Tuesday, September 16, 2014




Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
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Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! After nearly four months and thousands of wannabes, we've whittled it down to our Top 6, and the time has finally arrived for the final performances on season 9 of America's Got Talent. That means one final kick-ass show at Radio City Music Hall is all that stands between one of the finalists and a million buckaroos.

And oh boy, had they better bring it.

Look, at this point, everyone is good. And while I'd say four of these acts have a clear leg up on the competition and are responsible for a majority of the best performances we've seen, anything can happen with a killer set. And it's anyone's game. Seriously, if I don't say "Wow!" as your stand on the stage, breathless, taking in the ovations, you aren't winning this thing.

America's Got Talent Guest Performers are a Who's-Who of Grammy Award-Winning Entertainers >>>

Breaking It Down

Miguel Dakota and Quintavious Johnson are the underdogs in the race, with the former not quite having reached his potential (despite his dashing good looks and frontman persona) and the latter never distinguishing himself from himself.

Can Quintavious win it all? Sure. But we know exactly what to expect from him and will then pencil everyone else in around him. He just hasn't found a way to improve upon his previous performances because they've all been consistently spectacular. The two of them are least likely to invoke a "wow."

A surprising two-thirds of our finalists are singing acts (four-sixth, to be exact), and that has me worried about one of my favorites, Sons of Serendip. SOS has never ceased to inspire goosebumps, but they barely made it into the Top 6 and have a steep trek to the tippy top of the mountain.

They lack the punch of Emily West, the teenie-bopper heartthrob appeal of Miguel and the totes adorability of Quintavious. And that has me convinced they'll be on the outside looking in, though I hope to be proven wrong. I even expect them to go first.

A Three-Horse Race

For me, this one is going to come down to the best singer in the competition, the dazzling magician and the mystifying, death-defying acrobats.

With another astounding trick, Mat Franco could be the first magic act to win the title. But he'll have to contend with AcroArmy, which could also be the first dance troupe to take the million if they can invent another mind-blowing, show-stopping move like the two they put out in the semifinals.

Then there's Emily West, the former aspiring country star who lost her record deal and is riding her second chance back to center stage. She has been nothing short of brilliant, and another similar performance could be all she needs to bring her comeback story to a triumphant conclusion.

This one might go down to the wire.

On with the Show!

Here we go, folks. It all comes down to this. There are no more Snapple Saves or Judges' Choice. It's time for someone to win this thing.

And I have absolutely no idea why we need two hours for just six acts. This one screams for an hour (with a two-hour results show), but it'll somehow be stretched to 120 minutes. Maybe they'll just have Nick Cannon stand there and practice his elongated pauses. He'll stare at the camera for two and three minutes at a time before introducing the next act.

Remember, the blog is live, so keep the conversation going in the comments section. You've been watching with me all season, so don't leave me hanging now! Who are you most excited to see again, and who do you think is the frontrunner to be crowned the next America's Got Talent-est?

The LIVE Blog Starts Now

Nick's second-to-last getup is a straight-up classic tux with the signature Judy Garland kicks and a blingy watch to match, and he re-introduces us to the finalists before turning a watchful eye to the judges.

Howie's rocking the fedora, Mel B. is strangely shiny, Heidi has some seldom-seen cleav and Howard is sporting the full three-piece. America's Judge predicts one heck of a final, so let's get to it. Each act is performing twice, first offering a reprisal of what they consider their best. It's a weak way to fill the time, but what are you gonna do?

Quintavious Johnson Resings a Classic

He's singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" from the semifinals, whereas I would've gone with "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," but that's just me. He's standing on a giant lightbulb-flashing box with his name and picture on it, which strikes me as strange for such a young kid.

His voice is as powerful as ever, but I'm not quite getting the feeling and energy I'd like from this one. As far as Big Q goes, this is a rather sleepy way to kick things off. But maybe that comes with the territory of having them re-do a previous performance.

Mel B. raves about his name in lights and his killer voice, and Howie's heart is filled with love and joy. Howard is feeling Quintavious all over this place, and Heidi calls him a true entertainer who is singing because that's what he's supposed to do.

A Fresh Take on Mat Franco's Audition

Our last-standing magician is taking us back to the trick that started it all, with a twist. Back then, he never would've imagined he'd make it this far. It's s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so he's going to give it all he has.

He's interacting with the judges again and telling a story, a rhyming tale of three judges in a bar. It's an intricate and mesmerizing routine with three cups and an amazing set of balls (thanks for that one, Howie). They appear and disappear at random, change in size and jump from point to point. The close-up magic is second to none, but the real highlight is the continuity of the story. It's as well constructed as the illusion.

All the judges are amazed at the consummate pro, and this one was entertaining from start to finish. It never lagged for a second, which you can't say about the other magic acts we've seen this season. Though I'm not sure why they keep calling it a "new spin on an old trick." It's an entirely different one, and I'm glad they let him do it.

