'America's Got Talent' Recap: The Madness Continues - Rolling Stone
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‘America’s Got Talent’ Recap: The Madness Continues

12 quarterfinal acts perform; few impress

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Tom Cotter performs on 'America's Got Talent.'

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

The quarterfinals are now in full swing on America’s Got Talent. This week a dozen new quarterfinalists are performing for America’s votes, each hoping to join Edon, The Scott Brothers, Maurice and Shanice Hayes, and David Garibaldi and His CMYKs in the finals. Which acts would triumph? Which would crumble under the pressure? Check out our breakdown for all the details.

LionDanceMe: “Mixing martial arts with dance” is how the talent of this San Francisco-based team, who perform a traditional Chinese art form known as “lion dance,” has continually been described. Essentially obscured by lion costumes, the team members leap between platforms, maneuvering their bodies to mimic the lion’s movements. The group’s performance on Tuesday didn’t deviate much from their past showings, aside from what appeared to be slightly more difficult hopping maneuvers; they did use Swedish DJ Avicii’s hit song “Levels” as background music, though, which was a nice touch. The judges felt the act was a bit bland. “You’ve got to make it a little different each week,” judge Howard Stern said, “or people will get bored.”

Turf: This dancer-contortionist has consistently wowed the judges ever since his initial audition. His knack for jaw-dropping moments continued on Tuesday. After slinking about the stage with moonwalk-ish movements, he popped his arms out of their sockets countless times while always staying in rhythm with the music. All three of the judges can’t enough about this guy. “There’s so much passion in what you do,” said judge Howie Mandel. Added Sharon Osbourne, “This competition takes guts and it takes talent, and you’ve got both!”

The AllWays: With many acts on AGT having double-take-worthy skills, it would require a truly special band to cause a stir. This four-piece rock crew fronted by a poor man’s Adam Lambert just doesn’t have the necessary chops. They opted to perform Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” on Tuesday, demonstrating their singer’s voice to be incredibly shrill. The other three band members are proficient at their instruments. But as the singer goes, so shall this act. The judges also said they didn’t enjoy a rock band trying its hand at pop music . . . or this band’s name, for that matter. “I don’t think a rock band should share their name with a panty liner,” explained Mandel.

Hawley Magic: After last week’s disastrous Garret and Raja magic act, any illusionist should shine in comparison, right? Well, not really. This husband-wife duo did succeed in creating the effect that she was balancing on, and then punctured by, a sword. But it all felt a bit amateurish. The judges also thought the duo’s presentation was too “old-school.”

Lisa Clark Dancers: As the judges have stated several times this season, if a dance team is to advance far in the competition they have to be incredible. This collection of young dancers, who are admittedly original in their fusion of jazz, contemporary and tap, are far from that. This go-round they struggled to stay in unison with one another while shimmying and vogue-ing in time with an irritating clicking noise. Mandel “X”ed them and said it felt like “a young person’s recital.” Osbourne added that the dance “wasn’t edgy enough.”

Aurora Light Painters: It was hard not to be wary from the outset when this artistic group mentioned that the theme for Tuesday’s performance would be “monsters under the bed.” Using laser pointers as “paint brushes,” they attempted to visualize a narrative involving a young girl being afraid of, well, monsters under her bed. But all that came through was a childish demonstration more akin to a Reading Rainbow-reject act than one worthy of $1 million. The climax? Three balloons and a sock puppet. “I think that you have peaked,” Mandel said. 

Danielle Stallings: It seems in reality-based talent competitions it’s hard for judges to separate a singer’s talent from their age. A younger singer, regardless of his or her talent, almost always has an easier go with the judges. Such was the case with Danielle Stallings, a braces-wearing 14-year-old who sang a pitchy rendition of Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain.”  Despite an absurdly off-key, cringe-worthy showing, the judges praised her voice. Stern called her performance “incredibly memorable.” Well, yes, Howard, it was. Just not in a good way.

Donovan and Rebecca: This husband-wife acrobatic duo continues to amaze. Donovan, who looks to be the poster boy for Gold’s Gym, and Rebecca (also insanely buff) have managed to switch up their routine every time out. On Tuesday Donovan held his wife by one hand as she dangled high above the stage. Then she took over and showed off her equally impressive muscular fortitude. All three judges were amazed. “Every time we see you do something different,” Osbourne gushed.

Big Barry: There is simply no reason that this act should have made it this far in the competition. Big Barry is a four-foot-something old man whose voice is annoyingly nasally. On Tuesday he sang Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” while supermodels proceeded to pet him like he was a little pony. It was hilarious to hear Osbourne tell him he sounds like he’s singing while “on the toilet,” but the undoubted highlight of his critique came when Stern and Mandel got into a heated argument over why Big Barry was even in the quarterfinals to begin with.

Tom Cotter: It’s quite tough for a standup comedian to effectively charm the AGT audience in the 90 seconds that he or she is onstage. But Cotter, a veteran of the comedy circuit, has done it time and again. His routine this time was based around the stupid phrases humans say. A sample of his riff: “Needle in a haystack – who’s shooting up in the barn?” The judging trio is definitely on Team Cotter. “You’re the man to beat,” Stern said.

Ben Blaque: This crossbow shooter advanced to the quarters by upping his game in Las Vegas: he hit two balloons that were held by his female assistant as he looked in the opposite direction. How would he improve? This go-round Blaque stacked four crossbows and shot at four different balloons, each positioned in different corners of a square. The kicker? His assistant was in the middle of it all, standing in a Jesus-like pose. Naturally, he nailed it. Stern thinks America will put him through, but it’s questionable. There’s no denying the inherent danger and skill in Blaque’s act. But its novelty might be starting to wear thin.

Tim Hockenberry: A middle-aged singer and former drug addict with a Joe Cocker-ish growl, Hockenberry has all the trappings to be a major contender for this year’s AGT crown. But he took an admitted risk on Tuesday by singing Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” wanting to show his range. At times it sounded bizarre to hear a raspy old-man voice singing such a poppy number, but Hockenberry held his own, again proving his voice to be something quite impressive. Mandel called him a “possible winner” and Stern, despite admitting the choice was a misstep, declared Hockenberry to be his “favorite singer in the competition.”

PREDICTIONS: It would be quite surprising if Turf, Donovan and Rebecca, Tom Cotter, and Tim Hockenberry fail to advance to the finals.

TOMORROW: The four advancing acts are revealed and Gavin DeGraw performs.

LAST WEEK: The Results Are In


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