Who’s Got Talent? Michael Grimm, Fighting Gravity, Jackie Evancho and Prince Poppycock!
Rick: Had to weigh in on this one while it’s still timely. Next week sees the final two nights of this year’s America’s Got Talent competition on NBC, and after this week’s narrowing down from the ten semi-finalists to the final four, I’m pleased to say that at this point it’s exactly where I predicted it would be weeks ago. While a small number of other acts would fit right in during a Vegas variety show, only these four have been virtually flawless in every one of their performances, and exude the star quality you would want in a million dollar winner. Here are some thoughts on each of the four, along with a bit of retrospection on some other acts that came and went.
Watching his audition at the beginning of June, my jaw dropped right along with those of judges Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel within moments after this 30-year-old Mississippi native began to sing. Michael Grimm’s rendition of “You Don’t Know Me” conjured up memories of another Michael (Bolton), with a hint of Joe Cocker (whose “You Can Leave Your Hat On” was appropriately chosen for his third performance in the competition). With an ability to take even a weak song like “Let’s Stay Together” and make it compelling, his singing is authentically soulful without the all-over-the-scale caterwauling that’s become typical of that genre. The bluesy songs he’s chosen have worked well with his personality-filled voice, and although I’d be curious to hear him do one of the songs that he himself has written, he’s wise to keep his repertoire familiar for now, if only to show that he has a strong enough presence to make anyone else’s song his own.
So will Michael Grimm win America’s Got Talent? During his audition I thought, They might as well end this competition right now; here’s your winner. But three others have also also come along who would make worthy headliners, and they round out the top four:
Maybe it stems from my own childhood penchant for black lights and Glo-Juice (a brand of luminous paint, not a strange form of Kool-Aid). Fighting Gravity has been a top contender in my book from their first appearance. These thirteen Virginia Tech students who postponed their education to give it their all have become the frontrunners in a new brand of performance art, combining illusion, dance and mime with a twist of sci-fi. Even when you kind of know how they do it, it’s still pretty doggone dazzling, and they get more creative each time you see them. Their slick sense of showmanship and surprise is Las Vegas-style entertainment all the way, possibly moreso than any of the others in the top four. You could watch these guys for a full-length show and not start to look at your watch. (Well, it would be too dark, for one thing.)
She’s ten years old, has the polish and poise of a soprano three times her age and is booked at Carnegie Hall this December. Her 2009 CD Prelude to a Dream debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Classical Albums chart. In addition to singing Italian opera, she also plays piano and violin. Talk about a child prodigy; there is no doubt that Jackie Evancho is destined to be a superstar. I do have to wonder if she would be getting so much attention if she was thirty years old instead of ten. For that reason she could almost be considered a novelty act. While she’s absolutely deserving of top honors on America’s Got Talent, I will be surprised if she wins for two reasons: 1) Her material is pure opera, which isn’t typically what Vegas showgoers are looking for (not that she should change gears and perform Mariah Carey). 2) If she did win America’s Got Talent, it would be a bit awkward for the producers to know just what to do with a 10-year-old headliner. Unbelievable talent or not, it would set an awkward precedent for future seasons of AGT. Her career’s already fully in motion; she’ll do great no matter what.
You either love him or you hate him. Although there’s a third option, that of being rendered numb and speechless. Ironically, like Jackie Evancho, he introduced himself to us via opera numbers from the likes of The Barber of Seville, adorned in colorful costumes and geisha makeup. After the initial shock, something registered with the masses and the oddest formerly known as John Quayle became an instant hit. In each successive appearance Prince Poppycock has ‘stepped it up’ (as Howie likes to say) and become even more outrageous, raising the bar with outlandish sets and an over-the-top persona that also gets bigger each time he performs. One brilliant move was tackling the music of Queen, perfect for his image and which he commanded with ease. Not since Liberace in the 50s or Elton John in the 70s has someone projected so much, um, rainbowness on stage. He has taken flamboyance to a colorful new level.
That said, his pseudo-bravado voice lends itself perfectly to operatic pieces, and he would be wise to stick to that specialty rather than venture too far into other areas like his patriotic medley this week. It worked for sure, but there is an increasing element in his overall demeanor, an I’m-so-cute affectation that makes it all one big parody of a parody, which of course is the plan. If he’s not careful though, he will come off as too full of himself and half his fans will get over him quickly. I can only say that if he puts on hot pants and sings Judy Garland next week, I’m outta here.
But as far as America’s Got Talent goes, I do think it’s between him and Fighting Gravity. Michael G is awesome and so is Jackie E. But there is nothing like Poppycock or FG to be found anywhere else on TV, and it’s new and exciting for everyone whose living room votes now hold the key.
I’ll share some tidbits about other contestants a bit later, but for now you tell me: Who is your favorite? And who do you think will win?