America's Got Talent - Season 9
Making dreams come true is a long and arduous process. Luckily, season nine of America’s Got Talent has officially been the most awe inspiring to date. Unlike in years past, there are countless reasons for this tremendous success. Never ones to miss an opportunity to create a clip package, the AGT producers punctuated each factor with a sappy nostalgic segment. This particular set of judges, Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B., and Howie Mandel, have had the most focus on finding truly talented individuals.  This season they’ve been laser sharp–for the most part at least. Nick Cannon is always a major player in the success of the year’s competition. Even though his ensembles are at times trying, as a host he’s always enthralled to be a part of whatever campy or dangerous act might call for his assistance.  Nick’s had a rough year, which Howard alluded to before switching gears and claiming Nick’s lack of Emmy recognition as the culprit. To this I say, come rain or shine you’re expected to be around next year. If not my suit insult index will grow old. But Nick’s customary celebratory end-of-season white tux is the biggest signifier for this season’s greatest triumph: the contestants.  Usually during the competition there are one or two nights with an abundance of deserving acts—this season that was practically every night.  As the producers took advantage and plied their captive audience with a trip down Talent Memory Lane, I was again perplexed by the sheer volume of competitors that could have made it to the finals.  AGT has dismissed more deserving this contestants this seasons then we’ve seen go by the wayside in the past three seasons combined.  All this leads to those six finalists, and just where these mammoth talents will fall when the night is over.  But first, there’s always time for distractions.

Pitbull opened the show with a performance of his song “Fireball” featuring backup dance moves by The Rockettes.  These ladies always find time to squeeze in an appearance on AGT every season so seeing them felt right.  As for Pitbull, who doesn’t love him?  It was a little hard to care about their performance though, with the finalists’ duets right around the corner.  Sons of Serendip and Train were a slightly surprising pairing.  However, the melodic notes of their reworked rendition of the bands hit “Drops of Jupiter” quickly dispelled any pondering.  Watching the lead singer from Train cross the stage to perform “Angel in Blue Jeans” with the rest of his band afterwards elevated the experience.  Was this an impromptu concert, or just a really great performance?  Not to be outdone, AcroArmy followed with another breathtaking routine accompanied by Travis Barker, the incredible drummer from Blink 182.  This two managed to meld their considerable gifts for another shocking routine.  Of course nothing was quite as startling as seeing Miguel Dakota perform alongside Lenny Kravitz.  First Lenny serenaded the viewers with only his band for backup, and “The Chamber” really took off on that stage.  Immediately after, Lenny crossed to a platform in the middle of the audience to sing the song Lenny famously covered, “American Woman.”  The rocker Kravitz opened and closed the tune, bouncing lines back and forth with Miguel, who held his own.

Mat Franco brought Rosie O‘Donnell and Howard onstage to each count out 10 cards and hide them somewhere on their person.  Mel B. had to verbally select a card Mat dealt from another deck, landing on the number three.  Mat then magically made 3 cards move from Rosie’s hidden chest to Howard’s vault down under.  Like always, at the reveal Rosie only had 7 cards and Howard was a little heavy with 13.  Mat never fails to mystify, even when he’s waiting to hear his fate one last time.  Jennifer Hudson followed Lenny’s formula, first performing “It’s Your World” with her band.  Jennifer’s voice is equal to any task, which is why she was on the short list of celebrity performers that could withstand paring their vocals with young Quintavious Johnson.  To prove that, the two performed “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”  Seeing Quintavious spar with Jessica on one of the most vocally challenging tracks ever created was awe inspiring.  It was no surprise to hear Jennifer gush about Quintavious’ powerful voice—it takes time to get used to seeing a pint sized boy shatter notes with precision.  Closing the round of duets was of course Emily West, who was given the honor of beginning her performance of “True Colors” with the one and only Cyndi Lauper.  As the two tossed bars across to one another, matching wondrous note it became clear that Emily was more than a force—she’s the show.

The single most important moment of the night was saved for the bottom half hour of the two hour season finale.  All of the finalists were brought out for a round of revelations.  Finishing in sixth place was Miguel Dakota.  Miguel, I hope you’re able to grow, make that connection with the music, and use your rabid fandom to catapult your career.  The crowd booed loudly at the news that Quintavious Johnson would be leaving the competition in fifth place.  The night was far too close to call but surely he deserved to finish a lot higher than that.  A true professional, Quintavious smiled and took it like a champ—hopefully some record label will take him on.  In a move I’d  yet to see on AGT, Nick revealed that Quintavious and his family would be gifted a vacation to Harry Potter’s Warding World at Universal Studios in Florida.  The anticipation of who would be dismissed next quickly returned, magnified by the producers’ sadistic choice to insert guest performer Ed Sheeran in the midst of the proceedings.  It helps that his performance of his new single “Don’t” was absolutely flawless, but you know, still.

So next, Sons of Serendip left the competition in fourth place amid fantastic applause and disappointed boos.  For them, the way forward is clear; this newly formed band must stay together, if for no other reason than I love them.  Oh, and the fact that they’ll probably make beautiful music and earn millions of dollars of their own together.  Afterwards AcroArmy was given the third place slot—for them a show in Las Vegas has to be right around the corner because that’s where that kind of beautifully engaging physicality belongs.  That left the only magician to make it this far, Mat Franco, and the only voice to unify the crowd from the start, Emily West in the top two.  Though Emily’s voice is undeniable, so is Mat’s slight of hand.  Both talents can withstand a Las Vegas stage, so waiting for the news was entirely nerve wracking.  Watching those final packages about two people who have been dreaming of wowing the world with their chosen prowess didn’t help.  As Mat Franco was named the season I felt a tinge of pain for the force that is Emily West.  That would have happened had their roles been reversed though, and after this run I doubt she’ll go home totally disappointed.  Somewhere a new contract with Emily’s name on it has already been drafted—look for her soon.  Mat looked shocked, but after the work he put into to every single trick, he shouldn’t be.  No matter how perfect the voice, the illusions were far more stunning.  After a nearly perfect Season 9, a truly talented magician has taken the throne.  And after Mat does his victory lap, maybe we could talk about a woman winning next season?  But that’s a conversation for next year.