The whittling down of the Top 36 on America’s Got Talent season 10 continues, after few surprises in the first group. The results played out mostly as was anticipated, with the most notable shock coming when boy band and crowd favorite Triple Threat went number three (worse than number two) in their letterman jackets during an off-key performance.
The appearance of Samantha Johnson in the running for the Dunkin’ Save was unexpected, but the so-called bottom three (sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishers) is a bit disingenuous since only one of them goes home. That means it’s hard for both America and the judges to get it wrong, unless you deem all three acts worthy of advancing. And choosing between Johnson, Alondra Santos and The Gentlemen was a no-brainer.
My only inaccurate prediction was going with shirtless Olympians Showproject over Santos, but I had said they were basically a coin flip. And, let’s be honest, neither is/was winning this thing.
Lineup and Projections
The second group of quarterfinalists offers an odd mix, with nearly half of them Golden Buzzer recipients or wildcards. And that means for a third of performing acts, it is only the second time we’ll be seeing them thus far.
Singers Arielle Baril and Sharon Irving and animation dancers Freckled Sky were picked by Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howard Stern, respectively, immediately after their auditions, while The CraigLewis Band impressed Michael Buble enough to slam down on his buzzer during the Judge Cuts.
Then there’s wildcard flyboarder Damone Rippy, who will have to improve his mid-air dance moves if he’s going to have any shot. And as I said after his audition, it’s going to be pretty nasty if they make him swim in the Hudson. Portions pre-recorded indeed.
The rest of the lineup is filled out with Animation Crew (a poorer man’s Siro-A, which is a poor man’s Kenichi Ebina), comedic magician Derek Hughes, all-girl dance troupe DM Nation, personal favorite puppet crooner Ira Fennelbloom, awkward comedian Myq Kaplan and circus-act-on-a-ladder Uzeyer Novruzov.
There are no automatic throwaways in this bunch, but DM Nation, Novruzov and Rippy have their work cut out for them, because how different can they really make their acts? It also might be difficult for three singers to advance, so it will be interesting to see if anyone bombs to make America’s choices a bit easier.
Are the buzzer acts the de facto favorites? Who are you looking forward to seeing again? And who do you expect to flame out?
Let’s see how it goes, and please be sure to refresh your page and keep the comments coming! The live blog begins now.
DM Nation Gets the Party Started
After a brief recap of the previous week’s extravaganza, Nick Cannon and his purple-and-plaid ensemble welcome us and DM Nation to the Radio City Music Hall stage. The R&B dancers do everything together, oohing and ahhing over cakes and taking selfies, but once that black lipstick goes on, they’re not here to mess around.
As usual, it’s intricately choreographed, energetic and full of rapid-fire hand movements and Matrix-like robot slow-motion. But the constant breaks and changes in the music prevent them from ever hitting a groove, and there aren’t any wow moments. Maybe it’s more exciting in person, but it looks like more of the same routine.
Mel B. compliments them for upping their game, calling it electrifying, while Howie can’t think of a proper word to describe how much he loves them. So he goes with “pizza.” Howard is on point, though, saying they change the music every time but do the same movements. Heidi disagrees, and in a poignant Donald Trump reference, she gives them all a “10.”
Derek Hughes Fights for His Family
The man who pulled a judge-selected card from his butt crack is still fighting to provide a better life for his family, and his unique blend of humor and magic could be an X-factor in this competition. But he has to rise to the occasion and own the stage.
He starts off by inviting Mel B. on stage to serve as his assistant, and she chooses and autographs the 4 of Spades. He drops several clever one-liners and makes the card appear in his pocket twice before the rest of the deck jumps to the pocket, leaving only the 4 of Spades in his hand.
It started out kinda slow, and I worried it wouldn’t pick up in a satisfying way. But at the end, I was entertained and his improvisations were funny. I’m sure pretending to draw attention to what he was doing was actually part of the distraction, but it was a cool trick. Well done.
Howie believes he was firing on every cylinder, and Howard praises his growth and evolution. Heidi appreciates his complexity, while assistant Mel B. feels wowed for the first time.
3 Shades of Blue Looks to Make Howard Proud
America’s Judge has been looking for a winning band since he joined AGT, and these college dropouts from Philly are hoping to fill the void. They rocked out during their audition, then showed their potential with a lesser-known song during Judge Cuts.
Their choice of a Nick Jonas song — “Chains” — comes as a total shock, and though I’m not too familiar with it, they seemingly play the hell out of it. I don’t know if this really fits what they should be trying to do, and for that reason, it’s hard to be blown away by them. This one is going to come down to how the rest of the night goes and what people are looking for in the semifinals. They’re certainly talented musicians, but song choice is everything here.
