Tonight America’s Got Talent hit Hollywood for the first round of semifinals. Twelve acts were chosen to perform, and tomorrow we’ll find out which five acts got through with the help of America’s vote. Last week we left off on Simon Cowell’s “emergency” phone call to the America’s Got Talent judges, and tonight we found out that eight acts had been added as wild cards to the semifinals.
Of course we all know this is manufactured drama, but it makes for good show buzz for America’s Got Talent. You’ve got obviously awesome acts eliminated in Vegas and people go crazy, talking about the show nonstop and the unfairness of it all. Then there’s rampant conjecture for the next three weeks about who the remaining six wild cards will be. Sure, it’s blatant audience manipulation, but in this case I can’t blame them.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Cracking Under the Pressure
There’s a certain power in trying out for a show that has thousands of people trying to audition. The chances of getting on the show are slim, so the performer has the comfort of “Hey, I tried, I know the odds are hugely against me.” In contrast, tonight’s America’s Got Talent acts know they are only a few steps away from actually winning that $1 million dollars. It’s not just about being more talented than that crazy guy who wandered in off the street. Now the performers have to prove themselves, to compete against strong contenders, in front of a massive audience and millions of home viewers.
Unfortunately, that pressure weighed down a lot of the acts tonight in Hollywood. Some performers overdid their routines, shooting too high. Some acts simply lost their confidence and put in a less than stellar performance. And some performers proved that they’re not ready to headline their own act.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Breaksk8
Breaksk8 hit the Hollywood America’s Got Talent stage with an homage to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video. The boys added female dancers, red and black matching outfits and hats, and a little bit of Jackson’s narrative to their act. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my first review of Breaksk8, the action was a little on the slow side. The act had style, and some amazing feats–one of my favorites was one of the dancers spinning on the toe of his skate like a ballet dancer.
Piers agreed, once again stressing his dislike of the skates and how they slow everything down. Sharon told Breaksk8 that they had a ways to go with their act, but she felt confident they could pull it all together. David liked the story they told with their dancing, but told them that beautiful as the girls were, they weren’t necessary to the act. He wanted to see more skating, and so do I. Bring back the acrobatics and speed that you won the America’s Got Talent dance-off with in Vegas. That is, if America votes you through.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Thia Megia
Young, talented singer Thia Megia wowed the America’s Got Talent judges and audience in auditions with her mature voice. Unfortunately, tonight it seemed that nerves got the best of her. She sounded okay, but seemed to be backing off of the notes at the end of each phrase–no doubt afraid of pushing too far into a sharp or having her voice break.
Surprisingly, Piers, Sharon, and David didn’t seem to notice. All three America’s Got Talent judges sang her praises, and Piers labeled it brilliant. Sharon admired her performance and the fact that she was age-appropriate and wasn’t wearing too-sexy clothes–an observation that Megia didn’t seem all that pleased by. I agree with Sharon, however–young female performers can be pretty and feminine, without resorting to blatantly adult outfits.
America loves child singers, so it’s a good possibility Thia Megia will move on. I do think she’s talented, and has a good voice, but she’s got to steady her nerves and her notes if she comes back for another round on America’s Got Talent.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: The Platt Brothers
These three goofy brothers, with their bizarre blend of stunts, acrobatics, humor and play-acting were the only act of the night that truly knocked my socks off. I literally gasped as the three athletic guys flipped up into the air, only to land flat on their stomachs on the ground with a thud–without getting hurt. Their acrobatics are amazing, and their unique sense of humor kept the America’s Got Talent audience on their toes. I loved that they flipped one brother into the air and then he shockingly disappeared up into the rafters.
America’s Got Talent judge David loved the humor and physicality of the act, but told them to ditch some of the odder lip-syncing moments. Piers told them that they needed to define their act–that it had too many things going on and when people can’t identify something, they don’t get into it. Sharon agreed that they needed to work on their pacing and unify the act with one vision. “But I do like you!” she added.
I’m not sure I agree with the America’s Got Talent judges. I’m with David on the talking parts that don’t exactly work, I thought it was hilarious when they stopped in the middle and did a brief ballet routine. Their insanity and wild changes in tactic are what keep them fresh and interesting. I’m not sure if streamlining them into just acrobatics will do them any favors.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Diva League
We never got to see Diva League on the America’s Got Talent auditions, except for a brief flash that let us know they were moving on to Vegas. So, I’m not sure what Simon saw in them that made him choose Diva League as one of the eight wild cards for the semifinals. The group of drag queens came out in vampire lingerie costumes, jumping out of coffins and dancing awkwardly across the stage as they lip-synced to a taped song. In the America’s Got Talent biographical promo, they even admitted they only had one professional dancer in their troupe, and the rest of them were just hoping not to break an ankle while dancing in heels.
