Following the Week 2 results, I had asserted that Week 2 had been an exercise in manipulation -- that the AGT producers had consciously chosen those twelve acts and that the judges had given the critiques they did for no apparent purpose than to inflate the chances of one particular act becoming a semifinalist (presumed to be Tone the Chiefrocca) as much as possible.
This final week, though much stronger, also seemed very manipulative, with an overabundance of both dance acts and youth acts.
The final twelve acts before the semifinals were:
The group tried to introduce a new soloist, who was promptly drowned out by the rest of the choir. Bernard Walker is still carrying the entire group, as was noted by Howard Stern after their performance.
Only Heidi Klum was actually critical, and even then, only of the song choice. Her suggestion was that they should cover something by Robin Thicke instead.
Note to the VSU Gospel Chorale: Whatever you do, don't do that ever. The amount of sense in Heidi Klum's head is equally proportionate to the amount of hair on her face. Unless Mel B. or Howard Stern agrees with her, disregard everything she says.
The big question for rest of the judges was whether or not America would even vote for a gospel group at all.
The answer is "Yes, they would," but not now that the American Military Spouses Choir is already in the semifinals ahead of them.
#2: Melody Caballero
Considering how little of Melody Caballero, it's troubling that there was more than one moment during her performance that were way too familiar.
Balancing on just her mouth and seating her butt on her head certainly is impressive, but it's already been seen before, which Howie Mandel, despite giving her praise for being able to perform last-minute as she had, still called attention to.
Stern tried to dismiss this, albeit with the same flimsy "A singer sings a song" excuse that conjures up horrifying memories of David & Dania.
The criticism is still valid, especially when there are so many better acts to choose from.
#3: Dave Fenley
Fenley may not have delivered his best performance, but the potential is still undeniable, and his song choice, while not permitting him to be as strong as his previous selections, certainly suited him.
The judges were all praise, with the only thing even close to criticism being a suggestion from Mandel that Fenley upgrade his wardrobe.
Bill Maher once said that the number of backup dancers is inversely proportionate to the quality of the music. This was a perfect example of such.
Oh, by the way, they did cover songs. Yes, you are reading that correctly: They covered rap songs.
And not just any rap songs. Some of the most annoying, gimmicky rap songs in existence.
Mandel summed it up well enough by saying "It seemed very Disney to me," though personally, I don't think that's accurate enough.
This isn't a Disney Channel act. This is a Disney Channel act from the early 90s.
#5: Sam Johnson
Johnson's performance was pre-recorded on account of his decision to bring back the sway pole. He began by standing up straight and deliberately making it sway back and forth like he was surfing on it. After this, he hung himself upside down at the top and made it tilt completely over until it swung to the ground like a swing.
Which, in the grand scope of things, must have been impressive, but from a distance, not so much. Mel B. compared it to a bungee jump, and Mandel even said it looked like something he would want to do.
Which, according to Stern, was precisely the problem: "We should not want to do it."
Johnson retorted that, while it might not have felt dangerous to the judges, it definitely felt dangerous to him, followed by commenting that "It's a good thing it's America's vote."
Actually, that's a bad thing for him, because America has demonstrated time and time again that they have no interest in performers that could get killed doing what they do.
#6: Duo Resonance
Duo Resonance brought back the same sliding stage they were previously dissatisified with in Las Vegas. They also relied on many of the same signature stunts: Him balancing on her, as well as another attempt at the rotating ending.
The duo actually did make some creative use of the surface in the beginning, mostly involving one performer sliding under the other, though these looked more like they would have been suited to a comical performance as opposed to the slow intimate vibe they were going for.
D'Angelo & Amanda were ranked as low as they were leading up to this round because they had been paired up against the act most similar to their own, Ruby & Jonas. For one of them to advance, they not only had to beat their rival, they had to make it completely lopsided.
D'Angelo & Amanda did no such thing. In fact, they may have turned off much of their base with an angry red and black paso doble. Which, while it did receive a standing ovation from the judges and was hailed as technically flawless, was much more dark and edgy that the fare this act's audience is accustomed to.
D'Angelo did also score a few points at the end by wishing his sister the best. More on that later.
Much like Anna Christine, Gordon looked and sounded nervous. Though to her credit, she definitely didn't sound fifteen, but it's debatable whether that's a good thing or not at this point.
The judges were divided, but only in the sense that two of them suggested she was struggling with the song while the other two suggested that the pressure had gotten to her.
#9: John Wing
If you've learned anything from tonight, I hope it's why I've been so critical of hack and/or character comedians like Taylor Williamson, Jacob Williams and Tom Cotter.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what a real comedian looks like. John Wing accomplished something no other comedian on AGT has accomplished: He made me laugh.
His material was all relative, specifically about being a parent, with his best bit being, after stating that he liked teenagers because they could understand complete sentences, mentioning the "three-word parent sentences" that little kids require, which he rattled off one after another, faster and faster, to increasing amounts of laughter.
"If America doesn't vote for you," said Stern, "they've done something awful."
Well, technically they already have done something awful; they put that irritating "Hey, look how awkward I am" clown through. Assuming AGT's comedy fans are savvy enough to recognize that only one comedian can make the Top 10, John Wing won't go through unless they are all willing to drop Taylor Williamson faster than NBC drops its sitcoms.
The judges once again took issue with Sprice's lack of stage presence, but consider this: By his own word, Sprice worked on this act weeks in advance ten hours a day. Under those circumstances, it's amazing he can even stand up straight when his act is all ready to go.
The routine, while not much different in its execution, did involve some more advanced elements such as a radio and an electric fan. Beyond that, however, there is not much to be said that isn't already known except that the act worked as intended.
The judges were mixed. Mandel and Klum were both positive, while Mel B. found it "a bit boring" and Stern questioned whether or not this was appropriate for the stage they were giving him.
Of course, had Stern done his homework, he'd have known, not only that there has been an act like this on AGT before, but that America did vote for it.
And Sprice, though maybe not as amusing a character, is certainly the better act of the two. If he does not go through tomorrow, it will only be because his competition was that much greater.
#11: Ruby & Jonas
D'Angelo, as had previously been mentioned, gave a very mature, possibly offputting performance, but acted classy by wishing his sister all the best.
Ruby, in contrast, gave a performance much more geared towards her target audience, but blew it by constantly being bossy and shallow.
And let me be the first to say this: The rivalry between Ruby and D'Angelo is a big fat waste of time. Jonas is the real best dancer of the bunch, but nobody calls attention to it because his partner is the biggest attention glutton of the bunch.
Every time the judges tried to offer praise, Ruby instead wound up scowling because they stopped short of declaring her better than her brother. Klum held up a "10" sign like they do on Dancing With the Stars, for example, and Ruby became visibly upset after Cannon informed her that D'Angelo & Amanda had received the same score.
Neither team decisively defeated the other tonight, which is good enough to imply elimination for both of them.
At the end of their performance, Mandel complimented the producers for choosing to have Catapult perform last because "there isn't anyone that could follow you."
Catapult chose to do a more sentimental narrative. In introductions, their leader mentioned that he lived very close to Sandy Hook and wanted to do something that "honored their loss."
"We're nervous," he said, "but we love this piece."
The piece was a journey through a lifetime, from sandcastles at the beach and riding a bike to a wedding at a church, all done seamlessly without ever breaking the flow or narrative.
I am now looking forward to chewing out America when Catapult Entertainment comes in 3rd place overall this year.
The twelve remaining quarter-finalists, from most likely to advance to least, are: