Tuesday, September 07, 2010

America's Got Talent

I admit it: I'm an "America's Got Talent" junkie. I didn't want to be, and normally don't watch much TV, but one night Janis was watching the show. I stopped for a minute on my way back to the office and got hooked. Now we're down to the final ten contestants. It's been a long and very interesting road.

I wrote about AGT once before. It was then in its early stages and still had a lot of good talent mixed in with some so-so talent as well as a number of walking train wrecks. I thought it was a pretty good metaphor for the art and entertainment worlds. Still true. Now, however, the so-so talents and the train wrecks have been weeded out. The ten that remain are GOOD. Very good. And it has been fascinating to watch them develop at each stage, to see how they improve their acts and take it to the next level, whatever that is for them. It's been just as interesting to see the ones who don't do it as successfully. Some of them tried to do too much, or do something that wasn't natural for them. For virtually all the acts, music is an important part: if they're not musicians, then the music provides a backdrop, literally setting the stage and driving what they do. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes not.

One young man that we really liked early on was Connor Doran. For his first few performances, he used very quiet, almost spiritual music (Sarah McLachlan's "Angel", for example) to provide the setting for his indoor kite flying. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Later, he tried a more up-tempo pop song and it just didn't work. Unfortunately, he was eliminated in that round, but we still like him very much. Take a look at his first performance on AGT and you'll see what we mean.

Another one that we liked was Alice Tan Riddley. She's a wonderful lady, African-American, with a voice like Ella Fitzgerald or Etta James. She can really put some soul and power into her songs. Alice has paid her dues: she's sung on subway platforms for change, but she's way too good to go back to that. Unfortunately, she didn't make it into the finals, and that was a mistake on the judge's part. I'd buy one of her albums.

Our favorites for the finals tonight:

Jeremy Van Schoonhoven. This kid does things with bicycles that shouldn't be possible. He keeps pushing the boundaries and taking chances. Last week, he missed a very dangerous trick in practice, hurt himself pretty badly, and banged up his bike. He was doing a two-step jump down from a 15-foot high structure, and the intermediate stop was a very narrow, log-like ledge. It was questionable whether he'd even make it to the performance. But he did and he nailed it. I don't think he can win the competition, but he's going to give it everything he's got.

Jackie Evancho. Jackie is a 10-year-old girl with one of the most beautiful, angelic opera voices that I've ever heard. She sounds like a seasoned adult professional. Jackie made it into AGT via the YouTube auditions. She's definitely a top contender.

Prince Poppycock. He's hard to describe: a foppish 18th-century dandy in pancake makeup, powdered wig, high-heel boots, and the demeanor of a drag queen. But he has a beautiful operatic voice and powerful stage presence. When he walked out for his first performance, we were wondering "who the hell is this?", but then he launched into a lively version of "Figaro" that blew us away. He's one of our top three.

Michael Grimm. He's the polar opposite of Prince Poppycock. Where the Prince is a total creation, Grimm is good because he has stripped away all artifice. He's a blues singer with a wonderful voice, great stage presence, and innate modesty. He's one of my very favorites. Michael has several albums out on iTunes and Amazon - we're getting his newest.

Fighting Gravity. These guys are incredible. They're a bunch of fraternity brothers from Virginia Tech who put together an act for some event at school and it just took off. Their act, like several others, is hard to describe. It appears to be their bodies moving, dancing, and interacting without any regard for gravity. It's extremely well done, very cool, and lots of fun. Janis and I think this is a definite Vegas act, regardless of how AGT ends up.

All the others are good, too, and you can go to the America's Got Talent web site to see them. But these are our favorites.

So tonight they go into their "finals" performances. Pretty soon, one of them will win the big prize: $1M and a headline act in Vegas. A bunch of them are going to go on an AGT tour this fall and winter. Our thoughts? As I mentioned, we like Jeremy but don't think he's the top talent. Jackie is outstanding, but she's a 10-year-old girl. A headline act in Vegas is the last thing she needs - she's gotta be a normal little girl first. We think that any of the other three - Michael Grimm, Prince Poppycock, and Fighting Gravity - would be the best. And of those, we kinda lean toward Prince Poppycock.

I'll have more to say after the show!

Okay, so now it's the next morning. Everybody was on their "A" game last night. Jeremy did a super job on his bike, doing things we didn't think possible. Jackie sang an incredibly beautiful requiem. Prince Poppycock was, as usual, way over the top with a campy "patriotic" act. Actually, we didn't care for his performance as much as some of his others - the ruckus hid some of the strength of his voice and the campiness would definitely offend many people. Michael Grimm sang a soulful and heartfelt Al Green song. Fighting Gravity's new act seemed to miss the mark a bit with us, but was still a fascinating performance. A young singer that I didn't mention last time, Taylor Mathews, took the song "What A Wonderful World" (officially recognized (by me) as the World's Sappiest Song) and turned it into a happy, upbeat, skipping-along-in-spring joy. Great show! For Janis and me, the top three remain Prince Poppycock, Michael Grimm, and Fighting Gravity. The fourth slot is a tossup between Taylor and Jeremy. While Jackie Evancho is an unbelievable singer, we think she's just too young for a Vegas career. We'll find out the results tonight!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE AGT! I started watching it the first season it came on. It is the ONLY reality show I watch. Some years ago Debbie Allen had a show where she was looking for what she called the "Triple Threat" meaning the contestants had to be able to sing, dance, and have a commanding stage presence. Of course, since it was good, it only lasted one season.

I was in the dentist's office today and was reading the December 2009 issue of "Vanity Fair". There was an column in it about reality TV. Basically, the author said realtiy TV is the ruination of America and has reduced many people to narcissistic, screaming, foul-mouthed B's (both male and female)! Of course, many Americans were that prior to reality TV. I think reality TV is more about the dollars. It's cheaper to film an unscripted piece of crap with non-union amateurs who are sleep-deprived and drunk (according to the author) than to actually put some thought into a program with excellent writing and good locations (e.g. the original "Law and Order" which has been on the air for years).