Jake’s Take-The Greatest ‘America’s Got Talent’ Music Acts of All-Time

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

On January 7, 2019, America’s Got Talent (AGT) will welcome champions from around the world to face off against some of the show’s talented acts in a new spin-off series: America’s Got Talent: The Champions.  A majority of the acts that are participating represent the music category.

Jake’s Take has selected 26 of the greatest music acts that have ever been on the show! This list is made up of acts who are confirmed to compete on America’s Got Talent: The Champions and some acts who should be asked back for Season Two of this spin-off. 

Without further ado, here are the Top 26!

#26-Hans (International Superstar, Season 13 quarterfinalist)

Hans made an incredible impression on the audience and with the judges during his scene stealing performance of “Proud Mary.” He delivered spectacular performances that put smiles on faces of fans around the country. It was such a shame that he was eliminated after his spectacular “Spice Up Your Life” performance in the Season 13 quarterfinalists. Hopefully, he would be invited back for a future edition of America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

#25-Edgar (Family Band, Season 11 semifinalists)

AGT has hosted a plethora of family performers over the years. But, none of them hold a candle to the Edgar Family Band. Made up of Ryan Edgar, Nikki Leonti-Edgar, and Jaslyn Edgar, this singing trio melted everyone’s hearts during Simon Cowell’s debut season as a judge. They delivered fantastic interpretations such as “I’ll Stand by You” and “You’ve Got a Friend” that gave the Dolby Theatre audience chills.  But it was their outstanding performance of “Bless the Broken Road” that cemented their place in show history.

(Photo property of Eli Mattson)

#24-Eli Mattson (Singer, Season Three Runner-Up)

During AGT’s early seasons, there were only a few male vocalists that stood out from the pack. One singer that stood out was Season 3 runner-up Eli Mattson. I had that he had a better post-show career. When I watched his outstanding vocal performances of “Walking in Memphis,” “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and “Against All Odds,” Eli beautifully made each song his own. I believe that Eli was asked back for another season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions, he would finally get the recognition and career that he deserves.

#23-Yoli Mayor (Singer, Season 12 semifinalist)

Yoli Mayor delivered powerful performances during her Season 12 appearance. From her brilliant interpretation of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” during Judges’ Cuts to her superb cover of James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” she brought the Dolby Theatre crowd to their feet.  I feel that she was one of the acts that was robbed from a spot in performing in her season’s finals. Also, I think that Yoli has one of the strongest voices in the AGT family and I hope that America’s Got Talent: The Champions brings her back for the sophomore season.

#22-In the Stairwell (A cappella group, Season 12 semifinalists)

Just like Yoli Mayor, In the Stairwell was also wrongfully shut out from the Season 12 finals. In the Stairwell is made up of cadets from the United States Air Force Academy, who all specialize in performing A cappella music. Just like Pentatonix did for the now defuncted The Sing-Off, In the Stairwell brought an appreciation of A cappella music into the Got Talent franchise.  From their explosive debut with One Direction’s “Drag Me Down” to Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill,” In the Stairwell set the standard for musical groups to perform on future AGT seasons.

(Photo property of NBC’s Trae Patton)

#21-Daniel Joseph Baker (Singer, Season Six semifinalist)

A lot of young performers are shy when they get onto the AGT stage, however Daniel Joseph Baker effortless showcased his personality and potential for star power when he serenaded the Texas crowd to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Throughout the show’s sixth season, I believe that he inspired performers (who shared Daniel’s similar background) to audition. Also, his outstanding performances of Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” and Adele’s “Turning Tables” are still probably the best male vocal performances from the Piers Morgan-Sharon Osbourne era of AGT.  Since the show, Daniel recorded his own music and traveled the world performing with the Kinky Boots touring company. I hope that the show’s production team invites him back for America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ next go-around.

