Last week, the judges and I disagreed quite vehemently on some of the acts that carried on in the competition. I’ll never understand The Singing Trump. Thirteen acts left the competition last week, and it will happen again this week as only seven out of 20 acts will advance. We’re trimming 80 to 28 here over four weeks, so it’s going to get bloody. Joining the panel this week as the “sixth judge” is DJ Khaled. Like last week, he has a Golden Buzzer of his own to put one act straight through.
Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I’ve spent the last fifteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. At this point, the top seven are going through, so I’ll just continue sorting from worst to first and we’ll see the acts I wanted to go through.
BELOW THE CUT
Jokgu and Aichan (piano-playing chickens)
Joku brought her sister for a duel, but the handlers couldn’t get them to play the pianos this time around and got four X’s. It was harsh, but clearly the chickens couldn’t be motivated to actually perform. Sadness.
Solto & T Dot (dancers)
Solto & T Dot performed as part of a dance montage and while they proved athletic and interesting, I didn’t really see them dancing as a duo, but rather as two individuals performing side by side, which didn’t impress much. They may have gotten a bad edit, though, to better spotlight the salsa brother/sister duo.
Azeri Brothers (stunt performers)
Azeri Brothers offered up more blindfolded fruit cutting (on a brother’s body) and pulled a nail out of a board with their teeth. But again, this act is just kind of boring.
Str8jacket got short-changed during a montage segment, but from what I saw they looked sloppy and out of synch enough that it might have been a good thing. The edit may not have gone their way, either.
Pelican212 (family band)
Pelican212 was alright, and had some real talent in some of its younger members, but there were some issues vocally in the harmonies, and if you’re going to compete on this show as a family band, you’ve got to be better than the Partridge Family and family bands that have come before you … or at least as good as them. This was not.
Steven Scott (comedian)
Steven Scott does an amazing answering machine fast-forward vocal. It was a funny bit, but I wish I would have seen more from him. What I saw wasn’t innovative or new, so I’d probably pass, though Mel B is going to champion him.
Junior and Emily (dancers)
Junior and Emily got to tell their story about Junior turning his life around through salsa, which was a disservice to the other dance acts that came before them. We already know this stuff. I felt there was more spinning than dancing this time around, and way too much of a reliance on the spin tricks. We’ve seen it before. They basically did one lift and then he spun her over and over and over again. What a disappointment. Luckily, they were very good their first time around, but they may be too much of a one-trick pony.
Mirror Image (singers/dancers)
Mirror Image were more annoying than entertaining last time, but the judges managed to put them through. They’re fun, but they’re more attitude and personality than talent. They’re very glee club in what they do, but their harmonies remained solid enough. The dancing, on the other hand, is just difficult to watch. If they honed their skills vocally they might have an act, but as long as they continue trying to dance it’s not going to work.
Sammulous impressed the first time around with his high range, but Simon didn’t care for his cabaret style. So he went full disco for this return and it was certainly infectious and fun. The problem was that while his voice was solid, it wasn’t a million dollar performance for me. I do love his upper range and control, and that’s something special for sure, but he again sounded like something not at all current. I can see him progressing, but I don’t see a winner.
The Godfathers (acrobats)
The Godfathers nailed it in their second audition, adding even more danger and precision. A backflip from atop three guys to being caught upright and maintaining balance is just fantastic. For an acrobatic balancing act, this is top notch. The danger is there, they’re charming and precise.
Xavier Mortimer (magician)
Xavier Mortimer had a more elaborate magical act, incorporating a fake mirror and beheading. It wasn’t small magic, so it was more of the kind of spectacle you’d expect to see in a Vegas act. Even better, he was charming and fun in the short segment we got to see. But it wasn’t completely polished.
Dakota Striplin (singer/guitarist)
Dakota Striplin had his segment edited down, but it was enough that we got to see he has a tremendous voice and talent. His acoustic accompaniment was just perfect. This is a young man who would do very well on “American Idol,” and definitely is one of the more polished vocalists we’ve seen this season.
