Season 12 of America’s Got Talent continues rolling towards the live quarterfinals as Judge Cuts continue with special guest Laverne Cox, golden buzzer at the ready.
And what can you say about Judge Cuts other than, well, the judges keep cutting? It’s both an exciting and excruciating time for fans because the selections are based on shaping the field as opposed to advancing the most talented.
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The emphasis is not only balance — meaning similar acts are pitted against each other no matter how much better they all may be than the frolicking twins behind them — but also on likability and backstory, evident by The Masqueraders advancing over the more deserving Darcy Callus.
In addition, the judges also want to provide a few easy choices for fans, to push their desired Top 10 towards the finale. It’s why performers who audiences would actually enjoy seeing again — techgician Tom London and acrobatic cheerleaders The Godfathers come to mind — are left on the sidelines while twirling dancers and a girl with a dog advance.
But, seriously, I’d vote for the musical chickens over the wombmates. Let’s see what the judges f*** up this time.
20. Aileen George
She’s a school administrator by day, pole dancer by night. After this, she’s probably neither.
19. 5 Alive
The guys looking to fill the boy band void struggle to harmonize, and there’s no power behind their voices.
18. Herbie Russ
An unseen audition, he’s a singer/saxophone man from Detroit who looks like an odd combination of Michael McDonald and Yanni. He does his best Joe Cocker impression on a rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and while he has the rasp, the sax is the only part that’s on key.
17. Final Draft
Another audition standout who comes up woefully short, the quartet fails at both pitch and harmony on Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” There are flashes of potential, and Simon argues that they deserve to be here despite the subpar performance. So I guess there’s hope if everyone else sucks too.
16. The Naked Magicians
It’s a surprise they were an unseen audition, considering how many less attractive naked people to whom we were subjected. Their trick — they have Tyra guess a random word that appears tattooed on their arms and then hers — isn’t nearly as impressive as their bodies.
15. Shemika Charles
The limbo queen wowed in her audition by shimmying under an actual car, but in an attempt to add some heat, she limbos under the most underwhelming flame since Pentecost Sunday. She follows it up by spinning plates on sticks while performing her craft, but it takes too long to get them all in motion simultaneously.
14. Daniel Ferguson
My wife loved the singing cartoon impressionist’s audition, and he does a similar-yet-less-fun version including Marge Simpson, Gollum and Bobby from Bobby’s World.
13. Les French Twins
Identical twin illusionists Tony and Jordan — who dazzled in their audition — face off in an interactive Street Fighter video game battle. But they’re part of a magic montage, which doesn’t bode well.
12. Oscar Hernandez
The big gay dancer whose dad pushed him to play sports dedicates his performance to Laverne before launching into a choreographed routine complete with cheerleader backup dancers. He’s great and we all love him, but c’mon. This is absurd. Still, Laverne dubs him “large and in charge,” and it appears that he’s convinced his dreams are legit.
11. Brobots and Mandroidz
They’re a group of robot dancers who flip around the stage, and they’re without a doubt good for this round. But if I’m being honest, it’s not anything special compared to similar acts we’ve seen over the years.
10. Jay Jay Phillips
The ’80s hair band rocker who believes in a thing called love wakes everyone up with pyrotechnics as he jams out to The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” He plays a mean key-tar, but is personality enough to get him through? With this group, it might be.
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9. Mike Yung
Being a daily commuter in New York City, I wasn’t super impressed by the subway singer’s solid audition. His rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” is similarly impressive while underwhelming to me, but compared to what we’ve seen so far, he’s likable enough to have a solid shot.
8. Marisa McKaye
The 12-year-old we’re seeing for the first time sings and plays the guitar, and it’s pleasant without the wow. But we like her, even if she doesn’t have the story of the above-mentioned subway singer.
7. Celine Tam
Her parents are obsessed with Celine Dion, so they named her Celine and her little sister Dion. She sang “My Heart Will Go On” during her audition, prompting an endless amount of eye rolls from my wife. This time, it’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” dedicated to Dion (who waves at her adorably from the audience). Her voice is fine, but she lacks the “it” factor and can’t keep pace with those who do.
