We are one step away from the "America's Got Talent" Finals, but first we have one more round of semifinals to power through, and this one is packed with more singers than ever.
It's amazing that "AGT" offers such a wide variety of acts and talents and performers, and yet every year, America packs the final rounds with singers of all ages. There are a few comedians, magicians, dancers and things harder to define sprinkled in, but the field is usually at least half vocalists.
Simon Cowell certainly had a lot of fun with some of those other acts, getting involved with Aaron Crow's danger act -- and nearly killing Howie Mandel in the process -- and agreeing to go no a date with Vicki Barbolak for a Grand Slam at Denny's, even though he's never heard of either and has no idea how to pronounce the restaurant chain's name.
With seven vocal acts, we did get some memorable moments from the likes of Courtney Hadwin, We Three, Angel City Chorale, Daniel Emmet and Glennis Grace. But they had to square off against comedian Vicki Barbolak, danger act Aaron Crow, dance crew Da Republik and violinst Brian King Joseph.
These four acts had an easier time standing out from the crowd, but will that help them secure votes? Will the singers cancel one another out, or will they dominate the finals again?
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 5 each night.
(dancers This routine started out all kinds of messy, with everyone seemingly dancing just slight off the beat in different directions. The overall visual was a disaster becuase no one was doing anything at the same time. It only got worse when a tandem aerial flip maneuver saw the two guys nearly two seconds off from one another, and a mountain climb later exposed a huge slip-up. Respect for the flip-over-flip maneuver, as that was pretty cool, but the whole routine just lacked polish. This crew would have been gone in the first round of "World of Dance." But just how forgiving is America?
Angel City Chorale
(choir) I'm not sure a Bruce Springsteen jam is the best way to showcase what a choir can do. Dude has a pretty limited range, and while he's great at what he does, his music did not translate well. This was the least dynamic and exciting Angel City has been in the competition, and it's really disappointing. It also shows the importance of song choice. Perhaps on a night of singers faltering, they'll get through on previous performances, but they are much, much better than this.
(singer) Normally, I wouldn't recommend anyone tackle the Queen of Soul, but from the first note, it's clear that Christina's voice is truly something special. There is such a strength and command that comes from her, it's unbelievable she's kept it hidden so long. It wasn't a perfect performance, but it was heartfelt and emotional nonetheless. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" was a perfect choice for this stage in Christina's journey, because she finally is feeling the confidence in herself that that voice deserves. I love the edge she delivers. She is a woman and she is fabulous!
(family band) The trio lightened things up with a song about love and acceptance that they literally just wrote for this live performance. They took Simon's challenge to mix things up, but when it was their heartfelt songs that got them here, was this a smart move? I enjoyed seeing a brighter side to their dynamics, and I loved the showcase of the musical versatility and talent. Throw in a little trumpet -- yes, there were a few bum notes -- and some keyboard and these guys can make a much bigger sound than their numbers. While it wasn't as alluring as their first two songs, it was still very catchy and entertaining and I do enjoy the group a lot.
(singer) Now that was a bold and interesting, giving us an acoustic take on Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." There were some really nice moments throughout, but the arrangement was so very slow that I found myself getting bored at several points along the way. At no point did I doubt that Noah has an amazing voice with a very cool rasp to it, and I loved the idea of rearranging Whitney like this, but that arrangement was lacking in moments for us to latch onto.
(opera singer) Normally when an opera singer takes on something a little more from the popular genre, like "West Side Story's" "Somewhere" here, they have a tendency to oversing it. There's a unique quality in opera that can overwhelm other genres and take over, and not in a good way. Daniel managed to avoid that, though his operatic background still shone through at key moments, and particularly in the closing moments. It did get a little sleepy about two thirds of the way through, but it was a memorable and very strong performance. Enough? Not sure.
(violinist) You talk about a performance being overproduced, there were huge swaths of that routine where you had to strain to make out the sounds Brian was making with his violin. The bigger problem, though, was that some of those sounds were wrong. Brian has been nigh on perfection each time he's come out, nailing each note and really putting on a show. If anything, his showmanship increased even more this round, but the quality of his playing seems to have suffered a bit for it. I'm not sure America saw enough of his actual talent for that to be enough. The judges, on the other hand, loved every second of it.
(comedian) Like "Git-R-Done" and "You Might Be a Redneck," I worry Vicki is leaning a little too hard into "Trailer Nasty" during her routines. I love her storytelling and her self-deprecating humor, but when you start relying on catch phrases as a comedian, it weakens the overall performance. Vicki is a sharp comedian, but this wasn't some of her strongest material. There were some great bits in there, but some of her jokes seemed to lack a hook or punchline. I still like who she is and the voice she represents, but that sweetness was a big part of her appeal as well, and it was lacking for me.
(danger act) This stunt was paced better than his previous time out, though still a little slow. Like The Sacred Riana, Aaron works in mood and atmosphere, so I'll give him a pass in that at least he kept things moving. I wish the boxes he smashed had been destroyed a little more completely to better emphasize the potential danger Howie was holed up inside of one of them. But Aaron is always memorable and I've no idea how he manages to control seemingly random elements so well to ensure no one dies or gets seriously injured.
(singer) This was not the best song choice for Courtney, taking on "Born to Be Wild," but the attitude certainly fit her unique stylings. That said, though, there is no one on this show and perhaps no one alive now in music quite like her, and that makes her something very special. Courtney is a treasure that this how has found, so young and so talented. As she finds her way musically, there's no telling what heights she can achieve. Her intonations and the choices she makes for how to caress a note are wholly unique. She's one of a kind and I could watch her for hours. Even when it's not her greatest performance, she's still pretty great.
(singer) Now that's how you stand out as a vocalist in a crowded field. Glennis put her own stamp on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" and it was stunning. Her voice absolutely soared through that piece, with a sustained bit of vocal gymnastics that honestly didn't appear to miss a note. On a night with so many singers slipping up here and there, it was refreshing to see someone come out like they were already a professional and just nail every moment of their chance.
I have far less confidence in these results than in previous weeks, because Angel City Chorale touched a lot of people, We Three have a heartbreaking story, Noah Guthrie is on a redemption path, and someone keeps loving Da Republik.
If it makes it easier, just look at my Top 5 and only vote for those acts. That way we can have as smoother time Wednesday night and I can walk around saying, "I was right." I do love saying that.
"America's Got Talent" airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.