The America’s Got Talent quarterfinals kicked off last week with mostly predictable outcomes, excluding the notable exception of a certain high-flying jump rope team that got the shaft in favor of some always-creepy kid Salsa dancers.

I mean, no one under the age of 17 should ever move that fast unless he or she is running from the cops. And usually, under those circumstances, the overbearing and controlling parents aren’t standing nearby.

Remember when kids were just kids? Who sang on stage at the school talent show or teamed up with pairs of fraternal twin siblings to cut things and hopefully not people with playing cards? 

Those were the days. 

But this show seems to think that every summer is the season to parade around shiny-uniformed children in groups or, worse yet, pairs, and make them gyrate to high-intensity Spanish music. Damn you, Cuba! I say no thank you and good day.

Who’s Up Next?

Anyway, while last week’s results were fairly easy to foresee, the second group of 12 to grace the Radio City Music Hall stage presents a different mix of expectations. The acts scheduled to perform include magician Mat Franco, hand balancer Andrey Moraru, opera singers Acte II and girls-who-blend-in-with-their-background Hart Dance Team. I think all four are near locks to advance, at least based on their earlier performances. 

Then there’s the tricky ones. Aerial Animation has a gimmick that has proven quite successful in the past, but I speculated during this woman’s audition that she’d be better off being the brains and leaving the aerial tricks to someone more polished.

The performance of male-on-male Salsa dancers John and Andrew (unusual, yes, but totes less creepy than the kids) will determine their standing, but I expect we’ll see something very similar to their previous two times on stage.

Then there’s three very different musical acts, which all have their own issues. Jaycob Curlee’s voice is far too soft, especially for this stage, and I’m a bit surprised he survived for so long on his heartwarming backstory. Mara Justine was the little girl with the big voice, but she choked during Judgment Week and yet somehow was sent through instantly. Livy, Matt and Sammy (and the wooden box one of them uses to make music) were a pleasant surprise, but can they avoid getting swallowed up by Radio City?

The other three acts, none of which I am terribly excited about, still do not belong in the same paragraph. Sure, Loop Rawlins can do cool things with a lasso, even when it’s aflame, but it’s just not my thing. And Darik Santos started out as the awkward comedian with some good material, but then he came out all confident with his hair slicked back, and the persona just didn’t work. It’s like watching the evolution of George McFly in Back to the Future

And that brings us to the final act to preview, and I can’t believe I am typing these words: rollerblading dancer Juan Carlos. It is a tragedy that he is even here because that means one act that was at least marginally talented had to go home so that this guy could wrap himself in Pleather and command the attention of millions of people who won’t vote for him unless he’s the second coming of Sanjaya. And I don’t put that past people.

Here is what I expect to write while/after he performs: “He’s wearing something shiny. He spins. He prances. He makes funny faces and touches himself. He leaves the stage. That is all.”

Don’t forget that this blog is LIVE, so keep your comments coming and I’ll do my best to respond. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Then get ready to jump to your feet in outrage Wednesday night when the judges screw up the fifth act that should be advancing (looking at you, Howard Stern. Baila Conmigo? Even with the mistake?? Really?!). 

America’s Got Talent Results: 5 Semifinalists Revealed >>>

The Live Blog Begins

I’d say let the entertainment begin, but AGT has accomplished the same sentiment in much more dramatic fashion. 

“Lock your doors. Board up your windows. Tonight’s forecast: Talentnado”

Ahhh, the things people will do for a hashtag.

Nick has abandoned the turtleneck in favor of a much more sleek and pimp-esque purple suit and matching fedora. Dude looks smooth. The judges are introduced and look like the judges do (love you, Heidi!), so let’s get to it.

The Hart Dance Team Blends In, Stands Out

These girls were beyond excited when Mel B. showed up at their school to tell them they were on their way to New York. But they’re just regular teens, all about boys and selfies. Very different from my time in high school. 

They’re the masters of dancing around in costumes that resemble metallic full body Olympic swimwear, and they don’t disappoint this time around. They might not be in perfect unison, but it’s nearly impossible to tell because they all camouflage each other by matching their set props. The highlight is the girl who is pulled to the top of the rafters, where she spins around even after the act is over.

Mel B. loves it and Howie is inspired, but Howard thinks repeating the concept was a mistake. He calls it flat, and Heidi agrees, saying she wanted more aerials acrobatics. I liked them, but it’s difficult to go first, especially when you don’t get universal praise. 

Loop Rawlins Makes Lassos Cool … For Cowboys

Loop sounds like he’s reading cue cards during his intro, though the cactus he and his wife are raising in addition to their children is a nice topical touch. This Wild West performer is ready to turn things around for himself and his family.

He’s channeling his inner Indiana Jones this week because it’s all about whips and circles of flames. It reminds me of Will Ferrell’s ribbon dance in Old School. Then he busts out his lasso and spins it around until the loop is really big. Like way bigger than would be useful in lassoing anything other than a speedboat.

