For four weeks now, the American Song Contest has been on a nonstop journey to find the state or territory most worthy of winning the title of “Best Original Song”. Twelve states (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington) and one territory (Puerto Rico) have booked their places in the semifinals. While we wait to find out the public vote qualifiers from heat four, the fifth and final qualifying heat will give the last 11 acts a chance to win the hearts of the jury and fans. Let’s get to know the acts…
American Song Contest: Heat Five Acts
American Samoa — Tenelle — “Full Circle”
Born in Carson, California, Tenelle Luafalemana (known professionally as Tenelle) originally had her eye on the sports world, being heavily involved in softball. At the age of 12, she started taking singing lessons with vocal coach Tim Carter, who is best known for his work with artists such as Beyoncé and Willow Smith. After graduating from high school in 2006, Tenelle joined three of her uncles in a band called Chord Brown. Her music has been described by many as “a breath of fresh air.”
Tenelle started her solo career as a popular regional performer on the West Coast of the United States and in Oceania. She became internationally recognized after the release of her single “Flava” by Grammy nominated artist Meghan Trainor in 2013. The song quickly rose on the iTunes singles chart, eventually reaching #1. Her debut album For the Lovers was released on 10 March 2017 and peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.
Tenelle has performed and collaborated with fellow Pacific Islander artists such as George ‘Fiji’ Veikoso, Drew Deezy, Adeaze, Anuhea, and Kimie. She has toured in the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, American Samoa, and Samoa. Tenelle remembers listening to artists such as Lauryn Hill, Fiji, Whitney Houston, Betty Wright and Aswad as a child. She’s proud to represent American Samoa, her family and all of its amazing people.
You can connect with Tenelle here:
California — Sweet Taboo — “Keys to the Kingdom”
Sweet Taboo is a Los Angeles-based Latina group consisting of Jen, Sami and rapper ICP Bre. Their sound is described as R&B, hip-hop and pop mixed with a Latin flare. Their songs combine English, Spanish and a whole lot of take-no-prisoners attitude. Sweet Taboo’s song covers have repeatedly gone viral, earning them millions of views on TikTok, and have been reposted by DJ Khaled, Kehlani, Russ and Bia. All born and raised in California, they are honored to represent their state.
You can connect with Sweet Taboo here:
Guam — Jason J. — “Midnight”
Originally from Yona, Guam, and now calling Glendale, California, home, Jason J. is an independent artist and songwriter. He is known for his expressive vocals. His music blends the sounds of island reggae and alternative. Since he first started writing original music in 2004, he has gone on to play multiple national tours and reggae festivals. He shot up to the top ten of the Billboard reggae charts in 2017 with his first solo EP, Luminosity – EP. Jason comes from a traditional Filipino family and spent the first 23 years of his life surrounded by Guamanian culture and its musical influences, and credits that with making him the artist he is today.
You can connect with Jason J. here:
Idaho — Andrew Sheppard — “Steady Machine”
Originally from Hailey, Idaho, and now living in Boise, Andrew Sheppard is a singer, songwriter and musician who started making albums in 2009 and has been touring and recording ever since. His last album, Steady Your Aim, was released in 2018. Andrew’s music is most often described as heartland rock (a genre of rock music characterized by a straightforward, often roots musical style, often with a focus on blue-collar workers, and a conviction that rock music has a social or communal purpose beyond just entertainment). Andrew’s music has been said to make people reflect on their past and give them hope for the future.
You can connect with Andrew Sheppard here:
Illinois — Justin Jesso — “Lifeline”
Justin Jesso (born Justin Stein) grew up in the relatively small village of Glencoe, Illinois, a sleepy suburb just under 30 minutes outside of Chicago. His family’s musical history runs deep in the state of Illinois, with his great-grandfather being a bandleader in Chicago in the 1920s. As a celebrated artist and songwriter, Justin has over a billion streams for his collaborations with international pop greats such as Ricky Martin (being nominated for Song of the Year at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2017 for his single “Vente Pa’ Ca”), Maluma, the Backstreet Boys and Norwegian producer Kygo (co-writing and featuring on his global smash “Stargazing”, which has been streamed over 170 million times). Signed to Sony, Justin released his debut EP, “Let It Be Me,” in 2019, featuring singles “Getting Closer” and “Let It Be Me” (featuring Nina Nesbitt). His most recent DJ collaboration with Alle Farben, “As Far as Feelings Go,” peaked at No. 3 on the German radio charts, and his follow-up single, “Bigger Than,” with Norwegian producing duo Seeb (Pill In Ibiza), has over 60 million streams.
