“America’s Got Talent” aired its triumphant season 12 premiere last night on NBC with new host Tyra Banks and returning judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Mel B and Heidi Klum. After Grace VanderWaal’s magical win last season, the pressure is on to deliver unique and extraordinary talent. The first round of auditions didn’t disappoint with standouts including a piano-playing chicken, a tear-inducing 12-year-old interpretive dancer and a 12-year-old singing ventriloquist who earned the first Golden Buzzer of the season.
A Chicken “Makes History”
Anyone who thinks we’ve seen it all on “America’s Got Talent” had not yet witnessed Jokgu, the patriotic piano-playing chicken. That’s right. A friendly feathered fowl actually pecked out “America the Beautiful” on a keyboard, one note at a time, with its beak. The crowd and judges were amazed. Jokgu and owners received four yeses. When they return, they may expand the animal band to include a drummer! How crazy cool is that?
A Stunning Singer and a Mind-Blowing Magician
Yolie Mayor, 21, struggled with self-esteem for years due to her size. Singing became a creative and emotional outlet for her. She started her audition with a bluesy “I Put a Spell on You” and Simon stopped her, saying it wasn’t working for him and it was very “old-fashioned” She was understandably startled. He asked for another song and told her, “I want this to persuade us you are a great recording artist.”
No pressure, right? Tyra helped her freshen up her “older” look and Yolie rose to the challenge and blew it out of the park with her own powerful spin on Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain.” She earned a well-deserved four-judge standing ovation and pass-through to the next round.
Measuring up to the mind-blowing performances of last season’s runner-up act The Clairvoyants is going to be hard for any aspiring magicians this season. But, Will Tsai, a visual artist who was once homeless, had no trouble wowing the crowd. He did a series of “close-up” tricks moving quarters around and changing them into rose petals right before our eyes – nothing was covered up. It was magnificent!
Donald Trump and Puddles the Clown
Two more singers served up totally unexpected performances. A Donald Trump impersonator had the crowd immediately booing. Mel B smashed her “X” button, and Howie Mandel warned him the audience might “build a wall” around him if he didn’t deliver. This guy was taking a “youuuge” chance that ultimately paid off when he went into a crazy singing and dancing spree with “Uptown Funk.” He surprisingly made it through, though Mel B held her no-go ground.
Puddles the Clown endeared the audience and judging panel with a spectacular rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier.” No one heard it coming, after his pantomime opening – especially not Simon Cowell who has a self-professed clown phobia. Puddles started crying at the end of his performance and the audience went wild. Simon even declared Puddles may have “turned” his attitude toward clowns. We’ll see him in the next round. Yay!
A Pair of 12-Year-Olds Steal the Show
Does anyone remember Simon Cowell’s proclamation last season that kids are taking over the world? It certainly seemed that way last night as 12-year-old interpretive dancer Merrick Hanna told an emotional story of a child and his robot through dance. Howie was near tears and Simon was so impressed he told Merrick he was going to show his record label staff the performance and tell them he had seen something “new” with “meaning.”
This kid was incredible! Although, it may have been the saddest, Kleenex-worthy, creative tale ever told on AGT. We can’t wait to see what he does next – but, we hope his next story is a little brighter!
Finally, 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer brought down the house as she entertained the audience with her singing puppet, Petunia. The young girl’s vocals were spectacular, though they were “channeled” through the puppet. Her timing was also impeccable. Petunia’s nuances and mannerisms were so cute and captivating. Mel B was so thrilled she smashed her button to give young Darci the first season 12 Golden Buzzer. It was a beautiful way to end the opening night, as Darci’s tears and golden confetti rained down. Sniff, sniff.
“America’s Got Talent” airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on NBC.