Nick Cannon's departure from America's Got Talent
was initially a cause for concern, but we're off to the races with a new host who's making it look easy as season 12 gets into full swing.
I'm not ready to say Tyra Banks can equal the former Mr. Mariah Carey, who was long deserving of an Emmy that never came. But her quickie makeovers and talent interaction has me hopeful that the drop-off won't be too severe.
The slog to summer stardom is a slow one (the live shows don't start until mid-August), but a top contender may already have been uncovered in golden buzzer recipient Darci Lynne Farmer. She's a 12-year-old little girl version of Terry Fator, and I'll let Derek Stauffer explain
why this is both a blessing and a curse.
What it's going to come down to for Darci, I think, is the quality of the banter in between musical numbers. If it's all singing, she won't be able to continually elevate the performances and achieve longevity. But it's nice to see kids keeping ventriloquism alive, and if she's got the comic chops, she could bridge the delicate gap between vocalist and novelty act.
Other quality performers hit the stage as well, and for the record, my wife loved the pop-and-lock dance kid who bored me and the Sia-singing clown who terrified me. But, alas, these are the times when a chicken has the same chance as a magician who barely escapes being crushed by 900 pounds of sand, so we might as well enjoy it while we can. Who will wow us next?
Diavolo is a Los Angeles-based movement company specializing in what it calls "architecture in motion." They're a performance group that mixes aerials and acrobatics with giant moving structures, which in this case is a platform that rocks back and forth and launches the dancers through the air. Props to founder and choreographer Jacques, who has come up with something we've never seen before.
Doing his best poor man's Ed Sheeran-Jason Mraz hybrid is 21-year-old singer/songwriter Chase Goehring, who plays his original song "Hurt." The guitar skills are on point with solid vocals, and then he launches into a rapidly spoken jumble of vicious rapping in the middle before slowing it down again at the end.
WGWG, anyone? Are we looking at yet another singer about to take the whole thing? Maybe he can marry Grace VanderWaal when she becomes legal, and then they can not sell albums together? (This is not a knock on their respective talents, only the post-AGT track record of singers.)
There's a montage of four or five acrobatic dance couples who all advance. They include:
Karen & Ricardo
Sven & Vanessa
Sofiane & Nathalie
You do not need to remember these names.
Artyon and Paige are interracial kid dancers, and the only reason I point out that characteristic is because Howie jokes that they resemble Heidi's wedding photo. They show off crazy moves and fierce facial expressions to Aqua's "Barbie Girl," and the audience loves them despite Simon's X. I hate to break it to Artyon, though, that his share of post-tax $500,000 won't last long if he actually spends it on a shark in his backyard and goes to Disneyland every day.
Science teacher Nick Uhas believes chemistry could be the most epic show in Vegas, and he deepens the judges' voices with anti-helium balloons before having Mel and Howie mix chemicals to make a gigantic blob thingy. It culminates in Howie dumping boiling water into a trash can to create an exploding cloud. See, kids? Science is fun!
An all-siblings band (Pelican212, apparently) performs "We are Family."
Brother-and-sister acrobatic roller-skating duo Emily and Billy England were on Britain's Got Talent two years ago, and they spin around real fast while he holds her by her ankle, wrist and neck. This type of act is one of my favorites (and kudos on the ridiculous six packs), even though it never goes far. I must add, though, I'm always a bit creeped-out by half-naked siblings who are this close.
Grab the tissues for this next one because 9-year-old Angelica Hale is lucky to be here after a kidney transplant saved her life following double pneumonia when she was 4. Her mom was the donor and is her hero. And not only does she have dreams of being the next Whitney Houston (the early version, I assume), but her parents also break the news that she's about to be a big sister.
Angelica might be young, but her voice is huge and polished like few others her age, and we might have yet another superstar in the making. Her "Rise Up" brings tears to everyone's eyes and garners a standing ovation, and the contenders are coming fast and furious in this one.
The Azeri Brothers may or may not be Terminators, but they perform feats of strength that include stabbing nails through a 2x4 by hand and by head. Then one brother lays down on a bed of nails while the other balances on his chest on a pogo broom with nails for bristles. It ends with an audience volunteer standing on a shovel inserted into one of the bro's neck. Howie calls it a buffet of torture, and they're advancing despite two grossed-out Xs.
Colin Cloud is a mentalist who is the self-described closest thing to a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and he guesses the professions of audience members before turning his attention to Tyra and the judges. It's effing cool, and he has a kitten. Watch it.
Closing out the show is 29-year-old Mandy Harvey and her interpreter, Sarah. Earlier, I advised grabbing a tissue for the little girl with the kidney transplant. I didn't need one then, but even I shed a tear during the telling of this tragic backstory. (I'm not made of stone!)
Mandy was in a music program when a connective tissue disorder caused her to lose her hearing at the age of 18, and it went away fully during a classroom assignment in which she was supposed to transcribe music. Instead, she watched her fellow students pick up their pencils while she was still waiting for the notes to begin. Then she told her dad she couldn't remember what his voice sounded like.
Her life was changed forever, dreams derailed, but it's the hand she was dealt. And you'd never know she had a disability during her performance of an original song about overcoming such odds.
She plays the ukulele and sounds like a grown-up Grace VanderWaal (minus the Taylor Swift comparisons), and Simon declares, "I don't think you're going to need a translator for this," before slamming down on the golden buzzer and sending Mandy straight through to the live shows.
Jimmy Slonina is a balding 44-year-old hand balancer who performs with an inflatable doll named Judy. It's more comedy than actual skill (he manages a handstand), but only Howie and Mel B. appreciate the humor. Simon and Heidi buzz him, and it momentarily appears that the former is about to change his mind come voting time. Instead, he offers a "categorically never." Whew. I feared I was going to have to write this in the absurd section, but it turns out he's just bad.
The rejection kicks off a montage of Simon comically sending home terrible acts with both his sardonic wit and his buzzer.
Edna from "Flerda" calls pooch Mia the love of her life, and this canine Einstein is also a math whiz. She apparently reads flash cards and can count to 50, so the judges shout numbers and Mia barks them out. Then the pup looks at a card with "20" printed on it and barks 20 times. It's cool, except for the fact that we just listened to a dog bark 40 times. Still, I kinda hope she eats the chicken.
Well, holy hell! That show was jam-packed with talent. There were six I'd peg for the Top 10, and we're only four hours into the entire season.
I'm partial to Nick Uhas and Colin Cloud, but I'm a science and magic nerd. I don't see Mandy winning despite the combination of musical prowess and gut-wrenching backstory, but she certainly earned her moment in the spotlight.
Who were your favorites and who do you see advancing the furthest? Several singers stole the show on the big stage -- could we be destined for another vocalist taking the top prize? Are you rooting for them? Or do you prefer the novelty acts? And how much does the deck seem stacked against Mandi Lynne now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)