AGT

America’s Got Talent 2016 – Live Blog and Recap – Semi Finals 1 (VIDEO)

Welcome to the live blog and recap for the America’s Got Talent 2016, “Semi Finals 1”! Judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell join host Nick Cannon on the biggest nationwide talent search of the summer!

The Semi Finals begin tonight! We’ve got 11 acts performing for a spot in the finals, including past Golden Buzzer recipients Laura Bretan, Grace VanderWaal, Sal Valentinetti, Malevo and Jon Dorenbos, and favorites such as Edgar, Tape Face and Deadly Games. This is going to be one hell of a stacked show. Check out tonight’s lineup below:

Blake Vogt, Magician
Deadly Games, Knife Thrower Duo
Edgar, Family Band
Grace VanderWaal, Singer
Jon Dorenbos, Magician
Laura Bretan, Opera Singer
Lori Mae Hernandez, Stand-up Comedienne
Malevo, Malambo Group
Musicality, Vocal Group
Sal Valentinetti, Jazz Singer
Tape Face, Mime

Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!

America's Got Talent 2016 - Live Blog and Recap - Semi Finals 1 (VIDEO)

Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC

Let’s get this show on the road!

RECAP

-Let’s skip all the intros and get right to the action…

SAL VALENTINETTI opens the show!

-The opening video is pretty funny, as Sal goes suit shopping with his cousin, who shoots down his choice of a red suit (“You look like a giant tomato!”), and this is he shared lunch with Sal at a cafe where they’re served a coconut/chia dish (“Do I look like I eat healthy?!”). The cousin is hilarious, but I’m here for Sal, and he reiterates that he didn’t come to try out, he came to win.

-Sal sings “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra, and I was initially worried about his placement on the show. I suppose I still am, since going first is kind of a Death Spot. But Sal does such a great job with his song that I think he has a chance of being remembered by the end of the show. He’s a consummate showman, and the PERFECT act for a Las Vegas show. Simon and Heidi give Sal a standing ovation.

-Mel wishes there had been more vibrato, but she’s genuinely impressed by what he delivered tonight. Heidi thought Sal sang the hell out of that. Simon, for his part, loves Sal because he’s not here to just get TV exposure, he’s here to win. He implores America to pick up the phone and vote for Sal to put him in the finals. Howie states, “What [Simon] said!” After the performance, Sal says he feels like a million bucks, and honestly, I could listen to Sal say things all day. His speaking voice is as charming as his singing voice. No wonder “The Voice” is his nickname.

BLAKE VOGT is up next!

-In his video, Blake talks about his relationship with his fiance. Apparently, they’ve been dating for seven years after meeting at a college mixer in which she was his best friend’s date. It’s an absolutely adorable story as Blake talks about proposing to her and sort of blacking out, while Nikki talks about how she never thought she’d marry a magician. Blake talks about his dream of doing this full-time, and Nikki tells her fiance how much he deserves this.

-Blake points Nikki out in the balcony, and then chats about how the two of them have been having an argument about what the coolest superpower would be. This segues into Blake having Simon pick a card from a deck and then memorize it. He tears off the corner of the card (The Ten of Clubs), and then makes the piece disappear, in honor of his favorite superpower, invisibility. He then shouts out Nikki’s favorite superpower, flight, and mimics floating the card piece over into a box. When Heidi opens the box, she finds that the card piece has magically transported there. He has her hold the piece against Simon’s card, and it matches! Blake then decides to up the ante by making himself disappear, although he notes he can only make his body disappear, but not his clothes. He dresses and undresses behind a curtain…to reveal himself in a skin-tight suit that matches the brick background. He hardly gets a reaction, and I was really worried he’d get buzzed here. But then he pulls up the curtain again to demonstrate flight. He drops the curtain, and Blake has disappeared — and reappeared over in the balcony next to Nikki! Cool!

-Heidi doesn’t think bigger is always better, and preferred the smaller, more intimate style of Blake’s card trick act. Simon has no idea what Heidi is even talking about, noting how awesome it was that Blake flew from one part of the theater to another. He feels this performance will change Blake’s life. Howie is leaning closer to Simon’s point of view, feeling it was spectacular. Mel B agrees, saying she had hoped Blake would take off his mask on the balcony so she’d know it was him — and he did, which blew her mind. After the performance, Heidi and Simon get into a card fight like two kids arguing over who gets to be Gambit in a game of X-Men. It was kind of cute, actually.

EDGAR is up next!

