But while we thought it might be really hard to whittle 18 acts down to a Top 7, it turned out to be much easier. For one, the judges were apparently imbibing in some pretty crazy something-or-others during the initial auditions, because they let some bonkers acts sneak through.
For another, it's remarkable how many acts just fail to step it up, or fail to impress overall when given this second chance. Maybe it's because we've already seen them once, but for so many, these follow-ups just felt kind of repetitive and dull. And a few of them were much, much worse.
That's not to say it was a bad night, as we saw some incredible danger acts, awesome acrobatics, one of the most impressive dance crews anywhere and the power of original music on a talent show like this.
Oh, and comedy makes a huge statement again with one of the funniest people to ever set foot on the "AGT" stage absolutely commanding their second chance at making the live shows.
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.
(ventriloquist) We loved his pooping bird the first time around, but his new puppet and new jokes did not work at all. We only saw one ("the 100-meter catheter") but it was a groaner of the highest order. Plus, the voice had no flair.
(singer) The bearded drag queen is a great personality, but this take on Madonna's "Material World" was just awful. It was out of tune and didn't work on any level.
(comedian) The glimpse we got of her first audition was that it was just awful. As in awful; it's no wonder we didn't get to see it. So the question now is why did we get to see this one when better acts were cut short and given virtually no time? The backup dancers were adorable, but what was this?
(singer) She did the male/female hybrid stunt again and that was really a big part of the problem. That's all she's got. It's an incredible vocal range and really fascinating to watch, but is it a Vegas show? Maybe just be a singer with an insane range.
(danger act) While a little more intricate than their first time out, the whole routine started to feel a little repetitive. If all they do is smash things on each other's bodies, then it gets dull. We were hoping for more with the sharp spike, as that could easily be explained away by costuming. The act needs more imagination and, oddly enough, danger.
(singer) She once again brought her amazing vocals, but there was something lacking in her stage presence this time and it takes so much more than a good voice to win this show these days. She just didn't take any chances or really stretch herself artistically, as Dwyane pointed out.
(danger act) We didn't see his first audition, which appeared to be about precision and coordination and speed. This time he slammed a knife into his arm and then ripped a tablecloth off of a table. The better trick was when he ripped it back onto the table. His tricks seem to be classic stunts, but done with aplomb and a sense of fun. But is it enough?
(dancers) So the problem is in the bit we got, this looked like essentially the same basic routine as the first audition in different costuming. They need to show dynamic range and diversity to win a variety show, and it just didn't appear to happen. They're good at what they do, but maybe they're just too limited in their range.
(singer) Once again, the song Lamont chose didn't really do him any favors. He has a nice voice, but this just wasn't memorable. If you're going to do P!nk, she has tracks that can blow an audience away, but "Walk Me Home" was just to gentle in this shortened form to have the intended impact.
(shadow dancers) This didn't seem as clever as shadow dance as much as it was performance art. There was a lot of technology on display and very rarely were dancers using their bodies to create any of the imagery on the screen. This was basically LARPing (live action roleplay) with a video backdrop. Honestly, it left us feeling a little disappointed.
Izzy and Easton
(dancers) We only got a glimpse of this duo, but Julianne was right to note that 11-year-old Izzy in pointe is a testament to her strength and maturity as a dancer. What we saw was certainly dynamic and powerful, but is this the right stage for it? Have you heard of a little show called "World of Dance"? Julianne has an in as her brother Derek is a judge over there ... and it's on the same network!
(acrobats) Once again, this couple is amazingly in sync and their hand balancing is second-to-none. The strength and control they display each time is just ridiculous. We could watch them do this for hours.
(magician) Dom really stepped it up from beers with a cute routine incorporating Siri. It also incorporated some fun sleight of hand, a quick card trick and yes, more alcohol. He has a very self-deprecating delivery with lots of humor, but was he perhaps a little too laid back this time? Still, he is memorable.
(singers) Talk about a song tailored specifically to this exact circumstance. These girls absolutely brought something memorable with a very fun song about this moment in their lives and waiting to see what "Simon Says" about their performance. They even ended it by extending their mics toward him to see. They really are a Disney-fied band ready to go with a hip sound and fun lyrics.
(light art) Another audition we didn't see in the first round, Alex really takes light art in an interesting direction. This time, in honor of its anniversary, he told the story of the moon landing with audio clips and truly impressive light visuals. It was a surprisingly moving tribute and featured some quality art and imagery along the way. What a cool presentation.
(comedian) Yes, his material was largely about his disability but damn if he didn't make it even funnier than the first time. His life is interesting and people do have a lot of questions about it, we can imagine, so it's brilliant that he explores those questions in his standup routine. On top of that, he has a great and confident delivery, hitting each joke with the right punch and zing. This is a consummate professional at work here.
(singer) Robert Finley is the real deal. This was a much stronger song than his initial auditin and he absolutely nailed that performance. He is as authentic as they come as an artist and a bluesman. That's the kind of voice they made records for, and here's hoping he gets the chance to lay some of his tracks down. This is how you step up and demand to be noticed in a second audition.
(dancers) Credit where credit is due, this troupe really brought their A-game tonight with a stellar high-flying performance filled with genuinely thrilling acrobatics and stunts. The tricks with the white chairs were like nothing we've seen before. Their trust and strength and control is just bonkers. We're not surprised Dwyane Wade gave them his Golden Buzzer, because this was way better than we ever anticipated.
V.Unbeatable already got the good news, leaving only six spots left. We didn't have a lot of confidence in our top picks, considering Duo Fusion didn't even get a full set and they barely crept into our Top 7.
Nevertheless, we did pretty well overall, considering how contentious the panel was and how divided they were on some of the acts.
Dom Chambers advanced first, setting us off on a good foot, followed shortly by GFORCE and Robert Finley and the live shows are looking pretty damned strong!
As expected, Duo Fusion got the boot -- the bad edit told us that much -- which meant someone we didn't put in our Top 7 was going to advance. That act was Bir Khalsa, who just didn't step it up for us this time around, but obviouslyl the judges disagreed.
For the final reveal, they brought out Ryan Niemiller and Alex Dowis and by sending them both to the live shows, made us 6 for 7 on the night. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all!
Next week, Ellie Kemper 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.