Tulga balanced and spun a massive long ON FIRE on his back. Did I mention it was ON FIRE! He then spun Howie and Heidi on another massive log, proving both his strength and control. It was dangerous and terrifying, but also incredibly impressive.
MY TOP SEVEN
Evie Clair (singer)
Evie Clair has received even worse news about her father’s cancer. Essentially, chemo was doing nothing and he’s stopped treatment with doctors giving him about three months to live. He was there to support her, and she again channeled her emotion into her voice. I wish she would have chosen a more exciting song than “I Try” to spotlight the power and unique timbre in her voice. As it stands, it was a pleasant vocal but it wasn’t groundbreaking or even particularly memorable. And yet, she’s so talented.
Puddles (singing clown)
Puddles did it again. This sad clown has one of the most beautiful and classically trained voices of the season. And yet, he never breaks character, never speaks or utters a sound save when he’s singing. It’s truly something, and it takes you by surprise every time it happens. Puddles is one of the most unique and talented acts in the competition.
Kyle Eschen (magician)
Kyle Eschen performed a genuinely amazing trick involving pages and torn cards that are reassembled, and all of it under the watchful eyes (and hands) of the judges. It was impressive, but even better he had a little bit of humor and flair in his delivery, making not just the stunt memorable and fun but Kyle as well.
The Quiddlers (comedy)
The Quiddlers skipped the Village People and came out as the “AGT judges for this round of the competition. While the act did not amuse me the first time, they were actually quite clever and entertaining this time around. I just wish they could find a way to utilize their hands in their smaller forms. They proved themselves very innovative and that this act has legs… so to speak. With more elaborate stage setups, this could be something really special.
Colin Cloud (observer)
Colin Cloud describes himself as a real-life Sherlock Holmes based on observation. Once again, his act was mindblowing. He knew things inside Mel B’s head, and even had the judges coordinate to pick the passcode on his phone. The coup de grace was having members of the audience hold up the word “goddess” before having Mel reveal the word she’d been thinking of to describe herself. It’s a wild talent and always fun to watch. And Colin has a delivery that is both spooky and soothing at the same time, making him imminently watchable.
Yoli Mayor (singer)
Yoli Mayor has one of the strongest voices in the competition, with a very alt-rock vibe to it. It’s a versatile tone that is wholly hers, definitely powerful and instantly recognizable. She was nervous to the point of near-tears before she began performing, but once she settled into the groove of her song, it got better and better as it went along. In the vein of Amy Winehouse and other soulful, modern singers, Yoli is truly something special. She was so good, DJ Khaled wished he had another golden buzzer.
Chase Goehring (singer-songwriter)
Chase Goehring impressed with an original song complete with a rap breakdown his first time out. Once again, his songwriting shone brightly through with some truly clever rhymes and line structures. His nerves also came through a bit as he rushed from time to time, but no one writes and constructs songs quite like this, making him a fresh and relevant artist for now. Definitely someone to watch who’s got something to say. I was not at all surprised that Chase earned DJ Khaled’s golden buzzer, as this kid’s act in his wheelhouse. He then told Chase he totally wanted to work with him, so his career is pretty much on its way. DJ Khaled Golden Buzzer
JUDGES TOP SEVEN
Once again, we were not completely on the same page, as the judges put through two acts I didn’t even see as serious contenders after seeing their performances this time around. Junior and Emily really disappointed me, relying way too heavily on their various spinning tricks to the detriment of showing actual dance, and I’m sorry, but Mirror Image just isn’t that talented. And yet, the judges put both acts through.
That meant of my Top Seven, The Quiddlers (who really stepped it up and proved they are a solid variety act) and magician Kyle Eschen didn’t make the cut. It hurt me even more that the judges put Mirror Image up against The Quiddlers to let the latter group go home. Come on, guys, that’s just rubbing it in!
We did agree that Puddles, Colin Cloud and singers Evie Claire and Yoli Mayor all deserved to move onto the live shows, alongside DJ Khaled’s golden buzzer choice, Chase Goehring.
Next week, we’ll do it all again as Judge Cuts continue on “America’s Got Talent,” Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.