It was the strangest collection of acts all season on "AGT," with everything from a dancing magician to idiot daredevils, and an impressionist opera singer -- but only two will advance to the finals.
Round 4 of the never-ending Semifinals Round this season on “America’s Got Talent” sure had us scratching our heads as 11 acts took to the stage. After weeks where there were more acts than slots -- only 2 advance -- this week almost felt the opposite.
It was a very strange and uneven night of performances, with only one act really stepping all the way up to the level necessary to leave a stamp on that stage and make us shout that they absolutely have to be in the finals or we’ll be outraged. And not the go out and do anything about it outrage, but the kind that rages from the comfort of our own homes through our keyboards. It’s safer this way.
In all seriousness, though, we’re not saying the performances tonight we’re bad because there was a lot to enjoy. It’s just that something seemed off with almost every single one of them. If it was a great singer, we could hear that they were great, so it would be the song choice that didn’t work.
It was as if with each act, there was just something that wasn’t working as well as it should have been. It was also one of the most eclectic lineups of the season with everything from a dancing magician to idiot daredevils, deepfake singing judges, a heavy metal screaming kid and an impressionist opera singer.
In more traditional fare, we also saw a tap dancer, a ventriloquist, an a cappella singing group, a stand-up comedian and two of the audition rounds’ most heartfelt and emotional singers. It’s one of the most varied nights we’ve seen yet, which makes it even harder to predict how America might vote.
(singer) This was a great choice of song for Lee’s natural cry and emotion, but it felt and sounded like he underplayed it throughout. The song is sparse in big vocal moments, but him half talking through the verses didn’t elevate the heart of the piece. Instead, it distracted us and pulled us out of the narrative. It also wasn’t the smoothest vocal transition from these portions into the more full-throated notes he hit as he moved into the chorus. His voice is radio ready to get a record deal right now, but his take on this song did him no favors.
(ventriloquist) Jack again did a Simon impression as part of his act, but his impressions aren’t nearly as good as his ventriloquism. We did like the bit with his original puppet sitting on the side of the stage heckling him as he tried to work with a new puppet, but the material itself just wasn’t as strong as we’d hoped it would be, including his ventriloquist challenges from the home audience. We just kept waiting for the wow moment … and we’re still waiting.
(AI artists) There’s no denying how impressive the technology is, but other than adding artificial versions of Howie and Terry to the act, this was the exact same act as the first time we saw it -- just with three singers instead of one. The video couldn’t even have all three of them together in any way beyond just a split screen. If they could have appeared to actually be standing together on a stage and performing, that would have taken this to the next level. As it was, we just felt like it was more of the same, just a bit bigger. There’s a lot of potential here, but it isn’t being realized.
(magician/dancer) He needed a more dramatic ending, but we do love how unique his combination of high-energy hip-hop style dancing and magic is. There were three stunts, and each of them amounted to largely the same thing (making something appear behind a curtain), so we’d have liked also a little more diversity in the types of magic he presents. But we could definitely see this type of show expanded into a full Vegas production, where you have to keep your eye on everything to see where the magic happens. If he did more and varied magic, this could be truly magical.
(singer) Even though she sings in the heavy metal scream style, Harper went with an Ed Sheeran song for this performance, just interpreted into her style. That certainly made for a memorable experience. She spoke the verses with a creepy cadence and then screamed the chorus. We do think she would benefit from some singing lessons to be able to put more musicality (and vocal range) into even her screaming, but there’s something very fun about what she does up there. We’re definitely going to remember this one.
(tap dancer) After his clap breakdown in the middle, Bayley lost his timing briefly in the back half of the piece. But we have to give props for a creative use of props to expand his tap presentation. The stairs added a new element of danger, as well as more innovative ways to tap and hit his steps. The back half just ascending them again felt a bit repetitive, but he had us fully enthralled until that clap breakdown segment. There was a lot of great technique and energy and enthusiasm, but then it kind of fizzled toward the end.
