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The Voice: Season 11, 4th Night of Auditions, 9/27/16

September 28th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Teams didn’t fill up on The Voice Tuesday night, even though fourteen people auditioned and twelve got on a team. Next week brings the final two nights of auditions, but this line-up of judges is producing some unexpected choices and–very–fresh bickering:

1.  Aaron Gibson fits the white-guy-with-guitar stereotype, and he sings a stripped-down “Losin’ My Religion” in a deep gravelly voice. Alicia and Miley must like that voice, because they turn about halfway through the audition. Then Blake joins the bidding at the last minute. As for Adam, he says, “I’m jealous of your voice,” and I understand, because it’s the opposite of Maroon 5’s vocalist. Alicia hardly gets to say anything while Blake and Miley argue. She’s dominating the debate, saying things like, “For a chick, I’ve got a gravelly voice, too,” and Blake’s asking her, “When do you breathe?” Gipson picks Miley. Blake suggests, “He picked you so you’d shut up!”

2.  Simone Gundy is a black woman from Arlington, TX, but she’s done musicals in Houston. She provides a splendid example of classic old-school R&B with her rendition of “I Who Have Nothing.” She gets Adam and Miley’s attention right away. When the song’s over, they both run up and hug her. The audience is pulling for Adam, and even Blake–in his bickering bro-mantic way–is pulling for Adam (probably to keep Gundy away from Miley). Plus Gundy’s ten-year-old son wanted her to pick Adam. So she does pick Adam, giving him an R&B singer.

3.  Unsuccessful audition–Samantha Landrum, a Mississippi ingenue, if that term may be applied to a singer.

4.  Blake wants a real hard country singer but so does Alicia.  Josh Gallagher is a country singer from Nashville. He looks like a pirate (big guy with a dark beard) but he’s got a soft Southern voice. (This season’s shaping up to be a season of soft, breathy voices.) Blake actually turns around before the final line, but then Alicia turns on the last line. I’m not overly impressed but Alicia and Blake argue hard for him. Alicia says, “Country, the blues and soul are all brothers.” Blake says, “I want to help this next generation of country singers.” Gallagher picks Blake. (Cheer up, Alicia, maybe you can steal him because I predict he’ll be an early cut.)

5.  Gabriel Violett was on Broadway in the musical Spring’s Awakening but now he’s reduced to modeling adult “one-sies” while trying to transition to popular singing. Despite his Broadway experience, he has a soft voice. (Alicia calls it a “beautiful warm low voice.”) Alicia pushes her button and turns her chair right away. Just when it looks like this is going to be a one-chair turn, Blake pulls one of his buzzer-beaters. Blake needn’t have bothered, however, because Gabe picks Alicia.

6.  Piano man Michael Sanchez looks the part–like a member of the Rat Pack back in ’62 or so–but he’s got a low soulful bluesy voice. (He’s white–or Hispanic, if you prefer–but he sounds black, singing Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”) This is a one-chair turn, because the judges sit idle until Alicia pulls a buzzer beater. They’re all astonished by who they see. Miley says, “I thought there was a big beard waiting.”

7.  Darby Ann Walker is a young blonde with a big black Western-style hat, and she’s an Alicia fan. (There are a plethora of Alicia fans this season.) She’s got a soft delicate chirpy voice, and says she wants to be an “indy” artist. (“Indy” used to mean “independent,” as from a record label, but now it’s a genre.) Miley and Alicia turn around for her, but so does Blake. Miley comments how she and Walker both have a shaky vibrato (a little like Dolly Parton) and somehow that turns into them singing “Jolene” together. Does this mean she’s headed for Team Miley? But she’s an Alicia fan–so she sings “No One” with Alicia, too. (The judges have been playing around with Blake’s “I’ll be your Honey Bee” song all evening, but Darby doesn’t sing “I’ll be Your Honey Bee” with Blake. At least, nothing that made the edit.) Walker finally does pick Miley because, “Our voices have a lot in common.”

8.  Austin Allsup is a son of rock history. His father, Tommy Allsup, played back-up for Buddy Holly and was not on the fatal plane flight of Feb. 3, 1959, only because he lost a coin flip for the last seat to Richie Valens. Austin sings “Wild Horses” for his audition but in a way that sounds more like the Eagles than the Stones. Blake pushes his button about three-quarters of the way, and it’s a one-chair turn. Not only that, Blake and the Allsups have a little history themselves. They met at a show several years ago, and Blake played around with his “Austin, I Love You” hit by bro-mancing and kissing young Austin. Adam listens to this story and says, “Sometimes you don’t turn around and don’t know why, and this is why!”

