America's Got Talelent-Christian Stoinev-SemiFinals
In an effort to make the end of this season coincide with the start of fall programing give the last twelve hopefuls a real shot at the title, America’s Got Talent will give the top twelve a chance to win your allegiance before finals.  But that’s all a problem for future us—future us will be all over that.  For now we just need to relish in the last round of the semi-finals.  Though last night seemed to be an embarrassment of riches, a few still managed to crash and burn.  Luckily with Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B., and Howie Mandel around it’s easy to tell who’s who.  And with Nick Cannon’s shiny grey blue suit barely distracting us and his inexplicable fedora barely offending, the night is all about the talent.

Jonah Smith
Opening the show with a bang, lead singer and pianist Jonah Smith let his raspy voice and powerful band carry him into the land of triumph.  His rendition of One Republic’s “Love Runs Out” was stellar as usual.  There’s not much that can’t be said about a band that can rock the house like pros.  With a voice like Jonah’s it’s hard to believe it’s taken this long for him to catch a break.  The problem is, no matter how much the judges fawned over hi performance, it’s hard to suck in voters’ minds when you’re the first act of the night.  Let’s hope America has a long memory.

Baila Conmigo
The semi-finals are always tough for acts that choose to rest on their laurels—even if the voters don’t demand more the judges undoubtedly will.  For Baila Conmigo their superior dancing skill might just hold them back.  As usual, they began their routine with a flurry of perfectly synchronized movement.  Starting first with a showcase of adults before breaking to allow the kids to take over the stage, it felt a little like déjà vu.  It raises the question: can certain talents truly raise the stakes?  Last season a pair of child salsa dancers managed to switch things up by dancing in water.  If Baila Conmigo makes it through they may want to give that a try.

Jaycob Curlee
There’s something to be said for a soloist that can steal the hearts of the audience without any bells and whistles.  Jaycob Curlee needed nothing more than a stool, his acoustic guitar, and enough candles to make the fire marshal sweat for his performance of Elton John’s “Your Song.”  Jaycob manages to connect with the audience and the viewers in the most intimate way with nothing but good eye contact and an earnest voice.  Jaycob never hit an extremely impressive note, or had a memorable run in the lyrics.  Still, the way Jaycob pulls everyone in, entrancing them with his vocals is something inexplicable that I can respect more than floppy hair and a smile.  For the most part the judges agreed, with Howard calling last night’s performance Jaycob’s best to date.  The voters will have the final say though.

Mat Franco
Approaching the table to show the world a never before seen trick, Mat Franco had Heidi, Howard, and Howie pick cards for Mel B. to hold.  Mat took a picture of Mel holding the six, four, and two before dunking her iPhone into water.  When she started to lose it, he blow dried it in a bag until it started to smoke.  When the phone disappeared, Mat made Heidi call it.  Mel and Mat walked the stage until they found the ringing phone in the audience.  Trouble is Mat Franco had to cut into the seat cushion to get it.  To prove it was Mel’s phone, he pulled up the aforementioned picture and just to rub it in Mat showed the seat was number 642, the same numbers Mel was photographed with at the start of his performance.  All of the judges were panting to champion Mat’s delivery, creativity, and all around awesome.  If Mat doesn’t get a slot in the Top 12 then this show is pointless, period.

Some people know what it truly means to kick things up a notch for the semi-finals;  AcroArmy is definitely one of those groups.  Their biggest coup might have been using the most suspenseful music possible, though they wouldn’t have needed it to keep me on the edge of my seat.  Quite literally I had to hold my breath to make it through their act as three and four group members climb one another to build tall complicated human shapes.  They moved at a rather breakneck pace, flipping between trick after trick, continually increasing the drama by tossing and jumping one another whilst always having three or four people standing on each other’s shoulders.  Their biggest moment was when two members tossed around a female like a jump rope.  It’s not the most original of moves, but the ease with which they threw her into the air afterwards, along with the height, was quite unique.  The judges tripped over one another to compliment AcroArmy; Howard begged the viewers to vote and Heidi felt like she was already watching them in Las Vegas.  With a couple more performances like that, they very well could be.

