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Last week, the quarterfinals got underway. About half the acts did quite well, and though there were one or two surprises, the end results were not: 11-year-old singing phenom Anna Graceman was voted through to the semifinals, as was teen hip-hop dancer Snap Boogie and the Sandou Trio Russian Bar, who wowed the audience with a death-defying gymnastic act. The judges’ choice ended up being 24-strong dance troupe The Miami All-Stars. I have no problem with any of these acts going through, though I was sad to see the Fearless Flores Family get the boot.
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.
Here is a brief synopsis for how it went on Tuesday night:
#1. Attack Dance Crew - Eight hip-hop dancers who met at Florida A&M University, and most of them are still matriculating. They were good, but not nearly as good as Miami All-Stars last week. They avoided the buzzers, but the judges criticized their choreography, which tells me that they will finish in the middle of the pack.
#2. Dani Shay - This 22-year-old lady was put through to Vegas based on a comedic song about how much she looks like Justin Bieber, which… is uncanny. After a sketchy Vegas audition, she came back with a cover of David Gray’s “Babylon”. Her personality is quite endearing, but I remain unconvinced that she’s got enough in her to make it to the Finals. The judges affirmed their affection for her, but dinged her slightly for her song choice, which they said may not resonate with younger viewers.
#3. Geechy Guy - One of the few things I hate about this show is when, in the introductory package that each act gets, Piers tells us how much he hates that act… before we even get to see it. That just seems unfair. Not that I think that America obeys Piers’ every whim, I’m just saying. Geechy Guy did his usual shtick, rattling off one-liners at a machine-gun pace. Some were funny, others not so much. Not his best stuff (some of which can be seen on YouTube). Piers buzzed him, and I think his time on AGT is done.
#4. Daniel Joseph Baker - This 20-year-old kid from Katy, Texas, has a lot of things going for him: a flamboyant personality (he reminds me a lot of Christian Siriano from Project Runway) and a powerful voice. He chose to cover Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”, and did a very commendable job. It would be tough for me to decide which of Daniel or Dani deserves to move on more.
#5. The Rhinestone Ropers - This act, a man and a woman whose audition involving knife-throwing and trick shooting was so impressive that they were given a free pass from Vegas Week, completely and utterly let me down this week by leaving their weapons in the box and doing an unfunny comedy routine with their horse. They capped it off with a lasso trick that can be seen at any rodeo. Piers buzzed them, and I wish I could have too. Such a shame.
#6. Dylan Andre - It’s interesting that they front-loaded tonight’s show with singers, and I wonder if the producers are trying to engineer it so that the non-singing acts get more exposure. Anyway, 19-year-old Dylan did his version of John Mayer’s “Daughters”, and he was okay, but not as good as Dani and Daniel. Turns out he’s only been singing for a year, and that inexperience showed. However, he’s incredibly good-looking, so the teenage girls will love him however he sings.
#7. Landon Swank - The youngest of the three magicians to make the show, Landon performed a spectacular illusion where, after getting Nick Cannon to sign both sides of a double-sided mirror, he proceeded to pass straight through the same mirror. You had to see it to believe it. I really like this kid. Maybe not as much flair as Michael Grasso from last season, but still excellent.
#8. Smage Bros. Riding Shows - Last year, stunt bicyclist Jeremy Vanschoonhoven made it all the way to Top Ten with his great stunts and winning personality. This year, bikes have been upgraded to motorcycles, and that’s a tough act to do when you have limited stage space. They did basically the same thing Jeremy did, jumping up and over various props, and for that reason, it just didn’t excite me as much. The judges loved it, however, and maybe that will be enough to help them avoid the fate that befell the Flores Family last week.
#9. Thomas John - Imagine a young Tom Kenny, dressed up in a suit from Super Dave Osborne’s reject closet, juggling bowling pins. He’s actually quite funny in a doofy kind of way, but he committed the cardinal sin of dropping a pin, which is a definite no-no on this show. If Piers buzzes you, that’s bad. If SHARON buzzes you, say goodbye. (Don’t worry, Howie never buzzes anyone.)
#10. Steven Retchless - There were actually TWO pole dancers that performed in Vegas, and Steven is the one that got the nod. And he’s VERY good. He’s turned what is generally thought of as a strip-club routine into a truly gymnastic spectacle. I’m not sure he’s on a Cirque du Soleil level yet, and I am equally unsure if America will be enthralled by this either. Piers is categorically not sold on this act, but I think he might be in the minority.
#11. Mona Lisa - The fourth singing act of the night, a pair of 29-year-old twin sisters from Santa Ana, who look like a cross between Brandy Norwood and Serena Williams… which ain’t bad. They sang “Bless the Broken Road”, and, like all the other singers tonight, it was good but not amazing.
#12. The Silhouettes - This is the largest act to make the show, consisting of 42 boys and girls (mostly girls) between the ages of three and eighteen. They are what they advertise, doing a performance-art bit involving a lot of ballet, casting shadows on a huge screen. Tonight, they did a tribute to America, creating shapes of, among others, Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty and the White House, and it was absolutely beautiful. Standing ovations all around. Do yourself a favor and check out their routines on YouTube, it simply must be seen to be appreciated. This act will be around until the very end, mark my words.
Honestly, this was tough to call. Overall, quite a disappointing night. With the exception of The Silhouettes, everyone was either mediocre (or worse), they got mediocre comments from the judges, or both. However, my guess was that the Smage Brothers and Landon Swank would be moving on. For judges’ choice, it could be between Steven Retchless and/or ANY of the singing acts. I was rooting for Dani or Daniel going into the Results show.
Obviously, The Silhouettes breezed through into the next round. In a somewhat more surprising development, Steven Retchless was able to overcome Piers’ shortsightedness, and also moved on. The third act to go through on viewer votes was Daniel Joseph Baker. If anything, this proves that the gay demographic among AGT’s viewers is a strong one, and they apparently voted in droves to send Steven and Daniel through. I find myself quite glad, since both of them are also very talented, though I doubt either will make it past the semis.
As for the judges’ choice, it came down to a choice between Landon Swank and the Smage Brothers. I would have chosen Landon, but the judges were more blown away by the motorcyclists than Landon’s illusion, so the Smages were put through. I feel confident that Landon will be back for the Wild Card show, however.
Next week: twelve more acts compete for four more spots in the semis.