America's Got Talent - Season 9
Consistency isn’t always the concept of choice for America’s Got Talent.  Apparently this season Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel will each be able to choose a wild card act.  Odd considering last season was utterly lacking in second chances, even more so that this is the first anyone has heard of this.  There will be time to malign those screwy producers tomorrow—today is for talent.  With the threat of six finals slots on the line and the never before seen Insta-Save during the results show, there’s only room for rising hopes and crashing dreams.  Even Nick Cannon seemed to sense this, donning a simple tux he normally reserves for the finals, though absolutely nothing will pry him out of his Swarovski encrusted loafers.  Perhaps he needs something shiny to distract him from the rumors plaguing his life?  Tomorrow we can muse, today you need to get on Google and vote before 12 noon Eastern Standard Time.  Go!

Flight Crew Jump Rope
As Heidi’s Wild Card choice Flight Crew Jump Rope was happy just to return to the main stage.  Though their routine always produces a smile, but it simply doesn’t outweigh the other, more spectacular acts of the night.  The group’s performance was pretty good; save one fall they were flawless.  However, the most—and only—memorable part of their act was when a jumper flipped through the air over his fellow group mate, who was doing a split whilst in the midst of a handstand.  Please take note that the words jump and rope had nothing to do with the group’s singular jaw-dropping moment.  As per usual the women folk were full of cheer and good tidings; they have a real soft spot for this group.  Fortunately Howie was honest enough to lower the boom, and Howard had no problem jumping on that bandwagon.  When it comes down to it their best has yet to distract me—or those pesky voting viewers—from the other competitors.

Mara Justine
Singing Kelly Clarkson’s redemptive hit “Breakaway,” young Mara Justine returned to the Radio City Music Hall stage.  Unfortunately throughout her performance Mara seemed to be straining her voice, starting slowly and off key and continuing to struggle until she could make her way to the chorus.  There Mara slowed her powerful lungs to overcome the falters.  While I felt quite on the fence about her rendition, the judges lauded nothing but praise on the twelve year old songstress.  America will decide whether I’m right or the judges are taking the mickey.

Bad Boys of Ballet
Mel’s wild card group was Bad Boys of Ballet and it was more of the same from the wild card choices.  This is a group filled with amazing dancers, and wonderful choreography, but it’s hard to see them as a million dollar act.  Trying to win over the crowd, the performed to Lenny Kravitz’s rocked out “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”  Their legs go up so high, their moves are incredibly difficult, and yet they still lack that certain indescribable quality that leaves viewers not only riveted, but dedicated.  Yet again Heidi and Mel B. called them out for the finals, leaving Howard and Howie to deliver the painful this-might-not-be-enough truth.  Perhaps their leaders spitfire response to Howard and Howie’s dislike will be enough to push them into the next round.

Paul Ieti
In a surprising choice, Paul Ieti gave an intimate solo performance of the Backstreet Boys epic hit “I Want It That Way.”  The song might have been a gift and a curse though.  Paul was able to produce some amazing vocal runs at the end, but the verses were sung with little emotion.  When quietly singing a ballad, the only thing that carries that moment is the pure sound a true singer’s voice—Paul’s did not.  Though I hoped the judges would be honest, cruelty isn’t their usual forte.  All the judges admitted Paul’s rendition was severely lacking in quality, but Howie took it a step further, reminding him of the million dollars before saying, “Mara did better than you.”  Dear Howie, have some class and act like you’ve been here before—you can say pretty much anything to a flailing performer, except that.

Mike Super
Desmond’s best friend Mike Super came back thanks to Howie’s wild card pick.  This time Mike said he’d leave Desmond out of it, but not before he trapped himself in a Plexiglas box with Latin writing to keep Desmond away.  So yes, Mike’s creepy as usual, but now with better magic.  Mike covered his body with a red cloth as the judges each shuffled 5 different cards and shoved them into a bag.  Howard took his time choosing one, landing on a triangle.  After the selection the sheet went flat and Mike appeared suddenly on a platform in the middle of the audience.  Kicking things up a notch, he revealed Howards randomly selected symbol painted on his palms before making the rows he flew over reveal they were magically given the triangle palm treatment as well.  The judges were practically drooling with excitement, and so was yours truly.  Everyone loves a comeback kid and Mike Super obliterated any and all expectations—the finals may very well be in his immediate future.