Howard loves the rocking acoustics of the building, and he hopes the folks at home can feel the same intensity. Heidi congratulates them for rocking the hell out a Nick Jonas song, Mel B. is a fan of the band but feels like the lead singer lacks confidence and Howie believes they’ll be saved by the spectacular song choice.
Animation Crew Makes the Background Come Alive
This group of best-friend ragtag weirdos from Japan is looking to follow in Kenichi’s footsteps even more so than Siro-A (because they actually dance), but I’m still waiting on the platform before the train pulls out of the station. I’m not sold on them yet, but hopefully they can wow me this time around.
It’s five guys dancing in front of an ’80s-style video game projection, and while they react to video game-like sound effects, there’s no interaction with the background game. At all. So it’s like a knock-off of Kenichi that doesn’t even come close to replicating his magic, and it’s like, why is it even there? It’s creative but boring, and Howard slams down on his X.
Stern calls it a lazy routine and a poor use of the stage, and Heidi agrees but didn’t want to hit her buzzer. She found the video game stuff distracting because the game won and they didn’t. Mel B. disagrees, predicting that young Americans will be behind it because it’s young and fresh. C’mon, Mel, it’s Pac-Man. That’s not young or fresh. Just ask Adam Sandler. Howie loves a lot about it, but he does’t think the guys lived up to their talent. And so like the end of the act predicted, it’s game over.
Arielle Baril Brings Down the Opera House
She’s a 12-year-old opera singer with no formal training but a voice beyond her years, and she’s been upping her lessons game since nabbing the golden buzzer that sent her straight to Radio City.
Her voice does a fine job filling up the venue, but I don’t know if she has the stage presence yet. The spectacle is fine if not boring, in part because she’s so small that the background lights and shadows dwarf her. The addition of the choir is just okay, and while her voice is absolutely stunning, I’m not sure she has the whole package yet. I can’t imagine she’s in any danger, though, so hopefully she can build on this because she’s incredibly likable.
Heidi wants another golden buzzer so she can hit it again because this was a solid performance. Mel B. and Howie take into account that she’s 12 years old and has no formal training when praising her, while Howard gets lost in her voice so deeply that he forgets she’s only 12 years old and has no formal training. Gee, I wonder what it is about her that’s going to get her through?
Can Uzeyer Novruzov Climb to the Top?
The circus performer has his wife and twin daughters on his mind as he prepares to go higher than ever before. He has to find a way to kick it up a notch, and no one is more aware than him that he needs to go big.
It’s starts off with a silent movie tribute of a Chaplin-eque Uzeyer making his way to Radio City, then he climbs over and flips around a series of increasingly-lengthening ladders. The shorter ones are more of the same, but then he pulls out the giant one he can barely lift by himself. He actually has my heart racing as he makes his way to the top, and I’m fearing that first death on live reality TV before he makes it to the pinnacle and balances on the handles.
The only detraction I could anticipate is how long it took him to get to there, but it was terrifying, gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Howie was worried for him and applauds him for pushing the limits, Howard hopes it translated to viewers at home, Heidi nearly fainted and Mel congratulates him for not dying.
Ira Returns to the Old Neighborhood
America’s favorite singing puppet and his mom return to the old neighborhood in Queens, and it’s possible this was filmed around the puppet corner from my puppet apartment. Then an NYPD officer arrests him for stealing America’s heart, and they head to Radio City to avoid an old past-due rent payment.
This time, Ira is dressed like a sailor singing Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” with puppet backup singers and a puppet drummer. Then his mom comes out on a clam being carried by a bunch of shirtless gentlemen, and she plays the saxophone. Look, Ira has always been a great singer, but what makes him so lovable is the witty banter with the judges. When he’s just a singing puppet, it’s boring. No one would love the Muppets if they were just singers. Well, at least not as much.
Howard calls the act fun, and he deems it a smart move for them to dump Mel B. from the routine. Heidi thinks it’s been great getting to know Ira and his mom, but the personality was missing within the performance and she missed it. Mel B. had a smile the entire time Ira was on stage, and he’s finally winning her over. For Howie, it was brilliant.
Damone Rippy Provides the Pre-Recorded Material
I always want to pronounce this 17-year-old’s name like Da-Mone (but it’s Damon), and he’s apparently become quite the heartthrob since he appeared on TV. He starts off by describing what he was like as a kid, and he’s been looking to up his game, settling on attempting a triple flip in the air above Liberty Island. Which means, yes, he’s in the Hudson River.
