AGT Fifth Judge: Strongest Finals Ever? Several Acts Gave Their Best Yet, But Who Gave Enough?
15th September 2021

Who will win Season 16 of “America’s Got Talent”?

Props to the show, the voters and the talent for coming out this year for “America’s Got Talent,” as this may be the most consistently impressive and talented group of finalists we’ve ever seen.

Remarkably, all of the remaining Golden Buzzers have made it into the finale as well, with only Simon Cowell’s Nightbirde absent because she withdrew amid her ongoing cancer battle. He did offer an update that she’s doing better, so we join the judges and Terry Crews in wishing her good health. Maybe we’ll see her again in the future.

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It’s either a testament to the judges (and Terry) for picking such great acts, or there could be a subtle influence on America when it comes to voting that helps out these Golden Buzzer acts It’s interesting that they’ve all done so well, but we’re also not in a position to say that any of them don’t deserve their success.

We’re also impressed that less than half of the finalists are singers, and that those acts are so different as well. Jimmie Herrod is a unique voice that soars, Brooke Simpson a powerhouse pop star, Victory Brinker an operatic angel and Northwell Health Nurse Choire are … well, a choir.

They’re punctuated through the night with true variety, including an unprecedented two stand-up comedians, an aerialist, a quick-change artist, a magician and a massive martial arts group. It’s an eclectic group, and there was electricity in the air.

We found ourselves emotionally moved and getting goosebumps from acts that have never touched us before, with several stepping up by leaps and bounds over any prior performance we’ve seen. This was the best of the best giving their best of the best, making for a very challenging job for America.

How could we possibly predict what will happen? It’s impossible to, in all honesty. But that didn’t stop us! You can check out our Top 5 predictions after all the acts, and no, they do not line up with our own rankings of the night’s performances.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

And just for fun, I’m gonna rank them from worst to first to see how my favorites do and then we can see how you did — i.e., if you agreed with me.

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Léa Kyle

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(quick-change artist – Heidi’s Golden Buzzer) This act seemed a little abrupt, and the hula hoop timing was way off for the second-to-last change. We’re thinking that’s the part we’re missing with this act: the misdirection. What makes quick-change so amazing is that you don’t see the dress change. Maybe one or two times of actually seeing it can be compelling, but Léa doesn’t hide any of them, or when she does it’s awkward and ill-timed. She has the makings of something magic here, but she’s just pushing that one element. Don’t give us opportunities to see your breakaway dresses, just blow us away. That said, the cape and the final dress reveal were handled nicely. She’s good, but this didn’t completely come together for us.

Jimmie Herrod

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(singer – Sofia’s Golden Buzzer) Jimmie certainly held that power note at the end as long as he possibly could. Look, this was technically brilliant. He may have sounded more impressive as a vocal powerhouse here than he ever has before. What we were missing was any sense of feeling from him. Especially on this song, there’s so much passion in the song itself, we just felt like we were missing it from Jimmie. We get it, it’s a competition and he did everything he needed to blow us away. But he didn’t bring us in and let us feel this message with him, and that can be just as important.

Victory Brinker

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(singer – Everyone’s Golden Buzzer) For the first time this season, we could both see and hear nerves in Victory’s performance. It was smart of her to go with such a well-known operatic number — not always easy to find — and she definitely delivered with the range and power we’ve come to expect from her. But she also looked like the pressure of the whole season was weighing on her a bit, and her voice was quavering (especially early on) for reasons having nothing to do with a vibrato. Nevertheless, she remains something truly special with a world-class talent that will surely take her far in her chosen field.

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Gina Brillon

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(comedian) And just like that, Gina redeems every previous round with her strongest performance yet. This was so much smoother and funnier than we’ve seen her before. She kept humor injected throughout her set, with lots of great little moments as she talked about her relationship with her husband. And some of her perspectives were actually fresh. We’d have loved to see this exact material fleshed out more, which is the first time she’s left us wanting like this. It’s the perfect time to step it up.

Northwell Health Nurse Choir

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(singers – Howie’s Glden Buzzer) A little more straightforward than we expected, with repetition even from the soloists, which was a bit surprising. They still have a solid sound, and they pull the heartstrings as front-line workers in healthcare during the pandemic. But based on the pure quality of just the performance alone, this wasn’t enough to elevate them above some of the acts that have absolutely blown us away in these Finals. They have a lot to be proud of, and they’ve inspired along the way, but this wasn’t their strongest moment.

