Jake’s Take’s Top 30 Favorite ‘AGT’ Auditions

AGT: Season 17 marks my tenth anniversary covering the NBC talent competition. (Photo & graphics property of NBC)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is hard to imagine that 2022 marks Jake’s Take’s tenth anniversary covering America’s Got Talent (AGT). I am a superfan of this show as it launched during the summer of my senior year at Blue Valley Northwest High School.

However, I did not cover the NBC talent competition until the first year of my first platform: jacobelyacharjournalist.com.  Throughout my time covering AGT, I have seen 12 winners, 12 judges, seven judges panels, three hosts, two spin-offs, and attended one Judges’ Auditions taping.

Before host Terry Crews and judges Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Howie Mandel, and Heidi Klum begin the show’s seventeenth search for talent, Jake’s Take is revealing its all-time favorite auditions of AGT from Seasons Seven to 16, both Champions seasons, and America’s Got Talent: Extreme.

#30 – Wheelz (America’s Got Talent: EXTREME RUNNER-UP; Nikki Bella’s Golden Buzzer) 

Aaron Wheelz kicks off this countdown! The Las Vegas-based wheelchair motocross athlete moved me as he attempted a ramp drop into a 40-foot flip on America’s Got Talent: Extreme. My jaw dropped when he failed his first attempt, but I was impressed by his determination to do one more shot. Thankfully, he perfectly executed the stunt, and his determination received Nikki Bella’s Golden Buzzer.

#29 – Oz Pearlman (America’s Got Talent: Season 10 THIRD PLACE FINALIST) 

Until America’s Got Talent’s tenth anniversary season, we did not have a mentalist who satisfied this show. Then along came Jake’s Take friend Oz Pearlman. The former Wall Street worker got inside Howie, Heidi, and then judges Howard Stern and Mel B’s heads. I was blown away when he correctly deduced Scary Spice’s Fiji vacation with Geri. Oz’s audition set the standard for mentalists to compete on the show. 

#28 – Drew Lynch (America’s Got Talent: Season 10 RUNNER-UP; Howie Mandel’s Golden Buzzer) 

Jake’s Take with Jacob Elyachar Podcast guest Drew Lynch ended the first episode of America’s Got Talent’s tenth anniversary season. Before his performance, the stand-up comedian revealed a stutter caused by a sports injury. The Indianapolis, Indiana native made me smile as he joked about working at a fast-food chain and his voice guiding people using GPS. Drew’s routine moved me to tears, but he also received Howie Mandel’s Golden Buzzer, leading to the Radio City Music Hall live shows. 

#27 – Sharon Irving (America’s Got Talent: Season 10 SEMIFINALIST; Mel B’s Golden Buzzer) 

AGT’s tenth anniversary season was a game-changer for soul music as the genre was rarely represented in the NBC talent show’s early years. One changemaker was Chicago native Sharon Irving. Her robust cover of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” gave me goosebumps, and thanks to Mel B’s Golden Buzzer, Sharon headed to Radio City Music Hall as her standout performances laid the foundation for soul singers to dominate the show for years to come. 

26 – Emil & Dariel (Season Nine Top 12 FINALISTS)

Jake’s Take has had a tough stance on young performers under 18. However, one youth act has put a smile on my face: brothers Emil & Dariel. Emil & Dariel took their cellos to the next level of excellence when they covered Jimi Hendrix’s classic “Purple Haze.” Emil & Dariel’s showmanship and musicianship put a smile on my face, and without them, AGT would not have had the success of young music acts invading the stage. 

#25 – Emily West (Season Nine RUNNER-UP)

Emily West is truly one of the best vocalists to audition for AGT. The Nashville native enchanted audiences with her gorgeous rendition of “Sea of Love” during the Season Nine auditions. The breathtaking performance received a standing ovation from Howie and Howard and set her on a path to the Season Nine finale. 

#24 – Mat Franco (Season Nine WINNER)

Season Nine winner Mat Franco elevated the art of close-up magic by incorporating storytelling into his audition. Some of my favorite moments included seeing the judges’ faces on the cards and how he incorporated the playing cards deck. This audition led him to be crowned the ninth season’s champion and one of Las Vegas’ resident headliners. 

#23 – Vicki Barbolak (Season 13 TOP 10 FINALIST)

Comedian Vicki Barbolak made me laugh so hard when she first auditioned for AGT’s thirteenth season. Her material was brilliant as she made comments about conjugal visits at a San Diego prison and bras made up of recycled shrapnel. Vicki’s jokes led her beyond the Season 13 finale as she entertained audiences nationwide and internationally as a part of 2019’s Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions. 


The first incarnation of the Forte Tenors (Josh Page, Hana Ryu, and Fernando Varela) met each other for the first time in person, days before their Judges’ Auditions. The trio delivered a powerful incarnation of “Pie Jesu, ” showcasing their outstanding vocals and goosebump-inducing harmonies. 