Kelli Glover
Song choice has become a real double edged sword for the hopeful Kelli Glover.  She has an amazingly powerful voice, but she never picks a song that really showcases that.  For the semi-finals Kelli sang Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” to little success.   Like her quarter-finals performance, Kelli began with shaky vocals, hitting sour notes in the chorus before building to a slight vocal blow out before her performance ended.  Kelli has a rich and capable voice, but nerves seem to be keeping her from using it properly, which the judges commented on ad museum.  It was Mel’s critique that rang the truest: it’s downright frustrating to see a singer as capable as Kelli waste her shot week in and week out.  Now it’s up to the voters to take pity on the vocals that should be speaking for themselves.

b>Wendy Liebman
In a stroke of genius Howard picked unfairly axed comedian Wendy Liebman to return to the semi-finals and the competition.  It wasn’t a mistake—her line of puns on meeting her husband online at the grocery store was fantastic.  She has a real skill at talking under her breath to add to her jokes; it’s the kind you really have to see.  Closing with a line on how much her husband makes her laugh in bed was more of her patented misdirection humor.  The judges all appreciated her performance and I demand to see her in the Top 12.  There’s yet to be a female comedian to grace the AGT stage that deserves a shot more that Wendy let’s hope the voters don’t make the same mistake twice.

Blue Journey
This duo has completely usurped the animated dancing excitement from the now defunct Aerial Animation.  Where the Aerial group ended up being a flash in the pan, Blue Journey really finds a beautiful and magical way to move in and out of the animations and interact with the images.  These two were able to tell a story with their bodies that was exemplified by the animations instead of eclipsed by them.  Last time these two were able to use the floor in an original way—this time the way they moved from their own animated images to their actual selves dancing was confusing in a very delightful way.  Howard said they took a risk by performing to such a slow and quite song, but the viewers were hooked on the image on the screen and needed absolutely nothing else to distract the tableau of grace this twosome created with their forms.  Yet again the judges begged voters not to let them down—here’s hoping you don’t let me down either.

Emil & Dariel
As usual these two brothers rocked the stage like a heavy metal band.  Emil & Dariel belong on a stage with flashing lights, fireballs, and smoke as they proved yet gain.  Rocking out with a full band these two looked so at easy on the Radio City Music Hall stage you have to force yourself to remember the two are just fourteen and sixteen years old.  They command the stage like the seasoned cellist they are, but with certainly a great deal more charisma and attitude than any cellist I’ve ever seen.  Though the judges loved their act as usual, Howie and Howard felt they might benefit from the addition of a soloist.  As long as these two make it into the Top 12 they can add any old thing they want to the act—nothing will distract from their immeasurable skill.

Borrowing Nick’s show lace and Howie’s ring Smoothini brought his close up street magic to the main stage.  In an effort to ease his way into the Top 12 it seemed like Smoothini kept true to what he does day to day, which is what’s necessary to win the votes.  Smoothini was able to magic the ring onto the shoelace, and then onto a pen while Heidi and Mel were holding both ends of the writing utensil. He crammed a few simple slights of hand in the middle until he claimed to be able to make the ring disappear from his closed fist and onto the shoelace.  When Mel opened her closed hand to reveal the shoelace was still ring-less, Smoothini said he never said it would be on that shoelace.  Lifting his foot he revealed the ring handing from his own shoelace, knotted like it had been there for the entire performance.  All of the judges made a connection with Smoothini’s set except Howard who called it small potatoes.  Voters will make it clear how big those russets really are.

Christian Stoinev
Warming up, Christian Stoinev did a handstand while moving in a circle to the tune of Top Gun’s hit “Highway to the Danger Zone.”  Pulling Scooby out of his fighter jet, Scooby climbed around Christian as he did open legged somersaults.  Next, Christian Used his hands to walk handstand style across four sets of handstand bars while Scooby stood perfectly still atop Christian’s feet.  Afterwards the act sort of dissolved as it was unclear whether Scooby was supposed to get into a box or back in his jet.  After Scooby returned to the jet Christian revealed rather unceremoniously another dog—Scooby 2—hidden in the box.  Mel found his performance lacking the mystique it once had but Howard hit the nail on the head.  What once was a stellar strength act has transformed into a kitschy animal act.  Less of the later and more of the former if you make it to the Top 12 Christian.

Quintavious Johnson
It would be wrong for this twelve year old phenom to perform in any slot but the last—no one can top Quintavious Johnson.  Keeping with his formula for success Quintavious sang a classic song, and after he sung Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” it seemed like it was made for him.  Quintavious’s voice shatters all expectations and carves its own path; if your ears are working there’s just no way out of his spell.  This adolescents assent is all but assured.

Who Should Advance: Quintavious Johnson, AcroArmy, Mat Franco, Emil & Dariel, Blue Journey, Wendy Liebman
Wild Cards: Christian Stoinev, Jonah Smith, Smoothini