'America's Got Talent' recap: Who's going to win it all?

So, your season-long America’s Got Talent recapper Jaya Saxena has left us — left the country, in fact. I don’t think it’s because of this show — or the notion that the people competing in it have more talent than any other undiscovered entertainer in our proud nation (shudder) — but I can’t say for sure. In any case, they asked me if I wanted to step into Jaya’s shoes for the final couple of weeks, and I said what the hell. Full disclosure: I was not a faithful America’s Got Talent viewer this season. I do, however, like singing, dancing, and violin rock-outs as much as the next person. Plus, this is the show with Hasselhoff, and I am flesh and blood after all — love the Hoff. Let’s do this.

Turns out I jumped into this puppy during, as the throaty announcer put it, "America’s Got Talent… THE FINALS" — very exciting. Following a speech on the financial crisis by President Bush that clipped 15 minutes off tonight’s show (I guess we know where NBC’s priorities are), Nuttin But Stringz got the party started by jamming what they described as "one of the greatest songs we ever composed." It kind of sounded like a string version of Ozzy’s "Crazy Train" with a drum machine beat, but they were quite a spectacle, with that rain motif they borrowed from Rihanna’s "Umbrella" video and the Cirque du Soleil trapeze work in the background. There’s no denying these kids are into what they’re doing, and it was all about as Vegas as you could imagine. But it was also more pomp and circumstance than talented performance, wasn’t it? I think Nuttin But Stringz spent almost as much time hyping the crowd ("Come on, make some noooooise!") as they did playing the violins. Take away the flash and it was like an act you’d see performed during a timeout at a basketball game that makes you think, "Wow, that’s kinda cool" as you head off to the bathroom to relieve yourself. Nevertheless, Piers went gaga and pointed out that by virtue of not being singers, the Stringz were the most unique act in the competition. The Hoff summed up his whole evaluation by simply hollering "Nuttin! But! Vegas!" Hoff rules.

Poor Donald Braswell was doomed simply based on the fact that his Finest Collection of Love Songs vocal performance had to follow violin guys’ 106 & Park block party. It didn’t help that he had an orange tan and a mediocre voice that screamed cruise-ship singer. Sorry, Donald. No way in hell.

Chubby opera dude Neal E. Boyd was pretty cool. He belted out thosebig, vibrato notes you think of when you hear the word "opera," evokingcheers from the audience and making the judges look like they might cry(or at least it that’s how it was edited). I think opera dude isactually more talented than violin guys, just not nearly asentertaining. He also seems like a sweet guy, and when he teared upafter the judges praised him, I thought maybe this kid has a shot atthe title. But then I went back and watched the episode a second timeand I saw that the show’s opening included numerous past scenes of Boydweeping and hugging and being all sensitive, so I’m guessing veteran Talent viewers are no longer giving him points for that.

Next we had Eli Mattson, who had me worried that his rendition ofPhil Collins "Against All Odds" would be about as exciting as, well, anamateur singer doing a Phil Collins cover. Turns out there’s somethingkind of intriguing about him, though, right? He has thatskinny-white-boy-at-the-piano thing going on — like a poor man’s ChrisMartin — and his voice sounds a lot like Elton John. Piers pretty muchnailed it when he said there’s something distinctive about Mattson, eventhough, overall, I was kinda meh about the whole thing –mostly because of the aforementioned Phil Collins factor. But my wifesaid Mattson was cute and that she liked him the best (while Sharonsounded like she wanted to jump the kid), so I’m thinking cutie pianoman could pull this off.

Finally, we had Queen Emily, who I was really rooting for after herheartfelt speech about winning the show being her destiny and hersincere desire to pour every ounce of herself into this finalperformance. Sadly, she just simply doesn’t have the goods. Mostly, sheseemed like a decent singer trying too hard and playing out of herleague. Maybe her raspy, soulful voice would’ve sounded better on an oldMotown joint, rather than Whitney Houston’s "One Moment in Time," butin the end I just don’t think she has the juice to take this thinghome. The judges seemed to agree with me, saying things like "whetheryou win or not." That’s definitely not a phrase you wanna hear in thefinals.