#21 – Christina Wells (Season 13 SEMIFINALIST) 

When she auditioned for AGT’s thirteenth season, Christina Wells became a household name. After enduring rejection due to her size, Christina proved her critics wrong with a robust cover of Darlene Love’s “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Her outstanding vocal brought the judges and the Pasadena Civic Center audience to their feet. I was so proud of Christina’s journey on the show and how she inspired people to fulfill their dreams. 

#20 – Taylor Williamson (Season Eight RUNNER-UP) 

San Diego, California native Taylor Williamson brought his unique brand of stand-up comedy to AGT’s eighth season. His material included his 95-year-old grandmother and a duvet. I loved his energy and interaction with Heidi, which began a two-season gag. Despite not winning the show, Taylor returned to compete on America’s Got Talent: The Champions and toured across the country. 

#19 – Zurcaroah (Season 13 RUNNER-UPS; Tyra Banks’ Golden Buzzer) 

Season 13 Runners-up Zurcaroah elevated the dance category with this audition. The dance troupe brought out superb acrobatics and excellent choreography that blew the Pasadena Civic Center audience away. They also earned host Tyra Banks’ final Golden Buzzer. 

#18 – Voices of Service (Season 14 FINALISTS) 

The Voices of Service made their presence known during AGT’s fourteenth season. Throughout the competition, the quartet beautifully represented CAMMO and blew everyone away during America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ sophomore season. Their definitive version of Katy Perry’s “Rise” gave me chills and set the standard for vocal groups for seasons to come. 

#17 – Alfredo Silva’s Cage Riders (America’s Got Talent: EXTREME WINNERS; Terry Crews’s Golden Buzzer) 

AGT fan-favorite Alfredo Silva returned to the EXTREME spin-off and showcased his first passion: motorbike riding. Alfredo and two of his teammates performed in the Cage of Death while the rest of the team jumped across the gigantic metal sphere. After successfully executing both stunts, host Terry Crews gave them the Golden Buzzer making Alfredo the third act in show history to receive two Golden Buzzers. 

#16 – Branden James (America’s Got Talent: Season Eight TOP 12 FINALIST) 

Throughout my time covering AGT, I developed a few lifelong friendships with the alums, and one of them is the remarkable Branden James. When I watched Branden audition for Season Eight, he blew the audience away with his robust interpretation of the opera standard “Nessun Dorma.” This audition changed his life, and I am proud of his journey on this show and how he has inspired other singers worldwide. 

#15 – Linkin’ Bridge (America’s Got Talent: Season 11 FINALISTS) 

In 2016, I watched the Season 11 Judges Auditions film at the Pasadena Civic Center. In addition to fist-bumping Howie, giving Mel B a high five, and shaking hands with Simon, I watched Linkin’ Bridge audition. As their outstanding four-part soulful harmonies filled the auditorium, I immediately jumped to my feet. I was thrilled to see how their journey took them to the Dolby Theatre. 

#14 – Kenichi Ebina (America’s Got Talent: Season Eight WINNER) 

In 2013, Kenichi Ebina traveled from Tokyo, Japan, to audition for AGT. Kenichi’s “dance-ish” performance made my jaw drop and changed the franchise for the better with his remarkable showmanship and stunts. His initial audition has been viewed over 125 million times on the show’s YouTube channel. The Season Eight winner continues to be one of the most popular champions in show history. 

#13 – Kseniya Simonova (America’s Got Talent – The Champions: Season One THIRD PLACE FINALIST; Terry Crews’ Golden Buzzer) 

Ukraine’s Got Talent champion Kseniya Simonova brought her powerful storytelling to AGT Champions’ first season. I was so enamored with Kseniya’s superb artistry as it gave me chills. It was one of the most remarkable variety auditions I have ever seen on AGT. 

#12 – Jimmie Herrod (America’s Got Talent: Season 16 FINALIST; Sofia Vergara’s Golden Buzzer) 

Jimmie Herrod took a massive risk auditioning with Simon Cowell’s least favorite song: Annie’s “Tomorrow.” However, Simon’s mind changed once Jimmie sang the tune and showcased his outstanding vocal range. Because of his Herculean effort, Jimmie’s performance earned Sofia Vergara’s second Golden Buzzer! 

#11 – Prince Poppycock (America’s Got Talent: The Champions – Season One) 

I loved America’s Got Talent: The Champions because the show brought back acts from its history. I jumped with joy when I saw Season Five finalist Prince Poppycock strut across the stage. While it had been nearly a decade since he performed on the Got Talent stage, Prince Poppycock showcased his powerful showmanship and fantastic vocals that made him a household name.

Head over to Page Two to learn which performers make up my Top 10!

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar