America’s Got Talent 2016 – Live Blog and Recap – Live Finale, Part 1 (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for the America’s Got Talent 2016, “Live Finale, Part 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 finals are here! We’re down to just 10 acts, as the finalists compete for America’s votes for the last time! Who will win America’s Got Talent 2016? It will be one of the following ten acts performing tonight. Check out the lineup below:
Grace VanderWaal, Singer
Jon Dorenbos, Magician
Sal Valentinetti, Singer
Tape Face, Mime
Laura Bretan, Opera Singer
The Clairvoyants, Mind-readers
Brian Justin Crum, Singer
Linkin’ Bridge, Vocal Group
Sofie Dossi, Contortionist
Viktor Kee, Juggler
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!
Let’s get this show on the road!
-So Pitbull is here, for some reason. Not that I’m complaining. Seriously, I don’t get the hate this guy gets. He performs his latest single, “Greenlight”, alongside LunchMoney Lewis (no Flo Rida though). The judges walk out to the song in the middle of the performance, which is kind of awkward. But I find the song catchy as hell, and the dancers look amazing in their checkered-flag outfits. The audience has a bunch of checkered flags too, to add to the visual. It was a cool way to open the night.
SAL VALENTINETTI opens the show!
-Once again, Sal opens the show. Hopefully, this doesn’t affect his vote totals. I mean, it didn’t last time, so here’s hoping. In an emotional video, set to Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, Sal has dinner with his family. He gets choked up when recalling his late grandmother, and his mother reminds him that America put him through to the finals on the tenth anniversary of his grandmother’s death. He never thought he could dream this big, but with their support, he feels he could do it all. The video ends…and then we go to commercial?! Way to kill Sal’s momentum right out the gate, show. Seriously, running that video and then going to commercial makes absolutely no sense.
-Sal sings “Mack the Knife”, backed up by a big band ensemble all dressed in crisp, white suits, offsetting Sal’s black tux. This is his best vocal performance, in my opinion. His voice is on-point, and his stage presence is as strong as it’s ever been. He just exudes star charisma. In a cute moment, he changes the lyrics to shout out each of the judges. Sal is straight out of a different era, and I absolutely love it. I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I hope he wins, if for no other reason than how perfect he’d be as a Vegas headliner, but I think he has the talent to actually back it up. He earns a standing ovation from all four judges.
-Heidi is really happy for Sal, and praises him for his “velvety, smooth voice” and his “sparkly blue eyes”. Sal thanks her for believing in him from the start. Mel B says she was worried about Sal before, but she feels he smashed it tonight, and noted that he exuded confidence up there. Howie recalls thinking, after seeing Frank Sinatra, that they don’t do shows like that anymore. But Sal is proof that they do, and Howie is really happy for him. Howie also wishes him a happy 21st birthday, and Sal asks Simon out later for a drink. Simon says his only problem with the performance was that it ended too soon, because he could have listened to that all night. Simon states that, from the start of the competition, Sal has always delivered an incredible amount of personality, and this is the performance he’s been waiting for Sal to give. He feels this could upset the entire competition. Sal says that, win, lose or draw, he will remember this night for the rest of his life. PLEASE WIN, SAL!
SOFIE DOSSI is up next!
-Sofie reviews her diary, in which she wrote down every moment of her run on the show. It looks very much like a show prop, although I don’t doubt she actually does keep some sort of diary. Either way, the video does a good job of building Sofie up as an Every Girl, who just so happens to be able to do extraordinary things. So this video communicated who she is quite well in a relatively short time frame, while also recapping her journey on the show.
-Sofie does contortions on a peg to start, before doing several backflips in place, in a simple, yet visually-appealing spot. She then spins on a rope with a giant ring attached as it lifts her nearly to the ceiling. My heart is in my throat throughout this, because there is no safety net below her. She loops herself into the ring and spins endlessly, to the point where I have no idea how she isn’t throwing up, or how she’s able to stand upright at the end without falling over from dizziness. SO impressive, and the judges honor her with a standing ovation.
