A rising K-pop star from Oklahoma has been crowned the winner of the inaugural “American Song Contest.”
Tulsa native AleXa won the new NBC competition series Monday night with her dance-pop song “Wonderland,” which she performed throughout the show’s run with the elaborate stage production, colorful costumes, hair and makeup and intricate dance moves that have made K-pop — short for “Korean pop” — a global sensation.
“Thank you so much to every single person working behind the scenes,” AleXa posted on social media after the season finale. “The songwriters, my fellow contestants, my friends, family … and my fellow Oklahomans — thank you for supporting me!!”
The 2015 Jenks High School graduate beat out nine other artists — including Grammy winner and Connecticut native Michael Bolton — to win “American Song Contest.”
“Country music is definitely something Oklahoma is well known for, but there bands like The All-American Rejects and Hanson as well that came from Oklahoma. It’s so much more than just country music, and I’m very proud to represent that,” AleXa told The Oklahoman in March.
What is ‘American Song Contest?’
Hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, “American Song Contest” has been billed as America’s answer to the long-running Eurovision Song Contest, which launches its 2022 edition this week. Eurovision and “American Song Contest” producer Christer Björkman appeared on the latter’s finale Monday night to congratulate the finalists.
“Eurovision is this amazing song competition that helps unite Europe together through the power of music. When I heard that America would be tackling it … and the Christer Björkman, the one that is in charge of the Eurovision, would be managing this … I was like, ‘Wow, we are in good hands. I cannot wait to see how this comes out,'” AleXa told The Oklahoman earlier this season.
“It’s just such a cool experience, for lack of a more SAT word. … This whole experience has been awesome.”
Over its eight-week run, “American Song Contest” spotlighted 56 acts: one for each of the 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C.
Along with AleXa and Bolton, the top 10 finalists included “The Voice” Season 9 winner and native Kentuckian Jordan Smith; Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and Washington competitor Allen Stone; Native American songwriter and North Dakota contender Chloe Fredericks; self-taught Texas performer Grant Knoche; Alabama duo and YouTube hitmakers Ni/Co; former “Glee” and “Dancing with the Stars” performer and Coloradoan Riker Lynch; Tennessee musician and firefighter Tyler Braden; and American Samoan songwriter and breakout reggae artist Tenelle.
Who is AleXa?
Born in Tulsa and raised in Jenks, AleXa was a cheerleader for Jenks High School, took dance lessons and enjoyed riding horses growing up. In 2008, her best friend introduced her to K-pop, with the boy group SHINee and female solo artist Chung Ha becoming lasting influences.
In 2018, AleXa, 25, moved to South Korea to pursue a K-pop career. After winning the online talent competition “Rising Legends” — determined through nearly a million fan votes — she was one of the 96 contenders chosen to participate in “Produce 48,” the most competitive audition show in Korea.
Signed with ZB, a label owned by South Korean video production company Zanybros, AleXa made her multilingual K-pop debut in 2019 with “Bomb.” The song landed at No. 7 on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales chart and has nabbed more than 23 million views with an action-packed music video.
A year later, AleXa won top Korean awards for her extended plays “Do Or Die” and “Decoherence.” In the past year, the Oklahoma native has released the Y2K-inspired EP “ReviveR,” featuring the infectious dance track “Xtra,” performed the National Anthem for the Los Angeles Dodgers and made her acting debut with the new Korean horror anthology sequel “Goedam 2” (aka “Urban Myths: Tooth Worms”).
How did AleXa win on ‘American Song Contest?’
K-pop singer, dancer and songwriter Alex Christine, known professionally as AleXa, made a big impression on “American Song Contest” from the start: The Oklahoma representative was featured on the March 21 debut episode as the second of 11 qualifiers.
Backed by a bevy of athletic dancers, AleXa transported viewers to a quintessentially K-pop “Wonderland,” blasting through the speedy lyrics and executing complicated choreography amid flashy lighting, pyrotechnics and visual effects. She capped her performance by falling backward off a flight of stairs rising up from the stage.
“Wonderland” was written by songwriters Albin Nordqvist, Andreas Carlsson, Bekuh Boom, Ellen Berg, and Moa (Cazzie Opeia) Carlebecker, according to American Songwriter.
AleXa’s initial performance garnered enough fan votes to secure her a spot in the show’s semi-finals, where the competitors were tasked with bringing an “elevated” performance of their original songs. On the April 25 live episode, AleXa showed that she took that challenge literally, adding a high-flying aerial silks opening to her K-pop showcase.
For her finals performance, AleXa opted to heighten the song’s “Alice in Wonderland” theme in more ways than one: Dressed in a sparkling outfit inspired by the Red Queen, she made a regal entrance soaring high above the stage on an elaborate throne.
Like the show’s format, the voting and tabulation for “American Song Contest” followed the Eurovision model. First, each of the 10 finalists were awarded points from the professional jury consisting of 56 jurors divided among 10 geographic regions of the USA. A representative from each region announced live which contestant had garnered their top score of 12 points, with other contenders receiving a lesser portion of points.
After the jury points were all awarded, Washington’s Stone had earned a leading 105 points with his song “A Little Bit of Both.” AleXa and “Wonderland” were in fifth place with 60 points.
But the devoted K-Pop fan base is known for its online voting might, and when the tally from the public vote was revealed, the Oklahoman nabbed 656 points, flying into first place with a total of 710 points. The runner-up, Colorado’s Lynch, ended up with a total of 503 points.
Watching the tabulations with her mother and father, AleXa burst into tears as she was named the winner. Her dance team joined her on stage as she accepted the golden microphone trophy.
“Give it up for the dancers, for Snoop and Kelly, for all these finalists and all the staff that made this happen,” AleXa shouted, dropping to her knees.
What’s next for AleXa?
AleXa next will appear on the Billboard Music Awards, which will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC and Peacock. Plus, iHeartRadio has vowed to play “Wonderland” all summer, according to Billboard.
Not only did AleXa earn enough votes to win NBC’s “American Song Contest,” but her song also has been streamed roughly 2 million times since the show started.
“I am a proud Okie — born and raised for 21 years — so I was more than happy to represent my home state and my people for this competition. As a Korean American myself, I really wanted to represent my mother’s Korean heritage … and everything that I’ve been working for these past four years as a K-pop artist and bring that to America,” AleXa told The Oklahoman.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma K-pop star AleXa wins ‘American Song Contest’