9. and 10. Montage:  two male vocalists, Christian Fermin and Preston James, go to Team Blake.

11.  Khaliya Kimberlie has an unconventional backstory. She’s part Mescalero Apache and lives with her parents on the reservation in New Mexico. She’s also gay, but not boyish, and she’s only 16. She sings country, leading Miley and Blake to push their buttons at almost the same time. Miley likes her low tones, and Blake and Miley argue, but Khaliya picks Miley.

12.  Unsuccessful audition–the guy tried for a Southern-fried “I Would Walk 500 Miles” and the judges weren’t impressed.

13.  Halle Tomlinson is one more Alicia fan auditioning this season. She was once one of the children on the Barney show, now she works at the School of Rock. (Remember Dalton Rappatoni, the Season 15 American Idol third-place finisher? He was a School of Rock employee, too. I wonder if they know each other.) She brings a soft subtle quality to “New York State of Mind” that attracts Alicia and Blake right away. Adam, who sits this one out, comments, “A different approach to the song, but also some things to work on.” Alicia likes Halle’s “unique style” and Halle does pick her.

14. I don’t remember returning contestant Nolan Neal from Season 10 but the judges do. Miley mentioned earlier she expected contestant Sanchez to have a big dark beard, now here’s a guy who does have one. He sings a stripped-down “Tiny Dancer” and he’s got a big pretty voice that at times approaches Elton John’s tones. He attracts Blake and Adam on the “Dancin’ in the sand” line, Miley on “Softly, slowly,” and Alicia on “Count the headlights.” All four judges love him. Adam proclaims, “You’re going to be the first guy who went home last season and won this season.” Miley compares his singing to her father (Billy Ray Cyrus). Alicia comments on his classic sound, and Blake (like Adam) proclaims, “You’re gonna win this thing!” Nolan’s from Nashville so he’s picking Blake or Miley, right? He picks Adam! Obviously he’s going to be on the others’ “steal” lists should Adam fall out of love with him. Adam babbles, “He’s so improved, his high register is ridiculous. I can’t wait to unleash that beast!”

The judges are apparently looking for teams of twelve this season. So far the talent line-up looks like this:

Team Adam:  R&B vocalist Simone Gundy, former boy soprano Billy Gilman, Sinatra fan Riley Elmore, Billy Joel fan Andrew DeMuro, WGWG Brendan Fletcher, Nashville singer Nolan Neal, gospel-flavored Bindy Liebowitz, and Selena fan Elia Esparza.

Team Blake:  various flavors of country in Josh Gallagher, Sundance Head, Gabe Broussard, and Dan Harper, second-gen TX rocker Austin Allsup, reggae-flavored Ethan Tucker, alto Dana Harper, and unknown qualities Christian Fermin and Preston James.

Team Alicia:  alto We McDonald, Alicia Keys fans Lauren Diaz and Halle Tomlinson, gospel-flavored Jason Warrior, country rocker Josh Halverson, Broadway actor Gabriel Violett, Maroon 5 fan Dave Mosian, Puerto Rican singer Christian Cuevas, and soulful piano man Michael Sanchez.

Team Miley:  R&B vocalists Ali Caudwell and Sarayah, Alicia Keys fan Darby Walker, female rocker Sophia Urista, teen vocalists Khaliya Kimberlie and Courtnie Rameriz, You Tube face Carly Metzer, Cajun singer Lane Mack, and WGWG Aaron Gibson.

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The Voice: Season 11, 3rd Night of Auditions, 9/26/16

September 27th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Because of the Hillary and Donald show, aka the presidential candidates’ debate, The Voice flipped its schedule this week. The hour-long show was Monday, and the two-hour show is Tuesday. We saw six singers and five made teams:

1.  Bindy Liebowitz is a girl whose name says Jewish, but some people may wonder if her ethnic background includes an African or Hispanic heritage. She sings in school and gospel choirs and she has a choir singer’s voice. She attracts Adam early and Blake towards the end. She picks Adam because she says he combines different genres.

2.  Elia Esparza, from El Paso, talks about her Mexican heritage, her experience in school theater and choir, and how she’s now in New York and working as a children’s party entertainer. She sings a Selena song (“Como La Flor”) in Spanish, in a soft whispery voice. Adam bites quickly. Blake and Miley turn around very late. The guys may have some trouble with her Spanish name, but Miley gets it right. That may be a point in Miley’s favor but Elia picks Adam, the first judge who wanted her.

