America’s Got Talent is live for the first time in season 12, and what better way to celebrate the move to the Dolby Theatre than by going live ourselves here at BuddyTV? So we’re live blogging the first group of 12 quarterfinalists that’s set to hit the stage in hopes of nabbing one of seven spots in the semifinals.

Many thanks to the esteemed Derek Stauffer for filling in on the recap last time, though I’m happy to have missed it considering the atrocious decisions made by the judges. Magicians Henry Richardson and Will Tsai join Tom London as the most egregious cuts of the season — meaning I’m in favor of the yet-to-be announced wildcards all being from the same genre, with wistful longing for comedian Harrison Greenbaum and singer Darcy Callus, and in favor of not one but two choirs!

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Update: The first wildcard has been announced as cannon-fodder Bello Nock.

Toss in the C-minus version of Olate Dogs and a pair of creepy kid dancers putting baby in the corner, and you’ve got a whole mess of easy cuts in the next round. Husband and wife Maxim and Maria were far better than Simon gave them credit for, while Sirqus Alfon was actually funny and science nerd Nick Uhas was relegated to a montage. 

Oh, and if you’re wondering why you only counted 19 acts, it’s because the late Brandon Rogers sang and was eliminated, prompting his performance to be edited out of the episode.

Lineup and Projections

Before we get to the expectations for these 12 acts, I must first pay respect to the featured auditions that never made it to the Judge Cuts. It’s possible they didn’t make the Top 80 or withdrew voluntarily, or they may be among the disingenuous one-off performers who are invited to ensure the appearance of an entertaining act. There aren’t many of note, though, with the exceptions being projection specialists Oskar and Gaspar, indoor skydiver Inka Tiitto, naked magician Vinny Grosso, the equally naked Pan Guys and the annoying counting dog. 

The current lineup is singer heavy, featuring seven vocalists and three golden buzzer recipients. Young Angelica Hale is arguably the most talented of the bunch, but Yoli Mayor and Christian Guardino impressed in their previous performances. Darci Lynne Farmer (ventriloquist), Puddles Pity Party (terrifying clown) and The Singing Trump (singing Trump) have an added shtick, but frankly, I’m hoping the latter two are on the way out. 

Artyon and Paige, In the Stairwell and Just Jerk seem like solid picks for elimination, meaning Billy and Emily England (spinning roller skaters) and Preacher Lawson (stand-up comedian) have clear paths to the semifinals. And Bello Nock is quite literally the wildcard because we have no idea what he’s going to do.

Still, championships aren’t won on paper, so let’s find out who’s in it to win it. The live blog begins now.

Christian Guardino Again Draws the Short Straw

The lights are up and the performers are ready, as Tyra Banks gets her first shot at hosting a live episode. Simon has spruced up his wardrobe with a sports coat, and Mel B. is rocking what appears to be an Olympic figure skating getup. But the new hair is something fierce. 

Howie’s golden buzzer, the formerly blind Christian Guardino, scores the unenviable first slot. It means he’s the benchmark, as well as easily forgotten should things not go well. He does a solid job with Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain,” but the runs are as overdone as the song. Not great, not terrible. Like I said, he’s the benchmark.

Howie is bursting with emotion because Christian is “magic,” while Mel was worried in the beginning but loved the big notes. Heidi believes he set the bar high, and Simon praises the song choice and predicts advancement without seeing any of the other 11 acts. It seems premature, but he’s certainly got likability going for him.

Artyon and Paige Get This Over With

I don’t personally know anyone who believes these two deserve to be here, but I will admit they’re cute when they’re not dancing — which probably means they’re going on to the next round. 

They’re following up their Dirty Dancing tribute with one to Footloose, with about 30 backup dancers off to either side. Paige’s facial expressions annoy the crap out of me, but Artyon is a beast. Kid’s got a future.

Mel B. calls them lightning bolts, and Heidi gushes about “an explosion of talent.” Simon still isn’t a massive fan, but they stepped it up (particularly Artyon, he says). Howie believes they “brought what we want,” and he predicts that they put a smile on America’s collective faces. Can’t wait to see them in the semifinals…

In the Stairwell Out on Stage

The all-male a capella group made up of members of our armed forces somehow bested two quality magicians to make it this far, and they’re hoping Fun’s “Some Nights” will keep the gravy train rolling.

