Three and a half months after the first audition episode of “America’s Got Talent” aired on NBC, we’ve finally gotten to the two-night finale. On September 17 the 10 finalists will take to the stage for one last time. Each is hoping to win over America with their performances on Tuesday’s live finals, which is episode 22 of season 14.
Among the 10 acts still in the competition are six that were singled out for special treatment at their auditions. They earned the coveted Golden Buzzer, which sent them straight through to the live shows.
Three of these contenders were singled out by “AGT” regulars: violin prodigy Tyler Butler-Figueroa by Simon Cowell; singer Kodi Lee by Gabrielle Union; and Detroit Youth Choir by Terry Crews. The other three got the attention of guest judges: opera singer Emanne Beasha by Jay Leno; dance troupe Light Balance Kids by Ellie Kemper; and tumblers V. Unbeatable by Dwayne Wade.
The other four acts still in the running for the $1 million grand prize and a chance to headline at a Las Vegas casino are: singer Benicio Bryant; chorale group Ndlovu Youth Choir; stand-up comedian Ryan Niemiller; and vocal quartet Voices of Service
Which acts did the “AGT” judges — Simon, Julianne Hough, Howie Mandel and Gabrielle — honor with standing ovations, and which kept them in their seats? Did any earn that dreaded red “X”? Below, check out our live minute-by-minute recap and then sound off in the comments section about the reality TV show’s best and worst moments.
8:02 p.m. – In the introduction for the night Simon said that although he doesn’t know the actual votes each week that this is the “most open final” the show has ever had. Do you believe that any of the final 10 acts can win? Or will it be one of the favorites?
8:13 p.m. – V.Unbeatable had the daunting task of opening the final set of performances, but if anyone was up to the task it was them. Their routine tonight was more precise than it’s ever been before and they returned with the same high energy and big risk tricks that we love from them–Howie called them the most thrilling act in AGT history. Tonight they leapt from balconies and did flips across a tower of blocks all to a sick beat of electro-tech music. Gabrielle called it “pure excellence.”
8:24 p.m. – For their last song the Detroit Youth Choir sang another inspirational track that reflects the spirit of their group. As is also true of their style, the group included active choreo that utilized the entire stage and audience and also incorporated rap solos from a handful of members. For me, they always come alive with then break into a step routine and in that regard they did not disappoint tonight. I really loved the energy they showed tonight–it was like they were on the playing field and leaving all of their heart and soul on the floor. Gabrielle was extremely passionate about her support for the group, getting a bit emotional herself, but making the kids on stage cry with pride.
8:35 p.m. – After getting the judges’ save in the semifinals, Emanne Beasha really had to turn the dial up in order to convince the audience to vote for her as the winner. As expected, her voice was as otherworldly as it’s ever been. I mean, honestly, her voice is like it’s coming from the lungs of someone five times her age (she’s 10! and turning 11 tomorrow!), but opera singing, on a show like AGT and especially after acts like V.Unbeatable and DYC can read as very sleepy. Tonight Emanne was great and the talent is obviously there, but I can’t help but say that it’s just not as inspiring as some of the other acts. That being said, Simon called her talent “extraordinary” and Gabrielle pointed out how loving and kind she is in person.
8:46 p.m. – In his pre-performance package, Ryan Niemiller was gabbing around the table with his siblings and mother, offering us an intimate look at who he is as a person outside of his comedy. It was a nice contrast to the dark humor that permeates his stand up, like tonight’s set that centered around his insecurities and vulnerabilities as a newly recognizable face in public. In his critique Simon made a plea for film and television producers to take a look at him and give him a part in one of their upcoming projects. And then as a producer herself, Gabrielle said that she would put him in one of her own projects!
8:59 p.m. – It was moving seeing the member of Voices of Service read from fan letters about how they’ve inspired those struggling with PTSD before hearing them sing for the final time because inspiration truly is the heart behind what they do. I’m not sure where it came from, but tonight their voices were bigger and more powerful than they’ve ever been. Prior to tonight I said that they’d need a towering performance in order to compete for the championship and I have to say… they delivered! Both Gabrielle and Julianne were very emotional when speaking to the group about how important the work that they do is. Simon said they’re defined by “sincerity, decency and talent” and agreed that tonight they gave themselves a chance at winning the whole thing.
9:10 p.m. – Teamwork is the most important aspect of what Light Balance Kids do on stage. Tonight they needed that teamwork in order to pull off a fast-paced, high energy diner-themed performance. They displayed their precision and high level of coordination tonight and managed to finally earn acclaim from Simon who admittedly hasn’t been on board with them all season. He said that tonight it felt more authentically theirs rather than a bunch of adults behind the scenes doing the hard work for them.
9:20 p.m. – Despite Howie’s many warnings against singing original songs, Benicio Bryant once again chose to perform a song of his own for his final show. Tonight was just him and the guitar for a very simple and scaled back performance that allowed him to show who he is as a person and a performer. He won over both Julianne and Simon for that reason because they think he really let his talent shine tonight.
9:31 p.m. – Violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa was treated to a montage of other kids who have been inspired by him on the show before showcasing his talent one last time. Tonight he served up a super cool rendition of the Destiny’s Child song “Survivor,” a song that fits well with this story as a cancer survivor, but also presented a hip and beat-heavy performance that can often be missed in instrumentals. He truly is a star in the way that he performs, using the entire stage and incorporating choreography while still playing masterfully. Not only did Simon tell Tyler how proud he is (he was Simon’s Golden Buzzer act), but he also informed him that Beyonce personally cleared the use of the song!
9:42 p.m. – For his final performance, pianist and singer (not to mention predictions frontrunner) Kodi Lee sang “Lost Without You” by Freya Ridings, a song and artist that most people probably aren’t familiar with. It was a smart choice for him because it rides the fine line between established cover song and also allowing him the freedom to make the song his own. Following his performance the crowd cheered for him, further cementing him as one of the fan favorites heading in to the final voting. Howie predicted that Kodi will be crowned the champion, but noted that he thinks his talent is worth more than a million dollars. Simon called it one of the most beautiful things he’s ever heard and urged voters to not assume that it’s a shoe-in win and to remember to vote for him if they want him to win.
9:54 p.m. – The Ndlovu Youth Choir needed two judges saves (once in the quarterfinals and again in the semifinals) in order to make this finale, but tonight they showed exactly why they deserved a spot. Their staging, overall production value and vocal was better tonight than it’s ever been. When they come together for their big chorus moments their harmonies give me goosebumps! And when they broke into a dance routine you could see Julianne, Gabrielle and members of the audience dancing along! It was a truly wonderful way to cap off the season and one of the strongest finales in series history. All the judges agreed that with that performance the group catapulted themselves into a new level and that they will forever be changed because of it!
10:00 p.m. – Which finale performances do you think were the best? Can anyone beat Kodi?! Go to bat for your faves in the comments!