3. Lane Mack has a Cajun-Zydeco background, but he sings the blues for his audition. Miley’s the only judge he interests. She says it’s because she heard a resemblance to Jeff Buckley. It’s a one-chair turn so he’s on Team Miley.

4.  Carly Metzer is a business major but she posts her singing on You Tube. She starts out as just another little whisper of a voice, but she shows some range and texture as the song progresses. Miley and Blake both push their buttons and turn around for her. Blake offers some criticism, “A couple of the falsetto notes got away from you.” Miley notices some flaws, too, with, “I could work with you to get to those tricks” of vocal bending. One of the family members says Carly loves Blake. However, she picks Miley instead.

5.  Tonight’s promotion teases a shocking choice of judges. That most likely means a country singer doesn’t pick Blake. Josh Halverson has a hat and guitar and wavy black hair. He’s from a ranch in Texas. He sings the Bob Dylan song, “Forever Young.” He’s not the Nashville sound type of country but he’s twangy and rootsy. At first the judges act like they’re not interested–but at the last line, Miley, Alicia, and Blake bid. We see our favorite man-crush couple show up for the first time this season–because even Adam’s saying, “Blake will be an amazing coach for you.” Except Halverson picks Alicia. He says, “She’s been a major influence.” Funny, I couldn’t hear it. Put this guy on the “steal” list should Alicia cut him.

Running tally: since Blake got nobody this evening, we’ll wait ’til after Tuesday’s show, when some teams are likely to be completely full.


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The Voice: Season 11, Auditions, Night 2, 9/20/16

September 21st, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

How long are will the auditions last this Voice season? How large is each team?  Whatever the answer, the teams are filling up, and the battle rounds will be here shortly. After that–if the format holds–will come the knockouts, judge cuts (maybe with wild cards), and finally the voting rounds. Wednesday night introduced some contestants that have a good chance of being around when the voting begins. From here to the battle rounds, we’ll see Blake, Adam, Miley, and Alicia all continue to bicker and wisecrack as they push their buttons for the talent they want:

1.  Sareyah, a young black mother with a big church-gospel voice, impresses Alicia and Miley. Adam and Blake sit this one out, but Adam tells the contestant, “I felt like I was in church” (and he’s Jewish). Sarayah picks Miley, even though she seemed like a match for Alicia.

2.  Ethan Tucker (black guy, plays guitar but not at this audition) sings “Roxanne” with more reggae than the Police’s arrangement. Adam pulls a buzzer-beater but so does Blake. (One of these days Blake’ll mis-time his buzzer-beater and miss out). Adam says, “You made a reggae-infused rock song more reggae.” You’d think Adam would make the most logical choice for a coach, but Blake starts talking about how he’s got connections to reggae. (People are guessing his primary connection has the initials G. S.) Maybe the reggae connection makes Tucker pick Blake, or maybe it’s because they both play guitar.

3.  We (pronounced “Way”) is young, black, and has an alto deeper than Michael Jackson’s tenor. Miley wants her, but so do the other three judges. It’s a four-chair turn. She picks Alicia. (Another notable alto this season, Dana Harper, is on Team Blake.)

4.  Andrew DeMuro is a Billy Joel fan, he sings a Billy Joel song (“Vienna”) and he sounds like Billy Joel, too. Adam likes Billy Joel, so he pushes his button. Then Blake pulls his usual buzzer-beater. (Blake, don’t let others know you’re interested so soon.) Adam and Blake bicker back and forth, but Billy Joel fan matches with Billy Joel fan, and Andrew matches up with Adam.

5.  Last season former child star Alisan “Curly Sue” Porter was the winner. Could this season see Billy Gilman, another former child star, win, too? Back before 9/11 became a day that would live in infamy, Gilman was the ranking boy soprano in country–actually, in the country. Eventually, his voice changed, his star faded, and he began to publicly identify as gay. Now he’s making a comeback. He sings an Adele song and attracts a four-chair turn. He says he wants to make a new career in pop instead of country–so maybe that explains why he picks Adam instead of the Nashville connections that come with Blake or Miley (despite her pointing out she had to go through the transition from child star, too).

6.  Sophia Urista is a singer with a New York burlesque show. At 31, she’s one of the more mature contestants. She rocks to the Beatles’ “Come Together.” The judges all have to think a little, but Miley and Alicia turn almost at the end. Alicia says, “You sound like Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, combined!” (well maybe not that legendary). Miley calls Urista a “rock ‘n’ roll Dolly Parton” complete with vibrato. This makes for a bit of a set-up, because Sophia is Dolly’s goddaughter. She picks Miley.

