‘America’s Got Talent’ Judge Cuts 1 recap: Who earned Brad Paisley’s Golden Buzzer on July 16? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

After six weeks of episodes devoted to auditions, “America’s Got Talent” moved on to the next stage of the competition on July 16 with the first of four shows dedicated to judge cuts. Eighteen performers presented their act in front of the “AGT” regulars — Simon Cowell, Julianne HoughHowie Mandel and Gabriel Union — as well as guest judge Brad Paisley.

By the end of the episode, these 18 acts will be winnowed down to just seven who will advance to the live quarter-finals. One of these will be extra special as they’ll have been hand-picked by Paisley for the Golden Buzzer treatment. In so doing, he can overrule the other judges and send his favorite act straight through.

SEE Everything you need to know about season 14 of ‘America’s Got Talent’

Below, read our “America’s Got Talent” Season 14, Episode 7 recap of the acts in the order in which they took to the stage on Tuesday’s episode. Who are you most excited to see perform in the live shows? Be sure to sound off with your thoughts down in the comments section.

8:10 p.m. Terry Crews welcomes the audience to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, where tonight’s judges’ cuts will take place with special guest Brad Paisley. Kicking things off are Lukas & Falco, a dog act hoping to charm their way to the quarter-finals. Falco’s nearly 10 years old and reaching retirement, so Lukas would like the Australian Shepherd to go out with a bang. Lukas is dressed like the ringmaster of a circus and they’re doing a play on “The Greatest Showman.” As “This is Me,” plays, Falco shows off a variety of tricks including some impressive stick work, barrel jumping, and rolling out his own red carpet. Lukas even shows off a few of his own tricks like juggling on top of a large rubber ball. The judges are blown away, but I’ll be honest, I thought it was just okay. I’m about as big of a dog lover as one could be, but I just didn’t see anything I haven’t seen before.

8:20 p.m. — Second to the stage is Andy Rowell, a karaoke singer who absolutely bombs. How did he even get this far? Then Jecko, an obnoxious comedian whose balloon tricks and cheesy magic tricks earned a dreaded red X from Simon. At this point, Brad’s wondering where the talent is! Perhaps The Orange Magician can turn things around. The only thing this guy says is, “It’s good.” Literally, over and over. He goes through some impressive quick-changes behind a curtain and is able to draw laughter through the increasingly ridiculous outfits he puts on. This guy’s okay, but come on. We deserve better from the world’s most popular talent contest. Brad enjoyed it, but no Golden Buzzer moment just yet.

8:30 p.m. — Next up is Berywam, a beatboxing group from France. This handsome quartet plans to bring everyone in the audience “to the club” with them using nothing but their own voices. I’m fascinated by the noises they’re able to create, but I don’t know if I can imagine an entire concert of this. They need more of a stage production, but they’ve got charisma that’s for sure. All of the judges except Simon are on their feet. Simon thought it lacked the ability to go “viral,” but Gabrielle will fight on their behalf.

8:40 p.m. — The next act is Dylan, a 10-year old rapper who will be rapping to Kendrick Lamar‘s hit, “Humble.” He’s got a ton of charisma and the kid is adorable, but he got a very short edit. Then the Emerald Belles took the stage. They’re a 76-member drill dance team who are considered the modern-day Rockettes. Howie wasn’t impressed with their last audition and they’re determined to make him a fan. This group is massive and definitely fill up the stage and they show off their high kicks to Britney Spears‘ “Work Bitch.” The sheer number of them is a spectacle and they’ve got some impressive skills that inspired Brad to jump to his feet. Julianne thought they were great, but still feels there is a high school element to what they’re doing. Howie is still not impressed and told them it’s not enough to move forward. Brad thinks they’re perfect and told Howie to “suck it.”

8:50 p.m. — The Sentimentalists are up now. This creepy duo had a difficult time impressing Simon and Howie in their initial audition, but hope to nail it this time. I feel like this is a copycat of AGT legends The Clairvoyants, but with less stage presence. With all that said, they successfully completed all of their mind-reading tricks and the judges’ jaws were on the floor by the end of this act. Well, all except for Howie who is still unimpressed with their presentation.