Emily West Heads North

She's a mix of old-school glamour and a killer voice, and she's singing the song that got her to the semifinals. She was cleaning houses a few weeks ago, and now her family is watching her take the stage at Radio City Music Hall.

She's taking us back to "Chandelier," and I'm distracted by the fact that her dress flows out across the entire stage. It's like she's the center pillar in a merry-go-round that is out of service. Again, I'm not sure if it's having the singers reprise something we've already heard, but I'm not wowed. She's amazing, for sure, and her voice is outstanding, but I'm not as blown away as I'd like to be.

Howard calls her an act no one would ever fast-forward through, and he loved it. Heidi had never heard the song before, and she immediately downloaded it because she enjoyed it so much. Mel B. preferred the first version, which is met with boos, and Howie agrees while still dubbing it a winning performance. Props to Mel. Glad it wasn't just me.

Miguel Dakota Keeps It Rolling

The ladies love this guy, and he's just two performances away from changing his life forever. He's reprising "Seven Nation Army," which got him into the Top 12, and if he doesn't fix that killer riff and actually make it killer, it's still going to fall flat for me.

He is definitely putting a lot more into this one, and while it's probably a slight improvement, I feel like I'm watching the exact same thing as before. And the guitar riff is NOT where it needs to be. Can we not get this guy a proper amp? I need it dirtier, Miguel! DIRTIER!

Last week, Heidi told Miguel that he lost his way, but now she welcomes him back. Mel B. felt his nerves, while Howie praises his marketability. Howard commends the performance, but he doesn't think it was enough to win.

Sons of Serendip Prep Your Bumps to be Goosed

My favorite part of SOS's introductions is how they are tracked by previous performances. I swear, I get goosebumps in anticipation of them taking the stage. They're reprising their audition, "Somewhere Only We Know," which is one of my favorite songs outside of this competition.

Wow. It's gorgeous, plain and simple. For me, this is the first singer do-over that even comes close to surpassing the original. I honestly don't think they'll win, but this was inspiring. I can't get enough.

Mel B. points out that America loves these guys and that there's a reason why there are four singing acts left. Howie calls them the most talented musicians in the competition. Howard thinks they have have superior talent but an image problem. And Heidi praises their sincerity and consistency.

Can AcroArmy Do It Again?

I hope they show us their semifinal performance, which was their best by far and the one that had me on the edge of my seat not once, but twice. If so, they don't need to do anything different.

It is indeed what they are doing, as they feel it's the one that propelled them to another level and put them on the map. And they're right.

Even though I know everything that's coming, it's just as enthralling as the last time, and those two show-stoppers are still mind-blowing. Thank you for that, kids, and I can only hope you have some more new moves in store for us later.

Howie dubs it a sport and says they should be in the Olympics, and he gives them a gold medal. Howard thinks they deserve to win and implores viewers to vote for them, hoping that it translates to television. It's okay, Howard, it does. Heidi can't wait to see their show in Vegas. And Mel B. believes they are everything this competition is about.

Mixing Things Up

It looks like the second-half order will be different, and Mat Franco drew the short stick and will be leading things off. He needs some assistants for this one, so Nick chooses some random folks from the audience to help out. His 86-year-old grammy and magic mentor is in the house for the first time to see him in person on the big stage. It's one last performance for one million bucks.

Howard is always right and Mel might have psychic powers, so Mat is pitting them against each other with two decks. One is an old-fashioned deck, while the other is the first-ever human deck. Mat shuffles the normal deck while the audience members, who are on stage holding giant cards, rearrange themselves.

Howard deals out the cards into two piles, made up of what he thinks are red cards and black cards, while Mel does the same on stage. Then Mat switches the colors of the piles. This might be a great trick, but it had better go somewhere fast.

Mel B. heads back to her seat, and Mat flips all the cards. They're all in color order, except for the 3 of Clubs, which is in the wrong spot (and another one that he slyly moves). Then Mel's folks turn their cards, and everything matches up. Except, of course, for that 3 of Clubs. The best part is the face the dude holding the 3 of Clubs makes when he realizes he's holding that card.

The judges are all amazed, and Howard now says Mat should win. I have no idea how he did it, but it was a bit drawn out. I love the magic, but I'm not sure if the payoff satisfied the buildup. It will be near the top of my rankings, but it will be interesting to see how America votes.

Sons of Seren-Double-Dip

Musician Boyz II Men is set to hit the stage again, and they're just regular guys who can't believe they are here. They all get emotional while talking about the family that they've become and how grateful they are, and it really tugs the ol' heartstrings.

Their final performance is a rendition of Evanescence's "Wake Me Up Inside," and it will be interesting to see how they handle the hard-hitting parts of a rock song. It's funny that a bunch of guys playing classical instruments can nail a heavy metal riff better than a dude playing the White Stripes on an electric guitar. The one big note is killer and seems to go on beautifully forever.

Like I said, I don't think they can win, but it's another stellar performance.