7. Brendan Fletcher is what American Idol fans used to label a WGWG (white guy with guitar). He’s been in about twelve bands, been a singer-songwriter, a solo artist, but needs that break. His smokey voice attracts Adam, Alicia and Miley. Adam says he wants somebody who can connect with an audience. Even though Alicia tries hard, he picks Adam. Alicia may have this singer on her steal list.

8.  Dan Shafer, 56, is in a cover band but has been taking many years away from music to support his family. He sings a Train song–but his style more closely resembles the Eagles. It looks like the judges aren’t interested–until Blake turns on the last line. It’s a one-chair turn, so he’s on Team Blake.

9.  So far this season we’ve seen Adam duet with a Sinatra fan, recruit a fellow Billy Joel fan, and lose a Maroon 5 fan to Alicia. Now we see Lauren Diaz, an Alicia Keys fan. She sings an Alicia Keys song and sounds gravelly like Alicia, too. Alicia likes what she hears–but so do Miley and Blake. It’s a three-chair turn but a foregone conclusion. Alicia hugs her, duets with her, and she picks Alicia. Miley and Blake may be looking for a chance to steal–but it’s not likely Alicia’s going to let this one go.

The teams so far:

Adam:  Riley Elmore, Billy Gilman, Brendan Fletcher, Andrew DeMuro

Blake:  Sundance Head, Dana Harper, Dan Shafer, Ethan Tucker, Gabe Broussard

Alicia:  Jason Warrior, Lauren Diaz, We McDonald, Christian Cuevos, Dave Moisan

Miley:  Sophia Urista, Sareyah, Courtnie Ramirez, Ali Caldwell



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The Voice: Season 11 Premiere, 9/19/16

September 20th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

As in every season on The Voice, the four judges (officially coaches but they judge, too) rep the four major recording-industry genres:  for Season 11, it’s Miley Cyrus for pop and Alicia Keys for R&B, joining Adam Levine the rocker and Blake Sheldon the country guy. However, given that Adam’s a soulful rocker and Miley’s got considerable country twang, this season’s panel is more like half-soulful and half-twang.

Auditions are underway as of Monday night and, as always, the judges only push their buttons and turn their chairs around once they hear a voice they want on their team. If more than one judge wants a contestant, that’s when the fun begins. Eleven people auditioned on the premiere, and these nine made teams:

1.  Jason Warrior, 21, a young black man from a rough Chicago neighborhood, sings “Livin’ for the City.” The judges at first appear unimpressed, until Adam likes some high notes and turns. (In a new feature, the judge’s name lights up on the stage floor, so it’s easy to keep track of who’s interested.) On the next run of high notes, Alicia turns. Adam basically talks himself out of the running, spending much time saying the singer’s going to want Alicia, and Alicia gets her first team member.

2. Dave Mosien, a clean-cut glasses-wearing Maroon 5 fan (he’s met Adam Levine backstage at a concert), sings “Sex and Candy” in a jazz-style falsetto. Of course Adam likes him. Unfortunately for Adam, so do Miley, Alicia, and Blake. I don’t find the singer all that impressive, but Adam says, “A falsetto is hard but [you’re] perfectly on key.” The girls sell hard (Miley gets flirty, too) and Mosien confounds expectations by choosing Alicia over the guy he’s a fan of. This may come to a steal, should Alicia’s coaching falter.

3. Courtnie Rameriz, a 17-year-old girl from Texas, has received vocal training from her church camp–but her delivery’s more like an old-fashioned red hot mama than a church type. This choice is between the girls because Miley turns about half-way through the song, Alicia right after her, and the boys stay out. Miley says she likes Ramirez’ swagger and rocker vibe. The girls sell hard again but Rameriz picks Miley, who probably is the best match for her.

4.  Sundance Head (that’s his name), a 37-year-old Texas cowboy, is headed for Team Blake, right? He does muddle the issue a little with his soulful song selection, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” from the sixties. (Alicia asks afterward, “Where’d you learn to sing like that?” and he answers, “From you!”) Adam and Blake turn right away. The girls stay out, so–guy fight!  Blake compares Head to Travis Tritt and mentions Southern rock. He chooses Blake without hesitation–but watch for a possible steal.

5.  Adam says he’s looking for a singer that blows the doors off. Next audition, Ali Cauldwell fits the description. Adam wants her but so do Blake, Miley, and Alicia. They all sell hard, but we start to see a pattern developing–it’s not just Adam vs. Blake anymore, it’s Adam vs. the other three.   Ali picks Miley, so the girls are already cleaning up! Will the guys be stuck with their leftovers?