-Mel B tells Sofie she deserves this kind of response, adding that she’s so graceful and elegant. Mel praises her for adding the element of danger, and calls the performance brilliant and beautiful. Heidi feels she needs dramamine after this performance because she was spinning so fast. Heidi calls it amazing and mesmerizing to watch. Simon tells Sofie she actually astonishes him, because she manages to add something new every week, and get better and better in the process. He tells her this was her best performance, and says if he were scoring this in the Olympics, this would be a ten. Howie compares Sofie to Gumby crossed with a beautiful piece of origami. He doesn’t always understand how she does what she does, but he loves it. After the performance, Sofie dedicates her performance to her late grandmother, who died a year ago today.
LINKIN’ BRIDGE is up next!
-The guys talk about their families and how their upbringing and environment have helped shape them as artists and as men. They state that their kids mean everything to them, and they’re hoping to win this entire competition. I don’t know that they will, but they certainly deserve to be here.
-The guys sing Charlie Puth’s solo version of “See You Again”, and it’s easily their best performance, in my opinion. Their harmonies are gorgeous, and the individual vocals are equally strong. This could easily launch them from a seventh- or eighth-place finish into the Top 5. The only drawback is that one of the singers missed his cue on the final verse. Also, the acoustics in the building seemed a bit off, although that could just be due to how they were mic’d. But that wasn’t enough to derail this performance. Great stuff. The judges are on their feet, in our third consecutive four-judge standing ovation of the night.
-Heidi thinks the guys picked a great song, and feels that no matter what happens, they will see these guys again. Simon loved that performance from beginning to end. He praises them for having no gimmicks, and just offering up hard work and perseverance. He thinks they represented themselves well, and could have a real shot at this. Howie says these guys ARE a linkin’ bridge into America’s hearts. Mel B praises them for looking fine and dapper, and then notes how their harmonies get tighter and better each time. She really hopes people vote for them.
LAURA BRETAN is up next!
-Laura talks about what this competition means to her, as we recap her journey. Laura is just such a likable girl that I hope she finishes high in the results. Granted, I’m not sure if I see her winning, but it wouldn’t exactly be a shocking result if she did. I would argue that, out of every performer in this competition, she’s been the most consistent, right up there with Grace. Basically, this final could (and should) be close.
-Laura delivers her best performance ever here. The visual is also terrific, as there’s an icy blue projection on her white gown to create this lovely Frozen effect. This song (sorry, not well-versed in classical music) has tons of amazing moments for Laura, and some great openings for her voice. She delivered one hell of a performance here.
-Simon is stunned that Laura is only 14, and thinks we’re seeing something special here with Laura. Howie says there are so many great acts tonight that they should add an additional $3 million so some of the other acts can get some money. Mel B says she could feel Laura’s nerves, but can’t deny how great she was regardless. She then fumbles on the word “accuracy”, which prompts Howie to joke about the irony of Mel B messing up that word. Heidi plays Laura’s fairy godmother and says “Bippity-boppity-boo, I hope America votes for you!” Cute.
THE CLAIRVOYANTS are up next!
-We get a really cool recreation of Thommy and Amelie’s first meeting in the rain. It’s kind of cheesy, but I like the style of this little vignette, and it makes their relationship seem more than just mystical, but something fated. I dig it.
-Thommy picks a guy out of the audience and goes through his wallet, taking out different cars, while a blindfolded Amelie accurately predicts each card. The audience member would seem less like a plant if he didn’t have the exact same accent as Thommy and Amelie, but who knows? America is a cultural melting pot. Anyway, Thommy turns his attention to the judges and has Simon hand his wallet to Howie, while having Mel B come up with a word (in this instance, she chooses “Wanna Bean”). He then has Howie inspect a tank onstage to verify that there is nothing gimmicked about the tank. He reveals that Amelie will be surrounded by over 200 lbs. of water inside the tank. Amelie drops in and begins writing things on the tank with marker. Howie reads off information from Simon’s credit card, such as its expiration date and the last four digits of the card number. Amelie is correct. For the finale, Thommy hands Mel B the locket from last week, which has “Wanna Bean” engraved in the metal. The judges give them a standing ovation.
