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Hello, all! I am back for another season of recapping the funnest, wildeset, wackiest talent show to be found on American prime-time. I am, of course, talking about America’s Got Talent, which is now into its seventh amazing season.
I will admit that the last two seasons left me seething in frustration just a little bit, as two of the most original and cool acts to ever grace a stage (Fighting Gravity and Team iLuminate) both finished a distant third to male singers (Michael Grimm and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.) that took the crown. Don’t get me wrong, both of those acts were worthy acts who totally deserved to win, but it got my got my goat that a show that prides itself on its variety (and rightly so) awarded its title for the SIXTH year in a row to a male singer. (And yes, I know Terry Fator is a comedian and a ventriloquist, but I count him as a singer because music is a huge part of his act. Ahem.)
I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that the American voting public just seems to prefer singers. Always has, probably always will. This season will probably be no different, though so far, very few singers have truly stood out. Maybe I’m just jaded, but one one act in the auditions truly blew me away. That was 19-year-old Andrew De Leon, who came out looking all Goth with vampiric eyes and proceeded to perform an aria – in a very high soprano voice, no less – that left me agog. Tragically, Andrew totally froze during Vegas Week, and though it pained the judges to do it, they sent him home. I have a strong feeling he’ll be back for the Wild Card Round, though.
I’m not sure exactly why Piers Morgan decided to leave AGT, but replacing him with Howard Stern was a totally brilliant move. He’s well-respected by a huge portion of mainstream America, he’s relatable, he’s funny, and he takes his judging duties very seriously. Plus, he’s a huge fan of the show, and I have a feeling he’ll be in the judge’s chair for a long time.
And, if you haven’t heard, this season has already had some controversy. A country singer named Tim Poe auditioned in Austin, and he was terrific. He possessed a very pronounced stutter that he seemed to be able to overcome when he sang. After his audition, I was certain he would be the season’s winner. However, it came out that his claim that his speech defect was the result of a wound he sustained in Afghanistan was a total fabrication, and not surprisingly, he too was cut in Vegas. Good riddance.
Anyway, here is a brief description of the acts that made it through to the live shows. Forty-eight acts is a lot to talk about, so I will try to keep their descriptions as brief as I can. They are listed in alphabetical order.
787 Crew - A hip-hop dance crew from Puerto Rico (and proud of it). They are memorable with their leather outfits, mohawks and fauxhawus, but they are prone to mishaps.
All Beef Patty - A very large drag queen with an impressive voice. Is as flamboyant as Prince Poppycock, but nowhere near the repertoire.
All That! - Diehards will remember this clogging dance act from Season One, when they made Top Ten. But the show was in its infancy since then, and if anything, they’ve improved in the six years since. However, it’s clogging.
The All Ways - This season’s one and only rock band. They lack the youthful appeal that Poplyfe had last season, so I fear for their chances.
All Wheels Sports - This act combines stunt bike tricks, cheerleading and trampoline acrobatics… all at the same time. It’s fun to watch, but that’s just too much going on.
American BMX Stunt Team - There is a show in stunt biking, but it’s tough to showcase it on a stage as small as AGT’s. Plus, I’m so over this kind of act.
Aurora Light Painters - Using light-pens and other lighting tricks, this group makes very interesting and cool images in a vast array of colors. Never seen anything like it.
Ben Blaque - There’s usually one danger act like this every season. He’s a whiz with a crossbow, he looks like Criss Angel, and he’s really fun to watch.
Big Barry - Every season, there’s always one act that is just so awful that he makes it through. I so wish that tradition didn’t exist but it does. I’ve heard this tiny man sing twice now, and he has yet to sing one single note on-key. Blech. Cristin Sandu - It’s tough for a balancing act to be convincingly good, but this teenager pulls it off. Don’t know if he can advance, but I give him credit for trying. Danielle Stallings - Most of the adult female singers choked in Vegas, but this 14-year-old girl really brought it home. She is definitely one to watch.
David “Bullet” Smith - He’s the human cannonball you saw during the commercials. Just like Professor Splash last year, I have to ask: what more can you do than just be shot out of a cannon into a net? One of three acts passed straight through Vegas.
David Garibali and his CMYKs - It’s tough to put the words “extreme” and “painting” together, but that’s what this act is. Throw in some rock and roll music, and you have got one totally unique act.
Distinguished Men of Brass - This group of brassists is class personified. They bring a style and energy all their own. I love that they made it through.
Donovan and Rebecca - This duo is a pair of acrobatic aerialists. They are beautiful to watch, and the strength they possess is off the charts.
Edon Pinchot - This 13-year-old kid came out of nowhere. He sings beautifully, plays piano just as well, and is adorable in the yarmulke that he always wears.
Elusive - I’m unsure whether putting a solo B-boy act through to the live shows is a good move or not. He’s got skills, but he’ll get overshadowed by flashier competition.
Eric and Olivia - She sings, he plays guitar; both are twenty (and completely platonic). I think Olivia has a terrific voice, but I don’t see a Vegas act here.
Eric Dittelman - Is it possible to read minds? This guy seems to have figured out a way to do it, and that’s incredible. I’d give anything to know how he does it.