6.  After seeing Sal Valentinetti be such a major part of America’s Got Talent over the summer, we now see another throwback Sinatra-like crooner: Riley Elmore. His vocal resemblance to Sinatra, in fact, may be a hindrance–he may be more Sinatra impersonator than pop star.  Adam turns, but so does Blake. Adam goes so far as to do some coaching before Elmore makes his choice. They duet the Sinatra standard, “The Way You Look Tonight.” Some singers might dump Adam and run to Blake anyway, but Riley stays with Adam.

7.  Dana Harper, a black alto from Texas (and the daughter of basketball player Derek Harper), sings Nick Jonas’ “Jealous.” Her voice and song selection make it difficult for the judges to tell whether it’s a “he” or a “she”singing. Blake and Alicia turn their chairs about halfway through the audition but then Adam pulls a buzzer-beater. It’s a three-chair turn. Somewhat surprisingly, she picks Blake. 

8.  Gabe Broussard is only fifteen but looks, sounds, and acts very mature, very blues-influenced. He’s been to rock camp and has a rock band. He says he’s influenced by Bayou-soul man Marc Broussard (no relation). Gabe gets Blake’s attention right away, and Blake hollers, “No, Miley, no!” when she’s about to push her button. She does anyway. Adam doesn’t signal any interest, but he comments after the audition, “Your face is so sweet and your voice sounds like you’re up to no good.” Blake says, “You sound like such a stud!” Gabe picks Blake.

9.  Christian Cuervos, son of the late Puerto Rican singer Jose Cuervos, is a big guy with a big tenor. Blake and Adam push their buttons almost immediately. Alicia joins in about halfway. Miley explains afterward about not turning her chair with, “I’m not the coach for you.” Cuervos picks Alicia and Adam sulks.

I haven’t heard anybody yet that I think can survive the battles, knockouts, and rounds of audience voting, but maybe tonight’ll be different. Will Adam continue to lose to Blake and the girls? Will Miley show someone how to swing on a wrecking ball? Watch and find out!



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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, Finale, 9/14/`6

September 15th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Results of the eleventh season finale of America’s Got Talent:

  • Winner:  twelve-year-old You Tube star Grace Vanderwaal, even though her singing needs work. Simon Cowell predicted at her audition that she’ll be the next Taylor Swift. A substantial number of voters must’ve agreed.
  • Second place:  the team of Thommy Ten and Amelie Tass, collectively The Clairvoyants.
  • Third place:  magician and football player Jon Dorenbos, who’ll have to go back to playing football. Nick Cannon, AGT host, said the vote tally for the top three finalists was within one percent.
  • Fouth place:  gay singer Brian Justin Crum. I suspect he didn’t get many votes in the Bible Belt states.
  • Fifth place:  Italian-American old-school cocktail-jazz singer Sal Valentinetti, who just turned 21. American Idol didn’t give America a chance to vote for him but America’s Got Talent did. On a show where singers must compete with all manner of other talents, he made top five.
  • The remaining top ten contestants were cut without their exact finish being revealed:  punk performance artist Tape Face, juggler Viktor Kee, teenage contortionist Sophie Dossi, teenage opera singer Laura Bretan, and Linkin Bridge, who showed there’s still an audience for old-school street-corner vocal groups.

So it’s all over until next summer, when this same panel of judges is supposed to return.

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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, 10 Finalists, 9/13/16

September 14th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

America’s Got Talent announces the winner of Season 11 on Wednesday, but first let’s take a look at what the ten finalists did to win America’s votes on Tuesday. Five musical acts could win, five variety acts could win, and they’ve all got the judges and audience loving ’em. So who’s most likely to win the one million dollars and the Vegas headline show? In some past seasons singers have dominated, other times have favored a more eclectic selection. Given the level of talent, and the votes of past weeks, this season could go a number of ways.

1.  Sal Valentinetti, he who channels great classic Italian-American lounge crooners, could headline in Vegas tomorrow. He turns in a personalized one-of-a-kind performance of “Mac the Knife.” The judges rave and everyone gives him a standing ovation. He’s definitely one of the top contenders.

2. Fourteen-year-old contortionist Sophie Dossi is one of three young girls to make it this far, and she needed a “Save” last week to do it. Likely she’ll have to wait ’til she’s more ready for Vegas.

3.  Linkin Bridge aren’t the most polished singers, but the four black men from urban Kentucky have a sentimental backstory and give what the judges suggest is their best performance.