-Howie says there is no end to their talent, and thinks they’re the best psychic act he’s ever seen on this show. Mel B calls the act mesmerizing, and feels they’re truly amazing. Heidi wishes she had a crystal ball so she could tell them that she sees a live show in Las Vegas coming for them very soon. In a cute moment, she uses Howie’s head as a crystal ball. Simon says the point of this show is to find a successful act for Las Vegas, and based on their performances, he feels it will happen for them.
BRIAN JUSTIN CRUM is up next!
-We see Brian in a warehouse, watching video messages projected on the walls. It’s pretty emotional, because the video messages are from people who’ve all been inspired by Brian’s story. It’s really endearing to see the effect he’s had on people.
-Brian sings “Man In the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, and I’m torn. Brian delivers one of the best vocals of the entire season here. Just flawless and utterly impeccable. But I absolutely HATE the arrangement. It’s a dark arrangement of the song that makes it sound like something that would accompany Sofie Dossie’s high-wire act. It’s just an awful, awful arrangement, in my opinion. However, I just can’t front on that vocal. So friggin’ good.
-Mel B and Heidi gush over the performance, while Simon flips over the pre-performance video, saying it perfectly sums up who he is as a person. He admits he was worried about the song at first, but Brian’s performance turned him around on it, calling him a brilliant performer. Howie prefers Michael Jackson’s original arrangement, but he can’t deny Brian is an incredible singer. After the performance, Brian says tonight’s performance is for everyone who’s ever felt that they don’t belong. He gets choked up during the shout-out, and now I’M getting kind of emotional. Brian is such a cool guy.
TAPE FACE is up next!
-In lieu of learning anything about him, we see Tape Face preparing for his final performance by going through a box of aptly-named “STUFF”. He eventually settles on a cassette tape: one side reads “A Game” and the B-side reads “B Game”. This could be terrific or a complete disaster. I’m stoked to watch either way, even though Tape Face has never been my cup of tea.
-Tape Face inserts the cassette, which plays the William Tell Overture. He takes out two stick-figure horses and races them, before putting them away to start snapping along with the song into a microphone, which is admittedly pretty cool. He then calls Mel B up onstage, and she looks absolutely miserable about it. He has her dance around with pom-poms, and she’s really not enjoying this at all. He then puts a toilet seat on her head, has her lower the pom-poms, and then aims a tiny plunger at the toilet seat, to Mel’s consternation. He sees she isn’t enjoying this, so he puts a towel over her face, then throws the plunger, which lands perfectly. He then places a roll of toilet paper through the plunger and unfurls the toilet paper and ties it to the microphone, creating finish line tape. He brings the two stick figure horses out again, and has them race across the finish line. Confetti goes off at the end, as I struggle to understand how Tape Face made it this far.
-Heidi loved it and can barely stop laughing. Simon wonders what the bloody hell that was, and then compliments Mel B on one of the best performances of her career. Howie compares Tape Face to the other acts, and at first it sounds like an unfavorable comparison. But then he admits he loved it precisely because of how ridiculous and stupid it was. Mel B states she was laughing from the start and didn’t get why he had to bring her into it, but by the end, she thought he was brilliant. Tape Face doesn’t reveal any more about himself in the post-performance interview with Nick, to the surprise of no one, really.
VIKTOR KEE is up next!
-Viktor recaps his journey, and talks about his juggling studio, which teaches kids how to hold onto their light and their hopes, and to dream big. Viktor is an immensely likable guy, and I think he’s one of the dark horses in this entire competition. There’s no one else like him this season, so people who are kind of over singers and magicians could put all their votes on Viktor. It wouldn’t be the most shocking result, honestly.
-Viktor stands on a mountain, with storm clouds projected behind him while lightning and a smoke machine create a cinematic visual around him. He juggles, with balls descending from the ceiling. One moment he’s blindfolded, the next minute he isn’t. One moment, there’s one ball, the next moment there are three. And then four. And then five. It looks like he drops a ball there for a second, but it doesn’t derail the performance. Fire pops up on the mountain surrounding him, making it look like a volcano. He dips one of the balls in fire, although it doesn’t really catch flame. But his closing juggle is terrific, as each of the balls disappear in to sparks of fire.