#20-Sal Valentinetti (Singer, Season 11-Fifth Place; Heidi Klum’s Golden Buzzer)

I was so happy that Sal Valentinetti auditioned for Season 11! Reality TV fans still had a bitter taste in their mouths when then Idol judges Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban wrongfully eliminated him from American Idol: Season 14. Thankfully, the AGT judges accepted this powerful voice into their family.  His excellent cover of “My Way” received Heidi Klum’s Golden Buzzer and propelled him to the Dolby Theatre stage. While he took home fifth place, Sal is expected to return to compete on America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

Christina Wells America's Got Talent
(Screenshot property of NBC)

#19-Christina Wells (Singer, Season 13 semifinalist)

Friend to the blog, Christina Wells, was probably one of Season 13’s most memorable acts. The registered nurse wanted to show her boys that “nothing should prevent you from making your dreams come true.” Every single round, she delivered emotional and powerful covers including “I’ve Know Where I’ve Been,” “Never Enough,” and “I Am Changing” that captivated the judges and viewers. I truly believe that not only Christina has a bright career ahead of her, but I think that she should be brought back for America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ next season.

#18-Brian King Joseph (Violinist, Season 13 finalist-Third Place)

Superfan Brian King Joseph overcame a lot of personal obstacles to pursue his dream to audition for AGT. Brian delivered electrifying performances of “Lean On,” “Gangsta’s Paradise,” and “Heartless” that elevated Season 13 musically. While he came in third place, Brian secured his future in the music industry.

Andrew De Leon Regresa A Mi
(Photo property of SYCOTV & NBC)

#17-Andrew de Leon (Opera Singer; Season Seven semifinalist)

Seven years ago, Andrew de Leon shocked the nation when he performed “O Mio Babbino Caro” at the Dallas auditions.  While he was eliminated during the Las Vegas callbacks, fans demanded that he return to the show.  Howie gave fans their wish and invited him back for the Season Seven Wild Card round and he delivered a beautiful cover of “Regresa A Mi,” that remains one of the best performances in AGT history.  Andrew made it to the Semifinals, but he was sadly eliminated from the competition. Since the show, Andrew released two albums: 2013’s Black Lights and 2018’s Ave. However, I think he would be a great candidate for Season Two of America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

#16-Sharon Irving (R&B Singer; Season 10 semifinalist; Mel B’s Golden Buzzer)

Chicago native Sharon Irving is one of the greatest soul singers that has ever appeared on AGT. Her rousing cover of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” earned her Mel B’s Golden Buzzer and was a teaser of her Radio City Music Hall live performances.  Her moving performances of “Glory” and “Imagine” gave viewers chills.  Despite not making it to the Season 10 finale, Sharon released a studio album, Bennett Ave. and is continuing to perform.

(Photo property of NBC)

#15-Brian Justin Crum (Singer; Season 11 finalist-Fourth Place)

Brian Justin Crum is probably one of the most incomparable male vocalists to have audition for AGT. The vocal gymnastics that Brian showcased during Season 11 was astonishing. From his bombastic cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” at his audition to haunting cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” Brian secured his future as a solo singer. Since AGT, he released covers on YouTube and is expected to compete on America’s Got Talent: The Champions.

#14-Danell Daymon & Greater Works (Gospel Choir; Season 12 semifinalists)

Danell Daymon and Greater Works brought the house down every single time they performed during Season 12. The gospel choir inspired audiences with their impeccable covers of “This Little Light of Mine,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and my personal favorite: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” I truly believe that this choir inspired other vocal groups to audition for the show. 

#13-Glennis Grace (Singer; Season 13 finalist)

Glennis Grace is probably one of the best singers to have auditioned for the show since Got Talent creator Simon Cowell joined the AGT judges’ table. Some of Season 13’s best performances came from her beautiful interpretations of Whitney Houston’s “Run to You” to The Greatest Showman’s Never Enough.” She also set the standard for future singers competing on the show.

Musicality Vocal Group performs Born This Way
(Photo property of NBC)

#12-Musicality (Youth Music Group; Season 11 semifinalists)

Since Simon Cowell joined the judges’ desk, there has been a revolution of young talent auditioning and advancing to the AGT live shows. Under the direction of Michael E. Gibson, the Chicago-based vocal group inspired the nation with their superb voices. Thanks to their impeccable covers of One Direction’s “Night Changes” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Musicality led the way for other youth groups to audition for AGT. Recently, the group celebrated their tenth anniversary by recording a cover of The Greatest Showman’s From Now On.”