Aptly, it’s a fun performance, but there’s nothing special about it other than an appreciation for their abilities and service. You’d need a group straight out of Pitch Perfect to have a credible shot.

Howie loves them, but he was distracted by Mel constantly hitting him to point out that she’s single. She finds their harmonies “yummy,” and she loves a man in a uniform. Heidi knows what they stand for — freedom, brotherhood and hotness — and Simon praises them for stepping up and making a believer out of him. 

The Singing Trump 

The Singing Trump hopes to bring divided people together, but let’s be honest, he’s not getting any help from his real-life counterpart these days. He promises the most tremendous performance in the history of reality TV, which is tough if he simply sings another pop song.

He descends a fake Air Force One staircase singing Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” and it’s anything but pitch perfect before he yanks off his slacks to reveal American flag hammer pants for a rendition of “U Can’t Touch This.” I’d buzz him if I had access to one.

Mel has a love/hate relationship with him, and his timing was completely off at the beginning. Still, he won her back with the Hammertime choreography. Simon is wondering what the bloody hell that was, while Heidi found the off-beat dancing funnier than if it’d been on time. Nothing was great for Howie, but he finds this Trump amusing. 

Angelica Hale Melts Your Heart

The adorable little dynamo who needed a kidney transplant when she was 4 is a dark horse to win, and if it has to be another singer, it might as well be her. We’ve seen her twice, and she’s been flawless with songs that should be way too big for any 9-year-old. But how will she handle the larger venue? 

It’s Zedd’s “Clarity,” and while it’s not quite as perfect as usual, I can’t help but love her. Her range is off the charts, and some of her notes can literally bring a tear to your eyes. There are far more goosebump moments than pitchy ones, and there’s simply no way she is going home. 

It’s difficult to take Mel seriously in that outfit, but she’s got nothing but praise and felt all the feels. Heidi practically jumps out of her skin with excitement, Simon thinks it started rough but ended fantastically and Howie dubs her a contender.

Bello Nock is a Wildcard

Simon decided that the circus alum pushing 60 deserved another shot and lobbied the other judges on his behalf, and to repay their generosity, Bello’s decided on “the wheel of death.” He claims to know 16 people who have either been seriously injured or died performing this stunt. Will he be number 17?

It’s a giant rotating contraption with hampster wheels on either end, and Bello flips around in one while another dude spins the whole monstrosity in the other. He ends by walking on the outside of his wheel, and I swear to god he almost falls. He manages to power through it and finish unscathed, and it has me on the edge of my couch wearing a look of aprehension.  

Heidi screams about Bello’s craziness, Simon admits his mistake, Howie calls it “wow” and Mel was initially bored before Bello took her on a journey of terror.

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Just Jerk Just Jerks

Of course, they need a new name, but these South Koreans have been machine-like in their crisp and intricate choreography. They’re sizing up the competition, and they want to be pushed out of their comfort zone for a shot at greatness.

It’s their best performance to date, but it’s still not unlike many other dance acts we’ve seen over the years. They don’t have a signature move or crescendo to push them over the top, and precision alone isn’t enough to carry them. They have a good chance to advance, but I need to see something I haven’t before. I’ve said it over and over — put them in Light Balance’s suits and let’s make history.

Mel calls them 100% the best dance act, but Heidi tempers the excitement by pointing out that there were no wow moments. Simon believes it was as good technically as he’s seen, but he believes they have the ability to elevate their originality game. Howie uses his time to encourage America to vote. 

Puddles Pity Party is Still Sad

How long is this shtick going to last? Is it because I hate clowns that I don’t get it? His voice is amazing. Why does he need to be a sad singing clown? His “Mad World” intro consists of him watching videos of himself as a child and crying. Great.

He’s singing a theatrical version of Lorde’s “Royals,” and it’s just weird. Why is a sad clown singing about tigers on gold leashes? Shouldn’t he be singing something melancholy? He’s basically the same as The Singing Trump, only with an extraordinarily better voice. 

