Sweet Taboo American Song Contest

American Song Contest: Sweet Taboo prepare for their semi-final performance

California’s Sweet Taboo have made it to the American Song Contest semi-finals, and they’ll take the stage again Monday to try to earn more of the nation’s votes. Having wowed viewers and the jury alike with their first outing on the NBC series, how will they take things to the next level? And what does it mean to them to represent their home state?

I checked back in with Jen Torrejon, Sami Ramos and ICP Bre to get the dish on their American Song Contest experience ahead of their next performance. For more on Sweet Taboo, check out our last conversation, and be sure to vote for them on Monday—voting times and information are at the bottom of this interview!

Brittany Frederick: How did you become involved in American Song Contest?

Jen Torrejon: It’s thanks to social media. We had a cover of Becky G’s song “Mayores” up on our TikTok and Instagram. Atlantic Records is behind the show, and they saw our cover and hit us up and thought we were perfect to represent California. We did have to go through a couple of auditions and Zoom meetings; eventually they loved us, and we’re here repping Cali.

BF: We’ve spoken before about California’s influence on your music. How did you approach a song that specifically has to represent your home state?

Sami Ramos: Our song is called “Keys to the Kingdom,” and there’s a line in there that says, “Open up the gates.” We feel that line is representative of the opportunity that is here in California, specifically in the music industry. A lot of people move here to follow their dreams. They come from different states, even all over the world. We were lucky to be born into this opportunity. So it’s just all about everything that we have living here in California.

BF: You have the production power of NBC behind you, so what were the conversations you had about the actual live performance and how you wanted it designed? Your set design really popped and got a great response from the audience.

ICP Bre: It was definitely based on like how we grew up. We’re Latinas, so we had barbecues almost every week. We had little things that we would do with our families in the backyard. We wanted to involve our culture and where we come from, and that’s exactly what we did. We had our crew that’s on the stage with us. But we also have so many things that relate to when we would have our barbecues—the little chairs and our uncles and our aunts and our family and our friends being around. We definitely wanted to make it look like a block party, like something that we do every week.

BF: Unlike other singing competitions, your semi-final performance has to be the same song. In a general sense, how do you create something bigger than that?

JT: I think there’s little things to amplify the performance and make it bigger. There’s always something you can put in there, whether it’s more pyro or more dancers or more colors. But it is going to look bigger and better, for sure.

BF: American Song Contest brings together so much talent. Have you had any opportunity to interact with or learn from the other artists during the competition?

SR: We made great friends with [Josh Panda from] Vermont. We learned that Ben and Jerry’s originates in Vermont. (laughs) We made friends with Tenelle, who’s representing Samoa. There’s a lot of different cultures that we’re kind of able to pull from, and you never know, one day you might get to collaborate with these other artists, or we might get to go on tour together. So it’s really exciting to be around everybody.

ICP Bre: They were very genuine. It was very nice. And for us to all be in the same position—we were all excited and we wanted to make those connections and network with these people that are in the same position as us.

SR: And it speaks to how America is. There’s so many different types of music in each state or even from city to city. It’s great that they wanted to encompass as much of that as possible, and then you get more people to come and watch the show and be fans of the show.

BF: What’s been the most rewarding part of your American Song Contest experience so far?

SR: Everybody’s hearing our music. We’re making fans out of people all over the country and even all over the world, because Eurovision is so big in Europe, and those fans have kind of converted over to American Song Contest as well. So we’re able to reach an even larger audience than we were before. And that’s great—to have people all over the world singing your music, listening to your song. There’s no better feeling than that.

JT: Another fun thing for us is that this was the biggest stage we’ve ever performed on. To have that experience and to have the big setup, the big show, the lights, it was new for us. It was exciting. It was a first-time experience. I’m sure there’s going to be more big shows, but it’s been really fun to spend that time together and to just grow.

ICP Bre: And I would also say being able to meet with [American Song Contest hosts] Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson. That was definitely a really big part. That definitely meant something to us. That we able to perform in front of them, it’s just like, “Damn, we’re really doing the thing!”

American Song Contest airs Mondays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT, though the voting window opens at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on both coasts. Fans can vote online at NBC.com, through the NBC app, or on TikTok.

Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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