This summer, “America’s Got Talent” returned for its 17th season with Terry Crews resuming his hosting duties and Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Sofía Vergara once again making up the judges panel. As in the past, this year’s champion will take home a $1 million cash prize and be able to showcase their talent as a headlining act in Las Vegas.
In the preliminary round, 138 acts were chosen by the judges to advance in the competition, but they’ve been narrowed down to only 55 to compete in the Qualifiers. Among those 55 are the six chosen by the judges and Terry with their Golden Buzzer. Terry picked saxophonist Avery Dixon, Howie chose singer Maddie, Simon went with vocalist Sara James, Sofía threw her support behind dance group Mayyas, and Heidi gave the honor to songstress Lily Meola. On the July 26 episode, the judges and Terry joined to give a group Golden Buzzer to country trio Chapel Hart.
Now, in the second round Qualifiers, those acts will compete for America’s vote to make it one step closer to the finale. Tuesday’s “Qualifiers 1” featured second round performances by dog act Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends, acrobatic group Amoukanama, singers Ava Swiss and Drake Milligan, comic singer Ben Lapidus, stand up comedians Don McMillan and Lace Larrabee, contortionist Oleksandr Yenivatov, singing group The Players Choir, dancing duo Stefanny and Yeeremy, and Terry’s Golden Buzzer saxophonist Avery Dixon.
Follow along with our season 17 episode 11 recap live blog of the performances and the judges’ critiques for “America’s Got Talent” Qualifiers 1″ below:
8:03 p.m. – Ahead of the performances, Terry clarified that for the 11 acts on stage tonight there are only two spots open for the Finals and nine of them will be eliminated.
8:05 p.m. – The first act to perform for America’s vote was the African acrobatic group Amoukanama. They started their routine from the audience and surrounded the judges before moving to the stage. It was Howie’s first time seeing them since he was sick during their audition, but his elation after their performance was clear and Sofia added that they were better this time. Heidi admired that they don’t have a choreographer putting their moves together for them and says they should be proud of doing it all on their own. Simon closed out remarks by agreeing with Sofia that they improved and said that tonight they were “a ten.”
8:15 p.m. – Next up was Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends, who was told during their audition that they are one of the best dog acts the show had ever seen. Tonight Veranica dolled her dogs up in little dresses and even included quick change segments, but otherwise they achieved relatively standard tricks like jumping through hoops and walking on two legs. Sofia appreciated that Veranica was so in control with dogs that could have been unruly and Simon agreed, adding that “there was magic as well.” Howie called the performance adorable, but also chaotic and Heidi said that it was “an overload of cuteness.”
8:28 p.m. – Tonight Ava Swiss took on the inspirational Pink ballad “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” in her chance to win over America with her mighty voice. The song’s message of resistance and resilience spoke straight to the hearts of the judges. Heidi was “in awe” of Ava’s talent to go so low with her voice on such a hard song. Sofia said that it comes through how connected Ava is to what she sings and that the audience can’t help but be moved. Simon reiterated that Ava is “gutsy” and thought the song choice was brilliant because it “makes a statement.” Howie said that she has guts for coming on the biggest show in the country and is an inspiration.
8:38 p.m. – Terry announced that America picked comedian Jordan Conley as the 55th act, set to perform in one of the upcoming Qualifiers episodes.
8:40 p.m. – Returning to the stage after getting four X buzzers from the judges and being brought back by the thunderous applause of the audience was Ben Lapidus. He makes his way back as the only act in AGT history to ever get to the live shows after receiving four Xs. Tonight he put parmesan aside and sang about pearls and oysters… until he stopped and decided that he’s “the parmesan guy!” He ripped off his clothes to reveal a leather outfit and a rock band behind him to unveil a metal rock version of “Parmesan.” Quickly into that remix, Simon, Sofia and Howie all hit their red X buzzers again while Heidi remained on her feet cheering Ben on. The judges attempted to give critiques to Ben, but the audience was louder than ever and would not stop screaming for him.
