Tuesday, August 25, 2015




Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
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And then there were 12 ... quarterfinalists left on the 10th season of America's Got Talent. The final group before the oddly-numbered semifinals is set to hit the stage (and air) to perform for your votes, and it is free of both judge and guest judge golden buzzer recipients (though there are two wildcards).

And like the others before it, it seems rather easy to stack the acts, leaving only wiggle room in the middle and space for a letdown in determining who joins the Top 21.

The only real surprise thus far was the elimination of projection dancers Freckled Sky, who were edged out in the judge vote by rock band 3 Shades of Blue. Otherwise, the round has played out in entirely predictable fashion, in part due to the fact that four equally deserving acts were sent packing during Judge Cuts (just continuing to show some love for Stacey Kay, Aaron Smyth, Aiden Sinclair and Ryan Shaw).

America's Got Talent Recap: Which 7 Acts Advance to the Semifinals? >>>

Lineup and Projections

The third group of quarterfinalists consists largely of singers and dancers, meaning the comedian, motocross riders, mentalist and guy who swallows and regurgitates various items have an early leg up in the "standing out" department. Even taking similarities out of the equation, I expect Oz Pearlman, Stevie Starr and Gary Vider to easily advance, while Metal Mulisha Fitz Army certainly wowed enough in their audition.

That leaves four musical and four dance-related acts, some of which probably should have been out during the last round. Chapkis Dance Family, DADitude!, Mountain Faith Band and Selected of God Choir are all borderline at best, and thus will have to do something unexpected to be in the running.

Daniella Mass and Alicia Michilli are also very similar, meaning there is probably only room for one in the next round, and it's a coin flip.

Then there's Freelusion, which should easily fill the void left by Freckled Sky, and Benjamin Yonattan, whose performance probably doesn't matter thanks to his inspiring and emotional backstory.

Do you agree with my pre-show expectations? Or am I off my rocker? What do you predict will happen, and who are you looking forward to seeing again?

Let's get to it, and please be sure to refresh your page and keep the comments coming! Otherwise, I'm just a sad, lonely guy blogging for myself, wallowing in the fact that you'd rather watch the show with loved ones, friends or by yourself rather than join the conversation.

So for the next two hours, YOU'LL be my friends. And I'll show everyone. Then they'll see ... I have the talent...

The Live Blog Begins Now

Nick Cannon, looking fresh as ever in a sleek suit and sunglasses, welcome us and the judges to a packed Radio City Music Hall. And then it's on to the first performance.

Chapkis Dance Family Looks to Break the Mold

The large groups of hip hop dancers haven't fared well this season, and this busy bunch is hoping to buck the trend. They're also intent on proving Howard Stern wrong after his criticisms during the Judge Cuts.

It's very mixed-gender DM Nation-esque, with similar rapid fire arm movements but with more flips than slow-motion Matrix interludes. But at the end of the day, we've seen a million acts of this nature over the past 10 years, and as impressive as they are, they don't do anything to stand out from the rest.

Howard believes they're better individual dancers than as a group, and they need to highlight some solos to show off the skills because there's just too many of them. The other judges disagree, with Mel B. dubbing it brilliant, Howie praising their synchronization and Heidi calling them a well-oiled machine. Next.

Metal Mulisha Fitz Army Goes Sky High

These crazy mofo stunt jumpers are out of control, and they pushed the envelope the first time we saw them. They've had their fair share of broken bones and injuries over the years, but it never stopped them from chasing their dreams. What, you want them to get their kicks at day jobs?

It's a very similar set of tricks this time around, which means it's absolutely insane. And for some reason, they're taking off a tiny dirt ramp laid out on grass in a park. The timing is nuts, the flips are unreal, and it's one of the most death-defying things you could ever see. They might have the talent to win it all, because nothing else is quite as huge, but will people vote?

Howie calls it a triumph, while Howard praises them as true daredevils and applauds their bravery and expertise. Heidi thanks them for bringing the X Games to AGT, while Mel commends them for surviving.

DADitude! Recaptures Youth

The five 50-something dads are former professional dancers who did make it out of the Judge Cuts, but they're getting a second chance after Sylvia Sylvia dropped out and ex-couple Duo Volta stopped performing as a duo.

They've added a smoke machine and some chairs to the routine, but it's still the same kind of moves you'd expect to see at someone's 50th birthday party. It's all over the place, and all four judges hit their X's.

Howard loves their temperament and their message, but they showed their age in what felt like a wedding performance. Heidi doesn't think it came together because it was out of sync, Mel B. felt they were under-rehearsed, and Howie makes a joke to "avoid piling it on."

