It's been a long summer and a lot of kid singers. But it's also been more than just that. "America's Got Talent" is truly the most diverse talent competition on the airwaves, and that makes it beautifully unpredictable and riveting every single season. You literally never know what you're going to see next, and people bring acts you've never even imagined could be acts...piano-playing chicken anyone?
But who won? Our jobs are over -- my fellow judge and I -- and it was all up to you watching at home. Tyra Banks said you set a record with the most votes ever received for any episode of "AGT." The show keeps connecting with viewers each summer, and this finale offered a ton of great acts...with only half of them being singers. I ranked the non-singers generally higher for bringing more to the stage, but my opinion doesn't matter anymore.
Now, in true reality show fashion, it takes two hours to find out who won the damned thing.
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.
It was fun seeing Kechi and Angelica handle a more uptempo piece and then duet beautifully with Kelly Clarkson. Kelly then stayed on the stage to go solo and prove why she swept away the competition on the first season of "American Idol" all those years ago. She hasn't lost a bit of her voice and still knows how to command a stage and your attention. She is easily one of the best live singers any of these shows has discovered.
Diavolo & Light Balance
When Tyra announced this pairing, I got really excited to see these two acts collaborate on a unique routine, but instead they took turns. Diavolo basically gave a retreated of one of their earlier stunts and then the music and tone changed completely for Light Balance, which offered another fairly lame retread. Even worse, the stage was too well-lit and we could see a lot of the dancers even when they weren't lit up. Derek Hough was a fun Light Balance surprise.
Mandy Harvey & Shania Twain
Marlee Matlin came out to introduce this pairing, and while it's a nice idea, this duet didn't work out particularly well. Shania Twain sang harmonies but their voices never really meshed and Shania didn't appear to be in fine voice. After that, I found myself pretty suspicious that Shania was lip-synching when she went solo with her newer song. Her dancers looked ridiculous and actually distracted from her otherwise boring performance.
Darci Lynne & Jeff Dunham & Terry Fator
Darci had a fun bit where she got to meet Jeff Dunham and his famous puppet Walter. It was a cute meet, but it would have been more fun to see Darci surprised by someone she probably admires tremendously. I don't know if they'd met before, but I would have just preferred this being less scripted. It was cuter when Season 2 winner Terry Fator joined Darci on stage. Both ventriloquists were very good in their banter and even better in their vocal duet.
Preacher Lawson & Howie Mandel & Kevin Nealon
In a pre-taped segment that felt a lot like something Louis C.K. would do, the three comedians met up at the Laugh Factory and talked about what it takes to make it in the comedy business. It was actually a genuinely moving piece, narrated by Howie and featuring the other two comics on stage and at a table with the two veterans giving advice to the newcomer.
Evie Clair & Chase Goehring & James Arthur
James Arthur was the centerpiece of this trio as he first performed with Evie Clair on an original of hers before pairing with Chase on his own "Say You Won't Let Go." Evie's song was very young in its writing and execution but showed a lot of potential as a songwriter, while Goehring was clearly less comfortable on this cover. Overall, James carried the segment with two clear amateurs flanking him.
52 million votes later, the Top 10 was ready to be cut in half. I had a bottom half filled with singers and Sara & Hero, with only Chase Goehring making my Top 5, but I'm realistic. I know America loves singers, so I fully expect some of them to rise up and take slots from my variety selection.
Of course that's exactly what happened. Of the acts I put in my Top 5, only two of them made it into yours. Thankfully, they were my very top acts in Darci Lynne and Light Balance. But singers Mandy Harvey and Angelica Hale, alongside Sara & Hero booted my next three acts: Chase Goehring, Diavolo and Preacher Lawson, leaving lots of singers.
Sara & Hero had an amazing run on this show, and proved that a dog show act can be more than amazingly well-trained dogs. It can be about the love between an owner and her dogs and it can tell an emotional story while blowing our minds.
Mandy Harvey had an amazing run and made a name and a voice for herself. Most importantly, it convinced her to get her music dreams back on track. I think she's going to be fine from here as she got noticed surely by the right people. She has a story yes, but even moreso she has a voice to back it up.
Light Balance was eliminated, proving that if your kids have even a modicum of talent you need to get them on “America's Got Talent.” Basically, it's become “Kids Got Talent.” I'm not taking anything away from the top two finalists, but I had Angelica Hale in my tenth position for a reason. I'm not going to be swayed by the fact that she's a kid, she's just not as polished as some of the more mature acts.
Angelica Hale has a big voice for such a tiny package, but let's be honest. She's here because she's an adorable little girl. She's got a bright future, and this makes it even brighter, but this isn't her year. It's the year of...
Darci Lynne! She's a worthy winner, an excellent ventriloquist and someone who is polished enough and ready to win. She's been my favorite to win from the beginning. Yes, I put Light Balance ahead of her Tuesday night, but that was based more on the possibilities than the reality of the show and her talent. Plus, kid singer. I mean, it's a no-brainer, right?