Last week, after two weeks of the show pushing non-vocal acts on the viewing audience with full force, we got a show that was all about the singers. Crooner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and operatic diva Lys Agnes turned in terrific performances. The surprise of the show was teen band Poplyfe, who powered through a terrific rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” to grab a spot in the semifinals. The judges’ choice went to high-diver Professor Splash, who set a world record but needs to jazz it up from here on out. (Note: it was awesome to see Fighting Gravity again on the results show… they are going to go FAR, mark my words.)
This is the fourth and final round of quarterfinals involving the original 48 picked by the judges during Vegas week. Once again, how it works is this: the top three vote-getters that perform each week automatically move on. The judges are then presented with the two acts that finished at #4 and #5 in the votes, and they decide individually which one of the two should also move on to the semis, with the majority deciding.
I don’t know who peed in Howie’s coffee today (Piers is the obvious choice), but I wonder what caused him to actually use his buzzer on this evening, not once, but TWICE, after three straight quarterfinals that he didn’t X anyone at all. After that, Piers seemed to take it as a challenge, and proceeded to keep X-ing acts himself. Needless to say, the night got off to a rough start. Fortunately, things got better in the second half.
Here is a synopsis of how it went on Tuesday night:
The Kinetic King - As you can tell from the picture, this guy is nerdier than Bill Gates and McLovin put together (a bicycle helmet… really?), but his act is actually pretty cool. When you consider that it takes him hours, even days, to assemble his domino-like contraptions (which was why he was given the lead-off spot), all for one one-minute show, it makes you appreciate it even more. Is this a Vegas show, though? I’m not sure, and now we’ll probably never know. His largest, most elaborate creation yet failed to execute in nearly every way possible, eliciting buzzes from both Howie and Piers. Too bad.
Zuma Zuma - All the way from Kenya comes this act of tumblers, who combine gymnastics, contortionism and hip-hop in a very entertaining way. They looked really cool, wearing face-paint and leopard-print unitards, and they really upped their game by doing more dangerous stuff. They were tight, in synch, and they were terrifically entertaining. It’ll be an uphill climb, but I really found myself rooting for them to move on.
Avery and the Calico Hearts - This cute-as-hell singing group, consisting of nine-year-old Avery (the short one), ten-year-old Kassidy (the bespectacled one) and Brooklyn (the… third one) are very good, but always sound to me like the Chipettes from the second Alvin movie. I can’t help but wonder if their little-girl, starry-eyed enthusiasm will continue after they hit high-school age. Their rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” was very sweet, but, if I’m being honest, it was only two steps above a kiddie-pageant talent competition.
Charles Peachock - There’s only so much one can do to make juggling cool, but Charles has found a way. In his audition, he used cool glow-in-the-dark effects, and in Vegas, he added an element of fire. This time? He added a piano. Not with actual keys, but with one of those touch-piano-keyboards spread over the keys that made notes when he bounced rubber balls off of them. He played a few bars from “Can-Can” without missing any notes, and then went shirtless into the opening riff from “Jailhouse Rock”. Bottom line: this was a cool danger act, and it turned into something completely underwhelming. Strangely, though, Piers (who loved it) was the only one who DIDN’T buzz him.
Sam B - I hate stereotyping, but if someone was to describe Sam B’s act, it would basically just be “fat foreign guy with busted dance moves”, I’d have a hard time arguing. Look, he’s a great guy, and a crowd favorite, but come on. He’s well over 300 pounds, and he looks like he needs an oxygen mask after a ninety-second routine… how can he possibly entertain a Vegas audience for a full hour? He’s about the same level of train-wreck entertaining as Mauricio was last week, but thankfully without the shit-eating grin. Piers, in a dose of reality, hopped off Sam’s bandwagon this week, giving him the buzz he probably deserved.
Taylor Davis - If you’re a good-looking teenage guy with a fair amount of musical aptitude, you’re probably better off trying out for American Idol. Eighteen-year-old Taylor has got a very good voice, and is a decent guitar player, but ultimately, he’s just not as good or as memorable as many of the other singing acts. His rendition of “Falling Slowly” was pleasant enough, but “pleasant” doesn’t get rewarded with record deals.
