The auditions round of America's Got Talent Season 17 isn't over yet, but all four judges and host Terry Crews have all already selected their golden buzzer for the summer. Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Crews all chose acts with some notable differences and very unique backstories, and longtime AGT fans know well by this point that getting a golden buzzer gives contestants a big advantage when it comes to the $1 million prize and Las Vegas show.
While getting a golden buzzer certainly doesn't guarantee a win on America's Got Talent, performers ranging from Paul Zerdin in Season 10 to Darci Lynne Farmer (who regularly returns to AGT) in Season 12 to the history-making Brandon Leake in Season 15 have taken the top prize after getting that buzzer.
So, now that all four judges and Terry Crews made their selections, let's take a look at who has the best odds at this point. All are of course very talented, but backstory can be nearly as important as talent when it comes to moving forward, so there are a lot of factors to consider, especially after just one performance. So, let's get into it!
5. Sara James - Singer
Sara James came all the way from Poland to take her shot at America's Got Talent, and her story as somebody coming to the United States with a dream hit home with Simon Cowell. Then, her performance of Billie Eilish's "Lovely" impressed him enough that he went for the golden buzzer, even though he acknowledged that it wasn't perfect.
I rank her as the least likely of the five golden buzzers to win for a few reasons, even though I – like Simon Cowell and everybody in the audience – was impressed by her performance. Singers are pretty common on America's Got Talent, and that's generally not an advantage. She also sang a cover rather than an original song. When the competition is as stiff as it could be between the golden buzzers, even the small differences can matter, and a cover vs. an original could make or break!
At the time of writing, her performance on June 14 that guaranteed a slot in the live shows has accumulated more than 12.5 million views.
4. Lily Meola - Singer
Lily Meola came to America's Got Talent with an original song called "Daydream," which she sang for the judges and audience after sharing the heartbreaking story of her mother's cancer diagnosis and death. Her song was powerful enough that Heidi Klum changed her mind after she intended to hit the buzzer for an act other than a singer in Season 17, and Klum guaranteed her a slot in the live shows.
I would say that her original song gives her an edge over Sara James to go along with the deeply personal story, plus Klum being so impressed that she changed her mind. At the same time, she faces the same potential problem as James: AGT just has a lot of singers, and viewers are sometimes more inclined to vote for the kinds of acts that they haven't seen before.
At the time of writing, Lily Meola's performance on June 28 has accumulated more than 3.4 million views on YouTube.
3. Madison Taylor Baez - Singer
If you want to see a singer who can put the "amazing" in "Amazing Grace," then watching and rewatching 11-year-old Madison Taylor Baez's standout performance is worth the time. The crowd immediately responded when she walked up to the stage out of the audience and sang without any musical accompaniment, and it was at the audience's urging that Howie Mandel hit the golden buzzer for her.
Baez ranks third due to the absolute power in her voice that had the entire panel of judges marveling, and having developed her talent so much before even hitting her teens makes for a great story. Plus, she wants to win the $1 million prize to help her father with cancer research due to his diagnosis. Considering that I already can't wait to see her perform in the live shows, it was hard to rank her in the middle of the pack, but once again, she's a singer in a competition packed with singers, and I'm not sure how much she'll be able to elevate her act moving forward.
Still, kids have won AGT before, and I'm certainly not ruling it out. At the time of writing, Madison Taylor Baez's performance on June 7 has accumulated more than 12.2 million views on YouTube.
2. Avery Dixon - Saxophonist
Avery Dixon was the very first golden buzzer winner of Season 17, and his performance was so powerful that not only were plenty of people in the audience in tears, but it seemed like somebody was going to have to advance him straight to the live shows. After he opened up about being bullied to the point of considering self-harm before taking up the saxophone, he delivered an act that was impressive and a lot of fun to watch. Terry Crews certainly thought so, as he hit the buzzer for Dixon!
Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't go back and forth about whether Avery Dixon should be #1 or #2 in this ranking, and I certainly don't have the saxophone expertise to actually know how much of his success is due to pure talent and how much is due to charisma. He showed plenty of both in the Season 17 premiere. Between his story, his performance, and the fact that saxophonists are rare on AGT compared to singers, I'd be surprised if he doesn't go quite far.
At the time of writing, Avery Dixon's saxophone performance has accumulated nearly 5 million views on YouTube.
1. Mayyas - Dance Group
The Mayyas dance group was the final act of Season 17 to receive a golden buzzer, but I rank them first as the most likely of the five to win the top prize at this point. They came all the way from Lebanon to not just show off their dance skills and choreography, but also hypnotize the judges (and viewers). Sofia Vergara was the judge to award them their buzzer, and they may well be the act to beat as the season moves forward.
Their story of their uphill battle in establishing themselves as a dance group from Lebanon is impactful, and the choreographer even shared that they were inspired by the late Nightbirde's words when she was on AGT (and won a golden buzzer from Simon Cowell). Their hypnosis/dancing was unlike anything else this season – and possibly any other season – to the point that Cowell said that it was "arguably the best dance act we're likely to have ever seen."
Still, Mayyas were neck and neck with Avery Dixon for me until I considered who had the greater potential to deliver performances that just get bigger and more spectacular as the weeks pass by. They feel like they have an act that could fit well on a Vegas stage. At the time of writing, their June 21 performance has accumulated more than 11 million views on YouTube.
All of this said, I could see any of the five golden buzzer winners becoming the Season 17 champion, and there's no guarantee that the ultimate winner will be one of these five. Plenty of contestants have won without the benefit of a buzzer, and Season 17 could award the grand prize to somebody else. I'm not sure that the Simon Cowell deepfake or the "Parmesan Cheese" contestant will make it to the very end, but anything can still happen at this point!
Tune in to NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of America's Got Talent, and be sure to check out a Peacock subscription if you missed any of Season 17 so far (or are just in the mood for a rewatch).
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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. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).