC)

Khalisol - New Mexico

Khalisol truly represented the pop culture side of New Mexico with "Drop," which combined his vocals and stage presence with dancers dressed in alien costumes and all the flashing lights that UFO believers could want out of a song performance. He opened up about his Qualifiers experience: 

I mean, I'm a fan of music. So I definitely checked out all the other episodes just to see the type of music we have in this world that's new, that's not out. You know, some artists that were big and some artists that weren't. So that was cool, and not necessarily affected the way I attacked my situation... But I did love to see like, certain people, certain dancers move around. I'm not able to dance like that, sing like that, but it was like, 'alright, maybe I should bring a little energy like this singer.' ...That was the cool part about it.

There's no arguing that Khalisol brought plenty of energy to go along with the aliens. If he makes it to the next round, it's hard not to wonder what ASC could come up with to top the staging for "Drop" this time!

American Song Contest Sweet Taboo

(Image credit: NBC)

Sweet Taboo - California

Sweet Taboo represented Snoop Dogg's home state of California with "Keys to the Kingdom," which was such a hit that they were leaders among the jury for quite a bit of the two-hour broadcast. Citing groups like TLC and Destiny's Child as their inspirations, they seem like a likely pick to advance to the semi-finals. Singer Sami Ramos spoke for the group, saying:

We definitely watched all the other episodes. Just knowing that we were going to be on there, we were like, 'oh my gosh, this is crazy.' All the artists that performed before us, we were like, 'oh, they're so amazing.' We took like bits and pieces of inspo from them. But I think what was special about our performance is that it wasn't like anything else that's out there right now, and I think Sweet Taboo as a group, we represent a lot of women and we just can come together and get on that stage and show people who we are. And I think that's very special about us.

Will Sweet Taboo make it to the semi-finals, or will it be one of the seven from the last round of Qualifiers who won't make the cut? Lend your support to your favorites of the ten whose fates are still uncertain by voting via, the NBC app, and TikTok until voting closes at 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday, April 20. In case you want to revisit the performances before locking in your votes, the show is available streaming with a Peacock subscription as well.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).