-Simon feels he’s at the best show in the world, saying it isn’t just juggling, it’s the graphics and the sounds that make it like he’s watching a movie. He calls it a stunning performance. Howie felt this was very cinematic, and calls it an eruption of talent. Mel B points out the dropped ball, but Simon sticks up for Viktor. Mel still praises Viktor for his work, and Heidi proclaims this to be yet another stellar performance.
JON DORENBOS is up next!
-Jon talks about all the things he’s learned from football, to respect your opponent and to always give it your all, among other valuable life lessons. We see him all geared up and ready to head out onto the field, total game face on. I know being a Philadelphia Eagle is a part of his brand, but I would argue being a magician could be what he ends up being remembered for, because he’s my pick to win this thing. (Sure, I’m rooting for Sal, who I desperately want to take this thing, but I’m not holding my breath)
-Jon has Simon write down the name of someone who means a lot to him on a playing card. Jon then tells a story about how magic has changed his life, and gives a speech about how we should eliminate hate, embrace forgiveness, and find ourselves. Throughout, he keeps revealing the cards on which each of the other three judges wrote their names. He then shuffles the remaining cards then spreads them on the table, revealing Simon’s card as the only one that’s face up. He folds one of the cards and then buries it under the rest of the deck. He somehow manages to get it to float to the top, impressively. Jon says magic isn’t in his hands, it’s in each one of us. He spins a chalkboard around to reveal the name Eric, Simon’s son, whose name he wrote on that card. To be fair, I don’t have superpowers, but I could predict he’d write his son’s name down.
-Howie thanks Jon for that moment and for that inspiration. He doesn’t just want people to vote for him, but to live by his message and to remember his words. Mel B admits she didn’t get what was going on at first, but when she focused on what he was actually doing rather than the words he was saying, she thought it was brilliant. Heidi loved it, while Simon says they would all be proud to proclaim Jon Dorenbos as the winner of America’s Got Talent. After the performance, Jon says winning would mean the world. He notes that when you’re down, don’t listen to yourself, talk to yourself. He’s such an inspirational guy, I can’t help but root for Jon. Such a cool dude.
GRACE VANDERWAAL closes the show!
-Much like with Brian Justin Crum, we see a series of video messages from people Grace has inspired. Basically, it’s a series of YouTube videos of people covering her songs from the show, which Grace is truggling to wrap her head around, considering how different her life was even a year ago. She can’t believe she’s here, and could possibly win this entire thing. But tonight, she’s going to sing words from her heart, in the hopes of making it happen.
-Grace delivers my favorite performance of the night. This is her most confident performance of the season, and I adore the arrangement of the song, with the string accompaniment, and the depth and character of Grace’s voice on the big notes. You can tell she believes in herself now, and it shows in how she sways and smiles onstage, and takes vocal risks she might not have taken before. She’s grown immensely as a performer. This is literally and figuratively extraordinary, and the standing ovation from all four judges, and the enthusiastic reaction from the crowd tells me she has a real shot at winning this, even if she hadn’t closed the show.
-Howie: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.” He declares that Grace has to win, and notes this was his favorite moment of the night. Mel B didn’t feel any nerves from Grace, and says it feels like she’s meant to be here. It’s her song and her moment. Heidi feels Grace, in a sea full of jewels, is the rarest diamond of all. Simon says finding stars should be difficult, but it hasn’t been with Grace. He feels people will look back on this and say Grace did it her way, with no gimmicks. He congratulates her, saying she’s been a fantastic contestant. Grace talks about how amazing this feels, but admits it’s a relief to finally perform and get it out of the way. Hell, I’d be nervous myself. I have no idea how a 12-year-old girl keeps it together like that. So impressed.
And that’s a wrap! What do you think of the finalists? Who will win America’s Got Talent 2016? Sound off in the comments!
Until tomorrow night’s finale, thank you for reading! And join us tomorrow for the live results!