‘AGT’ Begins Its 17th Talent Search

Howie, Heidi, Terry, Sofia, & Simon pose together during a taping of America’s Got Talent (AGT): Season 17. (Photo property of NBC)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! America’s Got Talent (AGT) is back for its SEVENTEENTH SEASON! It is also a massive milestone for the Jake’s Take with Jacob Elyachar brand as it is my TENTH YEAR covering the NBC talent competition!

Tonight, host Terry Crews and veteran judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Sofia Vergara return to find the next big star. Which acts stepped up to the plate and received those magical four YESES? Did any auditionee get buzzed? Who was the first member of the AGT on-camera team to press the Golden Buzzer? Which act began the journey that could lead them to join the Olate Dogs, Kenichi Ebina, Mat Franco, Paul Zerdin, Grace VanderWaal, Darci Lynne Farmer, Kodi Lee, Brandon Leake, and Dustin Tavella in the Winners’ Circle? Read on to find out!

The Pasadena Civic Center audience was ready for AGT: Season 17 to begin! Kicking off the season was The Pack Drumline. The Chicago natives started their program as an at-risk program. They evolved from PCP pipes and buckets to drums. They delivered a fantastic routine to Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty.” I loved their showmanship, and they gave me the first set of chills of the season. They also received the first standing ovation of the season! Sofia predicted that they would do very well on the show, while Heidi called it – “Sexy.” Simon called them “original and dynamic.” The Pack Drumline received the first 4,000 Yeses of Season 17!

Jojo and Jessalynn Siwa brought their group XOMG Pop to AGT. They performed their original song, “Candy Hearts.” These girls do have a chance to dominate the family-friendly music scene. All the judges were impressed with the girls, and even Simon gave them his signature – “I didn’t like it, I loved it.” All four judges gave them “Yeses,” and Jojo rushed them and gave them a victory hug.

After Liza Koshy taught Terry and the ladies some top dance moves, Mervant Vera walked onto the Pasadena Civic Center stage. The 33-year-old Philadelphia native revealed that he was a magician and had watched the show for years. Mervant began his audition after telling the audience that he had lost his grandmother, who urged him to stay in magic. He combined rap music with close-up magic, and I was highly impressed with his storytelling ability. Mervant had a fantastic audition that I will remember for years to come. Heidi called it “fantastic,” Simon added that his audition was “honestly incredible.” Mervant received the second 4,000 Yeses of the night!

21-year-old Lee Collinson traveled from the United Kingdom to audition for AGT. This was his first time in the United States. He sang Dermot Kennedy’s “Better Days,” and Lee surprised me (in a significant way). His vocals reminded me of a blend of Ed Sheeran and Calum Scott. The judges gave him a standing ovation, and Howie declared that Lee raised the Pasadena Civic Center roof. Lee woke up his mom in the United Kingdom, and each judge got to talk with her and give Lee four yeses! 

Pepino, the Mini Horse, rebelled against his master, and he walked off the stage. If that was not bad, Burning Joe received the first unanimous “No” of the season. Unfortunately, Jack Grady only got through 30 seconds before getting buzzed. 

29-year-old singer-songwriter Ben Lapidus turned to music at six after his father passed away. The podcast sound designer was ecstatic to perform on the Pasadena Civic Center. His original song, “Parmesan,” did not win me over and in fact, Sofia and the men buzzed him. However, Heidi and the Pasadena Civic Center wanted an encore. He successfully changed Simon and Sofia’s minds and earned a pass to the next round. In all of my years AGT, I have never seen a quick turnaround of an act being buzzed out to receiving three “Yeses.” 

36-year-old Celia Munoz traveled from Spain to audition for AGT. Celia revealed that she changed professions from opera singer to ventriloquist and has over two years of training under her. Celia talked about how a ventriloquist gets ready to perform for her audition, and I was impressed that she sang while flossing, brushing her teeth, and putting on lipstick. I thought that Celia had an intriguing audition, and the judges gave her a standing ovation. Both Heidi and Howie called the audition the most original thing they had ever seen. Celia received four “Yeses” from the judges. 

The Amazing Veranica might be the real-life Elmyra from Tiny Toons. She had a plethora of animals at home, and however, she only brought a selection of dogs to her audition. The 12-year-old did an incredible job with dogs. I saw some originality, including the art of quick change. The judges gave them a standing ovation and gave them a pass to the next round. 

Comedian Mike E. Winfield stepped onto the Pasadena Civic Center stage to tell jokes. His material made me laugh so hard, especially about his family and leaving his job at a grocery store (working in a self-checkout lane). His jokes were rapid-fire, and how he connected with the audience. Sofia loved his energy and smile, while Howie praised his authenticity. Mike received the four “Yeses” and a ticket to the next round!

Yo-yo dancer Shu Takata faced the judges. Simon Cowell forewarned the Yokohama, Japan native that they had had yo-yo performers beforehand, and were boring. However, Shu proved them wrong. I loved his energy and choreography, and he is seriously talented! Heidi declared that he was the best yo-yo act they had ever had. Meanwhile, Sofia said he was a “cool guy.” Shu received four “Yo’s” from the judges.

Saxophonist Avery Dixon’s mom dragged him to the AGT auditions. The 21-year-old Atlanta, Georgia, native revealed that he was bullied and almost took his life at elementary school, and he turned around his life by playing the saxophone. I was blown away by his honest interaction with the judges. After drinking water, Avery played his saxophone, and I got chills. I could see him lead his generation’s jazz revolution. I was thrilled to see that Terry Crews gave him the Golden Buzzer, and I cannot wait to see him perform at the Dolby Theatre! 

Next week, the Season 17 auditions continue!

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar