Spoilers ahead for the August 2 episode of America's Got Talent on NBC.
The auditions round of America's Got Talent Season 17 has come to an end, but there is still one vacant slot in the qualifiers left to be filled. Instead of coming to a consensus about the 55th act that would move ahead, the judges decided that fans would make the choice with a wildcard vote. Now, it's up to viewers to vote and decide which of four performers they want to see more of, and which of their journeys will come to an end. Not everybody can be lucky enough to get a golden buzzer, after all!
The judges chose a variety of acts for the four performers: sword swallower Auzzy Blood, vocal coach Ben Waites, stand-up comic Jordan Conley, and singer Debbii Dawson. They all are talented enough that this could be a very hard decision for any fans who don't already have a favorite, and I had a hard time myself in deciding on a couple of them. That said, here is my ranking of each act and how likely they are to win the wildcard vote and advance to the qualifiers!
4. Auzzy Blood - Sword Swallower
Auzzy Blood came to AGT from Las Vegas, and he already has the flair and style for a stage show. He brought out a variety of knives to swallow, and even recruited Howie Mandel to be part of the act. It was impressive, and I would say that he was one of the most memorable of the four wildcard candidates, particularly with the reactions he got from the judges. There is no other sword swallower moving forward, so he has the advantage of a truly unique act. Plus, he promised that he'd break a world record in a second performance.
On the other hand, Simon Cowell raised the point that he'd seen a sword swallowing act like Blood's before. The YouTube video of Blood's performance has by far the fewest views of any of the wildcards at a little over 207,000 at the time of writing. Also, sword swallowing is a bit like contortionism on AGT – a bit of an acquired taste that works for some people, but freaks others out a bit too much to want to see more over the other three. Auzzy Blood is great, but I'm not sure he'll get the votes to win here.
3. Debbii Dawson - Singer
I'll be honest – I had a hard time deciding between who should be ranked second and which should be ranked third, but "Dancing Queen" singer Debbii Dawson ultimately comes in behind Auzzy Blood. Her performance put a spin on ABBA's best-known song that the audience loved, and there was some fun back-and-forth with the judges before they ultimately called her parents with the good news that she'd gotten a yes from each of them. Her YouTube performance also has the most views of any of the wildcards, with more than 5.4 million.
At the same time, AGT is already stacked with singers, and five of the six golden buzzer winners were musical acts of some kind. I would actually compare her somewhat to Sara James, the singer who received Simon Cowell's golden buzzer (and who I ranked least likely to win among the golden buzzer recipients). While she's very talented, there wasn't as much raw emotion to connect with in her performance compared to the other wildcard singer. If Season 17 wasn't already filled with strong singers, I might feel differently, and I loved having the excuse to rewatch her take on "Dancing Queen," but she holds the third spot for me.
2. Jordan Conley - Stand-Up Comic
Season 17 has been a little lighter on the stand-up comedy than usual for AGT, but everybody in the audience seemed to love Jordan Conley in his performance. He showed personality from the moment that he danced out on stage, and had the whole theater laughing as soon as he started talking about his military parents. Simon Cowell was in stitches by the time that he was talking about what happened after he talked back to his mom as a kid. It was a funny and fairly wholesome stand-up performance, but what was remarkable about his audition to the judges is what earned him the #2 spot on this list.
Howie Mandel – a stand-up veteran himself – praised him for being so lovable rather than feeling like he was putting on an act. The audience was chanting his name so loudly that the judges could barely be heard in each saying "yes," and his YouTube performance has accumulated more than 2.23 million viewers. Throw in the fact that he's a standout stand-up in a season full of a lot of singers, and he's a strong wildcard.
1. Ben Waites - Vocal Coach/Singer
At the end of the day, however, it's not the sword swallower or stand-up or "Dancing Queen" singer who I think has the best chance of winning the wildcard vote, but Southern gospel singer/vocal coach Ben Waites. Not only was his choice of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" a hit with the audience, but his story about why he chose that song added an extra depth from the start. Still, I would say that he was about even with Debbii Dawson... until he got really into his song. He delivered the raw emotion and audience connection that I felt was missing from Dawson's song, and it seems safe to say that the judges agreed about the emotion.
In fact, Waites moved Sofia Vergara – who rarely cries on AGT – to tears, to the point that I thought she might have hit her golden buzzer for him if she hadn't already given it to the dance group Mayyas. "True Colors" was an anthemic choice for his vocal range, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't rewind a few of his high notes to watch them again. People were clapping and cheering for the other three wildcard candidates; they were clapping, cheering, and crying for Waites, so I give him the #1 slot on this list. Plus, with more than 3 million views on YouTube, he already has a lot of recognition.
Will Ben Waites get the votes that he needs to win the wildcard, or will I be completely wrong and we'll see more of Auzzy Blood, Debbii Dawson, or Jordan Conley? All four are worthy, and it's entirely up to the fans who take the time to vote. You can vote via the AGT official app and the NBC.com voting page. There's a limit of ten votes per act per method, and voting is only open for a limited amount of time, so be sure to cast yours for your favorites by Friday, August 5 at 7 a.m. ET.
Keep tuning in to NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET to see the remaining contestants (including the wildcard winner) continue battling for the $1 million prize and Las Vegas stage show, and check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule for some more viewing options. If you've missed any of Season 17 and want to catch up, you can find AGT streaming with a Peacock subscription.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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