The disastrous performance earns the only 'X' of the night, while elsewhere a singer delivers one of the best vocal performances in the history of these kinds of shows -- plus, we break down the five acts who hit Peacock for an exclusive "Wild Card Special."
Out of nowhere, “America’s Got Talent” blasts back onto the air with a two-pronged attack on Tuesday, airing its usual two-hour performance episode while also dropping a half-hour “Wild Card Special” on Peacock with five more acts battling for one spot in these Quarterfinals.
Props to whoever came up with that plan as die-hard “AGT” fans are going to want to check that out. It gives them two things to vote on this week, and 17 acts in total to enjoy. To keep things as simple as possible here, we’re going to combine coverage of both episodes here, but still keep them separate as they’re doing separate things.
First up, on the first round of the Quarterfinals, a dozen acts hit the stage with only seven set to advance. One of those acts was Sethward, who has showed up four years straight in stupid costumes doing stupid things. What is he doing here?!
Other acts include Matt Johnson’s terrifying escape acts, the usual batch of singers young and adult, a pair of comedians who couldn’t have had more different nights, a group of kid dancers and the return of the dog versions of the “AGT” judges. It was … interesting.
The night also featured one of the all-time greatest vocal performances we’ve ever seen across any season of any competition show like this. Did we say ever?! Toss in another act that puts a gospel spin on popular tracks and a group that combines country and hip-hop in a unique fusion, and it was definitely a memorable night of music.
After we break down these acts, we’ll jump into the Wild Card special, which featured five acts and only one advancing to the lives shows … or could they have a trick up their sleeves?
Speaking of tricks, one of those acts is an incredible magician, another a comedian and three more singers to round it out. And while we were watching it, we kept wishing we could swap some of those acts out for some of the dozen that did make it into the Quarterfinals (*ahem*Sethward*ahem*).
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
And just for fun, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see how my favorites do and then we can track them throughout the season to see how they fare.
(performance art) We do not get this act. At least he avoided his costume ripping and exposing too much (we always suspected that was on purpose and there was no way they were going to allow anything like it on live TV). The switch up from the peacock to the phoenix was well executed. We appreciate his ambition and creativity, but as a performer, he’s just terrible. It’s not funny or compelling or entertaining. It just grates. “It’s amazing how he’s able to make nothing out of so much,” Howie said, and that may explain it better than anyone has. “We can now officially call the show ‘America Does Not Have Talent,’” Simon said.
(singers) It’s clear that Peter is far more comfortable when he’s belting out those big notes that always get cheers and applause. Once he got to them on this Whitney Houston classic, he was in his element and delivered beautiful note after beautiful note. The problem is that the build-up to that wasn’t working nearly as well, falling off key more than once and looking uncomfortable with the staging and his own performance. Are big notes enough?
The Canine Stars
(dog trainers) This act definitely went bigger, though the jokes with the four fake dog “AGT” judges went on a bit too long. While things didn’t go off perfectly, there were still a lot of impressive moments with the dogs, who are incredibly disciplined. There’s always a charm and a smile that comes with a dog act that’s working, even when there are mistakes, and this one had us beaming.
(comedian) Kabir’s material was not nearly as strong this time around. It also didn’t help that his jokes about his mom text messaging him fell completely flat with the audience right at the top of his set, which clearly threw off his rhythm. He had a few good moments in there, but the whole thing needed a little more energy and drive through the material so we felt like we were on a journey through his life, because he has interesting insights. It just didn’t come together as well as it could have.
(band) While this isn’t one of their strongest songs, we really enjoy how seamlessly they mix traditional bluegrass and country sounds with modern hip-hop music. It’s a beautiful mashup that proves musical expression is universal no matter the filter or the experience that brings it. The beauty of this act is that it is so utterly compelling each time. The musical choices are always interesting and unexpected, so you can’t take your eyes off of them for fear of missing something, which is a great way to keep people invested.
