If the theme of last week was disappointment, the theme of this week was redemption. Despite many of the acts tonight having been prematurely counted out, there were very few disappointing acts, and some of the most compelling arguments for the Top 12 came from acts that were not expected to amount to anything.
This will culminate in what has become a sad tradition on America's Got Talent. Last week, a few mediocre acts made it into the Top 12 by standing on top of a massive pile of mediocrity, and tomorrow, someone who does deserve to be in the Top 12 will be going home.
D'Angelo & Amanda seem to be conscious about the nature of their base, because they once again delivered an edgy, age-inappropriate performance, almost as if they were not just trying to reach outside of their base, but daring their base not to vote for them either.
It wasn't a great performance, though mostly due to artistic decisions as opposed to any fault of the dancers. They performed with lighting affects that interfered with the camera.
The judges were mixed, with Mel B. and Mandel saying it was not the step up they were looking for. Stern, however, pointed out that the duo had been dancing in water and stressed how different of an environment that is, which he said he did consider to be a step up.
The water, however, didn't really ad anything to it. It just forced them to tone down their act so they didn't hurt themselves. Mandel and Mel B., for all of their idicoy, have the right of it this time.
Fortunately, D'Angelo & Amanda still have their base all to themselves. With six acts going through, it's pretty much guaranteed that they will advance.
#2: Marty Brown
The judges all agreed that Marty Brown was much better than last time. Though considering what the last time was, this could be considered back-handed compliment. Only Stern was critical, calling it "a very safe performance."
Beyond that, the judges offered little to no comment, mostly saying that they would have to wait and see Jimmy Rose. Cannon asked Brown what he thought of Rose; Brown replied "There's room enough for everybody."
There may be room enough for Rose in he in the Top 12, that is true. But there won't be room enough for both of them at the finale. And if we assume America's country fans are savy enough to recognize that, they'll know they're going to settle the rivalry now while they still can.
#3: Chicago Boyz
With one of their performers already sidelined, this was the last act that was expected to show any improvement. And yet, not only did they improve, they did so tremendously.
The big finish with this act involved jumping rope in a three-man shoulder ride. That alone would have done the trick for them.
It did, however, look like one performer hit his head during the end of their performance. No attention was called to it, which means America is on their own to speculate about whether or not that was a problem.
Had this been their quarterfinal performance, they would have been forecast to definitely advance. But this was a tough night, the Chicago Boyz are a judges' choice, and they are already short one performer due to injury.
Howard Stern joked about being disappointed that nobody broke a leg tonight, but he's the only person in the entire AGT audience who would find that funny.
Etienne promised "a lot of tricks involved" in his performance. Which those of you who have seen a lot of magic acts on AGT will recognize as code for "throwing all of our crap at the audience and hoping some of it sticks."
They did indeed perform a lot of tricks, but all of them were standard generic faire: the bowling ball, the quick change, and three different shadow boxes, all of which can be seen at any casino in Vegas by the magician who opens for Carrot Top.
Congratulations Howard, you wasted your wildcard pick.
#5: Anna Christine
Christine attributed her unsteadiness during the quarter-finals, not to nerves initially, but to a problem with the piano that threw her off. She elected to handle this by removing the piano and instead just focus on the singing.
For her song, Christine chose "Wild Horses" by Susan Boyle, which suited her voice perfectly. If anyone missed the open calls and was confused as to why America voted for her in the quarter-finals (there are many who only start watching when they go live to try to avoid the circus of suckiness), know that this was the Anna Christine they were voting for.
Howard Stern promised after her performance that he was going to call Jon Bon Jovi to come to the finals and sing a duet with Christine, with promises that she would make it there.
She definitely made a compelling case in her favor. All that's left to determine is whether America will forgive her prior performance and has faith that she can bounce back from that disappointing 4th place finish.
#6: Kenichi Ebina
Ebina responded to the question about how he would top his prior performance by saying that, instead of something bigger, he would go "smaller and smaller, but still good."
His performance was indeed smaller, but it was also better.
Ebina was, in fact, a first for America's Got Talent. Ebina is the first act in eight seasons devious enough to figure out how to extend his act beyond the ninety-second time limit without technically being in violation of it.
Ebina began by appearing to perform in front of a mirror, but as the performance went on, it was instead revealed to be a monitor with a video of himself playing against him. This made the precision in hsi act especially impressive, as Ebina and his prerecorded self genuinely did appear to be perfectly interacting with each other.
The performance ended with the lights going out, after which Ebina and his doppelganger appeared to have switched places (accomplished by different outfits). The Ebina in the video then pounded on the screen as if trying to get out and calling for help, and continued to do so while the judges were giving him their input, even showing off some of his old dance moves as if trying to prove that he was the real Ebina.
This is the kind of brilliant mind Ebina is working with: Brilliant enough to recognize the time would spend standing before the judges as an asset he could incorporate into his act.
Howie Mandel once again pleaded for America to give Ebina the million. They won't, of course, but Ebina is looking more and more like a possible third place finisher that everyone will swear should have won instead.
