It was all about state pride on the inaugural episode of American Song Contest on March 21 as 11 solo artists and bands representing a U.S. state or territory competed by performing their original songs. Holding the spot for the state of Connecticut, Michael Bolton joined the Eurovision-like competition with his song “Beautiful World” and left host Kelly Clarkson stunned.
A subtle nod to the 1967 Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World,” Bolton’s version had a similar sentiment in lyrics We’ve gotta love like we’ve never been hurt / We’ve gotta rise like we’ve never been burned / After all of the lessons we’ve learned, we’re gonna make this a beautiful world.
“That voice is so silky smooth,” said Clarkson following Bolton’s performance, holding a Michael Bolton t-shirt. “I felt like he was singing directly to me.”
Despite his multi-platinum and chart-topping success, Bolton said that being open to different types of music “increases your love and understanding of music.”
Bolton, now 69, has released 24 albums since his 1975 debut Michael Bolotin and has had nine No. 1 hits, on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Adult Contemporary charts, including “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
As a songwriter, Bolton has written numerous songs for artists throughout his career, including “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” originally written for Laura Branigan in 1983, “Forever” for Kiss, Cher’s “I Found Someone,” and Barbra Streisand’s 1989 “We’re Not Making Love Anymore,” which Bolton later sang with Patti LaBelle in 1991.
In a pre-taped interview with Bolton, he visited Connecticut restaurant Sally’s Apizza. “New York has the best pizza in New York,” said the singer, “but if you’re in downtown New Haven in Connecticut, pizza means life itself.”
The eight-week competition’s premise of American Song Contest is inspired by the annual Eurovision Song Contest, which introduced the world to ABBA with “Waterloo” in 1974, along with artists like Olivia-Newton John, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias, and many more.
Throughout the course of the show, 56 artists represented each U.S. state and territory. In addition to Bolton, some of the more famous competitors joining other lesser-known artists this season include Jewel, who will represent her home state of Alaska, and Macy Gray for Ohio.
Photo: Trae Patton/NBC