A young singer with a stutter overcomes with an empowering original anthem, hockey tricks, magic and more as 11 acts take the stage -- but only two will advance to the "AGT" finals.
Another week of “America’s Got Talent” and another nailbiter of a competition with eleven acts hitting the stage, but only two of them advancing to the finals of this season.
We’re still not entirely sold on this format, but it has been nice getting to revisit so many auditioners in this round. We just miss that they had to cut out an entire round of the competition, so we’ll have only seen the winner three different times by the time all is said and done.
That also means that there was no holding back for any of the contestants in this round. With only two acts advancing, there is no room to play it safe. And yet it does feel that a few of the acts did just that.
While there were no Xs slammed down this week -- even the comedian was spared -- there was some harsh criticism from the judges, and we echoed that in our own assessments. Some of these acts just didn’t take the opportunity before them to push themselves creatively.
Others did just that, leaving us with easily half of tonight’s performers that we would be willing to see again and could see worthy of advancing. Those results will come tomorrow night, alongside a performance by former “AGT” winner Kodi Lee.
So who did enough to get there? And who dropped the ball this close to the finish line? We’ve got our rankings below.
(light dancers) For this performance, the group added light umbrellas and face masks, which certainly added more intriguing elements to the overall performance. There were moments we were fascinated by what was happening, but others where we found ourselves a little bored. We get how intricate this type of routine is and all of the work that goes into it, but the dancing and the visuals we got just weren’t compelling enough and we’ve seen stronger light dance troupes before.
(musician) Mia is an incredible instrumentalist, blowing us away with every instrument she takes up and starts performing with, but vocally we were not as impressed. It’s not that she was bad in a pop-punk vibe akin to Avril Lavigne or Hayley Williams, but she was lacking in power and conviction as a vocalist. It may be that she was distracted by putting on a one-woman performance, shifting rapidly from instrument to instrument. Plus, without the looping, the instrumentation wasn’t nearly as awe-inspiring, either. This was a disappointing step down for an incredibly talented artist. If her voice is better than this, she could make an amazing one-woman produced album -- it just didn’t come together in this live performance.
JoJo and Bri
(singers) This uncle and niece duo said they were pushing their voices to a new level and then they just didn’t. A lot of this has to with performing Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be,” which didn’t lend itself to that heartwarming feeling they gave us the first time around. Then, Bri missed more than a few notes in the early going and their solo work was just leaving us wondering how they advanced at all. During harmonies, there is a magic there that only family seems to be able to achieve, but this overall piece didn’t deliver any moments, nor did they leave us compelled to remember them, or vote.
(girl group) Everything about these seven girls formed by JoJo Siwa and her mom (cheering from the audience) is perfect for a girl group … except for their solo singing. They harmonize just as you’d want from a young group like this, their rap breakdown was fun and they have killer style, energy, moves and attitude. It’s just that every time one of them broke out into some solo voice work, they seemed to be everywhere but the note they were looking for. We know that there have been successful artists who don’t sing all that great, but on this stage, it created some moments of cringe in an otherwise infectious performance that definitely had us smiling. We do see them as something that could continue to grow into stronger singers and a big deal in the kiddie circuit.
(comedian) Hayden was clearly in her nerves a bit and some of her material didn’t land as hard as it could have. Her concepts were strong, but the material could have been tightened up. Her having four dogs, with three of them deaf and her being deaf as well, is perfect fodder for a great tight set, but this came off a little half-baked, like she hadn’t crowd tested it quite enough yet. She has an endearing personality and a fresh perspective in her comedy, but this wasn’t the strongest set we’ve heard from a comedian on this show. We did appreciate her “banter” with the judges where she admitted that a deaf comedian isn’t great with crowd work and just made up what she thought Heidi said back to her.