World Taekwondo Demonstration Team

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(martial artists – Terry’s Golden Buzzer) There was a compelling story behind the acrobatics this time around, with believable fight choreography incorporated with the requisite board breaking. Once again, WTKD won us over with just the sheer ferocity of their act. We even felt the emotions when the ladies all came out together looking unstoppable. We wish they’d have had a bigger moment right then, and gotten to break some boards or something, but there’s no denying that even in its imperfections and with a few misses here and there, this remains a world-class act.

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Brooke Simpson

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(singer) If she were competing on a singing competition, Brooke would probably the the hands-down favorite to win. She’s shown so much diversity and range in her choices, while remaining extremely current and relatable as an artist. Plus, she’s inspiring and uplifting as a representative of Native American culture. But even setting that entirely aside, her talent is absolutely astonishing every time she shows us her full throttle vocal potential. The problem is that she’s on a variety show competition, which is so much harder to stand out as a vocalist in. Still, this should give her a real shot at making a run at a real career in contemporary music no matter what happens on the show.

Aidan Bryant

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(aerialist) Aidan didn’t even need that final moment to punctuate what was leaps and bounds better than any time we’ve seen him before. He was moving up and down and between dangerous formations so quickly, we’ve never been so nervous that one wrong move could spell his doom. This was everything this show should be, and he was flawless in his execution from start to finish. We’re not sure if we breathed once as he was performing, it was that unbelievable. This is the best aerialist moment we’ve ever seen on this show, with SImon giving him a standing ovation on the table to emphasize how incredible that was.

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Dustin Tavella

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(magician) This was probably the lightest Dustin has ever been in actual magic content, but the strongest he’s been in motivational speaking. In a way, he’s forging a new path in magic, or at least fine-tuning that juxtaposition of magic and inspiration. He is so compelling on the stage when he talks, you almost don’t care or realize how long it’s been since you’ve seen magic. And then he punctuates his moments with magic and you’re enraptured. It’s a unique way to tell his story, and one we could easily watch for two hours or more — which is kind of what this show is all about.

Josh Blue

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(comedian) “Thank you, that’s the end of my career,” Josh wrapped his final set on “AGT” and boy did he go out on top. This was his funniest and most consistent set yet, and he’s had a great run. If a comedian were going to win this show, we could see it happening off the back of this level of quality. Josh was absolutely in the zone top to bottom, even handling a tepid response brilliantly by telling the audience he can only dumb down his material so much. A comedian at the top of his game, this was definitely a moment he can be proud of. Is it enough?

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Simon predicted that half of the acts would win the season, while Howie thinks it will be his Golden Buzzer, the Northwell Health Nurse Choir. If that were to happen, it would be more because of their story than their talent. While they’re good as a choir, they certainly weren’t the best act to grace the stage this season, or even this night.

We honestly don’t think they’ll win, despite how inspirational their day jobs are. Instead, we think it will come down to some combination of Josh Blue, Dustin Tavella and Aidan Bryant. Yes, we’re surprised ourselves that we don’t think a winner will creep into that top group. If one were to slide in, it should be Brooke Simpson — but would probably be Howie’s choir.

As such, we’re going to predict that they edge out Brooke for America’s Top 5, joining Aidian, Dustin, Josh and World Taekwondo Demonstration Team.

We’re as surprised as you are that we don’t see Victory Brinker or Jimmie Herrod in our Top 5, but they didn’t create that connection with us that we got from so many of these other acts. The same can be said for Léa Kyle, who left us wanting, and Gina Brillon. She had her best set yet, but Josh still upstaged her and we don’t see both in that Top 5.

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So will we get it right or will you pack the Top 5 with singers? We wouldn’t be mad to see ourselves wrong and Brooke get a chance to represent among that top group … we’re just not holding our breath.

As for who we think will win it all? We’ll go head and give our very wrong Top 5 so we can really be embarrassed.

  • Fifth: World Taekwondo Demonstration Team
  • Fourth: Aidan Bryant
  • Third: Northwell Health Nurse Choir
  • Second: Dustin Tavella
  • First: Josh Blue

We think this will be the first year that a comedian wins. They have had a very strong run all season, and Josh was fantastic tonight. If Dustin had packed a little more magic into his final performance, we’d have given it to him, but he didn’t and Josh packed in more laughs.

“America’s Got Talent” wraps it all up with a guest star-filled two-hour finale Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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