This looked like a far less interesting night of "America's Got Talent" on paper than we got, which is a good thing.
While it was lighter on variety, there were some outstanding musicians, including a returning opera singer and two parents who have proven outside of the show to be genuinely great people, imbuing their performances with their life experiences. One of them proved so powerful, it reduced the "mean judge," Simon Cowell, to tears.
There were some disappointments along the way, though, including an early favorite dance crew and an act that just couldn't overcome how corny and cheesy it was. But it was a far stronger and more entertaining night than expected going into it, and I feel stronger than ever that America will agree with my right choices for who should go on.
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, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my Top 7 each night.
(light dance) The concept and idea of this was much stronger than the execution. We've seen light dance crews really sell the alternate reality they're creating, but this one felt very amateurish and lacking in polish. If they did this at a recital with their students, it would kill. On the "AGT" stage, it's just not good enough.
(singer) His whole opening package was about the lack of love and friends in his life, spotlighting his loneliness. I think nerves got the best of him in the opening moments, as he missed a few notes and it took a moment to find his voice. It was very stirring and pleasant when he got into it. The song is an original, and it is beautifully written and realized. Once he got past his nerves, he really is quite talented, but I'm not sure he stood out enough here.
(magician) Oh no! "Men" changed to "Magician" without the sheet over the sign, so that illusion was just blown. Other than that, the magic and illusions were impressive enough, but that's a big misstep. His delivery is corny, as Simon said, but he seems fixated on doing David Copperfield type "cool," when that's not his obvious personality, meaning he can't sell it very well. If you're not naturally "cool," then go with what works, Simon was right. Magic, good. Presentation, not so much.
Hans: German Superstar
(variety) Hans brings the party and there's no denying that. His take on "Spice Up Your Life" wasn't vocally brilliant, and his dancing isn't brilliant, either, but it is absolutely entertaining. I could see him as the head of a variety show where he surrounds himself with very talented performers, while he keeps the show going with his fun personality and energy. It's a different type of act for "AGT," but it strangely makes sense here.
(dancers) I just wish little man was a stronger dancer. I love the energy this groups puts out there, and the infectious fun they're having. The dancing isn't as strong as their charisma, but I did enjoy the creativity on display in the fight section of the choreography. This is more a feel-good group, so it will all depend on how much America wants and/or needs that right now.
(danger act) It all went on way way way too long, but I love his overall presentation and character that he uses. In the end, the building suspension paid off with a very exciting end, though I find myself wondering if he couldn't just feel the weight difference when he shifted the blocks around. Still, I do enjoy what he does, and he always makes it entertaining. Just pick up the pace a bit!
Us the Duo
(musicians) Since we last saw them, Carissa has grown quite pregnant, and it was this new addition to their family that inspired the original she performed with hubby Michael. It was a very sweet and uplifting song, and while I didn't love the chorus the first time I heard it, it grew on me. They have a very cool folk vibe that would have been huge a decade or so ago, but I hope America supports them, because they are different than what's out there right now, and they're quite good at what they do.
(opera singer) I love that Daniel went with an operatic, Italian take on Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." The song is iconic audiences could connect with it, and yet his presentation kept it firmly in his wheelhouse. He has a powerful and commanding operatic voice, with impressive strength and control. If he doesn't win this show, he should definitely land work for what he's showcased here. It was absolutely fantastic.
(violinist) Brian brought a whole new chill to Fall Out Boy's "Centuries," proving that string instruments aren't stodgy and old-fashioned. They can be every bit as cool as electric guitars and drums. The bone-breaking dancers behind him were a litltle weird behind him as they didn't quite fit with what he was playing, or the song, but it didn't distract me from his amazing talent. He didn't miss a note and interpreted the song beautifully through his instrument.
(singer) Michael is a man with a good heart, as his backstory reveals, but even removing that from the equation (which voters won't), he has an impeccable instrument in his voice. He interpreted James Bay's "Us" just gorgeously. Admittedly, it took a bit to get going for me, and I wish he had a little more stage presence, but he's definitely a talented singer; someone I could see dominating Adult Contemporary Charts. The combination of his story, character and voice was enough to reduce Simon Cowell to tears, and many were right there along with him.
(dancers) Tyra told us their audition now has more views than any video in "AGT' history, which is pretty impressive. And tonight, they delivered another powerful performance with amazing acrobatics and a beautifully told story from the Book of Genesis. It was so fully realized, you could feel the growing danger after Adam and Eve bit from the apple, until an angelic moment of hope closed the piece. They could impress with just their stunts and musicality alone, but the storytelling put it over the top.
(singer) What makes Christina special as a singer is that she can share the emotions of the songs she is singing with an audience. It's not just a great voice that impresses you, it's a performance that moves you. Maybe it's a product of the fact that she has lived some genuine ups and downs, or it might just be part of her gift, but it makes her stand out in a crowded field of singers for all the right reasons.
The only act that missed my Top 7 I can see making it into the next round is The Future Kingz, because they are a feel-good group. I could see them edging out Aaron Crow, who took a little too long to get going, resulting in some boring spots in his performance.
That said, you all picked my least-favorite act last week to advance, so y'all don't know what you're doing! But I guess it's good news for UDI Dance.
"America's Got Talent" airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.