Through ten seasons now, “America’s Got Talent” has made a mission of presenting entertainment in forms not generally embraced by mainstream TV, and taken the germane limitations of age and interpretation out of the box, allowing performers to present what they sense as talent. That very openness is what makes the competition at the live performance stage so daunting, because what was fresh at first audition feel stale at this level. The August 18 quarterfinals had few hero acts overall, but a few had the moments that they had visualized for years, while several favorites lost luster.
Girl power dance troupe, DM Nation, did all they could to look badass, and stomp their hats and hearts out on stage in their black lipstick and gray leotards, but they did look like many of their auditions before, only this time, their moves were to “Girls Run the World.” They still got the crowd to its feet, and Heidi and Howie gave them standing ovations, but something just wasn’t quite as special as the opener needed to be. Mel B contended that they had stepped up their game, literally, and Howie raved that they were like pizza—“ you brought it, you delivered, and we ate it up!” Heidi praised that “you ruled the stage,” but Howard Stern complained that it was “the same routine, just different music.” Considering the competition, they may be in trouble. Derek Hughes had his family and fatherhood on his heart through his routine, and the magician was more engaging and innovative than ever, even winning over Mel B into a giggle as she was called on stage to pick a card, sign a card, pilfer through his suit pocket, and then be just as mystified when her card appears. He even played to Howard’s expressions, and that worked, too. He teased Mel B about choosing the kids’ card game, SNAP, too, but made it all fun. Howie Mandel said that he hit on all cylinders, Howard Stern said every performance had gotten better and shown growth, making him deserving of moving on. “You’re a complex magician,” Heidi told him, and Mel B assured him that she was “finally wowed.” The nerves were gone, and this was a performance that could go in Vegas.
Rockers, 3 Shades of Blue, brought their good looks and a flashier stage spectacle, singing Nick Jonas’ “Chains” with a heavier vibe. Howard loved that they were “loud and rockin’” and probably right to say that guys want to be them, and girls dream of them. Heidi said that the boys “sang the hell out of that song” and Mel B wanted their lead singer to relax more. Howie took credit for their choice of a popular song. The feminine faction will pull them through.
Animation Crew were accused of being “lazy” by heart Stern in their performance of a Pac-Man video game, with them being blue-suited dancing men. He even gave them an X. The animation often does overpower the artists who employ it in these kind of acts, and it’s hard to tell where the talent truly is, Mel B and Howie Mandel appreciated their hip, youthful vibe, but even Howie said that their talent failed to live up to their technology. Heidi was not excited by their dancing. The audience seemed thrilled by the flashing lights, so perhaps America will feel the same. 12-year-old Arielle Baril was almost made miniscule by the full choir and set behind her, but her incredible voice on “Requiem” made her presence fully known. To realize that her training has only been the mentorship of her older brother defies belief, and she was a vision in white this evening. Heidi Klum told her that she wished she could give her a golden buzzer again, and Mel B agreed that she was “absolutely beautiful.” Howie Mandel said that she made him go “Whaaat?” Howard Stern remarked “there’s such maturity in your voice, you make me want to love,” mentioning that he wanted to go hug his family. Having that effect on the shock jock of all time touches on the miraculous.
Uzeyer Novruzov summoned up Chaplin’s effortless fortitude and talent as never before, playfully teasing that he was having trouble with smaller ladders, then scaling a humongous tower, even beyond the lights, and deliberately making it shimmy on the way up! The panel was absolutely feeling the terror, too, along with simultaneous amazement. His performance was the only one of the night to receive four standing ovations. Heidi and Mel B were equally scared and superbly awed, as Mel B said she was “clenched up everywhere.” Howard Stern said he was watching “the best athlete in the world,” and Howie wondered if America knew how high the last ladder was, calling the performance “amazing.” Skill like this is more special because it is not seen often enough.
Puppets, Ira, and his mom, Miriam, nearly swallowed themselves up with their too like the Muppets, high production number on “It’s Not Unusual,” the backing band stealing the thunder even from sax-playing mom. Their pre-performance package roaming through their neighborhood was much more endearing. Heidi felt their personality was lost, as well. Howard was won over by the “fun” of “a smelly old sock,” and Mel B admitted that they kept her smiling. Even though he called them “cruise shippy” Howie Mandel said “I love you.” The crowd clapped with approval, so the vote will tell, but this may be bon voyage for these two.
Damone Rippy tried to look like a young James Bond doing his fly boarding stunts, and he still brought the wow from the ladies, but not that much different in terms of performance from his first audition. Heidi confessed that her time in Europe had allowed her to see “many people “ who did this, so it wasn’t quite as special. Mel B was just carried away by his “dashing” looks, while Howie credited that the Austin teen had brought “new talent” to the show. Howard Stern said he needed to do something “more different” to move on. He’s another one who has the ladies’ vote locked up. Myq Kaplan made some missteps this week. His routine, with anti-kid references, was not friendly and accessible as he has been before, and in the cost him, however funny others may find him. All comedy is a risk, and the tally will tell if it was risk well taken. Mel B wished he had more time, and Heidi likes him, but not his jokes this time. Howard Stern praised his “good material” and said he deserved a spot. Howie Mandel thought it was a smart move to “leave them wanting more.” Will America want more of Myq?
The CraigLewis Band brought down the house with their mammoth vocals and old-school-new school mix on “Try a Little Tenderness,” in a perfect fusion of gospel and soul. This duo could sign a Vegas deal in the next 10 minutes, and pull it off flawlessly. The crowd roar concurred with Howie Mandel’s ovation, as he called them “smashing.” Mel B said they were spot on in every aspect, and Heidi said that they had done “a perfect version” of one of her favorite songs. Howard called the performance amazing. Dance animation performers, Freckled Sky, relied more on dance this performance, but still did their story of torn lovers, celebrating with kites and flowers, crying with the rainstorm. Heidi was touched, and wants to see a happy ending. Howie told her that they can make it rain, so that is a happy ending. Being that they were Howard’s golden buzzer choice, he noted that they focused more on dance, but also scolded that they didn’t have enough different elements. Mel B agreed that they were beautiful dancers.
True beauty had to be the words saved by the final act of the night– Sharon Irving singing the theme “Glory,” from the film, “Selma.” Looking a vision as an understated angel in gold braid and white, the Chicago singer literally transformed Radio City Music Hall into a cathedral, and in every verse, she taught everyone listening what it is to be in the spirit. She got her own four ovations, and Mel B said her golden girl was already a superstar, in staging, singing, and the whole package. Howard Stern will have to do some adjusting of former comments, because tonight, he called Irving the best singer in the competition , and said she could easily win it. Heidi Klum seemed Sharon as an inspiration, saying she stood out, and Howie asked, “Preach to me, because I believe.” Sharon Irving has a congregation of millions of believers now.
Predictions for the seven moving on: Derek Hughes, 3 Shades of Blue, Uzeyer Novuzov, The CraigLewis Band, Sharon Irving, Arielle Baril and toss up between Freckled Sky and Ira, based on audience response.