K-pop star AleXa wins American Song Contest

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

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Image source, NBC / Universal
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AleXa said "it felt like my brain exploded" when her victory was announced

K-pop singer AleXa has become the first-ever winner of the US version of Eurovision.

The 25-year-old, who was representing her home state of Oklahoma, triumphed with the electro-pop song, Wonderland.

She beat nine other artists, including four time Grammy-winner Michael Bolton, to take the title.

The singer, who has a successful career in her second home, Korea, said "it felt like my brain exploded" when the results were revealed.

"My mother was holding onto my arm and she was crying and shaking and so I cried with her," she told Billboard magazine.

Throughout the competition, AleXa performed her Alice-in-Wonderland-themed banger in a series of elaborate outfits, with colourful stage productions and intricate choreography- including a heart-stopping backwards fall from the top of a staircase.

"Wonderland is a very complex staging routine. If we had a scale from one to 10, this is definitely an 8.5," she said ahead of her final performance.

"I love stunts. I love doing falling things. I'm not afraid of heights."

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The US spin-off of Eurovision launched in March, and was hosted by singer Kelly Clarkson and rap legend Snoop Dogg.

Contestants from 50 states were pitted against each other during eight weeks of qualifying rounds. Several established stars, including Macy Gray and Sisqo, were voted out before Monday's grand final.

The voting process duplicated Eurovision, with juries awarding points to individual acts before a public vote was added to the tally.

Washington State's Allen Stone won the jury round, with his song A Little Bit of Both securing 105 points.

But AleXa, who had promoted Wonderland with a viral TikTok challenge, raced home in the public vote, leaping from fifth place to be crowned the winner, with 710 points.

Along the way, some viewers had to be educated on Korea's aesthetic-driven blend of high-octane pop and maximalist production.

"There are so many things that make K-pop K-pop," she explained in a video setting up her performance. "The hair, the make-up, the outfit, the lighting, the staging, the choreography."

"Country music is definitely something Oklahoma is well known for, but there are bands like The All-American Rejects and Hanson as well that came from Oklahoma," she previously told her local newspaper. "It's so much more than just country music, and I'm very proud to represent that."

Image source, Getty Images
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The singer posed backstage with American Song Contest hosts Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson

It is not the first time the Korean-American singer, whose real name is Alexandra Christine Schneiderman, has triumphed in a TV talent contest.

She launched her music career in 2017 after wining the Korean show Rising Legends, where the prize included a trip to Seoul and the chance to audition for the record label Cube Entertainment.

She later debuted on the ZB Label with the single Bomb, and released her first EP Do or Die in early 2020.

Earlier this year, AleXa released a new English-language single, Tattoo, and was cast in the Korean anthology horror movie Urban Myths.

But speaking backstage at the American Music Awards, she said her ambitions were focused on music.

"I would, more than anything, love a tour, if that would ever be something possible."

As part of her prize, she gets to appear at the Billboard Music Awards this weekend; while her song will be automatically playisted on iHeart radio stations across the US.

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