Melissa Villasenor - If you’re going to be a comedian on THIS show, you’d better be damn funny, and Melissa is just that. She does spot on impersonations of various celebrities and singers, but more than that, her material is hilarious as well. Only one comedian has ever made Top Ten (Grandma Lee), so I am fairly certain that she won’t win, but I am sure that this exposure will do wonders for her career. Tonight, she did impersonations ranging from Drew Barrymore to Michael Jackson to Sharon herself, and it just seemed a little flatter than before. I like her, though.
Scott Alexander - After Landon Swank and Seth Grabel both got the “close but no cigar” award the last two weeks, Scott was the world of magic’s last hope. He brought with him a gospel choir, who were singing and dancing right up until the moment where Scott made them all disappear, an interesting take on a familiar trick. It was good, in the same cheesy way that church revivals are good, but it disappoints me that none of the magicians this season even came close to Michael Grasso from last year.
Fatally Unique - I am a big fan of dance competition shows, and I appreciate how hard it is to stand out from all the others. But when you compare apples to oranges, it is a lot harder, which is why dance crews never make the finals. It doesn’t matter how athletic, well-choreographed, well-synchronized or current you are… unless you have something new and exciting to offer (like team iLuminate or Snap Boogie), it’s just not enough. To their credit, F.U. did themselves proud, turning in a fierce, hard-hitting routine clad in outfits straight from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour. However, given how many dance acts have already gone through, and compared to what’s coming up, they are just overmatched in this competition.
Yellow Design Stunt Team - Last season’s stunt-bike phenom Jeremy Vanschoonhoven paved the way for this act, which consists of four guys doing aerial bike stunts on a variety of ramps and half-pipe apparatuses (apparati?). After watching the Smage Brothers do the same act a couple of weeks ago, I expected more of the same. But these guys surprised me, turning the stage into a circus, complete with dancers, and aside from one tiny spill at the end, their stunts were executed to perfection. I was ready to write them off, but they impressed me greatly.
Frank Miles - There are many danger acts on this show, but none combine death-defying acts with wry humor like Frank does. In this act, Frank set up an array of stationary crossbows wherein shooting one target would case another to shoot, with the fifth arrow coming straight back at him. The final arrow was supposed to pierce a jelly donut attached to Frank’s head, but it missed by like an inch. Piers was quick to point out that that made the whole trick a failure, but I think that’s a little harsh. I like Frank, and I would be interested to see what he does next.
Team iLuminate - If you combine last season’s phenomenal glow-in-the-dark act Fighting Gravity with a decent hip-hop dance crew and tweak it a little bit, you would have this act. THIS, folks, is what I mean when I say that a dance act has to have something more than just cool dance moves to stand out. They are, quite simply, one of the most amazing acts I have ever seen on AGT. I urge you all to check them out on YouTube, because it would take five pages of mining my thesaurus for every word of praise available in order to do them justice. If I had to pick a winner right now, Team iLuminate would be it (winning by a length over the Silhouettes). Check this group out on YouTube, dear readers, they are SPECTACULAR.
Once again, some disappointments, a lot of good acts, and one really really fan-freaking-tastic act at the end. Team iLuminate is a dead lock to move on, and I was counting on Zuma Zuma getting through, as well as YDST. After that, it could be almost anyone: Avery and the Calico Hearts’ overwhelming cuteness, Fatally Unique’s fierceness, Sam B’s uncanny ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy or Frank Miles’ ability to laugh in the face of danger.
Obviously, Team iLuminate made it through. Zuma Zuma, on the backs of their terrific performance, also made it through. And the third act to make it through, surprisingly, was Fatally Unique, showing that there was more than enough love to send two dance acts through on the same night. As for the judges’ choice, it came down to Melissa Villasenor (who was funny but not hysterical) and Charles Peachock (who was good but strayed too far from his chosen path). Not surprisingly, Howie and Sharon, both of whom buzzed Charles, cast their votes for Melissa. I have a strong suspicion, however, that Charles will be one of Piers’ four picks to return on the Wild Card episode.
Next week: Twelve acts culled from thousands who auditioned on YouTube will get a national TV audience for the very first time. (Remember, this is the part that gave us Jackie Evancho last year, so don’t discount their chances.) This should be interesting.