Howie calls whips, ropes and fire a lot of fun, and he loved it. Howard is impressed and dubs Loop an athlete in his prime, as before the NFL, the rodeo was the sporting dream. He worries Loop won’t be able to keep up the momentum, but loves it every time. Heidi wants to see more, but Mel B. doesn’t think it’s sustainable for an entire show. The judges and I are disagreeing on things so far, but I’m two-for-two with Mel B.

Baila ConMANgo

John and Andrew are next up, and first we get treated to them dancing on the streets of Astoria, Queens. Apparently, John used to dance with Andrew’s mom, so Andrew knew he wanted to join the dance company at a young age. It’s a bit awkward, because as we are told every time we see them, John is straight and Andrew is gay. 

They believe the advantage of dancing with a man is speed and power, and they certainly have both. That being said, it looks very much like what we’ve seen, and I’m not blown away by any of it. Maybe it’s knowing that there’s no physical connection in what is usually an intimate situation, but I feel like they’d be more engaging if they were both gay.

Howard calls the act a novelty, but says that these two are so good that they leave the novelty realm in their Salsa-ing dust. They’re just a great dance act, he says. Heidi praises the act as technically and visually stunning, and she’s amazed they don’t get knotted up. 

Mel B. says that while they’re very talented, there weren’t enough exciting moments and it was repetitive. Howie feels that Mel is totally wrong and that this duo is everything that America embodies as a place of freedom. Wow, Mel is my mirror. 

Livy, Matt and Sammy Are Too Indie for the Judges

This trio is an indie band who only recently started playing together, and, in fact, their first public performance was their audition. They’re nervous and excited to play in the same venue as so many of their idols.

They’re doing an indie rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and it’s catchy and headbop inducing. There’s something about a guitar, ukulele and wooden box that just makes you feel good, and I really like these guys. Naturally, that means they are very unlikely to move on.

Mel calls Livy a solid singer but deems it safe and nice, while Heidi says it’s lackluster and snoozy and thought the trio lacked energy. Howard calls them an opening act and not a headliner, and it didn’t deliver on the power or fun of the original. Howie believes Livy is a superstar, and he loved her up until tonight. He urges America not to vote on this performance, but the body of work. 

I agree it wasn’t mind-blowing, but all in all, I thought it was solid.

The Hand Balancer Balances on His Hands

Andrey Moraru still remembers the day he stepped off the plane to start his life in America, especially coming from war-torn and poverty-stricken Ukraine. His parents didn’t have much money when he was growing up, so the family trip to the circus each year was what he looked forward to and what set him on the path of chasing his dream.

He’s shirtless and very bendy and strong, but the first part of the act seems like astounding yet generic circus hand balancing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all amazing and graceful and impressive. Best so far. But I don’t think he showed me anything I haven’t seen before at a Cirque show.

Mel B. gives him a standing ovation and says she didn’t want it to stop, calling it graceful and seamless. Howie dubs it the act of the night, while Howard takes the opportunity to praise his favorite water color artist. And Andrey is like a John Sargent painting come to life. Heidi is captivated and can’t take her eyes off him, and she urges all those watching to pick Andrey. All the judges agree that if America doesn’t vote him through, they’re quitting the show. 

Juan Carlos Enters as Fartman, Has Backup Dancers, Vogues

He’s wearing something shiny. He spins. He prances. He makes funny faces and touches himself. He leaves the stage. That is all.

The Little Girl with the Big Voice

Mara Justine is all about family, and her Atlantic City cocktail waitress mom does everything she can to make sure her kids have everything they need. Much love to the Justines, though, as this blogger also calls South Jersey (the nice part of the state) his hometown.

Mara is singing Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally,” and it’s a much better performance than what she turned in last time. Still, I think it’s a missed opportunity for her to stand out a bit more. There’s a huge set with a full band and flashing lights, and I think the whole thing detracts from her voice and ability. It’s way too pop star for me, and it doesn’t fit her skill set. Still, she probably did enough to move on to the semifinals.

Howard thinks it’s great, but he wants her to take it down a little and be subtle instead of trying to prove things to adults as a belting-it-out kid singer. He urges her to develop some nuance. Heidi calls her talent incredible and compliments her growl, but she didn’t love the song choice. Mel believes the start of the song was rough, but she liked how Mara regained her confidence as she went on. Howie says she rose to the occasion. 

Dreams Come to Life at Radio City

Aerial Animation is always looking for new ways to tell stories, and the acrobat at the center of it all always wanted to find a way to be inside the comic books she read as a child. And her innovative creation allows her drawings and dreams to come to life.

