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Why America's Got Talent Judge Howie Mandel Wanted To 'Make The Point' With His Comments To Girl Group XOMG POP!

Spoilers ahead for the August 23 episode of America's Got Talent Season 17

America's Got Talent entered the third week of qualifiers with another eleven contestants (including Simon Cowell's golden buzzer winner) that will be cut down to two after the voters are finished. This episode brought back the XOMG POP! girl group of singers and dancers, which was put together by So You Think You Can Dance judge JoJo Siwa and her mom. While they brought the energy and the excitement, judge Howie Mandel's comments weren't 100% favorable for them. Speaking with CinemaBlend, Mandel explained why he wanted to make a point with his comments. 

XOMG POP! is comprised of seven girls between the ages of 10 and 15: Leigha, Kinley, Bella, Tinie T, Dallas, Kiya, and Brooklynn. After their original song of "Candy Hearts" back in May advanced them to the qualifiers, "Merry Go Round" in the August 23 live show wasn't as much of an immediate hit. Simon Cowell said that he "personally" didn't like the song (although he deemed them "unstoppable" with the right material). For his part, Howie Mandel said that the tone "hurts" him but acknowledged that XOMG POP!'s music isn't for him. 

When Mandel (who recently weighed in on watching live in person vs. from home) spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets following the live qualifiers episode, I mentioned that he'd pointed out that he's not the target audience for XOMG POP! right after they performed, and he responded:

Which I think is a good thing, right? Like, if you heard that I bought tickets – just me and my buddy Dave bought tickets to the XOMG POP! concert, I think that would be a little confusing.

Given that Howie Mandel wasn't alone on the judges panel in not loving the song because it wasn't aimed at him, it would indeed be a little confusing! While Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Terry Crews were enthusiastic, Mandel dished out his praise by quoting his granddaughter, who is a fan of the girl group on AGT. When asked whether having such a specific demographic appeal (which clearly doesn't include either Mandel or Simon Cowell) would affect the girls' chances at the top prize, Mandel weighed in, saying:

No, because I think that there is a big audience of that age and that ilk that watches this and calls in and votes. That's why I wanted to make the point. I want to be authentic on the show, and for me to go 'Wow, that was amazing! And I love that song! And I love that!' It's not aimed at me. But I wanted to make the point – and this is true, I wasn't making this up – my granddaughter Abby, who is seven-years-old, does not sit down to watch the show. She has no interest. The only act that she has ever sat all the way through and keeps asking me about is XOMG. Out of everybody, and I'm saying 'Don't you want to watch grandpa? Don't you want to see me?' She has no interest. So to tell you how that is affecting an audience, I thought that was kind of a positive, honest kind of judgment.

Howie Mandel's comments weren't intended to discourage voters from supporting XOMG POP! or say that the girl group didn't deliver with their energetic performance, even though they weren't as complimentary as what some of his fellow judges said. (My personal favorite was Heidi Klum saying that "It's like a piñata exploded and seven little Spice Girls fell out." If only Mel B. had been around to hear it like the old days!) 

He isn't the world's biggest fan of XOMG POP!, but it sounds like they would have all of his granddaughter's votes. Even if the majority of the voting audience may not fall in the target demographic for this young girl group, there may be enough of an audience to advance them to the finale. Check out their performance of "Merry Go Round" that will decide whether they still have a chance at $1 million and a Las Vegas stage show or will be going home:

Will this girl group continue to chase their AGT dream, or is their Season 17 journey going to end early? Their fate lies in the hands of fans, who can vote with the official America's Got Talent app and the NBC.com voting page until 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday, August 24. The results episode will begin airing at 8 p.m. ET, so there's not a whole lot of time for the votes to be cast and then tallied for primetime! 

It's hard to speculate with any certainty about who will advance, although I may have to reevaluate my ranking of the America's Got Talent golden buzzer winners most likely to win after watching Sara James bring the house down with her performance of Elton John's "Rocket Man" as the final act of the night. Ventriloquist Celia Munoz was a favorite of the judges with her tribute to Grease and the late Olivia Newton-John, and Howie Mandel predicted that magician Nicolas Ribs could win the whole season after watching his latest performance. 

The two spots are up for grabs at this point, so be sure to watch the results episode on Wednesday, August 24 at 8 p.m. ET to see whose AGT dreams will survive. New qualifiers episodes will continue airing on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can also revisit past episodes streaming with a Peacock subscription.

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.