Hawley Magic - This act got very little face-time until their Vegas audition, but it was a spectacular levitating trick. Can’t wait to see what they do next.
Horse - Jackass, eat your heart out. This guy’s one talent is that he seems to be able to tack repeated whacks to the nuts with no ill effects. Is that a Vegas show? Only in the movie Idiocracy.
Inspire the Fire This act has combined dance with singing in a very Glee-ish way, but it’s colorful and it makes you smile.
Jacob Williams - He’s only 23, but he’s got a future in comedy if he keeps it up. He looks like a total square, but he plays off that with a droll delivery. Don’t know if he’ll make it past the first round.
Jake Wesley Rogers - Every season has one good-looking teenage guy with a sweet voice and lots of girl appeal. He’s raw, but he looks like the love child of Elvis Costello and Morrissey, and could go far.
Jarrett and Raja - One is a top-notch illusionist, the other is both his assistant and his musical accompaniment. Glad to see an act like this make it.
Joe Castillo - In a darkened theater, Joe draws very intricate pictures using nothing but sand. It’s really something to watch. Creative, original, unique. Totally belongs on this show.
Light Wire Theater - This is pretty much just a ripoff of Team iLuminate, except that there’s more storytelling and less dancing. I want to get excited about it, but I just can’t.
Lil Starr - Despite being only six years old, this adorable child is a ferocious dancer. She can tap, she knows ballet, hip-hop, she’s the whole package.
Lindsey Norton - A 17-year-old ballet dancer with a lot of appeal. I want to do well, but I think she should have saved herself one more year and entered So You Think You Can Dance.
LionDanceMe - One of the season’s more interesting acts, which combines martial arts, acrobatics, and giant dragon costumes from Chinese New Year. A true wild card.
Lisa Clark Dancers - There were a lot of teenage dance crews this season, but this group stood out with a unique style and cool costumes. Don’t think they’ll make the second round, though.
Maurice and Shanice Hayes - Father/daughter singing act. They are very sweet to watch together, but I (and the judges) think that Shanice would be much better off as a solo act.
Michael Nejad - This novelty act crafted musical instruments out of gardening tools, brooms, whatever he could find. And he’s good at all of them.
Nikki Jensen - This was a horrendously weak field of female solo singers, so weak that Nikki was the only one who made it. Her voice is tremendous (love her Aussie twang) and she’s smokin’ hot to boot.
Olate Dogs - Can an animal act win AGT? If it can be done, this is the act that will do it. The dogs in this act are simply amazing. I would love for them to go all the way to the end. One of three acts passed straight through Vegas.
Rock Star Juggler Mike Price - Never heard the words “rock star” and “juggler” in the same sentence, but it fits. He’s damn good, but it’s juggling. Come on.
The Scott Brothers - It’s tough to get behind a dancing duo who do nothing but popping and robot-ing, but that was until they did a dance in Beethoven outfits. Yes, you read that right.
Sebastian “El Charro de Oro” - I’ve never been a fan of mariachi music… until now. This ten-year-old boy sings with such power that he doesn’t even need a microphone. Not sure America will like the music more than the kid, but we’ll see.
Spencer Horsman - It’s unusual for a young man to take up escapism as a profession, but Spencer is very good at it. He’s a showman, he knows how to ramp up the tension, and he’s definitely one to watch.
Tim Hockenberry - A singer whose voice combines the best elements of Joe Cocker and Ray Charles. Pushing fifty and a recovering addict, he is the best singer this season. Which means he’s on the short-list of acts that can win the show.
Todd Oliver and Irving - I’m of mixed feelings about this. Todd attaches a prosthetic mouth to his pet pug, and it opens and closes apparently by ventriloquism. It’s mildly amusing, but I can only just feel sorry for the dog.
Tom Cotter - A seasoned professional at stand-up comedy, and easily the funniest of this season’s pack of comedians. He had me laughing out loud at every one of his jokes, and that takes some doing. Would love him to make Top Ten.
Turf - Two very similar street dancers, Turf and Stepz, made it through to Vegas, impressing the judges with their hip-hop and contortion moves. Sadly, only Turf made it through. He’s a phenom, but may be a bit intense for viewers.
The Untouchables - The Cuban-born salsa dancers that led the Miami All-Stars to the Top Ten last year are back, but just as instructors. A large group of eight-to-thirteen-year-olds, The Untoucables are just as good as their adult counterparts.
Ulysses - This gentleman is one of those acts that was put on the show for novelty. He’s got a rich singing voice, but his chosen niche is that he sings the jingles for classic TV shows. Doubt he’ll make it past the first round.
Unity in Motion - This dance group made of mostly preteens has got a lot of gymnastic talent, but they’ve go their work cut out for them this season.
William Close - A truly original, ingenious act. He attaches strings from the balconies of the theater to an organ on stage, and squeezes them to make notes. Must be seen and heard to be believed. One of three acts passed straight through Vegas.
Wordspit, The Illest! Imagine a band that fuses together rap, rock and roll, R&B, and classic violin, and you have this group. If you think that can’t possibly work, think again.
So that’s it. Starting next week, the voting process begins. And I think the competition is wide open.