Beyond Belief Dance Company
(dancers) We were a little wary of this one as they weren’t quite as tight in their formations the last time we saw them, but this was almost an entirely different troupe. They hit that stage with ferocity and attacked every move like it might be their last (it might). The energy was on point, the costuming and staging was great and the girls were in sync much better. This is how you step it up to make a statement, and we definitely heard them.
(escape artist) It’s interesting how emotionally invested Matt gets in his own act, though it’s understandable. He is putting his own life on the line. We’ve just not seen that kind of response from most escape artists. That passion, though, really does create for exciting moments. This wasn’t as interesting as his previous act, but it was still extremely compelling and dangerous, if only because of how short his time was. The tension was perfect and he timed his escape flawlessly. He’s one of the best at this for making it a true spectacle you can’t take your eyes off of.
(singer) This song was Madilyn’s first to go viral, which gave her enough of a standing on YouTube to make a go of singing as a way to make money. It was obvious how comfortable she was on the song, which did allow her to showcase the power of her voice, as well as her lung capacity. Her vibrato was a little warbly at times, but she really commanded the stage and performance from the jump. We’ve heard better vocals on this show, but after her incredible original song last time, it was smart to showcase that she’s got real pipes, too, this time around.
(magician) The final reveal of the numbers in his book reflecting today’s date didn’t really do anything for us because he created the book. We’d have liked maybe the spades being the date or something even better, or another connection. Still, what he otherwise gave us was very compelling, and we definitely enjoy his intimate storytelling approach to navigate us through his magic tricks. The sentimentality is perfect for this type of show as we feel connected to him and his story just as much as we’re impressed with his magic trick -- and we loved the audience involvement portion to “cover up a mistake.”
(comedian) Every moment of Gina’s set was pure magic. She is so comfortable on that stage, and her lines were absolute fire. The layers of jokes with the Puerto Rican accent bit all the way through to dating skinny guys, she had every piece perfectly laid out and each one flowed seamlessly into the next. We don’t want to see a comedian working, or see them transitioning into their next joke (unless they’re Steven Wright and that’s their thing). With Gina, it’s like she’s just talking to us and she just happens to be funny as hell.
(singers) Once again, the guys deliver with an incredibly rich gospel arrangement on a more modern song, but they didn’t quite go as modern or recognizable with R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” We were blown away by their incredible harmonies on this one, injecting a fresh new energy on the track. Younger viewers may be unfamiliar with the original, but even they should be able to appreciate the complexity and mastery of what was just delivered.
(singer) There’s stepping things up for the next round of the competition and then there’s delivering a finale-worthy performance in the quarterfinals. We’re not sure how much higher Jimmie can soar than this breathtaking vocal, but it’s easily one of the strongest moments in all of reality competition television history. Seriously, that moment could win “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” at the same time. We’re so glad he embraced his higher voice and just owns it because what he can do with it is otherworldly.
First of all, knowing the existence of a “Wild Card Special” has us questioning all over again how Sethward is on this show. Honestly, we wouldn’t put him on that show, either. With a ton of acts cut between auditions and now, how was he not one of them?
Beyond him, we have our Top 7 pick above, and we suspect America will stick pretty close to our script, as there were definitely some obvious favorites in the mix. It does get a little murky toward the middle of the pack.
The judges were not digging Matt Johnson’s danger act, but they seemed to take issue with the danger of it. We don’t think it was his best, but it was still compelling and should move on. Will the judges’ cool reception influence voters?
If so, we think Peter Rosalita will sneak in there, even though he’s much lower in our rankings. He’s a kid singer -- “AGT” loves those -- and he really is amazing when he’s belting those big notes. That would probably be enough for voters.
We don’t think Gangstagrass delivered a strong enough song this time to really sell their unique sound, but we’re also not sure Madilyn Bailey impressed enough with straightforward singing.
As such, we’re going to predict that Peter gets the vote and Madilyn does not. And we think America will dump Matt for more kids with Beyond Belief Dance Company. They just missed our Top 7, so we won't be mad about it. The rest of our top picks will also advance.
For the first time ever, “AGT” paired its first live show with a streaming-exclusive episode that offered viewers yet another chance to weigh in on the competition. While the NBC broadcast (recapped above) covers the first third of the Quarterfinals, this Wild Card Special is about filling that roster.
