America's Wild Card choice, comedian Jordan Conley, competes against dancers, singers, a rapping magician, a yo-yo artist, and two brothers throwing knives at each other.
What an incredible -- and therefore incredibly frustrating -- night of performances on “America’s Got Talent.” It was a great showcase of the type of variety that makes this show special, but with only two acts advancing, it’s also a night of anxiety and fretting.
That’s because we know for a fact that several incredible acts will not make it into the finals simply because they were randomly scheduled on a week that’s absolutely stacked. Compared to last week, which had several disappointing acts, there was only one truly bad act tonight … and they weren’t great in their audition.
Tonight also featured America’s Choice to join the Top 55 in comedian Jordan Conley. After advancing a comedian last week, could America do it again? Did Jordan do enough? He certainly had an eclectic lineup to compete against.
Sofia Vergara’s golden buzzer, the incredible visual dance act Mayyas, took to the stage, as did solo dancer Max Ostler and acrobatic dance troupe Urbancrew and digital pole dancer Kristy Sellars.
The night also featured singers Aubrey Burchell and Kristen Crus, as well as J-pop boy band Travis Japan. There was the season’s only danger act -- on such a stacked night! -- in Blade 2 Blade and world champion yo-yo artist Shu Takada, who does things we’ve never seen before every time he comes out.
Only two acts will advance this week, but Wednesday’s show will also feature the four additional acts chosen by the judges to be the finale Wild Card act after America’s vote. We know it won’t happen, but tonight was so strong, all four of those acts could conceivably come from tonight’s lineup. We feel confident at least one, or maybe two will.
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 see how you did -- i.e., if you agreed with me.
(singers) The early audio was underneath the music, and then the solo work was just not great at all. We can’t even say we were surprised when Howie gave them his X early on because while everything they were doing physically was solid, the vocals weren’t there at all. They have a lot of energy and they’re solid performers, but as singers, it only really worked when all seven of them were singing together. They were only so-so the first time around, but that was stronger than this.
Blade 2 Blade
(danger act) The timing on the last stunt, and the fire, seemed a bit off. Some of the danger, again, didn’t seem as impressive as it might have from a straight on view like the judges and the audience had. They were throwing with a very wide berth from one another. There is still a huge element of danger and precision required, but they were missing by more than some other knife throwing acts we’ve seen. The pole portion of the piece wasn’t as impressive as the wheel or the fire, so it’s a disappointment they ended with that. That said, the judges gave them a standing ovation and the audience was euphoric, so we have a feeling the energy was much different in the room.
(comedian) America’s choice to get into this round, Jordan really didn’t nail it with his material this time. He spent a little too long on bits that were light on laughs. The material about using Disney jargon as a street thug could have been funny, but it just wasn’t, nor was his material about not being all that though … which unfortunately was the entire act. This was a huge step down from his first performance. The stage presence was incredible and he’s very likable, but the material really let him down this time. The panel loved him a lot more than we did -- will America?
(singer) We’re not sure Kristen could have picked a song to better suit her natural tone and the grit in her voice than this Miley Cyrus track. She clearly knows exactly where her voice shines brightest and what kind of sound she wants to achieve. There is an ease in her voice through most of this performance that was so inviting and filled with warmth; she really stands out from every other singer on the show. There’s a great quality and richness to her voice that’s rare to find. It’s a compelling sound that draws you in. This wasn’t a note-perfect performance, but it was a command performance.
(dancer) After saying he was going to bring something more to his dance after seeing dancers not advance, he didn’t really do that. Sure, there was some light acrobatics, but nothing we’ve not seen from countless other dancers. On top of that, some of the choreography didn’t really fit the song or build a narrative that consistently made sense. It’s a great song choice, and the piece got stronger as it went along, but it started off a little disjointed. As for his dancing, he’s got a great energy up there and it was very clean with some very strong, nice moves. It just didn’t move us as much as we would have liked.
(singer) Aubrey’s voice is filled with an incredible soulful, rich texture. She chose a song that showcased it very well, but we do worry that the song itself isn’t well known enough by enough people to make this performance stick in their memory over some of the other acts on the night. She’s a definitely talented singer, but this wasn’t the smartest approach in a round that’s so cutthroat. She did get a standing ovation from the crowd and the panel, though, so it may be that she’ll be just fine. Either way, she’s definitely got the talent to make a go of it as a professional singer.
