It’s time to use that overly quoted cliché, it’s time to get down to business.  That’s right, folks; the semi-finals have begun on America’s Got Talent.  All the judges were on hand; Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel made snap judgments, ruined hopes and dreams, and occasionally gave praise.  Nick Cannon continued to keep to his new GQ look; all black and an iridescent burgundy jacket with black detailing is nothing to frown about.  Luckily, there was much too much going on with the performers this week to waste any more of your time.  To the performances!

Andrew De Leon
After being catapulted back into the competition thanks to the Wildcard show, Andrew was given a week to prepare for his semi-finals performance.  Considering he’s such a novice and this performance puts him one away from a million dollars, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time.  Luckily for Andrew, his clear soprano vocals can carry him through a great many challenges.  The judges lamented his lack of formal training, and it might be the reason his good performance couldn’t be considered excellent.  While his voice was strong, nothing about his performance was compelling or awe-inspiring.  Sharon managed to toss in a needless critique about Andrew’s appearance; suggesting that he lose his look so others will take him seriously is a clear example of someone trying and failing to make a profound statement.  Stick to nice Sharon, your ridiculously over the top gushing is strangely more believable.

Todd Oliver
Also rescued from obscurity thanks to the Wildcard show, Todd Oliver returned a week after his triumphant presidential routine with little time to prepare.  So could he craft a relevant routine in a mere seven days?  He certainly attempted to with his evening talk show.  The live audience was in stitches, but this recapper never even cracked a smile.  Maybe last week’s show was too much of a high note to follow.  The judges loved it as well, but take it from me, a few jokes about dogs and celebrities does not a relevant routine make.

Donovan & Rebecca
The strongest married couple you’ve ever seen returned, but they simply go by Donovan & Rebecca.  In an attempt to showcase Rebecca’s strength, Rebecca lifted her husband while wearing high-heeled stiletto boots.  She also balanced her entire body on Donovan’s shoulder, and performed a couple neck hang maneuver.  If that sounds complicated, it involves Donovan hanging from an aerial bar while Rebecca hangs from his neck, supported only by a double neck strap.  It’s not the typical couple bonding activity, but it caused the judges to fawn all over the strapping duo.  Women of the world take note, Rebecca was always incredibly strong and awesome, and the second she did all the same things in high-heels, people lost it.  Infer from that what you will.

The junior powerhouse known only as Edon returned to the stage that embraced him in the quarterfinals.  Although the backing vocals seemed to compete with rather than complement him at times, he managed to churn out a pretty decent performance of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”  While Howie and Sharon praised Edon’s song selection, Howard found it bland and boring.  Actually it was more pointed; a young man singing a song that makes young women scream at the mere mention?  Elementary, my dear Howard.  Still, it was a poor selection because it trapped Edon in a bubblegum world, when his vocals would be better suited singing something with meat that evokes passion and instant admiration.  If the belief is that the only age-appropriate way to do that is by singing the latest boy band tune, that’s just sad.  And although Edon’s performance was good, the screaming and chanting was a clear reminder that where America’s Got Talent is concerned, it’s hard to beat a catchy tune.

The Scott Brothers
Perfect timing and unexpected creativity got The Scott Brothers on the semi-finals episode.  Resting on those laurels wasn’t a bad idea.  Unfortunately, without one standout trick to amaze the viewers, the routine seemed redundant, as Howie pointed out.  This is not to say that The Scott Brothers aren’t amazingly talented; others should be so lucky to have their caliber of expertise.  But as Sharon said, it’s easy to imagine them being forgotten in the face of the bigger, louder, and more shocking.

Eric Dittleman
Watching mind reader Eric Dittleman is just a manner of waiting for that big reveal.  If you were worried about him disappointing in the semi-finals, rest your weary head.  Dittleman doesn’t know how to fail, especially since he already knows what’s going to happen.  After unveiling the self portrait Howard drew during Eric’s original audition, Eric told him to color it in, prompting Howard to use different colors for specific parts of the portrait,.  After distracting the audience briefly with a mind trick that worked on most, he unveiled an identical portrait he drew of Howard before, hand colored in exactly the same way.  If you are that lone person that just needs to be different and say Dittleman isn’t every kind of crazy amazing, take a good long look in the mirror, friend.  You are everything wrong with the world.  Dittleman reigns supreme.

Sometimes when people come back for the semi-finals, they take the judges’ criticisms to heart, alter their performance style, and effectively ruin their chances in advancing in the competition.  Turf is not one of those people.  To be clear, the first few seconds before his performance began were panicked; adding more dance to his routine could ruin the very essence of the raw contortionism that gave Turf a stellar fan base.  What Turf failed to mention in his interview was that he would be dancing while he was contorting.  Yes, there were clear and separate dance moves just as there were also moments of just contortionism.  However, those moments he contorted while dancing, moving his feet while he twisted the top half of his body, those were the moments that effectively clinched his position in my heart forever.  Let’s hope enough voters felt the same way.