Fittingly enough, one of the the guest performers for the results show will be iLuminate, Season 6's third place finisher. Ebina's not liable to win, but he very likely will find himself being invited back to perform as if he had been the victor as well.
#7: John Wing
John Wing once again kept his material relative, this time talking about marriage, such as how "Marriage is a learning experience. . . For men" and how "You know what I was thinking" is code for "You know what I've decided," with the big finisher being about his wife saying she was thinking about getting a new washer right before a guy delivered one to their front door.
The judges were all praise, with the closest thing to negativity being from Mandel, who cautioned him that "this is the night of true, exceptional talent."
Which is certainly true. If John Wing doesn't make it into the Top 12, it's going to be less a judge of his talent and more a sign of how disproportionate the talent was between one week and the other.
#8: Branden James
Branden James's performance was not necessarily bad, but the song choice didn't really work with his operatic style during the chorus. It also looked like he was getting overwhelmed by it at points.
The judges were mostly praise, with Stern offering any criticism beyond stressing the quality of the talent so far. Though he began by saying that James had "the most powerful voice in the competition," he cautioned him that "sometimes the power can get in the way because we don't get the connection."
Were that valid criticism, it would also have been true of Forte the night before. They, however, are the bigger problem for James. Jonathan Allen also gave a strong performance, but the AGT audience evidently decided there wasn't enough room for both of them in the finals and dropped him.
James's future on AGT now hinge on America deciding that there is room enough in the Top 12 for him instead. That's a lot to ask for considering what's already been done.
#9: KriStef Brothers
In their introductory video, the KriStef Brothers mocked the injury that had set them back a week, which is never a good thing to do on AGT. It created a sense that they really hadn't learned anything from the experience and were thus liable to wind up hurting themselves again.
Though the even bigger problem with this act is that its faults were even more apparent than ever tonight. The comedy completely took over during this performance, with a grand total of only two equilibrium tricks.
They did incorporate sword swallowing into their act, but this doesn't count as a trick since it was obviously fake; one had his neck bent in such a way that the sword should have been sticking out of the back of his head.
If anything, it seemed more like a mockery of Alexandr Magala, which is the kind of gesture that might please their base but alienate everyone else.
The judges were all praise, but the impression the KriStef Brothers left was that they were both very stupid, very juvenile people, which is the absolute last kind of person you want to see in a danger act.
You can tell the judges know this is a top contender for the title, because the two judges that have pleaded for America to give the million to someone else (Mandel and Stern) were both critical of them.
After Klum complimented what the group represented, Mandel (who has already pleaded twice for Ebina to win) interupted by saying they've "got to judge them on what they did, not who they're married to," and rhetorically asked if they were better than Branden James.
Yes Howie, they were.
Stern (who picked Catapult Entertainment to win) described the performance as "pleasant" but said it was not a Radio City Music Hall performance and that he didn't "know if this was the best of the best."
This, of course, will only suffice to rally their supporters.
#11: Timber Brown
Brown promised that, for his semifinal performance, he was "not doing what people expect."
Had he done what people expected, however, he would have been much better off.
What Timber Brown elected to do would be best described as a combination aerial / high-diving act.
And no, it wasn't nearly as cool as it sounded. Instead of flying around in front of the judges' Xs like he should have been, Brown's performance consisted of him continually bombing into a dumpster-sized tub.
Maybe it looked good live, but at home on TV, this looked pathetic. It was difficult to describe this act without making any toilet comparisons.
Brown also got hung up in his suspension at the beginning of his performance. Which, given that he is a danger act, pretty much means he can start packing his bags now.
#12: Jimmy Rose
Just like Marty Brown, Jimmy Rose chose to perform a very safe choice for a country song.
The judges were mixed in their feedback, with most of them stressing the quality of his competition (Mandel specifically named Ebina and Chicago Boyz), and Stern writing it off as "nice" but lacking passion.
The biggest problem for Rose that none of them mentioned was that he did nothing to distinguish himself from Marty Brown. Typically, the AGT audience tries to settle rivalries like these when they appear, but with neither one of them succeeding in surpassing the other, the vote they are both counting on will likely be split.
This is the predominant reason both Rose and Brown are ranked so low on the list; they needed to surpass the other, and neither one did. The other is, of course, because most of their competitors were just as good, if not better tonight. As was written above, someone who deserves to be in the Top 12 isn't going to make it.
This list was literally impossible to put together without giving insultingly low spots to otherwise good acts. But based on the acts performed and how America has voted in the past, here are the acts from most likely to advance to least as best can be estimated.
- American Military Spouses Choir
- D'Angelo & Amanda
- Kenichi Ebina
- John Wing
- Anna Christine
- Chicago Boyz
- Branden James
- Jimmy Rose
- Marty Brown
- KriStef Brothers
- Timber Brown
- Illusionist Leon Etienne & Romy Low
Nick Cannon also plugged the upcoming AGT tour. He also confirmed that Tone the Chiefrocca would be a part of it, which should make tickets a lot easier to come by this year.