8:50 p.m. – Transitioning from pageants to comedy, Lace Larrabee realized that making people laugh was always what she wanted to do as a career and a craft. Tonight her set focused on “talking trash” about her husband, there in the audience to be roasted in person. She took digs at the ring he bought her for their engagement and the amount of mountain bikes he’s spent money on instead of jewelry for her. Lace was caught off guard in the middle of a girl’s night out joke when Simon hit his red X buzzer on her. Simon explained that her set was “going downhill” and it felt too rehearsed rather than spontaneous, but Heidi said that she’s likable and charming. Howie acknowledged her great delivery and stage presence, but did say that her set tonight was less relatable. Lace got her revenge on Simon by saying that she did say up front that there’s always a man in the audience that yells out at her. And Simon thought that was funny.
9:02 p.m. – Following his first round audition, Drake Milligan rose to the top of the country charts on iTunes with his song. Tonight he was on a mission to prove that he’s not a one hit wonder and that he has more to offer America. His song “Kiss Goodbye All Night” was a bouncy, country rock bop that got all four judges to stand in ovation with the crowd. Sofia called it perfection and said he’s “the whole package” and Howie predicted that he’ll have another number one on the country charts. Heidi said Drake has the it factor and star power and then Simon called him “the real deal” because of his talent and charisma. Both Simon and Howie suggested that Drake could very well win the whole thing.
9:13 p.m. – Oleksandr Yenivatov said that he never dreamed his lifelong training of contorting his body would be the thing that brings his wife and him to America, yet here he is. They got a little spooky and a little silly tonight with their haunted mansion themed performance and pushing the limits of his body by spinning his legs around his waist in a complete 180 from his torso. Sofia called it weird, but crazy that anyone can do what he does. Simon said that they really pushed the act further this time and that they lived up to doing something they’ve never seen before. Heidi called it “so bizarre and so strange” and said she wants to see more of it.
9:23 p.m. – The former NFL stars of The Players Choir impressed in their first audition by defying what’s expected of big-bodied male athletes, but tonight their goal was to show even more versatility. Their remixed rendition of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was a hit with Howie who said that they make the audience smile and added that they all do great charitable work for their communities as people outside of their choir. Heidi pointed out that AGT is the only place you can see football players singing really well. Simon capped it off by saying that he “felt amazing” after their performance, urging America to vote the group through to the final round.
9:34 p.m. – Stefanny and Yeeremy set the stage on fire with a salsa routine to “River” that Sofia said was “spectacular” and “perfection,” but once again Simon got trigger happy with the red X and buzzed them off stage. He said that the act “needed a transition” because it felt flat and one note. He called them talented, but said that they have to do more in order to get into the final round.
9:44 p.m. – Comedian Don McMillan brought his presentation board back tonight to aide his comedy set about highway lanes (he said we need a cell phone lane) and other traffic and technology use issues. He included a slide on “tech peeves” like the cost of printer ink. Howie called Don “a national treasure” and said that America needs “comedy like this.” Simon said that he didn’t like his audition, but admits to being wrong this time because tonight was “clever.” Heidi said that he’s memorable because he’s always having the best time on stage.
9:55 p.m. – Terry’s Golden Buzzer Avery Dixon gave the final performance of the night in style, suited up and lights flashing across the stage as he played his shiny saxophone with Terry jamming on the side of the stage. He earned a standing ovation from the judges ahead of their comments. Simon “promised” Avery that he’s seen change in him and predicted that he will be a superstar like he promised Carrie Underwood years ago. He said his confidence and talent has increased since his first audition and it’s “brilliant.” Sofia said there’s nothing better Avery can do and then Heidi pleaded for America to vote Avery through.
Which season 17 act is YOUR favorite at this point in the competition? Do you think they can snag the $1 million prize? Sound off in the comments below and with other fans in our reality TV forum. Also be sure to make your predictions to influence our reality TV racetrack odds.