For real, where are you Stacey Kay and Aaron Smyth???

Alicia Michilli Gets to Follow DADitude!

So she's got that going for her, right? She's not a fan of the limelight, but once she started singing, a switch flipped. So she moved to Nashville, where she's a hostess by day and a singer by night. She showed her nerves in the last round, but can she overcome the pressure on the biggest of stages?

She's up there with a guitarist, a stand-up bassist and a guy on the piano, delivering a rendition of "I Put a Spell on You." It takes her a little while to hit that next gear, as the first few bars blend into the venue. But once she opens up, it reaches a great but not phenomenal level. There are moments that are too screamy, but overall, she does a great job. And there is still potential for improvement, if she can up her stage presence.

Heidi compares her to Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse, Mel B. says she owned it, Howie thinks she put a spell on America, and Howard calls her retro and cool.

Gary Vider Hopes for a New Career

Gary is a comedian/dog walker who lives in Queens with a slob for a roommate and who sends his parents ransom notes to get cash for the cable bill. He's got big dreams to go to Vegas and get away from his roomy, and let's be honest, we need a comedian in the semifinals.

The set is about his terrible love life and the perils of sandwich buying when the counter guy calls you bro, cuz and son, and the downtrodden jokes match the tone. There is a spattering of laughter, but everything falls flat. It sounds like he's reading, as if he's walking us through the jokes step by step to make sure we understand them. Very disappointing. So much for my projections. Myq Kaplan's terrible set was better, because his mistake was panicking when the laughter didn't come. This was just bad material.

Howie (somehow) feels that every joke landed, though he reminds us that comedy is subjective. Howard is bummed because comedians have been dropping like flies, so he's glad Gary came out and killed it. Wait, what? Mel B. initially hated how slow it was, but then she realized it's his shtick and loved it from then on out. Heidi calls it a deja vu for her to criticize a comic, but the slowness didn't work.

WTF are the first three thinking? Oh yeah, like I said above, we need a comedian in the semifinals. Not going to happen.

The Mountain Faith Band Turns the Grass Blue

The tire shop-owning family-and-friends blue grass group live in the Smokey Mountains, so the bright lights and big city are a bit of an adjustment. I didn't think they deserved to make it this far, so they need to do something special.

The first thing they do right is the song choice, because Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" is the catchy song of the summer. They do what they do with it, and it's not as crisp as it should be with harmonies that don't quite hit. But the song choice is spot on, and with Gary's fall, they might just sneak through.

Howie has never been to a jamboree and doesn't know how to feel about the music, so he sums it up with some sort of cowboy yell. Howard offers a hearty "well done," and Heidi praises the arrangement. Mel B. points out that the vocals were not great, but she find them likable and is rooting for them.

Oz Pearlman Tries Something Else No One Has Ever Seen

He's the mentalist with the mostest, and his tricks have been truly fun to watch. He has correctly guessed Mel B.'s vacation habits, Howie's movie preferences and Howard's affinity for Oprah, complete with a paper cutout silhouette. He made the correct choice in leaving the finance industry to do this, and my expectations are high.

He's flipping the script this time, allowing the judges to read his mind. He's got a jar of gumballs, and he's counted them all and given the results to Nick. There's more than 100 and less than 1,000, so he's sending them a three-digit number, and it's not 666. He throws in his charm and humor, then has the judges write down their guesses before revealing a video posted to Instagram hours ago that names Mel B. as the closest, just two gumballs off.

HOWEVER, and I could be wrong (post-show update no. 1: I'm not), but I feel like I saw him scribble down the "correct" number of gumballs while Nick was standing in front of him, subtracting two from Mel's guess to give away the first part of the trick. Am I crazy? (post show update no. 2: I'm not.) Did anyone else spot that?

He caps it off with the most amazing part, having Nick pull out a receipt from the middle of the jar that has a serial number matching all the judges numbers in a row. That part is baffling. And all the judges are blown away and heap the praise.

Selected of God Hopes to Inspire America

The Motor City favorites have struggled through the worst of the recession, but the group's sense of faith and togetherness has been the bridge to better times. Now they're bringing the glory to Radio City.

They're singing Shontelle's "Impossible," and look, I get that stuff like this is inspiring, but as far as choirs go, which aren't my favorite anyway, this performance isn't spot on. It's pitchy, the harmonies aren't perfect, and the soloists don't stand out enough or mesh well together. The power is there, but the polish is not.