8:55 p.m. — Now Duo Togni is showing off their skills as an aerialist duo. The woman is swinging from the ceiling by her feet and holding up the man by a cloth with her teeth! Next, he takes her by the ponytail and simply drops her to the ground. But no harm was done here, this was on purpose. To prove a point, they invite Howie up to stage and she’s going to hold him with her teeth. As she spins Howie around, he begs to be put down. The judges were pleased with their performance.

9:05 p.m. — Next up is Sophie Pecora, a young singer-songwriter who is more like a rapper/spoken word artist who plays guitar. She’s performing an original song and she starts off singing in a bit of a folk style before segueing into her rap. I like her genre-bending style and she is truly an original. The judges give her a standing ovation. Simon gives her some fatherly advice and tells her not to sing about bullies ever again because they don’t deserve her attention. Brad takes things one step further and gives Sophie the Golden Buzzer! Sophie is headed to the quarter-finals. Only six spots remain.

9:20 p.m. Dakota and Nadia, a contemporary dance duo, get a very short edit and appear likely to be getting cut by the end of the hour. The same can be said for stand-up comedian Kevin Schwartz and singer Loki Alohikea. Then, acrobatic performer Matthew Richardson hit the stage with a personal piece about the death of his father. He uses a Cyr Wheel to lift him above the stage while audio of his father speaking to him is heard from the loudspeaker. It’s an absolutely stunning visual and this guy’s skills are incredible. This was my favorite performance of the night so far. The judges are on their feet and Simon gives him a double thumbs up. Simon calls him special and says he’s ready to headline his own show.

9:30 p.m. — Up next are a pair of solo singers shown as a dual package. Damiyr and Chris Klafford have very different backgrounds, but they have the same goal. Damiyr is a New York City subway performer and he’s up first singing “Say Something.” He starts off a Capella, which is a risk for anyone who struggles with staying on key. But when the music comes in, goosebumps go up my arms as his voice fills the room. The judges loved it. Next is Chris, a raspy-voiced singer and guitar player from Sweden singing an original song called “Something Like Me.” His tone is absolutely KILLER and he’s got great range as well. He could win this. Chris begins to cry after the strong audience reaction and Brad calls him an inspiration.

9:40 p.m. — Next up are the Messoudi Brothers, an acrobat group who just landed from Beirut. Their luggage was lost and they’re not even wearing their proper outfits! They had to borrow some from the costume department. Despite their troubles getting to the show, they’re not going to pass up this chance. The three men get to work showing off their incredible balance and strength skills. This of course progresses into ripping off those shirts and exposing their ripped abs to the delight of the drooling audience members. I can’t properly describe the insane positions these guys get themselves into, but it’s a sight to behold. The audience is going wild for them. Not to be outdone, Dad rips his shirt off as well and joins the brothers as the four make a tower out of their bodies and show off even more unbelievable strength and balance. THAT was a performance!

9:50 p.m. — Last to perform is the Ndiovu Youth Choir. This South African choir has been a healing power for its members and they’ve become an inspiration to their community. They’ve fallen in love with America (especially hot dogs) and they’ve come to share a piece of their country with us. These powerful voices range in age from 13 to 27 and bring excitement and energy to the stage. They not only sing, but perform their own choreography and it’s difficult not to smile when watching them. Julianne says they represent “unity” and “collectiveness.” Brad called it “beautiful” and “effortless.” Gabrielle calls them “pure magic.” Simon says if he could bottle what they project, he would drink it every day.

9:59 p.m. — Sophie Pecora scored the night’s only Golden Buzzer and six more acts will continue on to the quarter-finals. See the acts that moved forward listed below and sound off in the comments if you agree with the judges or think they made a huge mistake! I’m personally dumbfounded they dropped Matthew Richardson. Blasphemy!

The Seven Quarter-finalists: Sophie Pecora, Emerald Belles, Messoudi Brothers, Berywam, Lukas & Falco, Ndiovu Youth Choir and Chris Klafford.

Eliminated: Dakota and Nadia, Duo Togni, Matthew Richardson, Andy Rowell, Jecko, Dylan, Loki Alohikea, Kevin Schwartz, The Sentimentalists and Damiyr.

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