Linkin' Bridge 7 Years AGT
(Photo property of NBC)

#11-Linkin’ Bridge (Vocal Group; Season 11 finalists)

I had the opportunity to see the original line up of Linkin’ Bridge (Big Rome, Montre Davis, Shon China Lacey, and Ekoe Alexandra) audition at the Pasadena Civic Center. Their beautiful cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” brought the house to their feet, and I prayed that they would make it to the live shows.  Thankfully, the Louisville, Kentucky vocal group made it to the Dolby Theatre, and Linkin’ Bridge delivered some of the best performances of the season including their haunting cover of Lukas Graham’s “7 Years.”  Despite making the Season 11 finale and growing their fan base, Linkin’ Bridge made news when The Courier-Journal reported that they sued their manager and changed their line-up.

Classical crossover singer Branden James stole America's hearts when he appeared on "America's Got Talent" earlier this year. (Photo property of NBC's Virginia Sherwood)
(Photo property of NBC’s Virginia Sherwood)

#10-Branden James (Tenor; Season Eight semifinalist)

A friend of the blog, Branden James, made the Top 10 of this countdown! I was truly moved by Branden’s story and his impeccable cover of “Nessun Dorma.” His showmanship and vocal range brought AGT to a new level of excellence.  He was one of the only acts that not only improved but excelled once the show hit the Radio City Music Hall. His beautiful covers of “You Raise Me Up,” “Hallelujah,” and “Alone” were true bright spots on one of AGT’s most competitive seasons.  Since Season Eight, Branden continued to share his gift with the world as he performs with his husband, cellist James Clark.  Hopefully, this duo could return to the show if America’s Got Talent: The Champions is renewed for a second season.

Emil & Dariel I Don't Want to Miss A Thing AGT
(Photo property of NBC, FremantleMedia North America & Syco Entertainment)

#9-Emil & Dariel (Sibling cellist duo; Season Nine semifinalists)

I truly believe that without Emil & Dariel’s inclusion in Season Nine, we would not have had performers like Grace VanderWaal, Musicality, Darci Lynne Farmer, or Courtney Hadwin audition for the show.  From their electrifying audition to their moving interpretation of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Emil & Dariel proved that cellos could rock and there were exceptional musicians from the next generation.  Since their time on AGT, Emil & Dariel performed with their childhood heroes, Apocalyptica, and released a studio album and a live EP.

(Photo property of NBC, FremantleMedia North America & Syco Entertainment)

#8-The Forte Tenors (Operatic group; Season Eight finalists-Fourth Place)

The Forte Tenors will celebrate their sixth anniversary together in 2019! The original line-up of Josh Page, Hana Ryu, and Fernando Varela met on the Internet, and their audition was their debut performance. While the trio made it to the next round, they were down a member as Ryu had visa issues. Josh and Fernando recruited Sean Panikkar to perform for the Vegas round, and they delivered a powerful cover of “The Prayer,” which sent them to the Radio City Music Hall.  Forte stole the show with their interpretations of “Caruso” and “Somewhere.” While they did not win Season Eight, the Forte Tenors set the standard for other classical crossover singers and groups to perform on the talent competition. Forte’s second incarnation was briefly signed to Syco Records and Columbia Records, where they released their solo album.  Ryu rejoined the group while Varela was pursuing other projects.  The group’s second incarnation is expected to perform at the Sharon Performing Arts Center this February.

Angel City Chorale The Rising
(Photo property of NBC’s Trae Patton; courtesy of the Angel City Chorale)

#7: Angel City Chorale (Choir; Season 13 semifinalists; guest judge Olivia Munn’s Golden Buzzer)

The Los Angeles-based choir made a huge impact on AGT when they auditioned. Under the direction of Sue Fink, this 160+ member choir showcased their positive message of unity all throughout the competition. From Toto’s “Africa” to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” this massive group of performers inspired the nation and set the standard for future choirs to perform on the show. Since their appearance on the show, the group released a new live album, One World: Live from Los Angeles.

Emily West AGT Finale
(Photo property of NBC)

#6: Emily West (Singer; Season Nine finalist-Runner-Up)

Five years after her initial audition on America’s Got Talent, no one has interpreted a song like Emily West. America fell in love with her thanks to her gorgeous covers of “Sea of Love,” “Chandelier,” and “Nights of White Satin.”  Since her time on AGT, Emily released a studio album with Sony Masterworks: All for You, self-released the 2017 Symphonies EP, and joined forces with the Whiskey Wolves of the West.

