A select few acts managed to shine, but way too many faltered or were overtaken by nerves just one round shy of the finals.
It’s the semi-finals on “America’s Got Talent” and that immediately means the toughest cuts of the season are upon us. For the first time, the majority of the remaining acts will be going home.
Considering America has already whittled this show down to the best of the best, there is no way we won’t experience heartache on Wednesday night when the results send some people home in tears. But the real question is, will you get it right?
We’ll see if you agree with our (correct) rankings below when your vote gets revealed on Wednesday. But before that, we have to chastise the acts -- as Simon did last week -- for too many of them not really stepping up their acts this week the way you might expect them to when you’re one breath away from the finals.
We can’t say none of them did, because one fan-favorite act that we’ve been cool on all season long finally pulled us into their world and sold us on how good they are at what they do. But then, one of our favorites of the season dropped the ball so hard we think it dropped through the floor.
As we often see at this stage, the night was positively packed with singers; five in total. America has a chance to really ruin this show by advancing all of them, but after that night, there’s no way it’s going to happen. Too many of them faltered, as if maybe the pressure was getting to them.
The night also featured stand-up comedy, taekwondo, aerial work, magic and a Wild Card return that definitely makes us happy -- and we’re not talking Storm Large. This time, it was the judges who got the chance to bring back an act, and they chose the adorably fierce Beyond Belief Dance Company. Can they go from Wild Card to finals?
(singers) It’s interesting, because these guys are incredible at rearranging a song to suit their four-party harmonies. But this song has always felt like its built more on raw emotion than technically perfection. This version was rearranged to within an inch of its life, but did all that work strip it of its soul and effectiveness? It was intriguing, but it also just felt overdone and we have to agree with Simon that it sounded out of tune a surprising amount. The production drowned out the verses at times, and we just didn’t feel anything -- and “You Say” always makes us feel something.
(singer) After a false start, Peter definitely looked a little shaken (and sounded it, too) as he began again on a Mariah Carey classic. He’s definitely got the high range to hit those big notes, but we again weren’t as enamored with his tone in the lower register. On top of all that, the whole performance felt emotionally flat. We have a feeling the problem at the top really rattled his confidence throughout, so it’s a testament to his poise that he got through it and really sounded great through most of his time on stage.
(singer) Madilyn put together the perfect look for her original song, “Red Ribbon,” but the song itself wasn’t quite strong enough to stand out. It was overwrought, and we were not loving her falsetto moments. Madilyn has a great voice, and she had some great vocal moments in this song, but there were other moments that were not working at all. She was just too inconsistent in what was easily her weakest performance of the competition. We’re not sure it was “nothing,” as Howie dubbed it, but she still hasn’t lived up to her audition. Simon countered by saying Howie was talking out his "a--," but we think the truth lies somewhere in between their assessments.
(singer) We love that Tory stays in her lane, even is this song did originate on the big-screen “Lion King.” It’s nevertheless musical theater through and through, and her voice just soars. She’s not likely to win a show like this, but what a great audition package she’s making for her real dream of pursuing a career on Broadway. It would be shocking if she couldn’t land auditions after this. Her vocal choices are all so smart and meticulous to create a memorable stage experience. She sounds like she could be singing in a studio on a soundtrack right now. It wasn’t the most exciting performance, but it was polished to perfection.
Beyond Belief Dance Company
(dancers) We thought this group should have advanced anyway based on how tight, creative and savage their choreography was in the quarterfinals, so we were thrilled to see them back. We love how fierce they are up there, and they do some really nice work in lines. What we’d like to see, though, is perhaps some formation or some interaction between the girls to mix up the visual of the performance as it gets a little same-same as it progresses. They remain an absolute blast to watch, serving so much face and sass while staying age appropriate.
(aerialist) Props to Aidan for taking the note and speeding up his transitions tremendously. But his newest prop that he used for his aerial stunts didn’t look or feel nearly as dangerous, and the stunts themselves felt a little repetitive. There was not nearly the creativity we were hoping for. Yes, there was still danger, but there was no unpredictability. Even his grand finale moment was just a standard neck spin we’ve seen a thousand times before. This didn’t feel like a step up to us, and he was one of our favorites in the last round.
(voice artist) Again, Michael shows that incredible grace and humility that makes him one of the sweetest contestants of the season. Even he acknowledged that his last audition wasn’t necessarily strong enough to be here, but as he is here, he’s treating it like he’s at a deficit to the other acts. This time around, he skipped the narrative and just did rapid-fire noises in categories selected by the judges. It was so much more entertaining and compelling, wondering what he might come up with next. Even with all those animal noises, this was easily his most polished appearance yet.
(comedian) Not as sharp start to finish, but Gina did manage to have some great observational humor throughout her time. We particularly liked her closing punch, which is always important as a comedian. Maybe it was her short time, but it felt like we had a little too much setup for maybe five or six good punchlines. We still love what she does, but wish we could have been more invested in the journey she took us on, rather than waiting for the good jokes. That said, every joke landed and she’s so likable, it didn’t lessen our enjoyment of just listening to her share her stories.
(magician) In some ways, Dustin reminds us of former “AGT” magician Jon Dorenbos, who always managed to make his appearances aspirational. Dustin did that while once again taking us on a journey into his heart and into his personal story, this time with his supportive wife. And even though she wasn’t there, he shared a message from her at the end that brought this whole act full circle. Even with Sofia joking that Dustin was trying to bring down Heidi’s “ex,” and Howie being color blind, Dustin still managed to impress, and roll with the twists and turns beautifully. He has such a natural presence on stage, we could watch him do his thing for hours.
(martial artists) Look, it wasn’t perfect, but with this many moving parts and so much impressive work, a few misses here and there aren’t the end of the world. This was the first time this act really connected with us. It felt more exciting, and it really felt like they were going bigger than ever to try and impress us. Despite our misgivings about them all season long, they finally got us. This was just an incredible showcase of their athleticism. We loved the blindfold moments, and the addition of the robes added a flair of color that really added to the overall showmanship of what they do.
(singer) Jamie was selected to close down the night because they clearly knew he was going to drop a showstopping performance. His voice is otherworldly and he makes it soar to those incredible heights so effortlessly. This season has a lot of good singers -- this night was packed with good singers -- but it only has one Jamie. It’s probably good that no one had to follow this, because how do you?
We’re as surprised as anybody that we dumped so many singers toward the bottom of our rankings this week, but they didn’t step it up in the ways so many other acts did. If America wants to make a terrible finals, they could put all five singing acts, through, but it’s not going to happen.
We do feel confident that our Top 3 will make it: Jamie Herrod, World Taekwondo Demonstration Team, and Dustin Tavella. It’s from here that things get murky. Michael Winslow and Gina Brillon round out our Top 5, but are they both considered comedians?
Michael is a sentimental favorite, but he did have to survive a live vote on the show to advance. That could be indicative that Gina has the edge. If Peter Rosalita doesn’t come in and upset everything, we think it could be Gina and teen aerialist Aidan Bryant rounding out America’s Top 5.
But we have a sinking feeling that it will be Peter and Aidan who round out your Top 5, with Gina’s dreams getting dashed just short of the finish line. We’ll find out what you do Wednesday night.
No matter how you cut it -- and we’re cutting 6 of 11 acts -- there are going to be some tough goodbyes next week because there really are more than 5 great acts that competed tonight. Here’s hoping next week’s batch is at least as good. No repeats of last week’s lackluster lineup throwing the balance off for the round.
“America’s Got Talent” semi-finals continue Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.