4.  Laura Bretan, the fourteen-year-old opera singer, is more suited to the classical scene than the Vegas scene. Plus she’s got competition from other singers and other girls who attract similar demographics.

5.  Are The Clairvoyants able to predict a future for themselves in Vegas? The young couple keep coming up with fresh twists on their psychic skills.

6.  Brian Justin Crum puts a fresh interpretation on “Man in the Mirror,” showing he’s one of the acts most ready for a headline show in Vegas. I keep comparing him to Adam Lambert, but having singing talent comparable to Lambert is a good thing. Plus he’s got a sentimental backstory.

7.  As Nick Cannon notes, we can always expect the unexpected with punky comic mime Tape Face. He’s able to come up with a fresh off-the-wall routine every time, so maybe he can sustain a Vegas show. Being the only comedy act left, he could get a surprising number of votes. The judges and audience loved him tonight, although Mel B, not so much. Let’s just say the act used her.

8.  Ukrainian juggler Victor Kee has stayed in the competition much longer than expected. His juggling has elements of magic, and he’s able to keep coming up with fresh routines. He’s somebody for whom making top ten is an accomplishment.

9. Jon Dorenbos has two jobs. One is playing football for the Philadelphia Eagles, and the other is being able to perform card tricks no one would’ve thought possible. His act, though, probably plays better on TV than in a Vegas showroom.

10.  You Tube sensation Grace Vanderwaal is a promising twelve-year-old musician–she sings, composes songs, and plays ukulele. She’s  very promising–but she’s twelve. I don’t think she’s ready to headline a Vegas showroom. America may think otherwise.

I’m going to say a singer’s winning this year. I just don’t see any of the variety acts elbowing past all five musical ones. Of the musical acts, I still think Valentinetti’s got the broadest appeal, although Crum and Vanderwaal have attracted a major share of votes, too.


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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, 2nd Half of Semi-finals, 9/6/16

September 7th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Last week on America’s Got Talent, five acts advanced to next week’s finals. On Tuesday this week, we saw the remaining eleven acts compete for the remaining five slots. Who’ll be above the cut line when the results are announced on Wednesday?

  • Jayna Brown is one of tonight’s five young girls (counting the female half of a magic act) so that voting demographic may get spread thin. Brown didn’t do anything to get voted off (“You set the bar,” judge Howie Mandel told her) but there are better vocalists in the field.
  • Kaden Bart Rocket is a magician in fifth grade but his little sister Brooklyn has evolved from his assistant to a co-headliner these past few rounds. Tonight wasn’t their best trick, so they may be in jeopardy.
  • Twelve-year-old Kadie Lynn didn’t do anything to get voted off and, as Mel B pointed out, she’s this season’s only country singer. That means she’ll have the Heartland demographic in her favor.
  • Victor Kee doesn’t just juggle, he’s a magic act. I’m not sure it’s the kind of act that’s going to attract a large voting base, though.
  • The judges erred last week when they kept Linkin Bridge around over a more Vegas-worthy act (old-school R&B singer Ronee Martin). The guys in this street-corner singing group have an inspirational back story, but they’re not polished enough for Vegas. They’re more a “sing-off” act, should that talent show ever be revived.
  • I suspect a set-up. The Passing Zone jugglers have been using the judges (very much using the judges) all season. They get the judges’ Wild Card pass. That means they were voted off, but the judges called them back anyway. It’s all so they can use Simon Cowell. Everybody gets a laugh (even Simon’s a good sport) but the fact remains this slot could’ve gone to Ronee Martin. Or Julia Scottie. Or Deadly Games. Or–
  • Tonight’s third young girl vocalist, Calista Bevier, sings beautifully and gracefully. She and Kadie Lynn are my top choices to advance. 
  • Steven Brundage does magical things with Rubic’s cubes, but he seems more suited to an intimate lounge act than a showroom headliner. We’re looking for the next name in lights to rival Elvis, Frankie, etc., and we’re getting a guy that twists cubes around.
  • Teen contortionist Sophie Dossi departs tonight from the extreme bow-and-arrow tricks she did before, and stages an extreme spectacle that’s half-ballet and half-trapeze act (flavored with extreme gymnastics). She’s marvelous at what she does but I don’t think she’s ready to headline a Vegas showroom.
  • Simon calls The Clairvoyants “a ghost movie” and Howie says, “You amazed us all season.” I think they’ll amaze a Vegas showroom crowd, too.
  • I can’t stop comparing singer Brian Justin Crum to Adam Lambert, and he’s not as versatile as Lambert. However, except for the three young girls, he’s the only vocalist in tonight’s field, and he’s worthy of a talent-show final. When the results are announced tomorrow, I’m guessing he’ll be one of the acts competing for a save.

