Usher, OneRepublic, Ava Max, Julia Michaels, Bishop Briggs and more join with "America's Got Talent" alums for some powerful duets with the finalists ahead of the big reveal of which act takes home the million-dollar prize!
It was a star-studded affair that saw the return of some “America’s Got Talent” favorites along with some bona fide superstars before we finally found out who our Season 15 winner was.
Along the way, the contestants got to perform with some of their favorite acts, leading to a tear-jerking moment as Archie Williams came face-to-face with the artist whose music helped inspire him to keep fighting all those years he was wrongly incarcerated.
And then, they performed the song that helped Archie the most during his trying times and we promise you there was not a dry eye in the house -- theirs or ours.
Usher kicked of the show with an incredible medley of hits, while other acts like OneRepublic, Blake Shelton, Bishop Briggs, Ava Max, JP Saxe and Julia Michaels took to the stage with all of this season’s singers.
Alan Silva’s brother, one half of "AGT" alums Deadly Games, joined him on stage to add danger to his aerial tricks while BAD Salsa took their own dangerous dancing to the next level by partnering with reinging “AGT: Champions” winners V.Unbeatable. Terry Crews’ Season 14 Golden Buzzer, runner-up Detroit Youth Choir helped us get hype with their high-energy performance.
And we needed it too as it was a full 90 minutes before we got to any of the results. Not that we didn’t enjoy many of the performances we saw along the way, as they showed new sides to some of the contestants now that it was too late, but most of us just came for the results and that takes, what? Five minutes?
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 eighteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.
The contestants have had fun with the Universal Studios lot during these live shows. But Usher took it to the next level with a very cool opening number that took us on a tour of some of his greatest hits, the streets of “New York” and all the way to the “America’s Got Talent” stage thanks to our favorite DeLoreon. “That is how you start a finale!” said Terry Crews, and he wasn’t wrong. It was high-energy and a lot of fun to kick off a two-hour journey to find the Season 15 champ!
Ryan Tedder (w/ Cristina Rae)
Cristina was glowing throughout this duet of “Lose Somebody,” offering a silky vocal that paired better with Ryan Tedder than we would have expected. His gentle rasp and her smoothness complemented each other quite well. Plus, we enjoyed that she reined in her big voice for the most part to just deliver the song, creating an intimate moment that shows yet another side of her talent.
In a tribute to Bill Withers, the finalists came together in a musical tribute to his “Lean on Me.” We love that even the four non-singing acts got in on the fun, with Alan Silva, BAD Salsa and the Bello Sisters just belting along as best they could while Brandon Leakes penned and performed a poetry breakdown mid-song to speak to our current times. It was a beautiful and poignant moment.
Bishop Briggs (w/ Deadly Games, Alan Silva & Bello Sisters)
A little clunky at times with the Bello Sisters clearly only partway through their rose-slashing bit when they cut to Deadly Games and Alan Silva, but we loved seeing the brothers combine their acts. It only further proves the danger elements possible in what Alan does, and how much fun a combination of those two acts could be on a big stage. While we would have liked Bishop to sing more of her chorus, she was clearly too amped at being briefly part of the danger -- and when she did sing, she sounded fantastic, so we’re not too mad about it.
Marvin Winans (w/ Archie Williams)
There was an incredible story behind this duet, as it was this song by Marvin that helped Archie through his long years of incarceration. You could see how much this meeting and moment meant for Archie, and that feeling permeated through their performance together. It was heartfelt and achingly beautiful. How can you not root for Archie and only wish the best for him now and always?
One person rooting for him: Meghan Markle, who sent in a video message as she revealed she and Prince Harry have been watching the show. Archie, of course, is also the name of their son.
"Just wanted to let you know that we've been so moved by your story and we have been cheering you on every week and it's not just because we're partial to the name," she said. "So, a very special message to you that I'll probably be saying all of my life, but on this night it's specifically for you: Archie, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you and we can't wait to see what you do. We're in your corner, have a good night."
Ava Max (w/ Daneliya Tuleshova)
Ava and Daneliya actually have very similar styles, with Ava presenting herself just like an older, more polished, more confident version of the young finalists. That bodes well for Daneliya. She already has that incredible maturity to her voice that’s so rare in someone her age, but it’s already a marketable sound. Daneliya is an incredible talent and we think no matter what happens here, someone will want to work with her.
Last year’s runners-up have had an incredible year since falling just short on “AGT” and it looks like the sky is the limit for them and the kids of this choir. They brought all that youthful energy to bear in a sharply choreographed take on Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” that had a lot of great harmonies and even stronger soloist work. It’s so exciting that their city awarded the program $1 million so they can continue to be goodwill ambassadors for Detroit and continue helping youths throughout the city, too.
Blake Shelton (w/ Broken Roots)
A perfect partnership, Blake’s vocal style meshed perfectly with the guys on a reprise of their earlier take on his “God’s Country.” It was such a natural combination, it really felt like the kind of duet (tri-et?) you might see on the Grammys stage. Broken Roots really is just about poised to make a run for a real career in Nashville -- and who knows, with Blake now aware of them and having performed with them, that could be a powerful ally to make.
