On “America’s Got Talent,” it all comes down to these performances.
The penultimate episode of the season aired live on Tuesday, with stunning performances from the eleven favorites battling it out for victory.
Drake Milligan sang his heart out on an original country song, while Golden Buzzer winner The Mayyas raised the bar on their synchronous choreography. Another Golden Buzzer winner Sara James performed a spine-chilling Kate Bush cover and Chapel Hart, also a Golden Buzzer winner, delivered a performance that inspired American patriotism, even in British judge Simon Cowell.
Here’s what happened, including comments from judges Cowell, Heidi Klum, Sofía Vergara and Howie Mandel.
First up, Kristy Sellars, who combines digital media with pole dancing, gave a magical performance that put her already stellar previous routines to shame.
By the time the Aussie finished, Mandel’s comments could not be heard over the thunderous applause.
“You let us be part of your dreams, because it feels like you’re stepping into your dream,” Klum said afterwards. “It’s breathtaking.”
Vergara said the dancer just keeps getting “better and better.”
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“You showed us something even more amazing than last time,” she added.
Cowell said Sellars certainly gave a tough act to follow.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before, ever,” he said. “You were awesome when we first saw you, then you got amazing, and now you got amazing. That’s what this final is about. I really believe we have the best of the best.”
French magician Nicolas Ribs delivered another performance in which he seemed to conjure several objects out of thin air.
Klum said the ribs “invented a different kind of magic.”
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“Tonight everyone has to be better than the performance we’ve seen before. I don’t think that’s the case,” he said, to furious boos from the audience. “The music really bothered me. It reminded me of an aunt playing the piano after lunch.”
Mandel countered that Ribs “made the impossible possible”.
“It was amazing,” he added.
Country trio Chapel Hart were left in tears after performing their patriotic song “American Pride,” which earned a standing ovation from Cowell.
“The chorus, the lyrics were beautiful,” he said. “After 9/11, what a beautiful message to send on the most important night of your life.”
Mandel was not so enthusiastic.
“America is gonna love this song, but the last two songs you did were 10 times stronger,” he said.
Vergara said “there’s something about you girls playing in groups that makes everyone excited.”
Mike E. Winfield
After Mike E. Winfield’s stand-up on parenting, Cowell called the comedian “magical.”
“I love your voice,” Mandel added, noting that he wanted to work with Winfield one day. “You come here like a superstar.”
Klum said Winfield looked “incredible” and Vergara called him “a star”.
Metaphysic once again floored the judges with their deep forgery technology, which they used to show Elvis Presley singing alongside “AGT” judges Klum, Vergara and Cowell.
“Can we talk about how good I was?” Klum joked. “I don’t think I’ve ever sounded so good in my life.”
Cowell made a powerful prediction.
“You are so creative,” he said. “You’re going to have your own show in Vegas. There’s no doubt about it.”
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The Mayyas, an all-girl dance group from Lebanon who won Vergara’s Golden Buzzer after their inspiring audition, raised the bar with a performance that saw them dancing with feathers in perfect synchronicity.
“There’s nothing I can say, because you guys are the best,” Vergara said, before the rest of his comments were drowned out by cheers.
“This is what a million dollar act looks like,” Klum exclaimed. Tonight was A+.”
Cowell predicts the Mayyas are set to have an impressive career beyond show business.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Something happened with you guys where I’m starting to feel a buzz beyond the show. It happened.”
“Chicken dinner winner winner,” exclaimed Mandel, as the crowd began chanting “Mayyas.” “It’s my favorite number on ‘AGT’.”
Avery Dixon, who nabbed the Golden Buzzer from host Terry Crews, once again sought to prove his bullies wrong by shining on the “AGT” stage.
“I saw you last week, and I saw how excited you were to be ready for the final, and I saw that look in your eyes,” Cowell told the young saxophonist. “You really, really succeeded.”
Klum said Dixon “took every roadblock” in his path and made them work for him.
“I’m so happy for you,” she added.
For her ventriloquist number, Celia Muñoz played the role of a medium in communion with the soul of the greatest opera singer in the world. She provided all the voices of course, including a phone call that interrupted the session.
Cowell called the act “clever, scary, funny, creative”.
Vergara said the act was “so much fun” and Klum called Muñoz, who was voted into the finale as a wildcard after being eliminated, a “rare talent”.
“You’re like a classic vaudeville performer that we haven’t seen in years,” Mandel marveled.
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Sara James, a Polish teenager and Cowell’s Golden Buzzer, delivered a haunting rendition of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” that had all four judges on their feet.
Cowell said James “nailed one of the most iconic songs in the world”.
“You just gave yourself a chance after that,” he added.
Mandel replied, “The thing is, a lot of people tonight took a chance.”
Klum called James “one of our biggest discoveries this season”.
“You have this freshness, this newness in you,” she said. “You already look like a superstar.”
Magician Yu Hojin appeared to do “30 tricks in three minutes,” according to Vergara, who watched in awe as he appeared to make objects disappear and transform as the judges looked on.
“You are not a magician,” she added. “To me, it’s like you’re magic.”
Cowell, the only judge to give Hojin a no after his first audition, turned the magician’s success into a compliment to himself.
“I kind of said no on purpose because in my mind I was picturing you in the final, and there you are,” Cowell said. “You are a brilliant showman. You are very classy. You are such a gentleman and more importantly you are a fighter.”
Mandel called Hojin his “favorite magician this season”.
Country crooner Drake Milligan closed the show. Milligan had quite a hit outside of “AGT.” After each of his performances, the original songs he sang were charted.
On Tuesday, Milligan performed his song “Sounds Like Something I’d Do,” which he also sang for his audition. Afterwards, he teased that he would be releasing more music later this week.
And he already has fans among the judges.
“I really think this will be the start of your career,” Cowell said.
“I already want to buy a ticket for your concert,” Vergara exclaimed.
Klum called Milligan “the one to beat” and Mandel said it was between him and the Mayyas for the win.
“You just brought it home, and I think you’re a star,” Mandel added. “This song will be number one tomorrow.”