The Cline Twins
(hockey trick artists) What these guys do is very impressive, but we would have liked a little more variation in some of their stunts. The stick twists and tosses do start to get a bit repetitive. And we definitely noticed that the long tosses were caught by hand. It was all moving very fast, and their intricacy and synchronicity is off the charts. They’re incredible at what they do and it was flawless tonight. Now they need to up the complexity of the moves. One thing we wanted more of was passing the puck back and forth, and maybe even the stick, to up the danger and the chance of things going wrong. This needs to be next level and we didn’t see much more this time than we did the first time.
(dancers) What would happen if a TikTok dance got a huge stage and production behind it. You would get this act, and we’re not even sure how we feel about it. There’s no denying that the boys were incredibly tight with their formations, and the storytelling and humor worked on all levels. This was so practiced and clean, we were extremely impressed with their work ethic. But was the complexity and overall performance worthy to advance? We’re not sure. And that’s the honest truth, we’re actually not sure what to think of this act. It’s definitely got a fun appeal to younger generations and we could see them in commercials and on award shows and other stages. This one has us perplexed, and we’re still not sure why. Three of the four judges were right there with us, though, with only Simon all in on these boys.
(magician) While it’s basically the same trick over and over, save for a few slight-of-hand moments where he pulled items out of thin air not on his computerized table, what Nicolas does is still very impressive. The incorporation of an animated superhero stick figure for this one was also quite cute. He has a very slick presentation and it’s definitely a unique way to explore this type of close-up magic. We appreciate the incorporation of technology, though it could be a little cleaner rather than the projection coming from up top so images are on top of his hands in certain shots. It just telegraphs that we’re basically seeing the same stunt over and over, turning a graphic object into a real one and vice-versa.
(singer) Amanda incorporated the challenges she faces talking with a stutter into a beautifully empowering song about stepping up and fighting for yourself and your voice. Every few years, there’s an inspirational anthem that takes over the country, and we could easily see this beautifully written and subtly performed song becoming one of those anthems. Her songwriting was just incredible in this original piece, while her voice was so delicate throughout. She didn’t miss a note, and while she only gave a couple of hints of her full vocal power, it was enough to remind us that there are more layers to this artist -- she just didn’t feel the need to spoil the moment of this song with a ridiculous power note or run. It was tasteful, emotionally resonant and beautifully presented.
(ventriloquist) Once again, Celia takes ventriloquism places it’s never been before, this time performing as a voice on the other end of a phone and as “Grease” on a drive-in movie theater. That meant she was singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You” while drinking, eating ice cream and shoving popcorn in her mouth. It was a fascinating performance, completely immersive and unexpected. The ventriloquism was so close to flawless, we were blown away by the clarity she can achieve while doing all these distracting things with her mouth. And we are again so impressed with the sheer creativity of her approach to this artform, filled with humor and so much charm.
(singer) Sara didn’t need runs to confidently hold a powerful sustained note, and that’s such a testament to her talent and strength as a singer. She put such a wild interpretation on “Rocket Man,” whether her arrangement or not, that it was utterly compelling from the first note. The fact she can sing with this much variance in her vocal presence at 14 years old is astonishing. She had absolute command of the audience, the stage and herself so far beyond her years it was mind-blowing. This could have been a professional singer showing the contestants how it’s done with a performance this polished and nuanced.
We stand by our rankings tonight, and we’ll actually go so far as to stand by our Top 2 as the advancing acts. We just think Sara James’ performance was undeniable, and she gets the bonus of having gone last on the night. It was an incredible close to the show and people will definitely remember it.
Amanda Mammana had a moment as well, but it was more subtle and earlier in the broadcast. Plus, she’s a singer and with only two acts going through, it feels unlikely that the same style of act could both advance -- though it certainly could happen.
If our number two, Celia Munoz, fails to advance, we actually think Nicolas Ribs would get that spot over Amanda. But beyond our Top 4, we don’t think anyone would really be in strong contention.
Predicting a Top 5, since we will get to see who those acts are, we see Sara, Celia, Amanda, Nicolas and our seventh place finisher, Hayden Kristal, sitting in the Top 5. Then, it will probably come down to Celia, Sara and Nicolas. From there, we think the ladies have it. What will you do? We’ll all find out Wednesday night.
“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.