It’s been a long road to the finals: we’ve had to suffer a fair number of lame joke contestants, a good many segments evangelizing popcorn and sugar juice, and increasingly hollow claims that this is the best season of the best show in the best country on God’s green earth, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a decent Top 6. For my money, it’s a pretty solid line-up: while I might have had other favorites along the way, we’ve got a diverse selection of performers who are all capable of delivering big tonight. Well, all except one — but I imagine we’ll get to that.
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The big big finale opens with a pre-taped montage in which each of the six remaining acts exit their hotel rooms while pretending there aren’t any cameras on them. After that, the performances begin, with two segments for each act — one revised reprise, and one all new.
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Even if there wasn’t this one old/one new format, I suspect Jimmy Rose was always going to perform a dramatic rendition of his original audition song, “Coal Keeps the Lights On.” Rose is the least qualified finalist by a long shot, but he pushes a lot of sociopolitical buttons by his very existence. I’m just glad this song didn’t get the pimp spot, and that’s about as much of an opinion on this guy as I can muster — whatever, time for the real show to begin.
Kenichi returns to his audition roots as well, performing a revamped version of his early Matrix hip-hop routine. It’s an interesting choice, and one in which I hope he’s coordinated with a bigger performance later — he does well with his solo dances, but he became a frontrunner by doing far more creative high-concept work. It’s encouraging, then, when he says at the end that this was performer Kenichi and the next routine will be director Kenichi — that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
I’ve always kind of felt like at least part of Cami’s praise — particularly from the male judges — stemmed from a basic chemical reaction to her insane prettiness. It’s smart of her, then, to return to what remains her best performance: a tender take on “Life After Love.” She doesn’t do anything with it that she didn’t do last time, but it’s still a great version of the song.
Collins doesn’t actually repeat an earlier trick tonight, instead revisiting the magical subgenre of “close-up magic.” The trick itself is kind of pointless — he puts two cards together — but he gets Heidi and Mel to almost kiss, so that wins the audience over pretty quickly. His problem was once that his mind-bending tricks got lost in the presentation, but I can’t really argue with the presentation here.
Forte reprises their Vegas song, “The Prayer” by Josh Groban — this tune indirectly led to the group’s formation, as one of the members was brought onstage to sing with Groban, and the other Forte members met him by chatting with him about it. We do kind of know what we’re getting with them at point, but that’s not the worst criticism you could level against somebody.
Taylor was always going to have a tough time going into this round, but as he so often does, he excels by going meta. Rather than try to reprise an old stand-up routine — not even an option, really — he instead uses a couple old jokes to anchor an entirely new routine about what a difficult position he’s in. It has a camel, a choir, fireworks, patriotism and, most important, wit and creativity — this guy gets it.
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We then have our second round of performances, this time shuffled around a bit — Jimmy Rose might wind up with the pimp spot after all.
Rather than strip things down, Cami amps things up this time for a bombastic performance of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I love the song, and I’ve heard a million wildly different fantastic versions of it, but this one didn’t really do it for me — holding hands is a pretty simple subject, and a pumping violin section doesn’t really add much.
Collins returns to his elaborate stage magic here, mercifully keeping the judges’ participation simple and minimal. This is about as solid an act as he’s put together yet, and while I do kind of naturally groan at the excessively youthy hashtags and vlogs and whatnot, I have to hand it to him: I have no idea how he does it.
Correct placement. Rose sings Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” — it’s a country song, you either swoon or you don’t. Mel B’s highest praise is that he’s nice, and that pretty much says it all.
I’m a little bit conflicted on this one: I’ve always been in the bag for Taylor, but I really didn’t think this was his best set. His banter afterwards, however, is some of his best, and that’s a great way for him to go out. While he’s unquestionably a long shot against the likes of Kenichi and Forte, I’m glad I got to see him hit his stride during this season.
Kenichi revisits dancing against pre-prepared video footage again, for a character-heavy routine that finds him performing as an entire colorful dance crew. It’s not quite up there with his two best performances — the video game and the mirror routine, of course — but it’s a lovely, almost sentimental endpoint for his wildly innovative time on the show.
It makes sense to go out with the big opera laser show, and Forte are just the guys to do it. This is easily their most passionate performance, as they truly sing like their lives depend on it — they’re in tears by the end of the song.
That does it for the final performances. For me, Taylor’s anti-reprise was the most creative act of the evening, and probably his best — I’m not sure that any of the other segments were their respective performers’ peak, but it was a solid night, nonetheless. On Wednesday night, we find out which of these acts will win $1 million.
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(Image courtesy of NBC)