And just when I’m ready to move on, Laverne Cox slams down on her golden buzzer and sends the third or fourth best kid singer (and 12th-ish overall) straight to the live shows. Woo.
6. Jeki Yoo
Another audition we didn’t see, this magician left his wife and puppy behind in South Korea to chase his dreams. The actual trick — making cards appear in a plastic egg — isn’t overly astounding. But his shtick, which is essentially being the hilarious little Asian guy, works well and makes the entire experience silly and fun.
5. Bello Nock
Simon changed his vote for the self-proclaimed comic daredevil after the high-haired clown promised to fire himself out of a cannon over a helicopter. Bello claims that only 48 people have ever attempted human cannonballing, and about half of them died. No one is checking that math, and of course he is successful, even with a bit of a rough landing. It’s historically difficult for the judges to advance these types of acts, particularly to a live show, but he’s got a shot.
4. Jonathan Rinny
He’s a rolla bolla newlywed who informed his mother-in-law that her daughter was off the market when his audition aired, so he’s trying to impress a sixth judge. He climbs atop his metal contraption, which rises mechanically as he balances. How come rolla bolla never gets the respect it deserves? It is insane.
3. Preacher Lawson
He’s a stand-up comic whose audition golden ticket prompted a reunion with his mom, who had moved to China to teach English a few years back. So even if his set sucks, he’s got that. Luckily for him, it doesn’t. His energy is a bit over the top, possibly due to nerves, and his jokes are mostly about dating a girl with a limp. But he’s funny.
The performance group specializes in what it calls “architecture in motion,” mixing aerials and acrobatics with giant moving structures. In this case, they’re rotating risers that the performers climb and leap from. This is exactly what I was talking about above with Broboys and Mandrakes. These folks are unique and bring something new to the table.
1. Billy and Emily England
Others have performed roller skating acrobatics on a tiny platform, but nobody does it quite like these two Brits. Maybe it’s because they’re super hot and buff. Maybe it’s because they’re spinning at the speed of light. Maybe it’s because they’re attempting a dangerous stunt in front of an audience for the very first time. I don’t have the answer, but I know it’s enough to make me forget that these half-naked kids are brother and sister.
We wasted a spot on a kid singer I probably wouldn’t have advanced, but even on a generally subpar night of talent, it doesn’t bode well for the bunched-up batch of singers in the middle.
Billy and Emily England and Diavolo are locks to join Celine Tan, and Preacher Lawson is different enough to have earned his place in the next round.
I’d give the other three spots to Jonathan Rinney, Bello Nock and Jeki Yoo, but the judges have soft spots for Jay Jay Phillips, Mike Yung and Oscar Hernandez. My best hope is for a mixed bag, but when push comes to shove, I’m going with my disappointing gut.
Or, you know, something crazy.
First to learn their fates are 5 Alive and Final Draft, and both are headed home. So far, so good.
Brobots and Mandroidz and Oscar Hernandez are through. Cue the crazy.
Jeki Yoo, The Naked Magicians and Les French Twins are all eliminated. Meh.
Marisa McKaye is out.
Billy and Emily England, Bello Noch and Jonathan Rinney take the stage, with only the roller skaters moving on. Rolla bolla gets shafted yet again.
Shemika Charles, Jay Jay Phillips and Aileen George have all reached the end of their respective journeys.
Herbie Russ is done, while Mike Yung lives to sing another day.
It comes down to Preacher Lawson and Daniel Ferguson for the last spot, and it’s no surprise that the stand-up comic is headed to the quarterfinals.
I dunno, it’s tough to get upset about whether the judges got it right when so many of the performances were underwhelming. It was an odd mix because even though there were few showstoppers, not many acts suffered an utter collapse like the stage fright-riddled hens. That meant the middle was a muddy mess of mediocrity.
The singers have been the clear-cut favorites this season, perhaps with the exception of the real-life Sherlock Holmes, and I’m wondering if it’s inevitable that we’ll soon be crowning a vocalist who will likely accomplish little afterwards.
Who were your favorites and who do you predict will stick around the longest? Who disappointed you and who did the judges award an unceremonious shafting? Are you optimistic about how the field is shaping up and do you think a singer is destined to win? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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