Piers was pretty tough in his assessment, saying that America’s Got Talent needed to be representative of America, and he didn’t think a bunch of lip-syncing old drag queens who can’t dance was all that representative of America. I’m not sure how a guy who eats light bulbs or juggles chainsaws is any more representative, but I agree with him on the non-talent focus of their act. If the whole crux of their act is just that they’re guys dressed as girls, I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a Vegas show.
To Piers’ dismay, however, America’s Got Talent judges Sharon and David loved the Diva League. They felt they were fun, fabulous, and very entertaining. We’ll see what the voters decide.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Manuela Horn
Manuela Horn’s America’s Got Talent semifinal act turned out to be what Piers dubbed “a train wreck”. Ditching her dominatrix garb for a Lucille Ball impression, Horn put on a little min-play with male actors while she sang the Pussycat Dolls “Don’t Cha” very flatly. There were some funny, mildly suggestive elements and the uber tall Horn has great stage presence. It just wasn’t exactly what the America’s Got Talent judges or audience were expecting.
All three judges wanted to know where the yodeling dominatrix had gone to. Piers described it as expecting Hannibal Lecter and getting Miley Cyrus. Horn asked a fair question–where did they think the dominatrix act was going to go? This had apparently been a miscommunication. Horn felt she was a variety act that had many different talents, and the America’s Got Talent judges thought she was a yodeling dominatrix. I thought David gave her a fair answer, though, suggesting that she could have incorporated more of the dominatrix elements into the act she had just performed.
The judges did stress that she not give up, as she does have a crazy Vegas show appeal. She just needs to hone her act a little more and focus on her strengths–as a yodeling dominatrix.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Grandma Lee
Grandma Lee put in another saucy and good-humored comedy performance, focusing on the dating life of the elderly. I thought her jokes were hilarious, but the audience didn’t seem to catch the gems like the fact that men her age are generally on life support–“which means you always have to go to their place.” This may just have been some of America’s Got Talent editing magic on the audience reactions, though.
She also got good laughs (and maybe even a few blushes) from the America’s Got Talent judges when she hinted she had slept with Piers–by offering him the British flag boxer shorts he allegedly left at the hotel. Then she pulled out a zippered G-string and told David he left them in the limo. Asked which one he had first, Grandma Lee cheekily replied “Threesome.” When Sharon asked who was better, Grandma Lee cried out “You were there!”
“You are so naughty,” Sharon told her, “and I love you so much.” All three judges agreed that Grandma Lee had great comic timing, stage presence, and confidence. Let’s see if the American audience feels the same way.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Mosaic
This a cappella “vocal band” hit the America’s Got Talent stage with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. I liked that they used all of the stage, working in some dance movements and splitting the group into different sections. This gave their act more vibrancy and engaged the audience. They sounded fabulous, though occasionally the lead singer seemed to go a little sharp here and there.
America’s Got Talent judge David felt that Mosaic had started a little light, but got more powerful and impressive as the act progressed. Piers commended them for tackling such a big song, especially since Stevie Wonder himself doesn’t sing it a cappella. He didn’t feel they’d hit the mark exactly, but he appreciated their quality singing and big ambitions over some of the acts who’d only done bad lip-syncing.
Sharon told them to cut down on some of the excess “noise” and focus more on the pure harmonies. I think this is a good bet, because the more the voices scattered in different directions, the more the lead singer seemed to lose his notes, so more unity would work in their favor. We’ll see if they get another chance on America’s Got Talent after the viewers vote.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Acrodunk
This one is a bit of a mystery to me. Acrodunk blew the audience and judges away during the America’s Got Talent auditions by doing a fast-paced, intricate gymnastic routine that just happened to feature trampolines and slam-dunking. Tonight they took a different approach, as more of a three-ring circus, with dancers at the center, a guy doing tricks against the wall in the corner, and a trampoline that the guys used at varying times to make dunks.