Her moves still aren’t the smoothest, but the background that she creates and interacts with is mesmerizing. She rides and falls out of a boat and avoids a tornado, then gallops off into the sunrise on a horse, and it’s all wildly entertaining. She gets a standing O from all the judges, and I loved it. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t wonder what the act could be with a dazzling aerialist, though it might detract if the creation wasn’t the performer’s “own.”

Heidi praises the unique concept, Mel B. thinks she stepped up her game and Howie notices that this story picked up where the last one left off. Howard calls her adorable and loves that she kept it original and ratcheted it up a notch from last time.

Jaycob Curlee’s Voice Matches His Small-Town Roots

When Jaycob was adopted, it was the first time he knew real love and what it was like to be a part of a family. And then he was adopted by America’s Got Talent, and the rest is history.

No guitar for Jaycob this time, as he’s just sitting on a stool with a microphone that I’m not sure is turned on. His voice is so good and his tone so sweet, but I just can’t hear him. At one point, I can hear the backup singers’ rendition of Labrinth’s “Beneath Your Beautiful” over Jaycob’s voice. I really wish he could belt it out a little more because that’s the only thing holding him back.

Heidi says he has a sweet voice, but she was underwhelmed by the performance. More valleys than peaks. Howard wants to hear more emotion, channeling the roller coaster ride that has been his life, and he muses that playing it safe and being controlled might come with the territory. If Mel puts the backstory aside, she found it monotone. Howie disagrees with everyone and thinks Jaycob gets better with each performance. 

Mat Franco Has an Ace Up His Sleeve

Mat and his adorable grandma reminisce about learning magic before he knew how to read, and his tricks helped him come out of his shell and meet girls and stuff. Nana is his number one fan, so this performance is dedicated to her.

Mat starts off by spray-painting an unseen message on a board, then has Heidi choose a random card from his deck — the 10 of spades. He then reveals the board, which reads 2 of diamonds, then lights it on fire to reveal the correct card. He then asks Howie to reach into his left back pocket, from which he pulls the 2 of diamonds. Nick points out that Howie doesn’t even like people touching him, yet Mat managed to place a card near his butt.

Heidi’s mind is blown, while Mel is mystified and says Mat makes magic hot. Howie just keeps saying “wow,” and Howard calls him a cool magician who should make the top five.

Darik Santos Goes Back to His Awkward Roots

Mr. Santos is a security guard whose best day is when nothing happens. He’s been dating his girlfriend for three years, and they live at her dad’s house. I’m wondering if this is more about showing off his chick than it is his jokes, but either way, her dad hopes Darik wins so that he can move out. 

He starts off with a nervous laugh that is completely contrived, then launches into a fake voice that is obviously not his natural tone. His jokes are entirely pun-based, and I’m seeing through his persona. Maybe he was funnier when he didn’t think he was that funny, and this taste of success isn’t helping him.

Mel B. didn’t laugh once, Heidi likes that he’s quirky and weird but is not a fan of the material, and Howard decides to be constructive and asks for more of Darik’s personality to come through. Howie appreciates Darik as a comedian and not necessarily as a comic. Or vice versa. But one and not the other.

The Fat Ladies Sing

That is not a reference to these fabulous ladies’ appearances, merely noting that the opera singers are closing out the show in the pimp spot. The two women in Acte II have known each other since college, and now they’re moving to the Big Apple to chase their dreams. They were spectacular in their audition, so much so that they went straight through to Radio City. But can they handle the venue?

It’s the typical AGT opera setup, with smoke machines and lasers, and it starts off a bit sleepy. They’re singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” and while I think they’re locks to move on, it never pops. They don’t have that one perfectly-harmonized goosebump-inducing note that is necessary to really win over the audience.

Heidi offers a standing ovation, impressed that a human can even make sounds like this come out of a body. Mel B. was surprised by these ladies again, and she commends the duo for silencing the audience. Mel’s comments ring true for Howie as well, and he felt enveloped by their voices. 

Howard is on board with me, though, and he feels the whole thing was a bit strange. He’s in complete disagreement with the other judges, calling the performance “off” and saying it wasn’t as dynamic as we’ve seen previously.  

Who Stays and Who Goes?

This second group wound up being much easier to judge than I expected, with the cream clearly rising to the top. Andrey Moraru, Aerial Animation and Mat Franco are the definites, and while I assumed Acte II would join them, it’s a three-way race for the other two spots in the semifinals.

The Hart Dance Team and Mara Christine will be competing to advance to the next round, while I think the other six acts are easy cuts. No one in my bottom half was on par with these six, and I’d be surprised if it plays out any other way.

Do you agree or disagree? Who did you like best, and who do you think came up short? Which five acts do you think will be moving on to the semifinals?

Don’t forget to check in Wednesday night as we once again blog the results live. Be sure to watch along with BuddyTV as we inch ever closer to finding that one act that will win $1 million and be dubbed America’s greatest undiscovered talent.

You can watch America’s Got Talent every Tuesday and Wednesday night at 9pm on NBC.

(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order