You can connect with Justin Jesso here:
Maryland — Sisqó — “It’s Up”
Sisqó, the longtime frontman of the multi-platinum group Dru Hill, is a Grammy Award-nominated solo artist, and a 25-year music veteran whose hits include “Tell Me,” “Incomplete,” “In My Bed,” “5 Steps,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “We’re Not Making Love No More” and the smash single “The Thong Song.” In 2000, he won six Billboard Music Awards, including Male Artist of the Year. He was born Mark Althavan Andrews in Baltimore, a city hard-hit by drugs and extreme violence. These experiences served as the inspiration for an artist who has never let his tough upbringing define his life. At a time when charismatic singers who can really sing and dance are a rarity, Sisqó still wins the love of fans and critics as a consummate showman fearless in his pursuit to push the limits of his creativity.
You can connect with Sisqó here:
Michigan — Ada LeAnn — “Natalie”
Born and raised in Battle Creek (nicknamed “Cereal City”, as it is best known as the home of the Kellogg Company and the founding city of Post Consumer Brands), Ada LeAnn is a 16-year-old singer and songwriter (and the youngest singer in this year’s competition). She has gained recognition for her ability to write emotional lyrics about relationships that are real and relatable to her audience. Ada wants to use her music to be a voice for teenagers like herself to show them that they are heard, understood and not alone. She has released two EPs and multiple covers with a discography of 18 songs.
You can connect with Ada LeAnn here:
Missouri — HALIE — “Better Things”
Originally from Thayer, Missouri, Halie Wooldridge (known professionally as HALIE) is a singer, songwriter and model. Growing up on country music, HALIE moved to Nashville to pursue her music career after graduating from high school. As a distant relative of country music legend Jimmie Rodgers (widely regarded as “the Father of Country Music”), music is in her blood, inspiring her dream to become a musician. One of her greatest opportunities so far was becoming a winner on season two of NBC’s “Songland” in 2020, after country star Martina McBride chose to record her song “Girls Like Me.” HALIE is thrilled and proud to represent her home state of Missouri on “American Song Contest.”
(Note: Missouri was originally set to be represented by singer/songwriter Brett Seper, but he was forced to drop out of the competition for reasons that have not been made public. HALIE was announced as his replacement on Wednesday, April 13th.)
You can connect with HALIE here:
New Mexico — Khalisol — “Drop”
Zachary Chicoine, known professionally as Khalisol, is a 26-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has found success in the music industry through ghostwriting for various K-pop groups, while also producing and releasing his own music. His music mixes soul and hip-hop to create a very distinct sound. He uses events from his life and view of the world around him as well as within his spirit as inspiration for his song lyrics. It has earned him double platinum, platinum and gold certifications in K-pop with groups Super M and NCT Dream. Khalisol has also created a successful streetwear clothing brand and offers musical workshops.
You can connect with Khalisol here:
North Carolina — John Morgan — “Right in the Middle”
John Morgan brings a blue-collar toughness to country that’s pulled straight from the only life he knew. Hailing from a tiny town called Sylva, deep in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, John grew up immersed in bluegrass tradition and even toured the festival circuit each summer in a family band before diving into songwriting, inspired by six-string legends from Tony Rice to John Mayer. More than a year after selling everything he had to follow his dream, John moved to Nashville. In a series of miraculous events, he met an Uber driver named John Edwards and impressive demos led to a writing session with Kurt Allison and Tully Kennedy — two incredible songwriters and longtime bandmates of country superstar Jason Aldean. That session led to Aldean cutting eight songs written by John, including his Grammy Award-nominated No. 1 smash hit with Carrie Underwood, “If I Didn’t Love You,” and Aldean signing John to Night Train Records, his imprint with BBR Music Group. John’s debut track, “Coldest Beer in Town,” was released in 2021 while he toured the nation as part of Aldean’s Back in the Saddle tour. John is proud to represent his home state of North Carolina.
You can connect with John Morgan here:
Vermont — Josh Panda — “Rollercoaster”
Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, but now calling Burlington, Vermont, home, Josh Panda is known for his passionate stage performances, booming four-octave vocal range and for playing in a wide range of musical styles, including pop, Americana, country, soul, blues, disco and rock. Josh has released four albums, three studio and one live, and has toured throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Josh is thrilled to represent Vermont because the people have always embraced him as he is,
You can connect with Josh Panda here:
Who are you looking most forward to discovering in the last qualifying heat? Whose style will set fire to the ASC stage? Do any of them have that special something that it takes to win? Sound off in the comments below!