Who’s likely to be in the finals next week:  Calista Bevier and Kadie Lynn sing like finalists on The Voice or American Idol, so there’s no doubt they’ve got enough votes to make the finals of America’s Got Talent, Season 11. Powerful vocalists Jayna Brown and Brian Justin Crum could make the finals, too, because it’s hard to imagine three variety acts crowding them both out. I judge the Clairvoyants as the most likely variety act to make top five.

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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, Semi-finals, 8/30/16

August 31st, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

For this week and next, semi-finals are happening on America’s Got Talent. Tuesday America voted for five acts (out of eleven) to send to the semi-finals. The previous round consisted of three groups of twelve acts, with five eliminations in each group, meaning a total of twenty-one acts remain. That sounds like the semi-final brackets aren’t balanced–so unless some twist is coming, next week we’ll see ten acts. For now let’s just focus on who’s likely to make the final round in two weeks:

  1. Sal Valentinetti turns on his Sinatra voice for “That’s Life.” The judges love him, and so does the audience. He has the potential to win, but he barely squeaked through last round. Even if he gets squeezed out, he at least got to sing for America’s vote, which is better than what American Idol allowed him.
  2.  Magician Blake Vogt gave a spotty performance and got a mixed reception from the judges tonight. He’s supposed to be someone who’s known in the world of magic already, but he hasn’t shown himself to be Vegas headliner material. (He’s more Vegas lounge act material.) Maybe he’s got enough name recognition to get votes, but he’s not the only magician with name recognition on tonight’s bill.
  3. Family musical trio Edgar has all the ingredients to win, being the kind of act that appeals to the Heartland.
  4. Tonight’s young girls (see 9. and 11. below) risk cancelling each other out. Comic Lori Mae Hernandez barely squeaked by last round, and she didn’t exactly kill it tonight.
  5. Youth choir Musicality are inspirational but whether that’s enough, given the strength of tonight’s competition, is in doubt.
  6.  Deadly Games shows it’s possible to be a dark romantic Gothic knife-throwing act, especially one that’s spiced up with whips and arrows. They’d fit in at a Goth-rock fest, but they were on the bubble last round.
  7. Tape Face, comic mime with punk ‘tude, doesn’t have the kind of Heartland appeal that wins TV talent shows.
  8. Of the two magicians tonight, Jon Dorenbos put on the more Vegas-level act. The fact that he plays for the Philadelphia Eagles means he’s got name recognition, too.
  9. The judges keep gushing about how America will remember the first time they saw Grace Vanderwaal. Funny, I can’t remember her from week to week.  I admit the 12-year-old with the ukulele and the quirky voice hasn’t had any problem attracting votes so far.
  10. In the last round Simon Cowell called Malevo an Argentine version of Riverdance. They’re the one dance troupe left in the field but they were on the bubble last round. America’s voters may prefer home-team acts.
  11. Fourteen-year-old Laura Bretan could be opera’s next big thing, but AGT is looking for Vegas’ next big thing.  Mel B said the contestant “literally” blew the roof off the place. She didn’t–no roofs were harmed in the making of tonight’s episode.

Most likely to advance:  Edgar isn’t going anywhere. Musicality, Laura Bretan, and Grace Vanderwaal also have had no problem advancing this far, and they didn’t do anything to lose votes tonight. If any of the remaining musical acts elbow their way in, both magicians could be crowded out, and so could Tape Face. As much as I’d like to see Sal Valentinetti and Malevo in the finals, they were on the bubble in the previous round. So were Lori Mae Hernandez and Deadly Games. All four are in the position of having to move up several slots to make the finals.   

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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, One Dozen Acts Live, 8/23/16

August 24th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Now that the Olympics are over, America’s Got Talent is back. I’ve heard this portion of the show being called the quarter-finals, but that implies four brackets and there’s only three. (Let’s just say the fourth bracket’s empty.) The thirty-six acts that made it past judges’ cuts have been divided into three groups of twelve, with each group being cut to seven by audience votes.  Tonight featured the last group of twelve–so which seven are the most likely to still be around after the results are announced on Wednesday?

1.  Vello Vaher, contortionist from Estonia, Simon buzzed him and I can’t see him bending and twisting for the length of a Vegas headline show.

2. Ronee Martin, 62-year-old R&B vocalist who, as Simon noted previously, the industry has somehow missed out on for all these years. She’s going to stay.