V.Unbeatable (w/ BAD Salsa)
Their styles actually worked quite well together. And even though we didn’t really see much new from either grouping tonight, we saw how much these high-flying danger stunts have clearly permeated at least this segment of Indian culture and entertainment. BAD Salsa actually made for a very fun centerpiece to V.Unbeatable’s signature dance line covering acrobatics. Plus,we love how the larger group incorporated the duo into a stunt because why not?!
This was just an excuse for Terry Crews to goof off and have fun, but he’s such a gifted comedian, we were all for his attempts to find his magic persona and pull off any single trick, with the guidance of “AGT” alum Mat Franco. That Terry guy is pretty good, huh? Somebody should put him on a sitcom or something.
JP Saxe & Julia Michales (w/ Roberta Battaglia & Kenadi Dodds)
This pairing makes almost less sense than the final execution. This song is such a duet between two lovers, so it didn’t really make sense to make it a quartet with two kids. It might be that it’s a song that Roberta and Kenadi both love, but it kind of feels like they drew the short straw in having to settle for the guests “AGT” got and this was what we got. Honestly, they deserved something that was better suited tot their individual styles (which are very different).
Definitely not his strongest piece, but an interesting way to set up the final reveal of the Top 5 and eventual winner of the show. We’d have loved a deeper take on what this experience means through his lens, but perhaps that can come later in his career. We’ll be tuning in, wherever he lands.
And that brought us to the moment we’d been building up to for an hour and a half. Who made the Top 5 and who emerges as the Season 15 winner. It’s also worth always remembering, as we’ve seen tonight and over the years, that you don’t need to win this show to go on and do amazing things.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt.
We kind of dug the setting for this, relocated outside under the Universal Studios gate with a live audience separated in golf carts. It was so Hollywood, but probably a way to get the loved ones of the contestants here. Plus, that live energy that really does help these kinds of moments.
Our predicted Top 5 (in order, because we can do that) included Archie Williams, Alan Silva, Broken Roots, Cristina Rae and Brandon Leake. How did we do? And what did you do?
First up, Terry Crews split the ten finalists in half, revealing this season’s Top 5. And the first to find out their fates were the danger acts, Alan Silva and the Bello Sisters. It was Alan Silva who scored that first spot.
Next, Daneliya Tuleshova looked notably worried to be paired alongside Cristina Rae, who has been a front-runner all season long. And she had good reason to be, as her journey ended and Cristina Rae carried on.
BAD Salsa had to face the music alongside Broken Roots. Could the country duo fight their way back into the competition and into the Top 5 (making us three for three along the way)? You bet they could, as Broken Roots took that third slot.
Kenadi Dodds and Roberta Battaglia were the next pair called up, which immediately dashes our predictions as we didn’t see either advancing. It’s really our own fault as we didn’t advance any kid singers. That said, we stand by thinking Daneliya was the strongest of all three. But America thinks it’s Roberta Battaglia, who does have a big voice.
The biggest problem with this, though, is that we are now left with what we considered the Top 2 acts of the night vying for one slot. We know Archie Williams had to fight though the Dunkin’ Save to make it this far, but we really thought his powerful performance was enough.
This was us assuming that Archie Williams went home over Brandon Leake, because the alternative was too unbearable to consider. So is that what happened? Of course it is. Brandon Leake is a force of nature this season, and rightfully so!
We had this slot going to Archie Williams, so was Roberta Battaglia going to replace him here as she did in your Top 5? No, it was aerialist Alan Silva, who declared himself a winner for just making it this far. He’s not wrong, as he’s already inspired so many.
Well, we had Alan Silva in this slot, so is this where Roberta Battaglia ultimately placed, or was she looking to single-handedly disrupt our entire prediction? Was she going to win the whole thing? No, because this is where things wrapped for Roberta Battaglia, who did incredibly well at 11 years old!
This means that our prediction for the Top 3 was the actual Top 3, which had us feeling pretty stoked even before we learned if we got them in the right order.
We put Broken Roots here, but clearly America has a real soft spot for this duo. Could they supplant one of the season-long front-runners? They absolutely did as this place went instead to Cristina Rae. We felt an emotional disconnect in her latest performance, and maybe that’s what hurt her.
That leaves the comeback kids with the poet laureate of “America’s Got Talent” to battle it out for the crown. Either would make for an incredible story. Broken Roots would go from eliminated to a million dollars, while Brandon Leake would mark the first-ever poet contestant and winner.
Our prediction was that Cristina Rae would have to settle for second place, but after she took third, that leaves Broken Roots to fill this slot by default. Could they complete their comeback dream and upset Brandon Leake? Or be thrilled with an incredible run even if it ends here? End here it did and Broken Roots has such a bright future ahead of them.
We’ve been predicting this was Brandon Leake’s season for weeks now and there was just no denying the power of his words, the emotional resonance of his delivery and the timeliness of the spoken word art form to speak to America at a time when it needs to listen more than ever. In this moment, Brandon Leakes was heard and he’s a million dollars richer for his words.
We couldn’t be more thrilled for him. What a great brand ambassador and artist to be representing “America’s Got Talent.”
“America’s Got Talent” returns next summer with its 16th season.
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