This is the end: we've seen all the performances, the people have voted, the Orville's been popped and it's time to announce a winner. Last night was a strong though largely safe showing for the top six, most memorable for Taylor's meta-humor and Kenichi's grand finale projection routine. The musicians were all well within their respective wheelhouses, and Collins Key is still a little too post-millennial MTV for the old folks like me -- that is, older than their teens. I can't make a prediction with any real confidence, but I can say that I'd like to see Kenichi win this thing and Taylor be his runner-up: when you recap shows like this, you get really used to formula really quickly, and it's always a joy when someone manages to surprise you with some actual creativity. That's just my opinion, though -- I know a good many Americans who prefer clean-cut polite young Southern white Christian veteran coal-mining country singers who love their mamas, so we'll just have to see who comes out on top.
The live blog starts now:
The opening recap highlights just how on Taylor was last night -- he gets a big portion of the time, and all the best lines. After that, we have a performance from the Rockettes, presumably because they live under the stage. The backstage popcorn segment, the last of this season, features Cami singing Tone the Chiefrocca's "B Double O T Y," so we're off to a rollicking start here.
After that we have a performance from Iconna Pop, performing they're smash hit "I Love It," and also some other song that isn't that one. Performances like this don't really make a lot of sense to me when we all just want to know who wins, but then I suppose the entertainment industry is just another flavor of Snapple.
Lots of footage of the judges messing around now, so yeah.
Gavin DeGraw shows up for a duet with Cami Bradley now, which makes a little more sense to me -- at least it has something to do with the show. Their voices blend quite nicely too, so I'm a little less grumpy now.
Kenichi continues the 'perform with celebrities' trend, dancing along with Il Divo to a Latin rendition of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Musically this would all appear to be solidly in Forte's territory, but I'm kind of glad they went with a bit more of a mismatch here.
The most clever pairing of the evening is that of Taylor Williamson and Inside the Actor's Studio
's James Lipton -- an Eddie Murphy-style musical performance wouldn't make much sense. Taylor is funny and affable in his interview, and even though it's a bit, it isn't tough to imagine him in similar interviews in the future.
Collins Key's so-called duet involves pulling Kathy Lee and Hoda into his act, which is all kind of weird and reeks of random promotional crossover. The banter is all very awkward and strange and disjointed and long and kind of terrible, but as always it's a pretty mind-bending trick.
Forte's collaborator, Josh Groban, is given a huge, kind of hilarious dramatic reveal -- if you've got the majesty of Josh Groban on hand, you might as well do it up. If you interrupt a funeral with "Ladies and Gentlemen, Josh Groban," nobody's even gonna be mad.
Jimmy Rose does a duet with Dierks Bentley, in case anyone needed a bathroom break.
The next filler segment is literally just a bunch of random footage from throughout the season, because I guess it's that crucial that the show run two hours. No particular arc or thesis to it, just a bunch of stuff.
We now have a performance from Earth Wind and Fire, which I don't really understand but am totally cool with. It's kind of charming how they're here to promote their "new CD" in the age of iTunes.
At last, we have some results:6th Place: Cami Bradley
Understandable. She's a talented singer, but she's nothing we've never seen before and I don't get the sense that her fanbase was too passionate.5th Place: Collins Key
Another "America got it right" moment -- Collins has always resonated with a very specific demographic, but he's not quite ready for prime time yet.
4th Place: Forte
That one's a bit of a surprise; a lot of people were calling them for the win. I didn't see them taking the grand prize, but I also didn't see Jimmy Rose beating them.
We then have another unrelated performance, this time from singer Luke Bryant, who seems to have found a commercial sweet spot between Country music and the frattiest frat in Greektown. I hate it, that's just me.3rd Place: Jimmy Rose
That leaves my personal top two, Kenichi and Taylor. Way to go, America! We have a brief retrospective on both of them. 2nd Place: Taylor Williamson
Kenichi Ebina wins AGT Season 8
What do you know, this is exactly the outcome I was pulling for. Kenichi really deserved it -- he was the most consistently creative act of the season, and he's exactly what this show is all about. I'm also thrilled to see Taylor do so well -- even if he doesn't get a modest income of 25,000 a year for the next 40 years (as is the prize), this has still been great exposure for him. Well done, everyone, America got it right.
(Image courtesy of NBC)