3. Kaden Bart Rockett, child magician, his sister Brooklyn’s his assistant, and these kids put new twists on magic, if America likes magic.

4.  Linkin Bridge, old-school R&B street singers, get a mixed reception from the judges.

5.  Alla and Daniel, mother-son dance team, also get a mixed reception from the judges.

6.  Blake Vogt, magician, who puts some unexpected twists of his own on magic. Will the the night’s two magic acts cancel each other out?

7.  Edgar, family music trio consisting of Ryan Edgar, Jaslyn Edgar, and Nikki Leonti-Edgar. Simon calls them his favorite act of the night.

8.  Julia Scottie, transgender comic, unfortunately delivers a spotty monologue. She gets some laughs but we can’t say she killed it.

9.  Brian Justin Crum, who’s a little like Adam Lambert, a little like Freddie Mercury, but has a tendency to over-sing. The judges and audiences love him, though.

10.  Malevo, Argentine dance troupe that Simon compares to Riverdance. He’s right, they could headline in Vegas, but I’d say right now, while Simon says, “… in two years.”

11.  The Passing Zone, juggling act, and this evening they have Howie, Mel, and Heidi swinging from bungee cords in the middle of the juggling. They’re good for some laughs but are they good enough for next week?

12.  Grace Vanderwaal, the 12-year-old singer with the ukelele, and Simon calls her singing “croaky.” (Last time he called her the next Taylor Swift.) I’d also call it loud, pitchy, and shrill. Plus she shows complete lack of experience. Very nice, Kid, now go back to your middle school talent show.

Who’s in:  bet big on Ronee Martin, Malevo, Edgar, Brian Justin Crum. Some combination of the two magic acts, Grace Vanderwaal, Linkin Bridge, and Julia Scottie are going to be in need of the Twitter save.

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America’s Got Talent, Season 11: Who’ll Get Voted Through? (8/2/16)

August 3rd, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

America’s Got Talent Season 11 is into the voting rounds, and Tuesday night’s episode presented twelve acts of which seven will be voted through to the next round. The next (and last) group of twelve must be scheduled for after the Olympics are over in twenty days.

So which acts look like they’re going to be above the cut line on Wednesday’s results show?

  • FLIP dance troupe, who are back as one of two “Wild Card” choices after being cut. Once they’re cut, they’re cut–shouldn’t that be the rule? The judges’ comments are mixed, making us wonder why the judges bothered with the callback.
  • Moya Angela, Broadway singer who’s trying to break out of the chorus, is going to be around a while.
  • Viktor Kee, a very extreme juggling act, could be below the cut line, because I’m not sure he’s Vegas headliner material.
  • Twelve-year-old country singer Kadie Lynn, and all signs say she’ll be here next week.
  • Ryan and Amberlynn caused some concern when their extreme freak-show magic act appeared to go awry. How many votes they’ll attract is questionable.
  • Sixteen-year-old singer Calysta Bevier isn’t going anywhere for a while.
  • Sophie Dossi, teenage contortionist and archer (with her feet, like The Hunger Games to a greater extreme) can do incredible stunts but I noticed a few flaws (which the judges didn’t mention). I’m not sure she’s ready to be Vegas headliner material.
  • The Clairvoyants–that’s the name of the act and that’s what Thommy and Amelie do. They have a different type of mind-reader act that’s impressive enough to get them through to the next round.
  • I’m so happy to be able to vote for Sal Valentinetti!  In one of the more shameful moments in American Idol history, this throwback Italian crooner was cut in group round despite being one of the more promising discoveries of Season 14. AGT is going to let the public decide whether to keep him or not, and tonight he showed he can headline in Vegas. He may be retro but there’s an audience for retro.
  • ThoWings, a trapeze act but without a trapeze, suffered from distracting staging–they were better when they didn’t have a strobe light. Simon didn’t like them either, pointing out that they just throw and catch. They’ll likely be below the cut line.
  • The evening’s second “Wild Card” act, Steve Brundage, is a magician who builds his act around the twisting of Rubic’s cubes. Once he’s cut, shouldn’t he stay cut? There’s supposed to be tremendous support for him on social media, but will that translate into enough votes to keep him above the cut line?
  •  Sos and Victoria bill themselves as the world’s fastest quick-change artists. Alright, so they’re masters of the ancient skill of quick-change wizardry–but is that enough for a Vegas headline act? The judges’ comments are mixed.

In summary, it looks like all four singers will be seen in the next round–but which three variety acts will join them? I’m guessing it’s the Clairvoyants, the Rubic’s cube guy, and whoever gets the Twitter save.

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