Heidi wishes them luck after putting on an awesome show, and Mel points out that the lead singer is crying like a baby and says she wants to buy their album right now. Howie recognizes how grateful these guys are, but says it's nowhere near how grateful America is for having been exposed to them. Howard thinks they deserve fans and cheerleaders, and he appreciates their arrangement on such a hard-hitting song.

Quintavious Squared

We''re jumping right into the next performance, and this 12-year-old isn't taking us to school, he's taking us to church. He's going big and going Gospel, and I wonder how this one will play out for him.

He's dressed up in his Sunday best, with a subdued and goosebump-inducing rendition of The Beatles' "Let It Be." It's such a different side of Quintavious than we've seen, and it might be his best. I would've bet otherwise, but it's pretty wonderful. A choir comes out for the crescendo, which I don't enjoy as much as just him, but I get why he did it.

It was what I expected, but the song choice made more of an emotional connection this time around.

Mel B. dubs him a true superstar, Howie calls it a winning performance, Howard praises his calmness and coolness beyond his years, and Heidi says it's been a joy watching him blossom.

Miguel Dakota's Last Chance

He had no idea what he wanted to do when he was 10, and then he got his first guitar. And ever since then, music has been his companion. He has a ton of work to do to bridge the gap and have a shot to win this thing, so he really needs the performance of his life.

He's going back to his solo roots, just him and a guitar. It's an acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," and while I appreciate what he's trying to do, the opening vocals are a mess. It sounds immensely better once he opens up and expands his range, but it wasn't the best song choice. And why is he smiling so much while singing about the woman who claims to have had his baby but isn't actually his lover?

Heidi cites "the boy and his guitar" as coming full circle, and she appreciates the simplicity and sounds like she's letting him down easy. Mel B. calls it a risk and she appreciates a risk-taker, and she sounds like she's letting him down easy. Howard calls it his best performance, and he sounds like he's letting him down easy. Howie agrees with everyone in the whole letting him down easy department. But still, Miguel's got charisma.

Can AcroArmy Up Their Game?

After a brief preview of the new season of The Blacklist, it's back to the stage to see if AcroArmy can top one of the season's best performances. It's all about showing me something I've never seen before, and upping their game would probably make them the favorite. Seeing that last routine twice really exemplifies how much they missed the curly-haired dude when he had to work that one week. Can they fly even higher now?

They start off big by throwing a girl from behind the judges' table, and wow, wow, wow. There's a ton of high-flying tosses, and it's all pretty amazing. They cap things off with the highest human pyramid I've ever seen, and even though they couldn't quiiiittteeee get the top of it done perfectly, it is still incredible.

Mel B. says it was on fire, Heidi dubs it jaw-dropping, Howard wants Nick to pass along his million-dollar shoes because this group is unbelievable and Howie calls it yet another winning performance. I wish they had pulled off that final move perfectly because then there wouldn't be a question. It didn't take anything away from the performance, but I wish there wasn't something that needed to be mentioned.

Emily West Lands Season 9's Final Pimp Spot

It's fitting because she's been at the front of the pack since her second performance. I think it's all going to come down to song choice, and her voice will do the rest. She auditioned for the show because she had nothing, and she worried that people would judge her for already having a chance and blowing it. But this is the moment she has waited for, and her dream must work out.

She's alone on the stage in a sparkly dress with smoke and lasers, and she's singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." I'm not familiar with the song, but she knocks it out of the park. It's a little slow to get started, but once she hits her stride and that one big note, it's nothing short of brilliant, as she's been all season.

Heidi just plain loves it, while Mel drops an "off the chain" and says that if that can't win a million bucks, she doesn't know what can. Howie calls it a risk well taken and thinks the song choice will pay off. Howard calls her a real singer and praises her charisma and original style, dubbing her a spectacular artist. It's a fitting way to close out the season.

Now It's Up to America

Howard says this one is too close to call, and that's as true as I can ever remember it. AcroArmy turned in two of the best performances of the night, but Emily West ended it with what might be tops. I think it's down to those two, with Mat Franco sneaking up on them.

Sons of Serendip, while up there in terms of talent, leaves the least significant impression, which is why I think they're out of the running. Quintavious or Miguel would be a shock.

Who do you think won the night, and who deserves to be the champion? Is it a singer? A magician? Or a troupe of high-flying acrobats? I know which two acts linger most in my mind, but it's all up to you now, so get voting!

Be sure to join us Wednesday night for one last hurrah at the Reddi-wip After Party. I always feel like we're all headed back home from college, and I'm the last one in the dorm room watching everyone else leave until it's just me.

Then I grab that last picture frame off the mantle, give one last glance across the empty room that was once the setting of so many memories, Growing Pains-style, and head off to the next chapter. Hopefully, you'll stick it out with me until the end.

See you then, as we crown our ninth America's Got Talent-est!


You can watch the America's Got Talent season 9 finale Wednesday night at 8pm on NBC.


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