It starts off with a montage of him as a James Bond-esque action hero, and then he does what appears to be the same exact routine as his audition. His moves are a bit smoother, but there’s still something lacking in the rhythm department. He ends with what I guess is a triple flip. I can’t tell if he’s great at this or if there just aren’t that many people doing it.
Heidi found it less special because she’s seen flyboarding since the first round, while Mel B. compliments the teenager’s looks in the creepiest of ways, even shielding her eyes so as to not stare. Howie calls it original and says Damone should win something just for dipping his head in the river. Howard appreciates him showing off a new activity, but he doesn’t think it has developed into an act yet. For his part, Damone is gracious for the opportunity.
Myq Kaplan Brings Small Comedy to the Big Stage
Myq has been doing comedy for 13 years, and his would-be fan stalker turned out to be a soulmate. They moved into a new apartment in Brooklyn after dating long distance, and performing at Radio City is a dream come true for both. He asks America not to screw it up for him.
He seems nervous, making terrible jokes about the other acts, and he pauses for awkward absences of laughter. This prompt him to start speeding through the rest of his material, so even the funnier parts are difficult to follow. He winds up delivering a decent joke or two, but overall, the set falls flat.
Mel B. wishes he had more time to make them laugh, in part because not all the jokes hit, which prompt Howie to advise, “Leave them wanting more.” Howard points to nerves in the beginning and praises the material even though he sped through his jokes, and he pushes for people to vote for Myq. Heidi likes him, but he bombed.
The CraigLewis Band Looks for a Spot
These two besties have been together for more than a decade, and they were so great during the Judge Cuts that it cost a once-signed recording artist a deserved spot in the quarterfinals. And they have the full support of their mothers.
They’re up on a giant pedestal singing Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” and it doesn’t take long for them to break the less-than-stellar mold of the night so far. They’re pure entertainers in every sense of the word, and the crowd seems awake for the first time since a dude climbed a ladder. There’s only a few goosebumps, but it’s a sorely needed dose of spot-on-itude.
Heidi felt the soul in what she calls an excellent performance, Mel B. lauds the perfect delivery, Howie calls it the best moment of the night and Howard agrees with everyone else in what he declares a home run.
Freckled Sky Keeps It Going
The Ukrainian creator, who is not a performer, looks to bring his poetry to life with animation, and the pair of dancers makes those dreams come true. We’re short on time, so it’s right into the performance.
They once again dance in water in front of background projections, and it’s a wonderful combination of technology and pure skill. They switch places a few times, and there’s a bit of interacting between the dancers and their visually-stunning digital counterparts. The only thing I find lacking with this act is a story. I want to be told a story, and that’s what will elevate them out of the randomness.
Howard appreciates that they have the dancing abilities to go along with the fake stuff, but he found it less energetic than the audition and cautions against taking the projections for granted. Mel B. wasn’t gripped until the middle, and she wants to be drawn in sooner. Heidi needs them to stay around so she can see the ending of an elongated story, while Howie spits out some nonsense about a rain dance.
Sharon Irving Closes Out the Show
In the pimp spot is the night’s final Golden Buzzer recipient, gospel singer Sharon Irving, who is looking to follow up a stunning rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.” She is driven by a burning passion for her family and her music, and she’s bringing the memory of her late grandparents with her to Radio City.
The finisher of the evening is her take on John Legend and Common’s “Glory” from Selma, and holy hell is it flat-out intense. It’s powerful and brings goosebumps for days, and it’s difficult to believe she doesn’t already have a career. It’s a heavy way to end the show, but there’s no way she’s not sticking out in voters’ memories.
Mel B. calls her a bona fide superstar, while Heidi found it inspirational all around. Howie wants her to keep singing songs like that and delivering her message because she can change the world. For Howard, it was brilliant, and she’s not only be the best singer in the competition, but she could be the winner.
And That’s That
And so it’s 24 down and 12 to go after what I would call a fairly mundane night of talent, but boy oh boy, did they save the best for last. I feel fairly confident making my predictions right now, as at least four acts completely disappointed and some of the best seven were still a bit of a letdown.
The clear semifinalists, in my opinion, are Freckled Sky, Arielle Baril, Sharon Irving, The CraigLewis Band and Derek Hughes. Then you have Ira, 3 Shades of Blue and Uzeyer Novruzov competing for the Dunkin’ Save and the judge votes. Book it now.
Who were your favorite acts of the night and who let you down? And who do you see ready to take the next step in the quest towards an annuitized $1 million grand prize? Tune in Wednesday night to find out, as well as to see a few old favorites, and I hope you’ll watch along with me.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order