Mel B. finds it powerful when they all sing together, but she urges caution in choosing the soloists, who were screechy. Howie isn't sure if you feel the power through the TV, but in the room, it surges through you. Howard loves where they're from and what they're about, but he didn't think it felt contemporary enough. Heidi was uplifted.

Only four acts left, so expect an uptick in talent on the way.

Stevie Starr Spits Up What He Puts Down

The Professional Regurgitator has been doing just that as his career ever since he left school, because he loves entertaining and freaking people out. It's a unique gift for sure, and one that has ended up being more enjoyable than any of us would have ever imagined.

He starts off by borrowing Heidi's $500,000 ring, which he instantly swallows. He has Mel B. close a padlock, which he then ingests, along with a key. In his belly, he reunites the key with the lock, unlocks it, puts the ring on it and locks it again. He then coughs it all up, as he described.

But he can't get the key up, so he swallows a small pool ball, which brings up the key. Then he spits out the pool ball. Heidi uses the key to unlock the lock, and she has her ring back.

Can we just give this guy a million bucks right now?

The judges all love it, and Mel B. feels violated. For real, did anyone take him seriously when he came out for his audition?

Benjamin Yonattan Glides on Hope

The 14-year-old will be completely blind soon, so he's dancing like an angel on borrowed time. He's lost so much vision even during this process that the special glasses don't help anymore, so he's performing inside a little house set that allows him to better tell the boundaries of the stage. And he gets multiple camera angles to help him connect with the home audience.

He's nowhere near the dancer that Aaron Smyth was, but considering his circumstances, his abilities are astounding. He gets a standing ovation from three judges and most of the audience, and like I said, he could've fallen off the stage and made it through. He's an wonderful story and an amazing kid. And on top of that, it's his best and most technically sound dance thus far.

The judges loses their minds, Howie quotes Charlie Sheen, and Howard tempers his praise by pointing out the reality that the his best might not be as good as the staging someone with literal vision can put together. But there's no way we don't see him again.

Daniella Mass Chases the American Dream

The singer who is in direct competition with Alicia Michelli came to this country to chase a music career, and this experience has changed her by giving her confidence and the belief that she can accomplish and achieve everything she wants. And now she makes her Radio City debut.

I think she's singing "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, but I can't decipher enough of the words to properly Google-confirm it. She sounds exquisite though, but I just wish she could enunciate more. It's hard to make an emotional connection with a song I know so well when I would lose the story if I were watching the show. That makes it a mixed performance for me, but I'd still put her closer to the head of the class.

Howie calls it perfection and lauds what he calls a clarity in her voice, while Mel B. thinks she's ideal for theater. Heidi felt the emotional connection, and even though Howard enjoyed it, he wasn't a fan of the song choice and wanted something bigger. Broadway doesn't equal America's Got Talent for him.

Freelusion Dance Company Closes Out the Quarterfinals

They would have been my pick for the pimp spot before the show started, as they have been one of the best acts we've seen this season. The key these interacting-with-projections acts is to offer top-of-the-line dancing and tell a story, which they've been mostly successful at. The three members hail from Detroit, Australia and Alaska, so they couldn't come from more different backgrounds.

They're took a chance by putting one of the guys in a harness, but it didn't go well in rehearsal and they had to dump it. With no time to re-choreograph, they're forced to go on as a twosome.

It's heavy on the background interaction and story and much less of dance number, and that's both good and bad. They lose some of their grace and elegance, but it's absolutely captivating and works at conveying the message. The timing is perfection, even down to minute details of the projections.

Heidi is mesmerized by the illusion, Mel B. didn't want it to stop, Howie calls it a step up from Freckled Sky, and Howard congratulates them for getting better each and every time.

More No-Brainers

That's it for the quarterfinal performances, and just like the other two groups, the choices are clear. Stevie Starr, Freelusion and Metal Mulisha stole the show, and despite a slip-up, Oz is a lock to join them.

Benjamin Yonattan will get his deserving day in the sun, while Gary's bomb leaves the door open for both Daniella Mass and Alicia Michilli to move on. Still, their similarities could leave some space for Mountain Faith band to sneak through.

The other four are easy eliminations, and it's on to the next round.

What do you think will happen? Who wowed you, and which acts let you down? Who has the best shot to win it all, and can a guy who swallows stuff and coughs it up really take the crown?

Check back Wednesday as we learn the final seven acts headed to the semis as Season 10 both heats up and winds down. Only a few weeks left in the competition...


America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8pm on NBC.


(Image courtesy of NBC)



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