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. In “Qualifiers 1,” Drake Milligan and Terry’s Golden Buzzer saxophonist Avery Dixon. Tuesday’s “Qualifiers 2” included performances from comedians Aiko Tanaka and Mr. Pants, aerialists Duo Rings, musician Freckled Zelda, dance group Fusion Japan, impressionists The Brown Brothers, music group The Pack Drumline, singer Wyn Starks, musician Yu Hojin, Howie’s Golden Buzzer singer Maddie, and Group Golden Buzzer vocal trio Chapel Hart.
Follow along with our season 17 episode 13 recap live blog of the performances and the judges’ critiques for “America’s Got Talent” Qualifiers 2″ below:
8:04 p.m. – The first act of the night was The Pack Drumline with another choreographed set of drum performance and the dance tradition known as stepping. This time around they made the most of the full stage and pyrotechnics to raise the excitement of the room. Heidi loved how much energy they always bring to the stage and Sofia said that they were perfect to open the show. Simon countered Sofia’s comment by saying that the drumline performed with winner’s quality, noting that they had passion, determination and preparation in every moment of their performance.
8:16 p.m. – The Brown Brothers say they prepared more characters for tonight in order to show the growth from the initial audition that the judges are often looking for. In this second performance, they sang in the voices of famous characters like Mickey Mouse, Venom, Goofy, Elmo, Gollum, Donkey, and then added Simon’s voice as well of course. To add to the effect of their talent, they used digital screens behind them to create the sense of a band made up of themselves using the harmonies of many different well-known voices. Heidi said they leveled up by introducing harmonizing with the different voices and Sofia called it “clever and original.” Simon agreed because he thought the start of their act was boring, but the end picked up steam. Howie thought that the way they presented their act made it original and memorable.
8:27 p.m. – Wanting to make a better life for his family, Mr. Pants made his way back to the stage for more comedic puns. While some of the audience enjoyed his set, for the most part his jokes incurred groans. Simon was not on board with the act and hit his red X quickly into the set. Revealing his boxers was something new, but did not improve the reception. Sofia did think that the act was an improvement upon last time, but Simon explained that he expected different jokes about different things and that tonight it was the same, started bad and got worse.
8:37 p.m. – The next act to take the stage was Fusion Japan for a dramatic presentation that involved women in long skirts and men doing acrobatic tricks. They made full use of the stage and utilized costuming and a high level of production to create a spectacle. Simon said that they’re another example of how high the talent is this year and that acts are coming from across the world. Howie said that it was a winning performance and Heidi complimented their ability to bring two dancing styles together in one.
8:47 p.m. – After her first audition, Freckled Zelda was asked if she’d have a different persona in subsequent rounds, but she stood by her identity as a “music fairy.” As expected, Zelda’s set design was a forest with glittering lights, but this she pushed her act to the next level by incorporating other musicians and background vocalists to create the atmosphere of an actual forest full of fairies. The judges mostly deflected from giving Zelda any actual criticism, commenting that their children appreciate the act and choosing to crack jokes at and among each other instead. Sofia was able to tell her that her act is unique and that people need to accept that it’s “something different.” Simon thought it was “over-produced” and that perhaps that is why it didn’t quite work.
9:00 p.m. – The two members of Duo Rings have love for each other, but also hope to show the importance of love through their aerial acrobatics. Tonight they did that with their choice of music and by entangling their bodies with each other while performing the dangerous acts from their apparatuses. In their final trick they raised themselves above the judges’ dais and then dropped the male from the ceiling on to a pad right in front of them. Heidi called the act “nuts” and enjoyed that it was sensual and dangerous. Those thoughts were echoed by Sofia who added that she wants to see more from them. Simon called them one of two “incredible acts” in the night so far because they brought passion while doing something outside of their comfort zone.
9:10 p.m. – Tonight Wyn Starks delivered a beautiful ballad that Simon considered brave as a tribe to the brother that Wyn lost a few years ago. The judges said that his vocal talent matched with his moving personal story is going to make America fall in love with him.
9:22 p.m. – Hoping to become the first comedian champion, Aiko Tanaka gave us another set that focused on the difficulties that present themselves between her Japanese heritage and speaking English to Americans that don’t always understand her. Tonight her set was not as strong as you’d expect, but she managed to comment on how uncomfortable it was which helped a little. Though she didn’t receive a red X buzzer from any of the judges, their commentary was reserved and appreciative of her unique point of view.
9:33 p.m. – Maddie made her mark on the season when she was plucked out of the audience to audition on stage, setting her up for the opportunity to earn Howie’s Golden Buzzer. To follow up that iconic audition, she brought “Higher Love” to the stage with an energetic and powerful vocal. Howie exclaimed that she is loved by everyone who saw her on the show. Simon clarified that her audition was “not rigged” and bringing her to the stage was genuine. He added that she has “steel in [her] eyes” and that even when she goes off the vocal it doesn’t matter because it was “seriously good.” Heidi commented on the joy that is evident when she sings and that everyone is rooting for her.
9:42 p.m. – The only magician on stage tonight, South Korea’s Yu Hojin was in a spot to bring wonder and amazement to the show that the other acts couldn’t. For this semi-final performance he did something he’s never done before–some slight of hands tricks that involved household objects appearing and disappearing in quick succession. Heidi commented that his approach is slow and elegant, so much so that it feels like hypnosis. Sofia told him that she now believes in magic and that it was better than his audition. This time Simon came around to enjoying Yu’s magic, but took credit for helping him get better after saying no during his audition. Howie was also mesmerized by the beauty of the performance.
9:54 p.m. – Based on their audition of her classic song “Jolene,” Dolly Parton commented on Chapel Hart and then they reached number one on the charts. Tonight they performed another original song having the confidence of their chart performance and the knowledge that they were a special Golden Buzzer choice. Their song was a stadium country rock romper with a rap verse that gave it a unique sound. Based on his love of this original song, Simon predicted that things are going to go well for them and that as amazing performers with brilliant songs they could have a big career. Sofia likes that they’re “all about fun” and that they improved upon an already great audition. Howie called their performance a “headline show,” suggesting that they’re already performing as stars.
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.