Bria Kelley
Brought onstage thanks to that abysmal YouTube Show (you know, the one you’re trying to forget) Bria Kelley was given a shot at the semi-finals.  While the previous young contemporary singer made a grave error in song choice, Bria’s pick of Pink’s “Perfect” was, well, perfect.  The problem with her performance was it was only good in a technical sense.  She hit every note, and wasn’t overpowered by the stage.  But that song is founded in emotion and passion.  It urges, it begs, it screams, it shouts; when performed properly, the listener is usually wrapped up in breathless exhilaration and sheer amazement.   Needless to say, Bria made neither of these things happen.  What’s worse is she didn’t even try.  Howie pointed out that she skated through the YouTube show thanks to the number of talentless hacks that made it on that episode.  For some reason, Howard found the performance perfect, leaving Sharon to be the voice of reason that pointed out Bria’s lack of emotion.  There should be no scenario in which Bria does anything but head home tomorrow.

Joe Castillo
Putting ever lazy beach dweller to shame, the beret-bearing Joe Castillo returned to morph sand into meaningful portraits that paint a loving story.  As The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” played in the background Joe turned an eagle into a handshake, and a handshake into a young boy’s profile basking in the sunlight.    For the finale, the sun scheme changed into the silhouette of an older man, ending the routine with the picture of a young boy and an older man of different nationalities seemingly joined together.  The message was beautiful, but Howard felt viewers would write Joe off for performing more of the same.  Sharon and Howie both disagreed, with Howie making a loose comparison of Joe to The Beatles.  (Go figure.)  In the end, they’re all right; the message and art is beautiful and full of talent, but more than likely the audience will pass over Joe for other, more gripping performers.

William Close
The man with the Earth Harp has returned, but his performance left me in need of an explanation.  There’s no question that William Close is in possession of an immense talent; every instrument on that stage was crafted by his hands.  There was the huge drum circles suspended in air, the violin jacket his fiancé wore, the triple guitar, and of course, the auditorium filling Earth Harp.  His act featured not one, but two singers, as well as drummers that became ballet dancers mid-performance.  Even with all that, I found myself disconnected and unfeeling; I just don’t care.  It might be possible that it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of the moment through the television, but on this side of the boob tube the whole thing reeked of one of those dreadful Coldplay-infused Apple commercials.  It’s hard to imagine I was the only person woefully disinterested, but whether or not luck is on his side is a conversation for another day.

Tom Cotter
Tom Cotter wins, ladies and gentlemen.  Tom Cotter wins for being a comedian and making it to the semi-finals.  Tom Cotter wins for coming out with a list of topics for a judge [Howie] to choose from, of which he would base his entire performance.  Let’s not talk about his genius Dittleman joke when Howie picked his topic, or that he completely killed with his set about college.  Think for a moment about the fact that the man was prepared to rift on any of those topics.  Just to keep it honest, Howard chose another topic [politically incorrect] and although the joke was long, Tom sped through to prove he’s the real deal.  He spent his time not responding to the judges, but directing jokes to his children who were in the live audience.  Just when it seemed like he couldn’t cram anymore hilarity into his segment, he pulled up his shirt, displaying his bare belly with his voting number painted on and performed a belly dance.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, or I can tell you that Tom Cotter is more incredible then ever imagined, but you have to believe it.  And you should.

Academy of Villains
Just when the night couldn’t get more complicated, the only good thing to come out of that horrible YouTube night (yes, it was that bad) took the stage.  Academy of Villains started their performance behind the judges, and climbed up on the stage for another one of their very spirited and heavily-costumed routines.  Their stunts were outstanding, their synchronicity was top notch, and their energy was matched by the high skill level of their routine.  Just as things seemed to be wrapping up, the performance took a drastic turn to ensure the group lived up to its status as a theatrical hip-hop dance crew.  The leader broke out into a perfectly choreographed lip synching routine to OneRepublic’s “Secrets” as the rest of the crew punctuated every moment behind him.  Sharon praised the ability to properly train and choreograph a group of thirty dancers, while Howie called them his favorite dance group ever.  Unfortunately Howard didn’t feel or see the merit in the group’s performance but trust me, they were superb in every sense of the word.  Whether they were perfect enough hinges on a very delicate vote.

Who Should Advance:  Eric Dittleman, Tom Cotter, and Turf.  If by some miracle some last minute decree is made demanding four winners instead of three, Academy of Villains should claim that spot.  (Yes that is a completely ridiculous hope, but it doesn’t stop me from crossing my fingers, clicking my heels, and wishing on a star.  You should to you know; can’t be too careful.  Click click.)