The Top 12 were as follows:
#1: Chicago Boyz
Early into the performance, the Chicago Boyz got hung up by the jump rope on what looked like a standard trick for them. Mandel brushed it aside as not that noticeable, but make no mistake: Everyone saw it.
To their credit, however, they did still execute perfectly their final trick, which was to jump rope while stacked in a five-man pyramid.
This was the worst time for such a glaring error, but the Chicago Boyz have proven that, if nothing else, they deserved to be here.
#2: Branden James
James chose Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for his finale performance (which had been done by Forte previously), which all the judges acknowledged as the ideal song choice for him.
It wasn't a perfect performance, however, and oddly enough, he had his moments of weakness in what had previously been his strong points. James started off with a rich muted tone, but once he reached the power chords, did sound at least a little like he was struggling.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Forte, which James himself acknowledged in his introductory video. Stern later called the rivalry between he and Forte "the battle of the giants."
Which is quite a compliment, even if the judges would all proceed to effectively declare victory for the latter later on.
#3: Innovative Force
One of the leaders of the group was revealed to have suffered a sprain during rehearsals and was out for this performance.
It showed. There was once again a moment where a performer appeared to have missed her mark and/or landed wrong, which would have been impossible to conceal since it was in conjunction with two other performers effectively doing the exact same thing.
The performance also suffered from some very curious execution decisions. Namely, they included a set piece which they finished by all jumping off and behind one by one.
The judges were mostly praise, with Stern complimenting the greater emphasis on dance and the use of trampolines, while Mandel complimented the "star" pattern as "something I never saw before."
Except that Mandel had seen that trick before. By Innovative Force at the open calls. Going into the Top 12, Innovative Force is running on empty.
#4: KriStef Brothers
They finally did it! They finally did comedy and hand-balancing together!
. . .Sort of. They actually had a voice-over narrator doing most of the comedy for them, with their only personal contribution to the comedy being one trick that began with the top brother nuzzling the other's butt before the trick.
It wasn't the perfect blend of comedy and acrobatics that was needed of them, but it was an improvement, and good enough for a standing ovation from all four judges with Stern declaring them the first act he could definitely say was going to go through to the finals.
The judges were all praise of this act, with only one bit of criticism coming from Heidi Klum: She noted that there were moves she had seen before.
This is true. While D'Angelo & Amanda are technically perfect, they also have a very strict formula with their act which they rarely ever deviate from, and most notably have an over-dependence on the trick that involves Amanda falling back and getting caught on D'Angelo's foot, which appeared more than once during tonight's performance.
It's not inconceivable that the same people who voted for them before will all vote for them again and that they could get another 6th place finish into the finale. But with so many good acts to choose from and the finale and Las Vegas on the brain, it's unlikely.
Catapult's leader mentioned his feelings about their misfire in the semifinals, from which they now appear to have bounced back with recognition for their strong points.
The piece was described as a "Little kid against a monster," which instead started off as a narrative of a little kid being bullied. . .
At first. Then everybody suddenly morphed into a fire-breathing dragon.
Overall, not quite as good as their Sandy Hook tribute, but certainly much closer to the Catapult Entertainment America had previously been voting for.
All four of the judges gave them a standing ovation, with Mel B. professing an interest in learning how to do it herself and Stern once again predicting that they would go through.
If nothing else, Catapult Entertainment has proven that they deserve to be here. The only thing that could possibly drag them down anymore is their disappointing semifinal result; if America has lost faith in this act and doesn't believe it's possible for them to recover.
For their performance, Forte chose to do a foreign-language version of the Titanic theme song.
Awkward, but it worked. It was nice to hear them actually harmonizing again.
Or, more accurately, it was. Once they got to the second part, it was back to bellowing.
There was nothing at all bad about it, but if I'm honest, I think Branden James gave the better performance.
The judges, however, clearly disagreed. Mel B. and Klum gave a standing ovation while Stern and Mandel recreated the famous "I'm flying" scene together.
This was the funniest Taylor Williamson has ever been on AGT.
But that's not really saying much. Williamson went from a highly irritating character with painfully bad jokes to a highly irritating character with somewhat cute jokes.
His biggest laugh of the night came from a story about Williamson crashing the car and his mother paying for it because he caused the damage, which was his reason for sending her all of his therapy bills.
Klum complimented this joke, then said she would be sending him her therapy bills in turn.
Stern proceeded to say that he envisioned Williamson at the finale. After this, however, the floor was given to Mel B., and then promptly taken away from her after she squinted and put her hands to her temples. Both Stern and Mandel refused to let Mel B. say anything about this act.
