It's the end of an era, or at least the end of the quarterfinals for America's Got Talent
's season 9. The last 12 acts took aim and fired their performances in the direction of all those in attendance at Radio City Music Hall and across the screens of millions of viewers. And those watching at home either found it very easy or very hard to vote this week.
Full disclosure, people: sadly, I expected a lot more high-quality entertainment than we've seen these past several weeks, and this week was no exception.
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It Hasn't Been All Bad
Not to blow sunshine up anybody's skirt, but there have been some acts on America's Got Talent season 9 that blew me away: Miguel Dakota, Emily West, Sons of Serendip, Blue Journey, The Willis Clan (I'm still rooting for their return) and the one my colleague Bill King and I are picketing Washington to get back on stage, Flight Crew Jump Rope. These acts have made the season worth while.
The challenge with predicting is that it's all a matter of taste, personal preference, and that is nothing if not subjective as hell. Perhaps we shall just agree that I need to grow some balls when it gets down to dashing the dreams of subpar performers. Anyone teaching a class on that? Give me a call, Kelly Cutrone. Good thing I'm covering America's Next Top Model this season (now that's a show I've been addicted to for years!)
Some Numbers Before We Go Forward
I don't know what I was expecting. These are regular people, after all, and not the juggernauts of the entertainment industry's rich and famous. I have found doing my own judging difficult. Add to that that as a writer I have experienced my share of judgment and understand what it's like to put your heart and soul into your craft in the hope of making a difference only to have someone with a sharp stick poke holes in my fragile artistic ego. So for me, this is new and very challenging. I need to get some distance from the emotion of the experience. In order to do that, I turn to the raw data.
I've kept tabs over the last three weeks of the quarterfinals. These are the acts by category that are advancing to the semifinals:
* Female singers --> 2 (Emily West, Mara Justine)
* Male singers --> 3 (Paul Ieti, Miguel Dakota, Jaycob Curlee)
* Comedians --> 1 (Dan Naturman)
* Magicians --> 2 (David and Leeman, Mat Franco)
* Dance Groups --> 2 (Baila Conmigo, AcroArmy)
* Single acrobats, hand balancers --> 2 (Andrey Moraru, Christian Stoniev)
* Animation Dancer Duets --> 2 (Aerial Animation, Blue Journey)
* Group Singers --> 1 (Sons of Serendip)
Looking at this from a distance, it is clearer to me what calibre talent we are looking for in these last 12. I ask myself, which of the 12 that are left are as good as or better than these? In doing this, it became easy to see right away who was sure to go no further.
The Easy Throw-Aways
These acts were silly or not nearly as amazing as the existing roster of advancers: Dom the Bom's Triple
Bomb Threat, One Voice Children's Choir (who really should have been just the one voice of little soloist Lexi who has pipes almost as strong as a young Mara Justine), Not Bad Enough Boys of Ballet and the Mothmen Marionette Dancers.
I'd like to add Nina Burri to this list because contortionists are just creepy and I don't have the right male body parts to see anything remotely sexy in them, but the judges loved her, so I will hold that thought. So where do I go from there?
Spontaneous Human Behavior is Genuine
Still finding it difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat, I rewound the episode and watched the audience reaction after every single performance. What this revealed through spontaneous standing ovations is that these are the viewer favorites: Extreme, Emil and Dariel, Kelli Glover and Jonah Smith. While I agree with the judges that last night's performances from these acts were not always their best, these guys have the body of work to prove that they have the chops to go forward.
If these acts move forward, that will add to the categories above and round out the mix. Kelli will make it three female singers against three male singers. Extreme will compete most directly with Baila Conmigo and AcroArmy and it should be a fair fight. Jonah Smith join Sons of Serendip for their instrumental musicality and vocals in a group performance. Emil and Dariel are in their own category.
It's a Crapshoot, Folks
Remaining, we have Jonatan Riquelme whom the judges loved but I found uninteresting, Nina Burri whom I find creepy, Quintavious Johnson who is amazing but whose voice was screechy last night, and Smoothini whom I adore but who sucked rocks this week. Smoothini's downfall might be that this is only the second time we've seen him. Mat Franco knocks boots in comparison to Smoothini, though their first performances put them neck and neck.
So Who Moves Forward?
Take a deep breath and throw an arrow at the wall where the names are written and you might come up with the list I'm prepared to give you: I'm standing by Extreme, Emil and Dariel, Kelli Glover and Jonah Smith, and I'll add to them ... drum roll ... Quintavious, because he's just too dynamic to pass up. This will make the competition heavy on male vocalists, but we still haven't found out who those wild cards might be.
You can watch America's Got Talent every Tuesday and Wednesday night at 9pm on NBC.