Church singer and "America's Got Talent" finalist Cami Bradley took the stage Tuesday evening for the the Season 8 finale and continued to do what she does best -- sing in a vulnerable yet perfectly controlled style that let's the listener know that here they're witnessing aural beauty. Given two performances, one a repeat offering chosen from her previous times on stage and the other something the audience had not heard before. Her song choices were calculated to bring in votes and get her the win. And they just might have done that. But it was her second choice on the Sept. 17 finale performance night, broadcast live from the legendary Radio City stage in New York on NBC Television, that proved not only a bit of a risk but brilliant. She chose to sing something from the iconic Beatles catalog: "I Want To Hold Your Hand"...
Although Cami Bradley, 25, could have chosen Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer" for her first number, she did not. There are often complaints from judges and commenters, fans and critics, when an act repeats a performance -- especially if that performance is fresh in memory. So, instead of Bon Jovi's blue collar anthem that she sang just a week before the finale, Bradley performed Cher's "Believe," the song that catapulted her into obvious contention for the "America's Got Talent" title and grand prize, a $1 million headline deal at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Seated behind the piano, she again went over the rearranged melody in a song that was barely recognizable and so different from the original that it might as well be a different song altogether.
The performance was mesmerizing, just as it had been the first time she lilted "Believe." And like a movie scene one never tires of replaying, the judges again showered her with kudos over the performance.
But she took a risk for her second song. Singing the Beatles is an all-or-nothing gamble, as many a "The Voice" and "American Idol" finalist can attest. Asked about it afterward by host Nick Cannon, Bradley said she chose the The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand" because, "You can't go wrong with the Beatles. Everybody loves the Beatles." The crowd agreed, cheering her comment. "And I love this song. And I wanted to pick a song that would connect with everyone and thankfully it did."
Connect it did...
And just like Cher's "Believe," the first few lines of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" were virtually unrecognizable. But the familiarity of the lyrics would triumph with any Beatles fan worth their salt by either the second or third line. It was interesting, different, and oddly familiar at the same time. And, as Cami Bradley had done each time she sang, she captivated the audience.
Which included the judges.
As Gossip Cop recounted, judge Howard Stern reviewed, ”You have developed such a confidence from this show. This show is perfect for you. You are perfect for this show.”
Judge Heidi Klum continued the praise: “Cami, your voice never disappoints us. Your song choice never disappoints us. Your arrangements never disappoint us. I have to say, I’m a huge fan of yours.”
Mel B didn't mince words, simply brought out her Japanese fan and stated, “I have one word: Flawless.”
Howie Mandel just gushed, much as he's done all year when critiquing Bradley, “There is no other singer like you… You sound like no other. You are a star.”
But Mandel being Mandel, he couldn't let the moment stay serious. "You made me ... honest... I just want to hold your hand," he joked, his hand outstretched, "and I don't do that."
Fans of the comedian and "AGT" judge know that Mandel is a manic germophobe.
The Spokane, Wash., native beamed, basking in the judges' praise.
She will find out Wednesday night whether or not her worthwhile risk was enough to get her enough votes to push her past her very talented competitors. Cami Bradley was up against two other singing acts -- the very likable country singer Jimmy Rose and the impressive operatic trio Forte. She also contended with the comic stylings of the very humorous Taylor Williamson, the sleight-of-hand trickery of 17-year-old magician Collins Key, and the interactive media dance genius Kenichi Ebina (who oddsmakers have given the edge in the competition).
Cami Bradley's "I Want To Hold Your Hand" could win her a $1 million contract but even if it does not, it is difficult to see her in the very near future not inundated with major label recording deal offers.
The "America's Got Talent" 2013 finale airs Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 9 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television.