Tonight marks the beginning of the America’s Got Talent not-quite-the-finals Top 12 phase: tonight and tomorrow, the dozen remaining acts will again perform, and will once again be divided in two. Is this extra segment between the finals and the semifinals really necessary? I guess that depends on your perspective: if you’re an artist trying to come up with a mind-blowing new creative content every two weeks, this is probably getting pretty stressful. If you write recaps for a popular television website, you’re probably getting a bit weary. But if you’re a rich dude getting Snapple money for every minute of air time, then this Top 12 is the TV event of the summer!
President Barack Obama
First up is wildcard pick President Barack Obama, calling for military action in Syria. It’s a bold choice, markedly different from his early auditions — we’ll see if it resonates with his fan base.
But for real, the Chicago Boyz kick off the night in their trademark high energy fashion. Unfortunately, they have at least one major visible mistake at the beginning of their routine, and it does seem to throw them off. They manage to recover for a big finish, but it’s a bad time to be making mistakes for these guys.
Oh, boy. Here comes the Leonard Cohen singing competition staple “Hallelujah” — I love the song as much as anybody, but we could have stopped covering it with Jeff Buckley. It’s not that his performance is flawed, it’s just that there isn’t the slightest hint of risk or unpredictability here. I suppose this is a revelation if this is the first season of the first reality show you’ve ever seen, but if not then it’s hard to get too excited.
Innovative Force does pretty well tonight, forgoing their previous cheerleader-iness for a more solemn, ballet-like dance routine. This is the first time that they decisively outperform the Chicago Boyz in terms of precision and spectacle, and it comes at exactly the right time. I’ve never seriously considered them for the finals, but I think they’ve made the best case for themselves yet.
These guys have no limits — or “boundaries,” actually, is a better word. No strangers to cheesy humor, they take that tone to its natural conclusion by acing a fitness infomercial. The humor is charming enough, but the feats of strength take center stage this time around. Whether they’re your cup of tea or not, it isn’t hard to imagine a future for them in Vegas.
D’Angelo and Amanda
After last week’s wet terrain routine, the ballroom dancing kids go back to basics this time for a solid tropical-themed performance. Honestly, these guys seem to be dialing back their ambition a little bit every week — I suspect they may be falling victim to the extended season.
I was thoroughly impressed with Catapult’s audition, I was surprisingly touched by their follow-up and I’m happy to see them back at the top of their game tonight. Their routine tonight deals with childhood fears, reaching its apex in an impressive smoke-breathing monster. It’s possible that Kenichi will poach fans of Innovative, artistically inclined dance from these guys, but they have the added benefit of seriously stepping it up since last week.
I’ll admit it: I’ve always had a weakness for “My Heart Will Go On,” and Forte’s Latin version is pretty spectacular. It’s a just a bit more reserved than their typical performances, interestingly enough, but the arrangement is great and the harmonies are amazing.
Tonight’s routine is Taylor’s most consistent and cohesive set yet — including last week’s Heidi-themed performance — this time centering around family. I get the impression that Taylor has spaced out his material for maximum impact in the final two rounds. I like this guy, I’ve been a big supporter, I think he’s hitting his stride and I think he nailed it tonight.
So I guess Nick Cannon has a $250,000 watch — gross. That’s at the center of Collins’ new trick, in which he smashes a couple cheap watches while keeping Nick’s safe. I think I’ve kind of lost interest in this kid; as Howard says, he has a major issue with pacing, and I think it does him in tonight.
After two excellent high concept performances over the past few weeks, Kenichi strips things down even further tonight for a simple, emotional dance routine. The one bit of major trickery is using a strobe light to simulate flight, but it doesn’t anchor the performance; it simply enhances it. I think he’s great, and I hope he has something huge planned for the finals.
He’s a nice guy who’s way out of his league, snaring votes according to cultural identification rather than talent. I don’t think there’s much else be said about him.
Cami continues her streak of doing tender interpretations of classic songs, this time tackling Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” I’m a little disappointed that she doesn’t attempt the song’s iconic key change — I know that I compulsively sing along with it no matter what I’m doing, if anybody wants to ruin my wedding someday — but it’s a lovely performance and she’s still crazy pretty, so I think she’ll be fine.
That does it for the Top 12. We’ll chop this crop in half on Wednesday night, and then we’ll have our finalists.
(Image courtesy of NBC)