Andrey Moraru
Hand balancing has become a winning skill on the AGT stage and Andrey Moraru returned to drive that home.  The main draw to Andrey’s act is that he also a contortionist; nearly every time he lifts his body Andrey couple’s it with another worldly contortion.  Every stretch of his body in completely beguiling—the grace with which he performs is palpable.  Though his final contortion/balance combo had a slight footing falter, it hardly mattered.  Especially when you remember every one of those hand balance’s was done with only one hand.  Hopefully America sees the merit with a strength and talent that is matched only by its grace and beauty.

Miguel Dakota
Abandoning his guitar budding heartthrob Miguel Dakota returned to rock his way into your hearts.  Singing The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” Miguel really tried to break away from the cushion his good looks allow.  Charisma can really take a singer far, but in this competition that really isn’t enough to win.  America needs to feel some sort of connection, and Miguel‘s renditions lack the passion of a real heartfelt performance.  Though his floppy hair and Howie, Heidi, and Mel’s hair might be enough to push him into the finals Miguel will have no shot at the wind without a little tenderness.

Sons of Serendip
Can the accidental group of awesome do no wrong?  Sons of Serendip are only together because of a shared alma mater and a love of music.  Their talents meld together naturally and lend themselves to whatever song they choose to rearrange.  The pure and clear voice of their soloist is enough to transport any listener into a dreamlike state, especially with a song like “Don’t You Worry Child”.  They don’t have to rely on him.  The harpist, cellist, and pianist are equally amazing, always striking not only the perfect chord but achieving that nameless entrancing quality that so many other hopefuls need.  The judges loved them but Howard worried voters might be more swayed by a flash in the pan like Miguel instead of this truly talented group.  I’m hoping against hope that America’s knows the difference between a cute face and a real performance.  (I’ve been burned before though so you know, fingers crossed.)

David & Leeman
Stinging from Heidi skipping out on their standing ovation last time, David & Leeman designed a trick around the supermodel.  With five alphabetically labelled bags, David & Leeman gave Howard, Mel, and Heidi to choose a bag for the magicians smash their hands on.  Luckily the first the brown paper bags were without the thick sharp metal stake they were trying to avoid.  To choose between the final two bags, David & Leeman brought Nick out to make the choice before allowing Heidi to make the final decision.  It’s lucky they did—Heidi’s last second choice saved them from joining their hands in bloody pain.  The best thing about David & Leeman Is their banter; the two talk more than any other magician, but their humor and seasoned rhythm make viewers crave their next word as much as their final reveal.  There’s a reason these two received a straight shot to the quarter finals—no doubt the same will be true for the finals.

Dan Naturman
Comedians have a hard go of it on the main stage, which is why it’s so amazing to see Dan Naturman tickle the crowd with ease.  For some reason his set seemed abbreviated, but that didn’t stop the laughs.  Dan started with a run about his family questioning his sexuality, and moving towards America’s lack of a second language.  For some reason Heidi was highly offended by his jokes, probably because his language joke had a line about no one going German.  However within the context it was highly appropriate and nowhere near offensive.  Heidi has a history with shirking the funnymen and she cemented that reputation by lobbing as many insults Dan’s way as possible.  The rest of the judges championed him, but America will decide whether they’ll laugh with Dan in the finals or at him during the results show.

Aerial Animation
Sometimes even the most amazing acts can run out of steam; that might be the case for Aerial Animation.  Picking up where her last animated scenescape left off, the performer took off on her horse before flying on a unicorn using her aerial silk.  After dropping to the ground, her prop support man lifted her slowly for her accent back into the sky with a balloon animation.  It took a long time for him to lift her high, and with the cameraman not following the performers, there was a span of time where viewers were just staring at animation.  After, she climbed back onto his shoulders and then the silks to avoid the arrows from constellations.  Right after, she climbed down the silks to end the night standing in front of an animated circus tent.  Unfortunately like Howie, Mel, and Heidi, I felt her routine relied too heavily on her support man.  That, and limited number of aerial moved made this the least enthralling performance to date.  Howard might be pleased with the animation and concept this act introduces.  To be a winner though, you need it all.

Emily West
For some stunning soloist, topping their last performance is their biggest challenge.  Emily West doesn’t have that problem.  I can still see and hear her quarterfinals rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier” and I’ll surely be reliving her performance of Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” for just as long.  There are no words for a voice like Emily’s.  She sings like a professional—she sings like a star.  But even that is not enough.  Every note and breath etches her into your brain.  Emily sings not only with passion and poise, but with the heartfelt plea of a talented woman over looked.  The fire inside her sets everyone’s ears aflame and one should just be grateful to feel the burn.

Who Should Go To The Finals: Emily West, Sons of Serendip, David & Leeman, Andrey Moraru, Mike Super, Dan Naturman

Wild Cards: Mara Justine, Miguel Dakota, Aerial Animation