There will be blood on "America's Got Talent" for the next few episodes as judges continue to make their cuts. 18 acts took the stage Tuesday night night, but only seven moved on to the next round.
It's easily one of the most difficult rounds as most of your favorites don't make it through. But at least Olivia Munn was on hand to help the judges out and enjoy the power of a golden buzzer of her own. Of course, that reduces the number of acts getting through by one.
From magic to comedy to dancing and singing and spitting(?) it was a night of unforgettable entertainment. In the end, the judges got it mostly right, but they did send home one of my very favorite acts of the night, so we'll be having words later about that. Yes, there are only seven slots and yes it is very competitive, but you don't throw away talent like that!
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. For this stage of the competition, it's just about getting through to the next round, so I'll give my vote alongside the judges. Each night, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my Top Seven each night.
(tech dancing) We didn't get to see this whole act, but we're okay with it. Tech-driven acts that use a screen have come a long way, and yet this one felt like it was something out of the '90s. It was all just very rudimentary and not nearly clever enough.
(singer-songwriter) Like Leah, whose package was blended with his, Hunter's original song this time around didn't really work at all. It wasn't a showcase piece for either his vocals or his writing ability.
Shannon & Reckon
(dog act) Unfortunately, it looks like Reckon wasn't really on board this time around and the act kind of fell apart without his participation. It's probably a mercy producers cut this audition short in the edit. He's still cute, though.
(singer) Another act that got short-changed by the edit, but this 14-year-old singer failed to impress nonetheless. It's not that she was necessarily bad, but she certainly wasn't of the caliber needed to excel on this show.
(singer-songwriter) A performer of original songs on this stage, the moments we got of this song were underwhelming to say the least. It would definitely not be a released single were she to put out an album. It was, honestly, a little dull, though she sings it well enough. It's a big risk to go original as the song has to rise up to the vocals, and that just didn't happen here. [See Hunter Price above for video]
(jump rope) Vivien got a short edit, but still managed to impress in the few moments we saw. For one thing, she was performing with two sprained ankles, which sounds awful. But she powered through it, and every jump and trick seemed even more dangerous and terrifying as we knew what she was working with. Unfortunately, nothing she presented convinced me she can carry an entire Vegas show or should win this one.
The Melisizwe Brothers
(family band) They only got a few seconds, and while they appear to be adorable and have some talent, nothing really stood out in what we got. The youngest brother, who performs as their vocalist, has some chops.
(dancers) This Latin dance group didn't really do it for me the last time they were on the stage, and I was underwhelmed again. There just wasn't enough evidence of actual dancing between the elements of throwing the girls around. The added props created some additional flare, but it still wasn't enough to want me to see more of them.
(comedy) How do you up the ante when your act is spitting in each other's mouths? Well, how about storytelling? Easily one of the stupidest acts in the competition, I caught myself smiling as one of them went through his fountainous morning routine, complete with the other guys spitting a glass full of OJ for him, and even a raw egg. It was disgusting, fascinating and more entertaining than it had any right to be. But please can we be done?
(comedy musician) Hans comes out with all the flair and stage presence of a drag queen without the drag, and he certainly knows how to put on an entertaining show, but I'm not sure it's strong enough. We got a few seconds of piano and accordion that suggest he's stronger on those instruments than he is vocally, so maybe we need to see more of that. It's all very charming and his banter is very funny, but it needs some genuine talent to back it up, and his voice isn't that.
The Future Kingz
(dancers) This crew saves their seven-year-old for breakout moments, but he's honestly not quite strong enough. It was fun that the young boy led them in "backpack kid," but otherwise the dancing was stronger without him. The Kingz are a fun crew to watch, and even when their performance isn't as tight as it would need to be on a legit dance competition, they keep it entertaining.
(singer-songwriter) Simon stopped his take on REO Speedwagon, so Joseph asked if he could do an original. After watching two originals crash and burn before him, this is a huge risk. Add to that his nerves and it's a dangerous proposition at best. Boy was it an improvement. It was completely different tonally, but there was such grace and poise in Joseph's singing and playing that he transcended his nerves and managed to draw us into his insular world. It was genuinely mesmerizing.
(comedian) Vicki is funny naturally, though I don't think this was her strongest material. She actually had better stuff her first time out, but she is a natural comedian and you can tell she has experience and confidence on stage. She knows who she is, where she finds her comedy and she is able to help us understand her world a little bit. In a season light on comics, Vicki is a standout, but I question if she's strong enough to win.
(illusionist) To his credit, Rob really upped the ante for this second performance, offering up an illusion that was truly breathtaking. His stage presence was also far more commanding. We could speculate a few ways he pulled off that trick, but that would take away from its success as a visual spectacle and the fun it was watching him and his assistant wow us.
Angel City Chorale
(choir) What's amazing about this choir every time is that they give full body performances. There were visual elements to this performance that most choirs don't bother with, and each of those visuals serves the song. This one had an African sound to it and lyrics not in English, but it didn't matter. The power of the presentation transcended language and created a powerful connection between all 145 people on that stage and the audience. It's no surprise they earned Olivia's golden buzzer, as we imagine that connection was even stronger in person.
(comic magician) The shtick here is that Lioz seems to take what he does very seriously, but it's the "magic" of pulling Kleenex out of a box only to have another one appear to replace it. So ordinary stuff made to seem extraordinary. You either find it amusing or you're going to really hate this act. This time, he added even more comedy, like a hilarious card trick that got even funner when he explained how he figure out Mel's card. It's all about the seriousness of presentation, but this was genuine entertainment and so very creative.
(singer) At five years old, Sophie is the youngest-ever performer to hit the "AGT" stage, and she does so with a shocking surprise and grace for someone so tender. Now first of all, there is no reason for someone so adorable to be so gifted. Yes, she's five. Yes, she sounds like she's five even when she sings. But still, she belts big notes, stays on key and has a killer vibrato. Singers four and five times her age would kill to have her vocal control. If Sophie isn't proof that some people are just born singers, I don't know what is!
(magician) All he does is tricks with cards, and it is absolutely phenomenal to watch. He blew everyone away in his first round, and then upped the ante (pun fully intended) for this second round. We didn't need Olivia up there as our eyes because the camera never wavered and he was making cards appear and disappear in a blink with open palms. There's sleight of hand and then there's what Shin Lim does. Absolutely breathtaking!
With our second choir in as many weeks earning a gold buzzer, Angel City Chorale is going through, leaving six spots available. I actually wanted to see all three magicians go through (Shin Lim, Rob Lake and Lioz Shem Tov) which surprised me even. For my other three selections, singers Joseph O'Brien and little Sophie Fatu should advance alongside comedian Vicki Barbolak.
Now I get that the judges and I aren't always going to agree, and I can forgive them sending Lioz home, but Sophie was one of the most talented acts of the night! At least Joseph O'Brien's growth gets to continue, alongside Shin Lim and Rob Lake, who both deserved their shot at stardom.
The Future Kingz just missed my Top 7, so they're definitely worthy of inclusion in the live shows, as is Hans: German. There's just something so unique about what he does, so I'm not mad. I do want him to really step it up, though.
Finally, Vicki Barbolak was a no-brainer. She is a genuinely funny person in every way, and so down to earth. I would watch a full stand-up special with her, or go see a live show just so she can invite me into her mind. Plus, she's so humble and sweet on top of that, how can you not root for her. Now, she just needs to bring her best material next time!
"America's Got Talent" continues with more "Judge Cuts" next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.