It’s the America’s Got Talent finale! (Disclaimer: it’s not actually the finale. Just the final performances.)
For some, this was the end of the road! (Yeah, but all this national exposure must be good for their careers.) But one lucky act will win one million dollars! (Okay, yeah, a million is good.) And the prestigious title of America’s best new act! (Good for an interview on the Today show and a Trivial Pursuit question ten years from now.) It’s the biggest title in America! (Except for that other one, the one on the other channel with the other trio of loopy judges. Also President, that’s a bigger title.) We, the voters, can change someone’s life forever! (Well, sure, how else would they find their way onto a Trivial Pursuit card?)
But before we could actually get to the business of voting, thereby changing the contestants’ lives forever, as Jerry repeatedly promised we would, we had to determine whose dreams would die this week. It was time to say goodbye to Robert Hatcher, Jason Pritchett, the Glamazons, and Sideswipe. Everyone was very gracious, of course, and none more so than smiley Robert Hatcher, who insisted that he was waiting for a record deal. You heard the man, somebody sign him! Honestly, how did the Cincinnati sewers produce a man so happy, shiny and positive? Whatever the reason, keep smiling, Robert, as I’m sure you will.
That leaves as our final four: Cas Haley, Butterscotch, Terry Fator, and Julienne Irwin. Exactly the finalists I had predicted last week. I’d like to think that it was my endorsement of those acts that inspired my army of loyal readers to vote for them, but the fact is that they were obviously the best acts, and had been the best for weeks, if not for the entire run of the show. As final fours go, it was a no-brainer. And as clout goes, I have none.
Each finalist got two chances to impress us before we decided their fates — one, a piece chosen by the judges, and the other, a piece chosen by the contestant. Let’s see how they did:
Judges’ Choice: "Can’t Help Falling in Love With You." Of course Cas played it closer to the UB40 version than the Elvis version, because that’s his style. In fact, his style is so close to what UB40 did to the song that I was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to personalize it. But he came through, and delivered a heartfelt performance infused with his own touches. Piers was so enamored with it that he said that Cas "could be the King." Piers, don’t tempt the wrath of angry Elvis fans. Just don’t.
Cas’ Choice: "Sir Duke." Cas called it one of his "all-time favorite songs," and it was easy to tell. He delivered a fun, enthusiastic performance that was better than his first song, and probably the best out of all the songs he’s played so far. Incidentally, America, Cas said that if he were to win, he’d be forever in our debt. So that leaky tap you’ve got? It’s got Cas’ name all over it.
Judges’ Choice: "What’s Going On." She started off with a soft, jazzy intro at the piano, which I loved, before she got up and picked up the tempo. But then — no beatboxing! Of course she didn’t need it — she can hold her own as a singer without her vocal tricks — but it still caused a bit of consternation among the judges. Particularly Piers, who claimed he’d almost worn some of his "beatbox gear." I wish he had, because I really want to know what he considers "beatbox gear."
Butterscotch’s Choice: "Dance to the Music." Where’d all the beatboxing go from her first performance? Into this one. It was pure beatbox — instruments, record scratching, even going backwards at one point. Splitting up the singing from the beatboxing was a great choice on her part, because it allowed her to go to both extremes, when before now she’d been mixing the two styles. It proved to us, if we didn’t know before, how versatile she can be. Love her.
Judges’ Choice: "Friends in Low Places." Their reasoning: Terry’s got to know country music before he can win. So Terry brought out "Walter T. Airedale," a sort of cowboy Howdy Doody, to sing as Garth Brooks. He really dug into the song, relishing all the warbling and the swooping notes involved. A country fan might have found it borderline cheesy, but I’m firmly in Piers’ camp: country music all sounds the same to me, and when you can do something to grab my attention in a country song, it’s all to the good.
Terry’s Choice: "Crying." The song marked the triumphant return of Winston the Turtle, who put on a black wig and glasses to channel Roy Orbison. The result was well sung, funny, and, overall, fantastic. Terry actually got a standing ovation from Piers. A standing ovation! From Piers! Not the overly excitable David Hasselhoff, not America’s British mom Sharon Osbourne, but Piers "Itchy Buzzer Finger" Morgan! No matter what happens, Terry needs to put that on his resume.
Judges’ Choice: "What Hurts the Most." The judges wanted to challenge her with a contemporary song, and she really did quite as well with it as she’s done with the classic country songs in week’s past. However, I still think she has problems with the lower notes. I’d be interested to hear her in a few years, when her voice has really had a chance to mature — I think she’ll be a knockout.
Julienne’s Choice: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Boy, did she save the best for last. This was by far her best performance, a soulful, compelling version of the song that we’ve all heard a thousand times before, in a thousand different ways. I loved the song, but not the crescent moon she rode across the stage. There are only a couple of singers crazy and divalicious enough to get away with that: Celine Dion and Cher.
Who will win: You mean, aside from we, the viewers, when we are treated to a David Hasselhoff performance during next week’s results show? Either Cas Haley or Butterscotch. Julienne is sweet, but not quite mature enough, and Terry doesn’t need the title as much as he needs a steady gig either touring or playing at a Vegas casino. Cas and Butterscotch both have unique sounds and humble attitudes, and I would be thrilled if either of them won. But if forced to choose a favorite, I would go with Butterscotch.
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