Simon hits his buzzer because he couldn’t get pulled into Puddles’ world this time, and he didn’t know what was happening. Howie loves Puddles because they’re both sad clowns on the inside, while Mel is a fan of the character and thinks he crushed the song. Heidi has mixed feelings because she prefers a happy clown. 

Side note: If you were going to vote for Puddles, I hope you did so before the trailer for Stephen King’s It played during the commercial break. #BadTiming

Preacher Lawson Jokes for His Dreams

This funny man has been chasing his dreams for nearly a decade, and he describes struggles that included a brief period of being homeless. With so many singers, it’s his spot to lose.

It’s not his best set, but any lapse in the material is compensated for with his physical comedic nature. I’ll be honest, I can’t follow his stream of consciousness, if there even is one. He loses me a few jokes in, to the point where I have no idea what he’s talking about. And yet, I still like him.

Howie wants Preacher in the finals, Mel adores him and Heidi loves him but not the jokes. Regardless of the outcome, Simon hopes someone sees this and puts Preacher on a TV show. 

Yoli Mayor Relies on Her Family

The girl who got a Tyra makeover prior to an audition do-over stole the show in her Judge Cuts performance, and her vignette is all about her family support and growing confidence. Can she step up again?

She’s singing Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human,” and the opening low-register speak-singing portion seems endless because it fails to show off any her strengths. It’s absolutely stunning once she opens up, and she ends up looking like a seasoned, polished pro. But it takes entirely too long to get there. 

Mel tempers her criticism with praise, and maybe it was the song choice but something was missing. Heidi disagrees because it was fantasic. Simon attributes the shortcomings to over-production, which is why Yoli got lost, but talent like this can’t be thrown away. Howie again says nothing but encourages America to vote.

Billy and Emily England Prep the Censors

The scantily-clad wild and crazy brother-sister roller-skating duo is hitting the stage live, so whoever is in charge of that seven-second delay better be at the ready for any slippage. They talk about losing their dad in their intro, as he’s their inspiration and motivation. 

They do what they do, how they do it, but the lack of a beard-grabbing moment makes it a touch anti-climactic. Their pedestal rises up and there’s some flames, but they don’t up their game. I still love it, and she’s super hot (as is he, if that’s your pursuasion — men, I mean, not creepy half-naked siblings). They also get bonus points for simply being different, and they should be fine. 

It never gets old for Heidi, while Howie highlights the danger before Tyra points out that Billy has a nick on his nose from a wayward skate. Mel calls them superheroes for their death-defying routine, and it was so perfect for Simon that he feels like he wasn’t even there. 

Darci Lynne Farmer Scores the Pimp Spot

The tiny female Terry Fator minion has used her talents to bust up her social anxiety and break out of her shell, and she’s closing out the show with a new puppet mouse named Oscar, who suffers from a similar disorder.

She works in a couple funny one-liners before Oscar launches into The Temptations’ “Who’s Lovin’ You.” It’s splended, though I do believe Terry Fator’s existence will prevent her from winning. I’m blown away by the sheer talent, but there’s still room for improvement with the overall performance factor. 

Heidi points out that most people can’t sing with their mouths open, Mel describes her golden buzzer choice as “out of this world,” Simon advises her to get ready for the big time and Howie touts her YouTube views. 

Who Stays and Who Goes?

Our first live show is in the books, with seven acts set to advance as five go home. Wildcard Bello Nock was the cream of the crop in my book, followed closely by Angelica Hale and Darci Lynne Farmer. 

Preacher Lawson and the England siblings are likely to go through as well, if only because they’re different enough to stand out. Meanwhile, In the Stairwell, The Singing Trump and Artyon and Paige can probably call it a day.

That leaves Yoli Mayor, Just Jerk, Christian Guardino and Puddles Pity Party competing for two spots. I give the advantage to Yoli and Puddles, but Just Jerk could get a boost considering the sheer volume of singers who hit the stage.

Who were your favorites and who let you down? Who do you want in the next round and who do you predict will actually make it there? Finally, who are your picks for the remaining wildcards? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

America’s Got Talent season 12 airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC. Want more news? Like our America’s Got Talent Facebook page.

(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)