So there it is. I personally kind of dig Boyd, but if I had to guessI’d say it’s between Nuttin But Stringz and Eli Mattson. Pretty applesand oranges, those two acts, which means it could probably just comedown to the demographic of the viewers watching — do Talentviewers tend to dig Coldplay or are they more of Ludacris type ofcrowd? At any rate, I’m pretty confident next week’s winner will be oneof those two. Which means that Queen Emily will probably win by alandslide.


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Comments (66 total) Add your comment
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  • Cindy

    I still believe that Neal Boyd is indeed the most talented out of the final five and he should win. However, the judges seem to favor Nuttin But Strings, even though they played the same 16 notes over and over and over again in their final performance. The sounds coming from their violins actually hurt my ears. I’m rooting for Neal because as one poster previously said – he gives me goosebumps. Only time will tell.

  • Melinda65

    I dropped this show weeks ago, because I was sick of the manipulation by the bad editing, not to mention the prodigious lack of actual talent in most of the acts. Mike, your recap was entertaining enough to almost make me want to watch the last show. Almost.

  • Skinny

    Can somebody remind me what Eli’s troublesome background is? They alluded to it last night but, at least when I was watching, I didn’t catch what his troubles have been. Thanks!

  • Shellybean

    The judges only gave a standing ovation to Nuttin But Strings. While they are very talented, I know I wouldn’t pay to see 90 minutes of it.
    My favorite is Eli and he has been since his first audition. Altough, I wish he would have picked a different song.
    IMO, Eli and Nuttin But Strings got the most applause from the audience. So I think it will be one of them to win. Hopefully Eli.

  • Shellybean

    Skinny – I don’t recall hearing anything about Eli’s past either, which I’m glad of, enough with all the tears. Maybe he has tried getting a record deal and all doors closed to him. Just a guess.

  • Dee

    I doubt if any of the singers this year could captivate a Las Vegas audience or entice them to spend their money to see their show. Which leaves Nuttin but Strings. No matter how you look at it these guys have energy and talent.

  • danielle

    I didn’t think any of the acts gave their best performances last night. But I wouldn’t count out Donald Braswell. Sharon was downright rude to him last night, which was uncalled for given it was the finals and America obviously likes the guy enough to keep voting him through. He has a huge fanbase to get him the wildcard spot a few weeks back, so maybe Sharon’s rudeness will win him some extra votes. I know I voted for him because of it, just to spite the obvious NBS bias.

  • jammom05

    Eli’s troubled past has nothing to do with his talent. Coming from a family member (although distant) I don’t understand why that should be the focus. He is an extremely talented young man, that is what people should pay attention to, not the problems he may have had in life before the show.

  • sam

    What an idiotic review. Come on, Mike. Do some homework before you go off blasting everyone. All performers did well. Some better than others. Definitely better talent than you will ever see and hear at local talent shows and maybe even some professional events. Eli needs to be recording now. I’ll buy his music.

  • Jackie

    Eli has not put focus on his past, which is extremely smart. That way the audience is voting on talent rather than story.
    But I remember from his audition that he would work in clubs just enough to get that next bus ticket. Basically, living off of his talent and not getting outside support.


    I happen to think Nothin but Stringz
    rocks. Would love to see them live but my vote would go to Neal Boyd. The man has a most wonderful voice and
    personality. He deserves to win the
    whole talent contest. The man has
    got what it takes in the music (opera)
    industry. Best of luck Neal!!!!

  • Nancy

    My vote is Donald Braswell. His voice is so wonderful and he overcame 14 years of illiness to get to this point.

  • Dee Infante

    Although Nuttin But Strings seemed very entertaining, there was a lot of rapping going on….the most talented one is Neil Boyd….spectacular voice and such charisma..

  • labgirl

    I voted for Donald Braswell. He has been my favorite story all year – I feel like he can win since the fans brought him back in the first place. Remember last year the judges told Terry Fator that they didn’t think a ventriloquist could win & the american voters totally proved them wrong. Nuttin’But Strings are talented but all their songs sound the same to me. I would like to hear more of their violin talent. It is overshadowed by everything else that is going on. I like everyone else – I wouldn’t be sad if they won. But I am pulling for Donald – especially since Piers & Sharon totally dissed him last night.

  • Chris Croxton

    This is a indirect question, Where can I find an application for a chance to appear on “America’s Got Talent” ?
    Thank you,

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