After several weeks, the final audition episode for this season of “America’s Got Talent” has arrived — meaning the judges are about to make some very tough cuts.
But before Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofía Vergara gave their final thoughts on which successful acts would move on to the next round, one last batch of contestants took the stage aiming to impress them with their initial auditions.
One of these contestants was singer Bay Turner, who used to sing opera and is now a legal assistant. He shared that surgery to remove two benign tumors in his chest altered his singing career.
“The surgery was supposed to go super routine, and the anesthesiologist nicked my vocal chord and paralyzed my vocal chord,” he said. “I’ve spent countless hours using voice teachers to be able to get my voice back.”
Turner said he hopes his story can provide inspiration to others going through difficult times.
“Sometimes, when life gets you down, you have to pull up your bootstraps and just figure it out,” he added. “Keep going. So that’s what I did.”
He sang a soaring rendition of “Biblical” by Calum Scott to massive applause from the audience.
“That was so powerful and your voice has such a range,” said Mandel. “We can feel you singing.”
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Klum remarked that Turner has that “extra special” star quality, and Cowell predicted that “people are gonna like” him.
“You seemed very nervous at the beginning,” said Vergara. “And then it was like, all that nervousness was gone. It was very special.”
He earned four yeses, sending him through to the next round.
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Another singer hoping to impress the judges with her audition was Camille K. The 16-year-old from New Jersey started off with a smooth rendition of “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” by FINNEAS.
But she seemed to only make it a few seconds into the song when the notoriously tough-to-please Cowell cut her off.
“That was OK,” he said. “You have a nice voice. My only issue is we need to do something more standout, so I’m curious to hear what your songwriting is like.”
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She then sang an original called “Still in Love,” which she wrote about loving someone who broke your heart.
Cowell called her performance “beautiful,” and Klum said the singer “just has that gift.”
Vergara one-upped Cowell with her praise.
“I thought that your voice was much more than beautiful,” she said. “It was spectacular.”
Tears streaked down the singer’s cheeks as she earned unanimous yeses from the judges.
Simon Cowell praises singer Aubrey Burchell as ‘absolute genius’
Aubrey Burchell also took the stage hoping to impress the judges with her voice. The Target employee, who reportedly Competed on “American Idol” in 2018, shared she was recently diagnosed with autism.
“I want to show other young autistics who are suffering in silence that you can follow your passion and not fit in the box and do what you do,” she said.
She gave an emotional performance of “Call Out My Name” by The Weeknd that left her in a puddle of tears by the end.
“You really have a fantastic, fantastic voice,” said Klum. “You really have the pipes, and it sounds beautiful.”
Cowell took his compliment even further.
“The fact that you made that song your version was genius. Absolute genius,” he said. “Was every note perfect? No, it didn’t matter. Because I really do believe that we are just witnessing somebody’s career about to skyrocket.”
Vergara said Burchell could win the entire competition.
She earned a yes from all four judges.
Howie Mandel booed for rejecting jaw-dropping acrobat duo
The judges also made some controversial choices on who they let through and who they eliminated.
When the judges became split on whether or not to send acrobatic duo The LADS through to the next round, the audience raged at Mandel, who was the tie-breaker vote. (Klum and Vergara voted yes, while Cowell voted no, calling the act “a bit slow.”)
For their act, one member of The Lads balanced on the other’s head, with only his hand to support him. The member under him walked with him on his head all the way off the stage and up some stairs, to wild shock from the audience.
Still, Mandel wasn’t sold.
“This is Season 17, and we need originality, and we need it to explode, and it wasn’t explosive to me,” he said. “It was not a wow.”
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The audience booed the heck out of Mandel. But was it enough to change his mind?
“OK, alright, alright I hear you,” the judge told the crowd, appearing to relent. “I heard them. But I don’t care. It’s a no.”
So if The Lads couldn’t impress the judges, what novelty acts did earn their approval?
A cow playing drums on buckets and an elderly burlesque dancer, apparently.
Penny Starr cracks up judges before burlesque act, Mr. Moo Shakes is utterly entertaining
Penny Starr, Sr., an 88-year-old widow who said she’s had six husbands who all died, charmed the judges with her quick sense of humor. When Cowell asked if she would consider marrying a seventh time, she said yes, but “it takes a while to break them in.”
She then performed a strip tease that a delighted Vergara called “so unexpected.”
“Penny, I want to be you when I grow up,” Vergara said, adding, “We never know what’s coming next.”
“Penny if you were to go forward, would more clothes come off?” Cowell inquired.
“Oh, yes! Absolutely!” Starr replied.
Another performer, Mr. Moo Shakes donned a cow mask and overalls while quickly playing the drums on stacks of buckets.
Although Klum turned him down, the other judges saw something in the bovine that she didn’t.
“I like things which are kind of silly and good, and my son Eric is going to love you,” said an utterly pleased Cowell. “It’s a yes.”
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Father-daughter duo return after ‘AGT: Extreme’ dreams derailed
The episode also saw the return of two familiar faces: father-daughter stunt duo The Nerveless Nocks. The pair came back after previously competing on “America’s Got Talent: Extreme,” where they were not able to compete in the finals due to the father falling ill.
The duo upped the ante for their audition act, climbing two long, wobbly poles, and standing precariously close to the judges’ table. No safety nets or harnesses seemed to be used in their act.
After performing some nerve-wracking tricks high up at the top, the pair slide down the poles in a freefall, stopping just before hitting the ground.
“I am exhausted,” said a relieved Klum. “You guys are fantastic, and you leave us wanting more.”
“I think what you did just then was unbelievable,” Cowell added.
The duo earned unanimous yeses.
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Judges narrow competition in half — but there’s a twist
Now that this season’s auditions are wrapped, the judges have a tough job to do.
Host Terry Crews, Cowell, Mandel and Klum all met at Cowell’s Malibu home to parse through the 138 acts who earned enough yeses in their auditions and choose 55 of them to move on to the next round.
Vergara was “not able to be here,” Crews said, but she sent over her notes in the form of a massive, bedazzled binder.
“We’ve never said yes to so many people,” said Klum.
After hushed deliberation that took place off-camera, the judges said they settled on 54 acts to keep in the competition.
As for that final slot, it’s up to America’s vote to decide which act takes it.
“AGT” fans have until Friday at 7 am ET to vote online for “America’s Wild Card,” which will earn the last remaining slot in the competition. The acts up for the spot are singer Ben Waites, singer Debii Dawson, sword swallower Auzzy Blood and stand-up comedian Jordan Conley.
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