-Nikki talks about how tough single motherhood was before meeting Ryan, while Ryan recalls his struggle with drug addiction, and how close he came to dying following an overdose. But their faith in God and their faith in each other got them through their hardships. Ryan gets emotional when saying he feels like he was destined to be Jaslyn’s father, and wonders why it took them all so long to find each other. It’s a beautiful video. Edgar is my sentimental favorite to go all the way.

-They sing “Bless the Broken” by Rascal Flatts, and I’m SO GLAD Ryan is getting solos, because his voice is so wonderful and full of character. I also love the harmonies between Nikki and Jaslyn, doubly so once it becomes a trio of harmonies on the chorus, with Ryan joining in. I kind of wish Jaslyn would get a solo of her own, but I feel like the group is sticking with what works by simply allowing Nikki to do her thing. Her voice is a secret weapon. Woops, as I’m typing this, Jaslyn gets her own lovely little coda at the end of the song. She has a very sweet, pretty voice, and I like it. But the riff-off between Nikki and Ryan is the highlight here.

-Simon thanks Nikki and Ryan for their honesty in the video, and calls them the most improved act of the competition. “I’m sitting here thinking, ‘I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose the first two acts. So I hope America picks up the phone.'” Mel B, after shushing Simon for teasing, praises the group for the warmth with which they sing. Howie loves being part of this journey, and calls it inspirational and wonderful. I love this group, and I hope they manage to make it through. They deserve it. Then again, so do most of these acts. It’s an insane crop of talent this year.

LORI MAE HERNANDEZ is up next!

-Lori Mae talks about how nervous she was while waiting to find out the results of the Dunkin’ Save. She never wants to feel something like that again. She admits she isn’t a crier, but since she cried on national TV, she figures she’s a crier now. We then get a training montage of Lori Mae doing some track-and-field style training. It’s more cute than funny, but I like Lori Mae, so I’m cool with it.

-Lori Mae talks about how our Olympians won so much gold, the country is now out of debt. She then jokes about sharing a name with Olympian Laurie Hernandez, saying if you don’t believe there’s another Laurie Hernandez in the world, go to a Quincenara. She then jokes about the petite, tall and curvy versions of Barbie, and how hard it is to house them in the Dream House, and how much harder it is to find any of them a date (“Ken has been seeing the same woman for over 50 years!”). She then calls out the Monster High dolls for being “Barbie gone bad”, which she compares to Miley Cyrus. She then shades the judges, saying she outgrew Barbies just like she outgrew American Idol (Simon), the Spice Girls (Mel B), and just how Howie outgrew hair. She outgrew them like Mariah outgrew Nick (the crowd was SHOCKED by that).

-Howie thinks Lori Mae is an absolute star, but offers constructive criticism about working on her material. He thought the last joke was brilliant, but thinks she needs to go to some outside writers and test some new material. Heidi loves how easily Lori Mae flows between topics, and thinks she’s funny. Simon thinks this is Lori Mae’s best week yet, and thought the Nick/Mariah joke was amazing. Mel B LOVED the insults, admitting she wasn’t feeling the act at first. However, she loved getting “served” at the end. Adorably, Lori Mae has been clinging to Nick ever since he came onstage, as if to apologize for the last joke. Nick plays a stern adult figure when he tells her he’s going to have a very serious talk with her backstage. I can’t imagine Lori Mae will advance, but I think she’s done a great job getting this far.

MUSICALITY is up next!

-The members of Musicality tell their stories through one-word descriptions, before stating that together, they are Musicality. “This group means there’s hope for us,” one member says, while another states that they’ve been fighting low expectations their whole lives. Over this, we hear (and see) the group singing “Who You Are” by Jessie J.

-The group sings “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, and honestly, they should have probably stuck with Jessie J. One of the singers gets so overdramatic with her movements that she drops out of range of the microphone, and she’s not alone in the melodramatic movements. Granted, it’s a small piece of the performance, but this doesn’t work, for me. I like Musicality, but this was an awkward performance, in my opinion. They bring it all together pretty well towards the end, but I definitely felt this was the weakest of their performances so far.

-Mel B likes Musicality, but felt that was just a well-rehearsed school performance. Heidi praises their technique and how wonderful they made her feel. In fact, they made her feel so good, she could snuggle in Simon’s chest hair and take a nap (Mel B seems properly terrified to hear that). Simon was more moved by the video than the performance, but he feels this act has come a long way, and hopes they’re still here in two weeks’ time. Howie calls the group inspirational…and then gets cut off completely. That was awkward.

DEADLY GAMES are up next!