(yo-yo artist) The fire explosions seemed delayed both times from what Shu was doing, but once again he blew us away with what he can do with a yo-yo. The LED made the yo-yos easier to see, but otherwise didn’t add as much as we hoped they might. Maybe we should have gotten a lights-out portion or something. We can say the same for the super-long-string yo-yo he used every so briefly; it just made us want to see more with it. His acrobatics with yo-yo are incredible, but we’re not sure how to feel about what we saw making us want him to have pushed it further and do more than what we got -- without taking away from how great he is and how hard what we got was. He really is unlike any act we’ve seen before.
(magician/rapper) What a charming performance filled with so much personality and a sense of joyfulness that was contagious. On top of that, his freestyle rap conceived by Terry Crews’ random shuffle was extremely well presented. But from there, he upped that to actually putting some words of inspiration via magic into the deck of cards and under the seats of the audience. It’s such a fresh and unique way to present magic, he really does stand out as something special.
Urbancrew (Flyers of the South)
(dancers/acrobats) We weren’t sure about this when the hoops came out, but they quickly won us over. Their synchronicity in just moving with them was one thing, but then came the acrobatics through them. There were so many places this could have gone wrong and there just weren’t any. Unless we missed a moment, they hit every stunt, and some of them were quite intricate and required incredible precision. It was an energetic and exciting act from start to finish, and as they promised, a huge step up from their audition in complexity and execution.
(pole dancer) Setting aside the pole dancing aspect of it, because we’ve seen more intricate pole routines before, Kristy’s magic is in the overall visual experience that she create with her dancing and with the graphics behind her. She interacts with the visuals flawlessly and really creates a fascinating and compelling story. We buy into the fiction she’s creating live on stage and that has to do with her performance art and her overall creativity. It’s such a unique act and one we can’t get enough of and boy could this make a great Vegas act.
(dancers) This act is so ready for the Vegas stage, the visuals they create with 36 dancers is nothing short of the magic they were hoping to create. Tonight’s serpentine performance did feel like it stayed in the first formation a little longer than necessary, but when they got their green-sleeved arms moving in tight formations together, it really did look like one entity moving. The tightness of the choreography and the precision across all 36 of these to create seamless images is a testament to just how much work goes into this.
After last week’s subpar lineup of acts, we found ourselves blown away by how stacked this week’s grouping is -- another argument against this year’s 11-to-2 elimination format that also eliminated a whole round of the competition. It’s more dramatic, but it costs us more good acts.
Tonight, there were eight different acts that really stepped up, though the more unexpected acts are the ones that got more of our attention and praise. As you can see above, our highest-ranked singer was in sixth place, and we thought she did a phenomenal job. Could no singer make America’s Top 5?
As you might recall, the results show pointlessly reveals to us first the Top 5 based on America’s vote, followed by an even more pointless Top 3 before finally revealing the Top 2 that will actually advance.
Tomorrow’s results will also reveal the four acts (one selected by each judge) that will compete for America’s Wild Card, with one of them also advancing to the finals. There have been some good acts in all five rounds, but we could easily see more than one coming from tonight.
We’re not even going to begin to predict which four acts the judges will choose, but we will speculate on America’s Top 5, Top 3, and Top 2. So far, we’ve done … okay this season.
We think Mayyas are a no-brainer, but that’s about the only one we feel completely solid about - - again, not because there aren’t enough good acts, but because there are too many. Mayyas performed last, and so far every last-performing act has advanced, so that’s another point in their favor.
We really thought Kristy Sellars had an incredible act with her pole-dancing, and we suspect she’ll be in the Top 5, as will Mervant Vera and Shu Takada. With so many dancers up there, though, we’re not as confident in our third-place act, Urbancrew. We could see Aubrey Burchell sneaking in there, instead, or maybe even Jordan Conely because America loves comedians.
We’re gonna stick with Aubrey Burchell as our Top 5 pick, because it’s hard to imagine no singers at all. But we think that’s as far as she’ll go. From there, it’ll probably be Mayyas, Mervant and Shu in the Top 3 with Mayyas and Mervant advancing as America’s Top 2. How confident do we feel about that? Let’s just say we’re not out making any bets.
“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.