As Terry explained it, and we don’t believe a word of it, the judges just could not pick their Top 36 to make it into the live shows. They whittled it down to these five acts for that last slot and then decided to make it up to America to decide.
It’s actually a clever way to not only plug their new Peacock streaming service, which is the only place this free episode can be viewed, but also a way to bolster content after the Olympics took two weeks away from them.
If it gets a good response from viewers, we wouldn’t be surprised to see “AGT,” and possibly other competition shows like it, take advantage of the synergy between platforms to try and boost numbers on their respective streaming services (everyone has one now!).
To keep things straight for voting viewers, this one is a Twitter-only vote, taking place through August 13 at 7 a.m. ET. Fans vote by tweeting with the hashtag #AGTWildCard and tagging the act they want to support (once per act). And just like that, they’re increasing social media engagement, too. Savvy, savvy move!
We’ll find out which act makes it onto the Live Shows in two weeks when we hit the final round of the Top 36 Quarterfinals. As usual, we’ll rank the acts worst to first to see who we think should advance, and then wait to see if you get it right (i.e., agree with us).
(singer) Matt broke our heart with his story of losing his wife in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, leaving him with three children. His performance was respectable after that, but it didn’t quite rise to the levels we’ve seen on this show before, and that was the case here. If America advances him, it will be for his tragic story. We do believe that him taking this journey is inspirational for his young children, and we hope they take his message to pursue your dreams. But his journey should probably end after this sweet rendition of the song he and his wife danced to at their wedding. It’s sweet, but it wasn’t good enough to go on.
(comedian) The problem with Mike is that he has tremendous charisma, a great delivery, charm and stage presence. He has everything you need to connect with an audience and really have them in the palm of your hand. What he needs, though, is consistently stronger material. He carried through on personality last time, but this time it’s not going to be enough. The punchlines just aren’t sharp enough for the charming setups along the way.
(singer) Storm has a voice that sounds lived in, and that’s definitely a compliment. She sings with such passion and conviction, we believe she has lived every word she breathes. This performance had breathy moments throughout, as well as some more powerful epic moments. Once again, though, she proved herself an incredible artist with a clear vision of who she is. And once again, we don’t know why “AGT” put these acts together with only one advancing, because there’s so much talent on this stage tonight.
(singer) Peter Rosalita is a good singer with a pleasant voice, but Dylan brings a whole different vibe to the stage that’s rarely fully represented on these types of shows. We know “AGT” loves it’s kid singers, so why relegate Dylan to the Wild Card when Peter got on … or dare we say, Sethward. This was a stellar audition marred only by the screaming audience drowning out parts of his vocal. Dylan is a special kind of musician and artist who really pours everything into his performances and we are here for it!
(magician) From his first appearance, Patrick was one of the most remarkable closeup magicians we’ve seen on this show, and he proved exactly why right here again. This was a stellar routine from top to bottom, with such simple tricks, and yet how on earth does he do it right in front of our eyes, and Terry’s eyes. The final reveals with the frame was truly special, making us again wonder how some of these great acts wound up on this show where only one could advance.
Matt and Mike really didn’t dazzle us enough to move on, which leaves Storm, Dylan and Patrick. Honestly, we think Storm failed to stand out enough when performing opposite Dylan, because he just had that much more passion in his performance.
Ultimately, that means it’s up to a kid singer versus an incredible magician. “AGT” loves both, so it’s a neck-and-neck race. If it’s just one act, we suspect Patrick will get it. But we have another theory.
Nightbirde sadly had to withdraw from the competition after securing a Golden Buzzer, which means there is one extra slot. The judges could have stealth filled it, but we know they love a feel-good moment.
We’re thinking they might just award two of these Wild Cards a shot at their dream in the August 24th Quarterfinals episode. If so, we suspect both Patrick and Dylan will get their shot. We’ve got two weeks until we find out if you did the right thing and made it happen!
“America’s Got Talent” continues Mondays and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.