It seemed a lot slower and less exciting than the audition performance, but sustaining that pace for an entire Vegas show would be pretty difficult. The America’s Got Talent judges loved the new arrangement of the act, commending Acrodunk for expanding their act into a workable concept for a Vegas show. In the face of their overwhelming praise, it seemed that the problem may have been the poor camera angles during the act. Often the camera was focused on the trampoline when nothing was happening on it, instead of pulling back to just show us the entire stage as the audience sees it.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Arcadian Broad
Young dancer Arcadian Broad took a risk on America’s Got Talent tonight, by beginning his act with classical piano. He played so long that we began to wonder if he was going to dance, but then he slammed the keyboard lid down and ripped the sleeves off of his shirt to launch into a Footloose rendition. I love his joy and enthusiasm, and he does have raw talent, but he hasn’t quite gotten his timing and control down.
America’s Got Talent judge Piers told Broad to ditch the piano entirely and he could dance his way to the final. Sharon felt the piano playing showed another dimension to his skills, but that it went on too long. David loved his act and felt he definitely had the potential to go on to the America’s Got Talent finals. Here’s hoping Broad will have a little tighter choreography in the next round…if he gets voted through.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Drew Thomas
Magician Drew Thomas pulled a neat trick tonight on America’s Got Talent. He put himself in one box, and three girls in another, then had welders working on sealing the boxes closed. Then the box he was shown to be empty, and Thomas appeared behind the judges. The three welders turned out to be the three girls–and inside the second box were the guys now in their boxer shorts. It was cute and fun, but it dragged a little while the machinations of the trick were going on–and how it worked wasn’t that hard to figure out afterwards.
The judges seemed a lot more impressed by it than we were, and seemed to have forgotten that Nathan Burton did the “appear behind the judges” bit a lot more effectively a couple seasons ago on America’s Got Talent. Burton probably took a year off Brandy’s life, he startled her so much. The biggest criticism the judges offered Thomas was to dress the part more–I think that’s true of the entire act. He’s got the basic mechanics down, but he needs more flash. You have to draw people’s eyes away from what you’re getting away with, so it’s more of a shock when things happen–and you have to entertain them the whole time, not just at the reveal.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Kevin Skinner
Country crooner Kevin Skinner came out sans baseball cap and with a new Hollywood haircut that definitely spruced up his image. Unfortunately, like Megia, Skinner seemed to be suffering from a bad case of the nerves. While he still sang with heart and emotion, he just couldn’t hold steady on the notes.
Once again, the America’s Got Talent judges didn’t seem to hear it, though their praise did center mostly on his sensitive performance rather than the technical aspects of the notes. Clearly America’s Got Talent is playing Skinner more as a sentimental favorite, but we’ll have to see how far that can take him in the competition. He has talent, but he’s got to hold it together better if he gets another shot at the America’s Got Talent prize.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Lake Houston Dance Troupe
While these girls were energetic and cute in the America’s Got Talent auditions, I didn’t feel it was really a Vegas-worthy act. Simon Cowell apparently disagreed, as he brought this crowd of dancers back as a wild card. I think they might have added dancers since the auditions, and the large number and varying sizes of participants made it impossible for them to do anything truly in unison. This time they danced in pajamas with beds and sleeping bags scattered on the stage.
The America’s Got Talent judges agreed that it wasn’t quite up to their audition performance. Piers noted that they had so many props that they were tripping over them. Sharon said there were so many dancers that she didn’t know who to focus on. The girls all seemed to have had fun and were excited about being on stage, which is great. People who love kid acts may vote them through, though I’m still not sure how this could conceivably be a Vegas act. Never mind that after taxes, they’ll have to split the money about 40 ways, leaving them with a lot less impressive paycheck–especially if they had to pay their own travel costs.
America’s Got Talent Hollywood: Who Will Move On?
It’s anybody’s guess at this point, though I would venture that Diva League and Manuela Horn are least likely to move on. My personal five picks would be Breaksk8, The Platt Brothers, Arcadian Broad, Grandma Lee and Mosaic. Entertainment is largely subjective, however, and except for obvious failings, everyone on America’s Got Talent has got someone who’s going to vote for them. It’s just a question of who can appeal to the widest cross-section of voters.
We’ll find out tomorrow who those lucky America’s Got Talent contestants are. Watch it on NBC at 9/8c.
Check out: America’s Got Talent Semifinals Results Day 1
America’s Got Talent Vegas Eliminations Day 2
Visit the America’s Got Talent official website.