For a while now, I have been saying that Williamson only continues to advance by being lucky and by having some of the dumbest, most rabid and most hostile of dissent fans of any act this season. Tonight, Howard Stern and Howie Mandel demonstrated exactly how the "TayLords" operate; by throwing a temper tantrum if dissent is even so much as implied to exist.
It should be noted (as the TayLords love to point out) that he is indeed pulling a lot of Twitter votes.
What Williamson is not getting, however, are Twitter votes from people who don't have animals or cartoon characters as their profile pictures.
Taylor Williamson is not a true contender for the title. He just has a very shrill, very anal group of followers devoted to, and succeeding at, convincing the AGT production that more people are voting for him than actually are.
If there is anything to be taken away from Taylor Williamson, it's this: Letting people vote via Twitter was a really stupid thing to do.
#9: Collins Key
For his performance, Key pledged to put $250,000 on the line.
All of it belonging to Nick Cannon.
He asked Cannon to take off his (very expensive) watch, which he hesitantly did, after which he asked Stern to pick one of three bags. Before doing so, Key also asked if he could alter the time on Cannon's watch (which he wasn't given, but did anyway). After this, he put two cheap watches in the other two bags.
After this, he mixed up the bags and pledged to try to influence Klum and Mel B. to pick the bags with the cheap watches. Key also asked if Mandel could randomly change the time on his own watch randomly.
The two bags Mel B. and Klum had selected, Key proceeded to smash with a sledgehammer. Later, after revealing that Cannon's expensive watch was still unharmed, he asked the judges to read the time Mandel's watch had been set to, which was identical to the time Key had set Cannon's watch to.
Stern once again had the only criticism, which was once again about the timing of the act -- that he needs to "speed things along."
The problem, however, was that the judges were, once again, complete idiots. Previously, Key had trouble with the pacing because Klum repeatedly failed to understand the instruction "name a celebrity who isn't here." This time, it was because Mel B. and Klum both had trouble reading Mandel's watch.
Note to Collins Key: For your finale performance, leave the four drug-addled monkeys out of it.
#10: Kenichi Ebina
For his Top 12 performance, Ebina pledged that he would "express emotion," that it would be "very, very different" and that it would be "more artistic in a way."
These kinds of changes can go either way. Sometimes they pay off, while other times they just come across as pretentious and self-indulgent.
This was one of the latter. Ebina's act devolved from brilliantly timed and executed synchronized movement and video to insipid interpretive dancing.
Fortunately for Ebina, the judges were all in denial of this, with Stern even going so far as to say that Ebina was "definitely going to be in the Top 2."
Stern is correct that people will vote him, but it won't be because that performance was good. It will be because everyone knows he's far better than this and absolutely want to see what he does for the finale.
#11: Jimmy Rose
You can tell AGT expects Rose to win and is pretty much banking on it. He closed the show twice in a row, and while they are smart enough to recognize it would be way too obvious to have him close three nights in a row, they still place him as close to the end as possible.
To his credit, Rose has finally stopped sounding like a Garth Brooks wannabe. Second only to his open call original song, this was his best performance so far.
The judges, however, didn't look at all happy. Mandel wasn't even applauding.
The criticisms of Rose, however, were all shallow. Klum simply said it wasn't her favorite performance, Mandel complained about the lack of a "wow moment," and Stern once again derided Rose as being too safe and not special enough.
This might cut a little into Jimmy Rose's total, but for Rose's fans, this is all going to have sounded like nothing more than sour grapes from a couple of idiots who have clearly invested themselves emotionally in other acts that struggled tonight.
#12: Cami Bradley
Cami Bradley once again demonstrated her keen talent for reinventing classic songs, this time turning "Living on a Prayer" into an emotional piano ballad.
Right after Bradley's performance, Stern named the six acts that, were he sitting on the couch watching America's Got Talent at home, he would decide to put through:
- Cami Bradley
- Catapult Entertainment
- KriStef Brothers
- Taylor Williamson
- Kenichi Ebina
As long as Stern is going to play personal favorites, I might as well do the same. Were it up to me and me alone, these would be the finalists:
- Collins Key
- Catapult Entertainment
- Cami Bradley
- Branden James
- Kenichi Ebina
But it's not up to Stern, or myself. It's up to America. And based on the way they have voted in the past, and how the acts performed tonight, these are the Top 12 in order from most likely to advance to least: