The Judge Cuts kick off, bringing back 18 acts from the auditions rounds, with only seven advancing to the live shows -- well, only six after Brad's golden buzzer!
The auditions are over and if the editors did their jobs right, we've already seen the winner of "America's Got Talent." Now it's just a matter of seeing who that is by eliminating everyone else bit by bit.
Next up it's the "Judge Cuts" round, which is a second chance for the acts and for the judge. The acts have a chance to prove the judges gambled right on them by upping their game. And the judges get the chance to correct their mistakes by getting rid of acts that should have never gotten through.
But with only 7 of 18 acts advancing, there are inevitably good acts that don't make the final cut, too. And that certainly happened this week as some early favorites faltered. Chris Kläfford gambled with an original song, while the Messoudi Brothers brought their father out of retirement for one more show.
Matthew Richardson honored his late father in his act, while The Sentimentalists tried their hardest to win Howie Mandel over. In fact, several acts he'd voted "no" for found themselves battling for his affection, and he was proving very hard to impress.
This week, the panel was joined by special guest Brad Paisley, who was given his very own golden buzzer. Pressing that secures one act a spot in the live shows, but it also whittles down the total number of available slots to six.
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 seventeen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
And just for fun through this round, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my Top 7 and winner each week.
(performance art) How do you top saying "Tequila" only a few times through a karaoke performance, otherwise deadpan staring at the crowd? Try again with "turn down for what?" In other words, he was fun once and it should have stopped there.
(rapper) While adorable, this 10-year-old just did an okay rendition of Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE." It wasn't nearly good enough to be worthy of continuing among such talent.
(comedian/magician) We only saw Jecko briefly last time throwing plates at the audience and generally being very loud and obnoxious, but apparently he got through. He brought more of the same this time, with even more yelling and running around, but at least he did manage to pick out Julianne's card by stabbing through it with a sword. So there's that. Still, we're with Brad. This was more confusing and exhausting than entertaining.
Dakota & Nadia
(dancers) Powerful and moving with their first audition, we barely got a glimpse of them this round, but it did seem to lack heart or conviction. It might be that producers changed the music for the montage, but the power in this duo was their storytelling and how they touched your heart and all of that wasn't evident in what we did see.
(aerialists) We're kind of with Howie's first impression of them, this just isn't that stellar compared t aerial acts we've seen. And it is lacking a grace and finesse you usually see. It's as if they're so concerned with the stunet, they're missing some of the artistry and performance technique to really make it an overall experience.
(singer) Once again, Loki gets short-changed by the edit. He's got a powerful voice to be sure, but the audition itself was kind of boring.
The Orange Magician
(magician) This is like a comedic quick-change, only he steps behind a box to facilitate his changes. We didn't get a chance to see him his first time out, but there is something very entertaining and impressive about what he does. He's like a cartoon character come to live. "It's good."
(comedian) One-liner comedy is hard, and it took a while for Kevin to lure the audience in his first time around. Your jokes have to be the absolute best for this to work. It's still fun and clever, but this may not be the right format for what he does.
(singer) Damiyr took a huge risk starting a cappella on "Say Something" and other than the very first line, it soared beautifully. At the same time, when you have an incredible voice this is actually a pretty safe choice and Damiyr may not have done himself any favors by choosing it.. It's just not enough to be a great singer on these kinds of shows anymore, you need to have that (dare we say it) x factor, too.
(aerialist) There was a beautiful use of audio from his father that made this heartfelt tribute even more moving. He created a complete performance inspired by a dream. He transformed his hoop into a dreamcatcher and everything about it was true to his artistry and such a wonderful way to pay homage to the man who both inspired and encouraged him. As an acrobatic piece, it could have used something more impressive skill-wise to really blow us away, but as an emotional piece, he hit the right chords.
(beatboxers) These guys really did bring the club to the "AGT" stage with some incredible beatboxing. It's how they work their disparate sounds together to create a full symphony of dance music. They really made it feel like we were listening to a club remix of "Rapper's Delight" and that's an incredible feat with nothing but your voices.
(dancers) Talk about upping your game, there are 76 girls out there and they used their numbers to their advantage. The stage was full, the synchronicity was incredible and they painted amazing visuals with how they broke apart into smaller groups and how they played with their numbers to create waves and a sense of larger motion. This was a rock(ette) solid follow-up. And yet, Howie still hates it.
Ndlovu Youth Choir
(choir) Not as effective as their first audition, there's still a palpable energy when they hit the stage. It might be because there was more solo work this time around when they really shine on their harmonies, but this actually felt like a bit of a step backwards. They still bring something special to the stage and represent a culture largely misunderstood or ignored in the U.S., which helps them stand out over other singing acts, but it's disappointing when you know they're better than what they just gave.
(singer) This young lady speaks to her generation and her songwriting is both relevant and innovative. She does some interesting things with wordplay and rhythm that really makes her stand out and with some fine-tuning of this style she could really carve out a special niche. Brad was impressed enough to score her his golden buzzer, which the kind of confidence booster a fragile artist pouring her soul out like this needs in life. Just someone to believe.
Lukas & Falco
(dog act) What a successful performance for both Lukas ad Falco. Who knew Lukas knew so many tricks beyond the amazing work his dog was doing. Balancing on a ball and juggling is impressive for everyone. And Falco was so on point he didn't miss a cue. The relationship is so adorable between these two, and we loved the interaction throughout, somersaults and everything. What a good boy!
(mentalists) A huge step up in presentation and wow factor, this was the kind of routine you're left scratching your head about and thinking about for days after seeing it. That's how you wow and audience and that's how you secure a spot in future rounds. And this time, their kitschy presentation actually worked with the whole performance. And yet, Howie still hates it.
The Messoudi Brothers
(acrobats) An incredible step up from their first audition, the feats of strength and balance with just two of the brothers was mind-blowing. We're not sure we breathed through the entire audition, but it was worth it to nearly pass out just to see that level of control and commitment. But then dad got in on the act, holding all three of his sons in the air and there are no words. Just awe-inspiring.
(singer) We already knew Chris had an incredible voice, but he's an incredible songwriter, too? This is ready to take on multiple genres of radio right now. We're only disappointed we clearly didn't get the full song, but nevertheless it was enough to prove how amazing he is and how deserving he is to get a record deal and make music ... we don't even care if he wins the show. This guy needs to be sharing music with the world.
We were feeling pretty good about our Top 7 acts going into the results as we felt like there was a pretty clear divide between the top act of the night and the rest. But with Howie being cranky and so much dissent on the panel, did the judges agree?
We were off to a good start the Emerald Belles high-kicked their way into the live shows, followed by The Messoudi Brothers. Berywam followed -- meaning someone we liked wasn't going to make the cut -- and Lukas & Falco.
Turns out it was Howie clearly getting his way and blocking The Sentimentalists from advancing, despite how impressive they were tonight. We're not mad about Berywam, but really thought The Sentimentalists were a lot of fun.
It was another celebration for Ndlovu Youth Choir after getting the word they're advancing again. And then there was just no way Chris Kläfford wasn't going to advance.
You know, we had to say goodbye to some solid acts, but we can't be mad about who's advancing. It's a true variety show so far, and that's when "AGT" entertains most.
Next week, Dwyane Wade joins the judging panel to do it all over again with 18 more acts.
"America's Got Talent" continues Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
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