(impressionist/singer) An interesting variation of her first audition, these impressions didn’t seem quite as strong. Or perhaps the minor differences were more noticeable because she was not only singing as Celine Dion and Cher, but she was singing their songs. When she got to Amy Lee from Evanescence, it was particularly glaring as she didn’t capture the tone right at all. And we’re not sure what to think of her doing Alex Borstein as Lois Griffin for the “Family Guy” theme, though we were really hoping she’d try a Peter impression, too. All in all, it felt more disjointed and wasn’t nearly as fun as her first time up where she had to switch on the fly based on the role of a die.
The Lazy Generation
(stunt performers) Asinine stunts that serve no purpose other than to hurt one another. It’s either your thing or it isn’t, but these guys are very good at coming up with dumb ways to inflict pain. The constant racking seemed a bit overkill -- though we get that this is the lowest form of toilet humor -- but we appreciated about half of their stunts as at lesat showing a bit of cleverness. Others, like the treadmill, were just obvious and felt … well, lazy. Simon again stood up for this act, calling it “beautiful,” while Sofia gave them an X, calling it “unnecessary pain.” At the same time, she admitted her son and husband love them. It appears to do better with the guys then the gals.
(a cappella singers) There’s a lot of talent in this group, with all four soloists showcasing big voices and a lot of talent. With an original song, it’s hard to capture the audience as effectively, but this appeared effortless as it’s just the kind of positive message young people their ages need to hear. We could see this doing well on Disney Radio or in that tween market. Howie, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling it, hitting his X. He said he felt like he was at a school assembly and thinks they didn’t rise to the level of “AGT.” Simon and Sofia thought their first performance, a tribute to a lost member, was stronger, which it was. It was a better song, to be sure, but that doesn’t take away from their talent.
(singer) Lily pulled from her real life and the moment she watched as her mother drew her last breath for a genuinely beautiful original song. Her performance of it was a little shakier, as it was clear the emotions were still running raw (she’d only written it a few weeks before). She went sharp a few times, but there’s still a magical quality to her voice and the sincerity of this whole performance, and the lyrical quality of her writing, had us mesmerized. Heidi’s Golden Buzzer may have done enough to pull America’s heartstrings and get their votes.
Mike E. Winfield
(comedian) He promised nothing but punchlines, and he delivered! Mike had us smiling from the jump and we never stopped until it was over. Maybe every joke didn’t land as perfectly as he would have liked, but we enoyed his slice (natch!) of life stories about his wife and his “stepman” and even details about buying underwear. What was great was that even though he was moving fast, he still had a transition into each new segment. On top of that, he’s incredibly engaging and likeable on there, which is half the job when you’re a comic. This was a great statement. Howie loved it so much, he offered him a spot opening for him next month no matter what happens with the vote. He even snuck in another brilliant joke after the judges’ comments!
Since the results shows this season have pointlessly revealed the Top 5 and the Top 3 before finally showing us the two acts that are going to advance, we’ve been challenging our selves to do the same. This week, while we feel pretty good about our Top 2 pick, the rest of the acts were such a hodge-podge, we have no confidence at all.
As ridiculous as their act is, we do think The Lazy Generation is going to rise into the Top 5, where they’ll be joined by Lily Meola and Mike E. Winfield. It’s beyond those three acts that we start to grow more uncertain. We think Acapop! was strong enough to get there, and America loves kid singers, but will they?
If we have to pick our Top 5 -- and we’ve decided that we do -- we’ll go with those four and Metaphysic to round it out. We just have a feeling America won’t be as annoyed at the repetitiveness of it, and may be enticed by their promise to bring back a rock legend (along with Heidi and Sofia) in the finals.
From there, we’ll be bold and say Lazy Generation, Lily Meola and Mike E. Winfield make up the Top 3 and Lily and Mike advance to the finals. Mike would be the first comic this season, but he also put on the strongest set with consistency, efficiency and a ton of presence and personality. Lily’s songwriting was incredible, and she really delivered emotionally.
“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.