Sons of Serendip America's Got Talent
(Photo courtesy of Sons of Serendip)

#5: Sons of Serendip (Classical Crossover Quartet; Season Nine finalists-Fourth Place)

One of my all-time favorite musical acts made the Final Five of this countdown! Boston University alums Sons of Serendip (vocalist Micah Christian, harpist Mason Morton, pianist Cordaro Rodriquez, and cellist Kendall Ramseur) made a huge impact on Season Nine with their phenomenal orchestrations. From “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Wicked Game” to “Ordinary World” and “Drops of Jupiter,” Sons of Serendip never failed to give the AGT audience chills. Since AGT, Sons of Serendip released three studio albums and toured across the country. I am thrilled they will represent AGT on the upcoming America’s Got Talent: the Champions series.

(Photo property of NBC’s Trae Patton)

#4: Alice Tan Ridley (Singer; Season Five semifinalist)

Alice Tan Ridley is AGT’s Queen of Soul Music! Ms. Ridley is the mother of Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe and sang in the New York City subway system before she auditioned for the series. Ms. Ridley’s powerful vocals gave the audience chills through her memorable covers of Etta James’ “At Last,” Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Since her time on the show, Alice toured around the world, released a studio album: Never Lost My Way, and appeared on various talk shows such as Harry and The View.

(Photo property of NBC and SYCO-TV)

#3: William Close (Music Group; Season Seven finalists-Third Place)

In all my years of watching and recapping America’s Got Talent, I have never found a musical act so original and captivating to watch than instrument builder William Close. From his spectacular first audition to his final performance, William Close and the Earth Harp Collective entertained millions of viewers with their spectacular arrangements.  Since his time on AGT, Close and the Earth Harp Collective performed in prestigious venues and festivals around the world.  If AGT does another season of Champions, I hope that they ask William Close and the Earth Harp Collective back to participate.

(Photo property of NBC & Syco TV)

#2: Nuttin’ But Stringz (Sibling Violin Duo; Season Three finalists-Third Place)

Without Nuttin’ But Stringz’ auditioning in Season Three, AGT audiences would not have experienced instrumentalists like Lindsey Stirling, William Close, Emil & Dariel, and Brian King Joseph. Brothers Tourie and Damien Escobar electrified the show when they auditioned in 2008. From “Thunder” to “Winner,” Nuttin’ But Stringz raised the bar for other musicians to audition for the show.  Since the show, they performed for President George W. Bush at the White House, appeared on various talk shows, and collaborated with various recording artists. Sadly, the group separated in 2012. However, Damien is performing solo under the alias Dame Esco.

(Photo property of NBC & Syco TV)

#1: Barbara Padilla (Classical Crossover singer; Season Four finalist; Runner-Up)

Ten years ago, Barbara Padilla’s life changed forever when she sang “O Mio Babbino Caro” during America’s Got Talent: Season Four’s Houston auditions. Her powerful vocals gave viewers chills as she beautifully interpreted classic arias such as “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Ave Maria.” She is not only the best opera performer to grace the AGT stage, but the greatest singer to ever appear on any Got Talent franchise!  Jackie Evancho, Andrew de Leon, the Forte Tenors, Branden James, and Laura Bretan would not be where they are now without Barbara’s success on the show. As a Got Talent super fan, I am adamantly annoyed that the Got Talent production team has not either acknowledged her success or invited her back to perform or participate in America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Since AGT, Barbara released a self-titled studio album, numerous singles, and toured around the world.

What do you think of my selections? Which music acts did I forget to include?

I do not own any of the clips that are sprinkled throughout this article. They belong to NBC, Syco Entertainment, and FremantleMedia North America.


  1. Wanda Bryant says

    You need to include Brian King Joseph, he absolutely makes his violin come alive, and even though he suffers from extreme nerve damage, he just comes alive with music. He is a MUST! Bring him back PLEASE!

  2. Suncatcher says

    Great list, Jacob! And I TOTALLY agree with you #8 pick of FORTE! They should have won that year! Their members are still popular as ever. Very nice young men.

    • I totally agree the Forte Tenors (all four of them) should have been in this year’s line-up…Hopefully, if there is a Season Two, I hope all four of them get invited back!


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