In the first week of the semifinals competition for Season 8 of “America’s Got Talent,” some groups managed to up the ante while others failed to impress the judges. Only six will move on to the next round.
At the top of the show, host Nick Cannon reported that one of the acts, the KriStef Brothers, had an injury during rehearsals, with one of them falling on his head. They would be unable to perform, so one of the judge’s Wild Card picks would perform instead. For his choice, Howie Mandel chose Red Panda, the balancing act, who’d had to pull out of the previous rounds because of a family emergency.
- Tone the Chiefrocca, who were Mel B.’s Wild Card pick to return, came out and sang their one-hit wonder, “B Double-O-T-Y,” this time backed by a choir in the intro, with organ music. Then, of course, the dancers ripped off the choir robes and wear wearing golden short-shorts. The song had more production value this time around, but they were buzzed by Howard Stern, not a surprise. Nick joked that “I was waiting for Miley Cyrus to come out… and start twerking.” Mel B. called it lots of fun. Howard said he was “bored out of my skull.” He said it’s not a great song and would never be a one-hit wonder. The music, Howard said, was a big “N-O-T-H-I-N-G.” Howie wasn’t sure it was the best version of the song but loved their personalities. Heidi Klum said maybe they should have done it in a different style, and immediately Tone started singing it like a country song.
- Red Panda was excited to return and got teary in the video package preceding her performance. Wearing a red-white-and-blue outfit, she upped the ante by performing her act on top of a tall platform resembling a skyline. With her most impressive catch, which was five bowls stacked on top of each other, unfortunately, one fell off the back of her head, and the judges winced. Howie acknowledged there was a lot of pressure but she’d stepped it up, and he felt it was right to bring her back. Howard asked people, when they vote, to consider that what she does is difficult and entertaining. Heidi Klum said she still believes in her. Mel B. was the only one who just didn’t get it. Then again, she brought back Tone the Chiefrocca, so take her comments with a grain of salt.
- Impressionist Angela Hoover started her set with some jokes about celebrity moms, leading into a bit where Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington interviews Kourtney Kardashian, Sharon Osbourne and Sofia Vergara. Very cute. Howard thought she’d stepped it up but still could work on the material, and Heidi agreed, though she loved the impressions. Mel B. said, “I hope America votes for you” and said the act had her belly laughing. Howie said, “You are probably the best impressionist working today.” He gave her some gentle advice that, if you’re going for votes, “It’s a little dangerous doing a Republican joke.” Angela jumped in, “That was Arianna; that wasn’t me.” Hopefully, America will get the distinction.
- Duo Resonance, who were Heidi’s Wild Card pick to return, found a way to make their balancing act new again, starting with her in a box and him on top as they both did their own independent movements. Then, he opened the lid and brought her up, and they did some moves together, including an amazing ying-yang position, where her legs were held out and his held behind, as they both balanced on his arms. Heidi loved that they brought a different element to the act. She called them amazing. Howie thought they were a good Wild Card choice and loved their creativity. Howard, though, thought the box got in the way of the act and slowed them down.
- Collins Key, a young magician, has said he wants to reinvent magic. His act focused on the fact that he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so he asked the judges to “play matchmaker.” They chose some characteristics from a bag, and then audience members opened envelopes. Those with red cards who were interested in going on a date were asked to stand. Only one had a hash tag on the back that said “#possibledate.” The judges were asked to pick one ping-pong ball and place it under their hands. Out of all the choices, the judges chose four characteristics that happened to match up with what she was wearing. Mel B. found it confusing; “I don’t know if I believe it.” Howie loved it and thought it was a good trick. Howard didn’t love it, saying his delivery fell flat and there was a lot of waiting around. Heidi told him he’s a very good performer and liked that he’d invited the whole audience into the act.
- Innovative Force, the dance/acrobatics group consisting of preteen girls, did some high tosses and coordinated spins, culminating with one girl walking up increasingly higher sets of hands to stand atop a stack of two girls and do a fall off the back. Heidi gave them a standing ovation. Howie said it reminded him of a cheerleading competition and thought the audience only responded to them because the previous acts this evening were weak. Howard called them an inspiration but said he hoped it came across on television. Heidi called them the best act of the night so far. Mel B., however, thought they were a bit messy.
- Dave Fenley, singer, performed onstage with just his guitar and some spotlights. He incorporated some beat boxing into his performance of the Spice Girls song, “Giving You Everything.” Mel B., of course, loved it, but Howard said that it wasn’t an emotional song and it was not what he should have done in the semifinals. Heidi liked the simplicity of the performance and said she likes his voice. Howie called him the best act of the night.
- Taylor Williamson, comedian, made it his goal to make Heidi laugh. He did a set of jokes that he said were designed to be child appropriate, based on topics like going to the zoo and elementary school, although there were some double entendres (that little kids wouldn’t get). The last joke, however, used the word “bitches” to refer to dogs, so he probably lost Heidi at that moment. Heidi joked that she liked it best when he flirts with her but acknowledged he did make her laugh. Howie called him brilliantly funny and declared him the “new best act of the night” and urged America to “vote, vote, vote!” Howard praised him for handling himself beautifully and making America laugh. “You’re terrific.”
- Jonathan Allen, classical singer, sounded a little hesitant on a very quiet piece. Heidi loved it, but Howard felt that he’d blown his chance to stand out above Forte, the trio of male classical singers who would perform later in the evening.
- Catapult, the dance troupe who works with shadows, told an undersea tale, which followed star-crossed lovers, thrown overboard, through a seascape that involved a variety of sea creatures, including a giant whale. Heidi said the group impresses her week after week. Mel B. liked it but didn’t love it, since she found the first half confusing. Howie agreed that the storytelling was a little convoluted this time, and Howard piled on, saying that “Tonight was a bit of a stumble” but he hoped America would vote for them.
- Singer Cami Bradley performed on a candlelit stage, sitting on a stool while an acoustic guitarist accompanied her. She sang the classic Elvis song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” changing it up by adding some jazzy syncopation but wisely keeping it soft, tender and emotional. Mel B. found it a little boring, saying it was too slow and that she would have gone for something more “full on,” since it’s something Cami hasn’t done yet. Heidi said it takes courage to redo that song. Howard loved the arrangement, however, declaring himself “a happy camper.” Howie agreed with Howard, saying, “I’m in love with you; I think America’s in love with you.”
- Forte sang the Righteous Brothers classic, “Unchained Melody,” knocking it out of the park. Their classical arrangement of the song both showed off their voices and appealed to voters with a familiar song. Mel B. declared, “I really bloody like you.” Howie gushed over it and then predicted, “I think you just sent Jonathan Allen home.” Howard called them true professionals and predicted they’d move on to the next round.