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Why AGT's Freckled Zelda Hopes She Was A Hit With Stranger Things Fans, Plus Thoughts On Simon Cowell's Critiques

Freckled Zelda on America's Got Talent qualifiers
(Image credit: NBC)

Season 17 of America’s Got Talent is full of talented musical acts, to the point that five of the six golden buzzer winners either sing or play instruments. Freckled Zelda may not have gotten the golden buzzer herself, but the self-proclaimed “music fairy” made an impression on the judges with her audition with “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Her qualifiers performance led to some less complimentary comments from Simon Cowell… but a potential connection for Stranger Things fans!

For the qualifiers performance that Freckled Zelda (whose real name is Rachael Wilson but goes by her stage name for AGT) hoped would take her to the finals, she sang “Never Ending Story,” which should be familiar to any fans of the 1984 movie – which she referred to as “the O.G. fantasy film” – and/or fans of Stranger Things who watched Season 3 with a Netflix subscription and saw Dustin and Suzie’s duet

When the singer spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets following her qualifiers performance, I noted that the song had a resurgence of popularity when Stranger Things premiered Season 3 with the nod to The NeverEnding Story, and she responded and explained why she chose this song:

True! I hopefully hit the Stranger Things crowd as well! I'm a big fan of Stranger Things as well. It's pretty cool that they recreated the song for that… There were a lot of possibilities, but honestly, I wanted to get a song that fit my world just perfectly. And I felt like 'Never Ending Story' did that. It's a very magical song, and I feel like it was the best choice for me for tonight.

What better song for a “music fairy” who plays the ocarina to perform as part of the quest for the $1 million prize and Las Vegas stage show than “Never Ending Story” from the bizarre and beloved movie? If anything, it fits her theme even better than “Colors of the Wind” did in her audition.

That said, Simon Cowell wasn’t quite as complimentary of her qualifiers performance as he was in the audition, and Howie Mandel wasn’t sold as much as Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum. Cowell – who spoke about the live episode format – already created a stir among fans when he buzzed comedian Lace Larrabee in the middle of her set last week, and he didn’t exactly have universal support from the audience this time. 

Speaking with press after the qualifiers episode on August 16, she weighed in on whether or not she’d change anything about her performance if she could go back, in light of Simon Cowell’s comments:

I am extremely happy with myself. I felt like I did everything to my ability, and if I could change one thing it would be – I believe the music was a little overpowering. A little bit too loud. But other than that, I feel like I showed the world what kind of fairy I am, and I'm really happy with myself.

Freckled Zelda’s comment about believing the music “was a little overpowering” actually echoes one of Cowell’s criticisms, when he said that she got “lost in the production.” Heidi Klum came to the singer’s defense by saying that wasn’t her fault, but Cowell didn’t seem to regret what he said. His comments didn’t damper Freckled Zelda’s attitude or outlook on what she had done. She shared the message that she would give to others, after feeling judged and doubted:

I would tell the world I am living the dream, the magical fairy dream, and I feel like I'm showing the world what a music fairy is all about. I am very happy with myself. You know, Simon and Howie may have not understood me, but who cares? I'm living the dream and I'm really happy with myself. And I'm showing people to be their true selves, like show their true colors. Yeah, just be you.

It’s nice to know that she stands by her performance despite less than overwhelming praise from the judges. She definitely had the support of the audience, who waved lights throughout her song to go with their cheers and applause. Plus, she had a little bit of fun at Simon Cowell’s expense, when she gave him an ocarina of his own after he’d spoken out against her use of the instrument in her audition. Take a look at her latest performance: 

America’s Got Talent didn’t waste much time in revealing whether or not Freckled Zelda and her ocarina would have the chance to perform at least one more time. Viewers had less than twelve hours to vote for their favorites who would get to move ahead, with the announcements beginning just 24 hours after the qualifiers performances from eleven more acts who’d made the cut from the auditions.

The competition was stiff, with golden buzzer winners Madison Taylor Baez (who debuted in a big way with her “Amazing Grace” audition) and Chapel Hart, with the country group performing a “sassier” original song compared to their audition. Drake Milligan’s advancement after his decision not to quit competition last week proves that AGT fans are happy to vote for country acts this season, which may not have boded well for Freckled Zelda. 

Keep tuning in to NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new qualifiers episodes of America’s Got Talent, and check out a Peacock subscription to catch any episodes that you might have missed.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.