-Alfredo & Anna Silva are a husband and wife duo who came into this with different dreams. Alfredo always looked up to danger-style acts, while Anna always wanted to be a ballerina. But when they met each other, their dreams fused together. Alfredo admits that Anna is the braver of the two, since she’s the one assuming all the danger and risk. He feels nervous knowing that, at any moment, he could lose Anna. Of course, he’s saying all this while she’s sitting right there, which I’m sure makes her feel great.

-To the tune of Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Tainted Love”, they start things simple, with Anna holding roses and Alfredo knocking them off their stem with his whips. Alfredo then throws knives against a curtained Anna. All smooth sailing so far. He then uses a crossbow to burst balloons on either side of Anna’s head. Another success! Now, Anna is holding the balloons in her mouth. Success again! They end with a kiss, and…well, I’m both relieved that that’s it, but also kind of disappointed. Admittedly, I don’t know what else I expected them to do.

-Heidi would love to be a fly on their bedroom wall, saying that was so scary and hot that America has to vote for them. Simon says we have to judge based on progression, which sounds like he’s about to bash the act. But he praises the aesthetic of the act, and how Anna is just as important as Alfredo, which isn’t always the case with the person who is having knives thrown at them. He also makes reference to Ryan Stock’s performance when noting how things have gone wrong in the past with crossbows. Meanwhile, Howie spends his time creepily going on about how sexy Anna is, to the point where I’m convinced he was doing a bit. Mel B, for her part, declares this to be her favorite act of the night so far.

TAPE FACE is up next!

-The intro video is Tape Face being interviewed about being a mystery to America, with the interviewer explaining that this is his best chance to show America who he is. Tape Face decides to go rogue and set up an “Ask Tape Face” booth in Downton Los Angeles. Random people ask everything from why he’s called Tape Face, to if he has a girlfriend or not. He also hands one guy a piece of lettuce, kicks a chair away from a little girl, and reveals that he brushes his teeth with a hammer — all without saying a word. This was…something.

-Tape Face enters with a bag full of ballons. He then pulls a man out of the audience and starts handing him the balloons, one under each armpit, and one between the legs. Tape Face puts goggles on himself and then on the man, and arms him with a staple gun. He then puts a balloon under each of his own armpits and between his legs. The two men then engage in a staple gun fight, with the winner being the person who successfully pops all of his opponent’s balloons. Kind of surprised this isn’t getting buzzed, actually. I’m sure it’s fun to participate in, but it’s not that exciting to watch. The man wins the duel, and Tape Face lets off some streamers to celebrate, scaring himself in the process.

-Simon feels Tape Face has the ability to do something stupid but make it interesting at the same time. He shades Mel B in the process, prompting her to chase Simon offstage with a cup of water. She accidentally gets the audience wet and apologizes as this descends into an absolute disaster, with Howie struggling to add a critique while Mel B chases Simon all over the Dolby Theater.

-Nick talks to Henry Winkler in the audience, and he talks about his experience with monks on Better Late Than Never. Henry talks about watching AGT every single week, before plugging his co-stars on the show, George Foreman, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, and Jeff Dye.

JON DORENBOS is up next!

-Jon talks about how awesome it was to play in the NFL, and says he didn’t think anything could match that. However, he says being onstage for America’s Got Talent is just as big of a rush. He considers this game time, and he’s going to love every single second.

-Jon has his journal, a treasure chest, and a giant map of the United States with him. He hands Howie his journal, and then has the judges come up onstage. They’re either going to “throw” or “snap” the ball, which can stick to the map. Simon snaps the ball. It misses the map. He throws it and it lands between Hawaii and Alaska. Simon picks Alaska, so Jon sticks a picture of Simon on the state. Heidi snaps the ball and lands on Wyoming. Mel B throws it and ends up on Texas. Howie throws it and lands on Oklahoma. Each state has a numerical value, so Jon adds the numbers of each state together. He has Howie bring the journal, on the back of which is a key. The key opens the treasure chest, which has some change in it. The numbers added up to 167, so he tells the judges to add up the change to see if it totals $1.67. It doesn’t, but that’s the twist…the quarters are all state quarters depicting the states each judge landed on. But that’s not all, as he opens the journal to reveal a map that displays where each judge landed on the map. IMPOSSIBLE! That’s awesome.

-Howie praises Jon for his act, and then continues being creepy when talking about how great Heidi is with balls between her legs. Mel B’s mind is blown, noting that she has no idea how he does it, and that he’s absolutely magical. Heidi calls this Jon’s biggest touchdown yet, while Simon thinks this is the most incredible thing he’s seen on one of these shows. Much like with Sal, Simon loves that Jon came here to win, despite already having a successful career. He declares Jon a genius. After the performance, Jon thanks the audience and notes what a thrill it has been to perform on the greatest show on television.

