'Best. Cover. Ever.' series premiere, episode 1 recap: Demi Lovato fuels a R&B dream
Best. Cover. Ever. YouTube

Demi Lovato stars in the series premiere episode of the YouTube-based original talent competition series “Best.Cover.Ever.,” which launched on Nov. 20. Hosted and executive-produced by Grammy-winning rap icon Ludacris and produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions, Endemol Shine North America, and Columbia Records, the series features global music superstars scouring the world for undiscovered, emerging talent via the career-launching social media platform, YouTube. Two finalists face off in each episode for the ultimate grand prize: A chance to collaborate and perform with an international superstar.

 Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Demi Lovato meets her top two finalists AHMIR and Anthem Lights in the first episode. The “Heart Attack” singer watches each act cover one of her songs and then chooses a winner who will collaborate with her on a duet that premieres on YouTube at the end of the installment. Sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. brands, “Best.Cover.Ever." puts a dynamic new spin on reality singing competitions by tapping into the boundless platform YouTube provides for music industry professionals to scout out emerging artists. SPOILER ALERT: Winners are revealed in this recap.

Choosing the Act

Demi Lovato fully understands the power of forging musical connections with her fans via YouTube. As Ludacris points at the start of the episode, the video for her smash hit “Cool For the Summer” has garnered more than 294  million views to date. Lovato scanned thousands of submissions from aspiring artists who submitted covers of her anthemic title track of her 2015 album Confident. In the end, she chose two acts to compete against each other: Boston-based R & B group AHMIR and Nashville-based  pop group Anthem Lights.

Both bands brought something different to the table with their take on Demi’s Billboard chart-topping single. AHMIR delivered a smooth R & B twist on it and Anthem Lights’ harmonies notably reminded Lovato of The Fray.

Surprises and Performances

“Best.Cover.Ever.” is packed with surprises, including YouTube comedy and music sensation Rudy Mancuso playing segments out to commercial breaks. Plus, the Top 2 finalists are told they’re going to fly to L.A. to perform for Demi Lovato’s producers. The acts think they’re competing against a bunch of other finalists. But, when they arrive at YouTube Space LA, they find out they’re only battling each other, and they'll perform for directly for Ludacris and Lovato. No pressure, right?

Overall, it’s fun to see the surprise and excitement register on the group members' faces when Lovato walks out to greet them. Per short artist bios featured on the YouTube episode page, AHMIR formed over a decade ago and features members Leon Jones, Michael “Big Mike” McDonald, Kelly “KC” Washington and Mark “Sing-Sing” Robertson. These guys have rich, melodic harmonies and their soulful, R&B sound is distinctive. Lovato tells Ludacris, “It’s so beautiful that you feel it in your bones.”

Anthem Lights started out as a Christian band singing faith-based songs. Members are Caleb Grimm, Chad Graham, Joey Stamper and Spencer Kane. Their voices blend beautifully. They impressed Lovato in their original submission by switching up the track’s arrangement.

Demi challenges the groups to perform their renditions of “Cool For the Summer” and they both rise to the challenge. Anthem Lights is up first with stunning a cappella moments and a captivating arrangement. AHMIR follows with a smooth, retro R&B interpretation of the song that arguably gives the track new depth and sonic dimension.

The Winners Share the Spotlight with Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato ultimately dubs AHMIR as her "Best.Cover.Ever." winners. They share an emotional victory moment, which includes a group hug with Ludacris and Demi. Then, AHMIR and Demi work with a team to arrange their performance and they finally take the BCE stage together to perform Demi’s emotional hit single “Stone Cold.” It’s a beautiful collaboration. AHMIR’s R&B vibe fits nicely with Demi’s soulful delivery. In a final twist, Ludacris calls AHMIR weeks later to tell them Demi believes in them and wants to show her support for their future success by giving them $10,000 toward finishing their album.

Overall, “Best.Cover.Ever.’s” series premiere episode presents a fun look at a fast-paced dream-come-true experience. The first episode has garnered over 630,000 YouTube views to date. It’ll be interesting to track AHMIR’s progress from here. You can watch the entire first episode in the attached video above.

Stay tuned to AXS for Demi Lovato and “Best.Cover.Ever.” updates and information