4 episodes of America’s Got Talent have aired in season 11, and 4 episodes have ended with a Golden Buzzer being pushed during the auditions. All the members of the judges’ panel have now got a metaphorical horse in the race for the live shows having each pressed their Golden Buzzer. 

All Golden Buzzer acts are not created equal, though. Only 1 of these lucky talents can win the final prize of America’s Got Talent. We are going to look at the talent, backstory and personality of each the judges’ Golden Buzzer picks and see who has the best shot of winning the whole thing.

America’s Got Talent(ed Singers) 

There’s a couple elephants in the room that needed to be discussed. First up, Nick Cannon still has to press his Golden Buzzer for an act, but America’s Got Talent is pretty much willfully ignoring that fact so I will as well. Plus, since Nick Cannon is such a good host, who never gives his (serious) opinion on any of the acts it’s a complete wild card who (or what) he will pick. The other elephant is a lot louder and more obnoxious. All of the Golden Buzzers of season 11 have been singers. This makes them easy to compare but hard to quantify in terms of talent.

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Though there is something undeniably dull about all the Golden Buzzers being singing acts, America’s Got Talent has at least been able to find singers of every genre. It really is judging apples against oranges when looking at indie-pop Grace Vanderwaal versus crooner Sal Valentinetti. 


As I have stated before though I think that Sal is a far better impersonator than a an actually amazing singer. This is why I think he comes up last in this battle. Sal is riding on the backs of much cooler singers; there is not a lot unique about him. There’s no comparison to Howie’s pick, Grace Vanderwaal and Simon’s pick, Calysta Bevier in terms of originality. It is a bit ridiculous that Simon Cowell has told countless young (usually female) singers that they are “something special” but Calysta Bevier and Grace Vanderwaal are something special. 

Opera singer Laura Bretan is similarly talented but she is obviously fighting an uphill battle being in such a niche genre. Opera has done well in America’s Got Talent. Neal Boyd even won in season 3 by being an opera singer but Laura’s novelty might wear off by the time we reach the live shows. Laura was exciting because such a powerful voice came out of such a tiny frame but the secret’s out now. 

It’s really between Grace and Calysta but the edge of talent and star power goes to Grace. Calysta had a great cover of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” in her audition but Grace wowed everyone with her original song. 

Winner: Grace Vanderwaal

The Sobbiest of Sob Stories

America’s Got Talent loves to tug on the heartstrings of its audience. Even the most esoteric talent acts will get a complicated backstory and video package to make America fall in love with or get to know them. It is odd, then, that America’s Got Talent has spent more time making us care about the variety acts and other weirder acts than the singers. None of the Golden Buzzers, with the exception of one, have particularly compelling backstories.

I suppose one can see Sal Valentinetti as an underdog as a pizza delivery boy and old soul but to anyone who watched Sal on American Idol, the whole thing is tiring. Grace and Laura fall into the same category as the young shy girls who use music to come out of their shells. 

Calysta Bevier blows her competition out of the water here. It’s not just in the small community of Golden Buzzers, Calysta probably has the best back story of any America’s Got Talent contestant since Drew Lynch. Not only is Calysta is a teenager but she is a cancer survivor and approaches the whole issue with solemn grace and bravery. How can anyone compete with the likability of a teenage cancer survivor with a beautiful voice?

Winner: Calysta Bevier

Cult of Personality 

The twin of the America’s Got Talent backstory is the contestant’s personality. A contestant’s personality can be crucial in determining their popularity. It can be the deciding factor from going from a talented act to a true star. It’s a little cruel to compare the personalities of the Golden Buzzers because 3/4 of them are underage but really that’s all that needs to be said. Calysta Bevier stands out because of her backstory and her age — she is more settled into herself as a person at 16. Grace and Laura are basically interchangeable. They are both around the same age and only really memorable for their age. 


By process of elimination Sal Valentinetti sticks out. Sal is a bit of a cliche but at least he’s a character. Sal’s memorable and likable, even if he’s not particularly unique. Sal is loud. He makes an impression and that could really work for him in the live shows. It’s a double-edged sword because audiences could prefer the quieter and more subdued Calysta, Grace or Laura but Sal is the most striking character going into the live shows thus far. 

Winner: Sal Valentinetti

The Winner Is…

So looking back it seems like Laura Bretan, the first Golden Buzzer of the season, will also be the first to go home. It’s not impossible for Laura to succeed or win but it’s unlikely. Unless she really diversifies in the live shows she will just be pigeon-holed as the kid who sings opera and that won’t last very long. Grace could be in some trouble, since Laura could cancel her out, but I think she will do better. I don’t think she has much of chance of winning, despite being perhaps the most unique of the Golden Buzzers. She’s simply too young.

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This just leaves Sal and Calysta. I’m not much of a fan of Sal and think he no way deserved his Golden Buzzer, though he should have moved forward, but I’ve been wrong before on America’s Got Talent. I found Paul Zeridan to be grating at best, but he won season 10. Sal’s boisterous personality will stick with a certain segment of the American public.


Yet Calysta’s backstory and overall attitude has Sal beat. While a lot of people will find Sal entertaining, more people will fall in love Calysta’s voice and bravery. Calysta isn’t just a sad story. She has talent, loads of it, even if it she is (conservatively) the 5,000th in line of the people Simon has called “really special.” Calysta is not just the best of the Golden Buzzers so far but she could very well win the whole thing. 

But what do you think? Can Calysta Bevier win America’s Got Talent? Who is your favorite Golden Buzzer act? Do you think any of them have a shot at winning season 11?

America’s Got Talent season 11 airs Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.

(Images courtesy of NBC)

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.