GRACE VANDERWAAL is up next!

-Grace says how, just a year ago, she was in marching band and no one even knew she sang. But now she feels like a princess. She never imagined she could win, but every single day, she wants it more and more badly. She adorably compares herself to a blooming flower (and acts it out!), and says she’s just trying to shine. She’s trying not to explode from the pressure, but her confidence is growing, and she feels like she can do this.

-Grace sings a song I don’t recognize, so I imagine it’s an original. She looks and sounds positively terrified, and I don’t blame her, considering her age and the enormity of the show she’s on. But the audience starts cheering, and her performance comes alive. Adding a cellist to her set adds so much to this. Seriously, I was fighting tears by the end of this. SUCH a beautiful song. And Grace has the kind of voice that just haunts me into the depth of my bones. I have no idea how she can lose this show. I don’t even know how she’s a real person. WHO HAS A VOICE LIKE THAT AT 12?! And it’s not just her voice either, but her musicianship and songwriting skill. I was floored by this, and the judges were too, giving her a standing ovation. Grace’s massive sigh of relief is possibly the cutest thing ever.

-Grace confirms that was her original song, and Mel B loves the uniqueness of Grace’s voice and the control she wields over it. She loves how nice and how humble Grace is as well, declaring that at 12-years-old, she’s already a superstar. Heidi predicts Grace will be one of the final two acts standing. Simon thinks Grace is authentic because it all comes from her. He calls her a voice for a new generation, and he hopes she makes it to the finals, since it could be the best final they’ve ever done. Howie says Grace has gone from America not knowing her name, to knowing she could win this. Grace fights back tears when talking about what the support means to her. I’m struggling to think of anyone who could beat her in the finals. Maybe Jon Dorenbos or Brian Justin Crum? I guess she could lose if voters base their vote on who would actually make the best Vegas headliner, because realistically, a 12-year-old girl probably isn’t what a lot of people would pay money to see when they’re in Las Vegas. But still, Grace is a once in a lifetime talent. She’s just truly sensational.

WATCH AND DISCUSS: 12-Year-Old Grace VanderWaal Stuns On America’s Got Talent 2016 (VIDEO)

MALEVO is up next!

-The frontman for Malevo fights back tears when talking about his family back home, and how his child felt proud of him because he was on TV. They feel they can win this, and that’s what they’re here to do. After a Bottom Three appearance last week, I think they’re going to need to do something different from the norm. Here’s hoping they bring it.

-This is really cool, visually. The guys start off drumming in the rain, before an explosion onstage separates them and brings out a man with the swinging whips. Fire rises in the background while the guys do their Riverdance onstage, and while it’s not that different from what we’ve seen them do before, the judges (particularly Heidi and Mel B) REALLY enjoy this. Even Howie has a big ol’ grin on his face! The guys then do their dance in a giant pool of shallow water, which makes for a cool visual. I don’t think this needed as many flashing lights, but I really dug this, and the slow-motion ending. The judges give Malevo a standing ovation.

-Heidi loved it and says it was like an inspirational Flashdance. Mel B thought it was off-the-chain (“YES, brothers! Yes!” she shouts, in what’s probably Mel’s most hilarious moment). Simon respects their desire to win, and he hopes America picks up the phone and votes for them. Howie thinks Malevo just made tonight’s vote even harder, and says they’ve made this the night of whips and water.

LAURA BRETAN closes the show!

-We get a recap of Laura’s journey, and I find her every bit as likeable as Grace. I swear, kids are taking over this show. I think Laura is almost a lock to go to the end. I’m not sure if she’ll win, but she’s another supernatural talent.

-Laura sings “Pie Jesu”, I guess because she already sang “Nessun Dorma”, and there are only two or three opera songs in the world, according to AGT. But I don’t even care. I have absolute goosebumps. Seriously, it’s just chilling. And the backing choir adds a power to this that few of Laura’s other performances have had. Sure, her other performance have been emotionally powerful, but this was on a different plane. She just came across as an absolute superstar here, and she earned the hell out of that standing ovation.

-The judges are effusive in their praise, with Simon in particular talking about how Laura deserves to be in the final, while the other judges praise her technique and poise. Laura talks about knowing what it feels like to have lost someone, and that’s an emotion she pours into her music. I think we’ve got a real race on our hands for the AGT title. What an awesome night. And no one got buzzed!

-And that’s a wrap! What did you think of tonight’s show? Which acts should go through to the finals in two weeks? Sound off in the comments!

Until tomorrow night…

GOODNIGHT!

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