All right, I know y’all don’t care very much, but this is probably the last time I’ll ever write about this show and there’s something I’d like to get a bit of closure on.
First off, a quick rundown of the final.
Jimmie Herrod (singing) - He’s a Broadway-style crooner with a big voice. Much like all the other Broadway-style crooner with big voices we’ve had here. He belongs on Broadway. I suppose.
Lea Kyle (quick change) - Ostentatious but weirdly short finals performance, definitely not on par with what she did in quarters or semis. She reminds me of Kinetic King: what she does is beautiful and amazing to watch, but it’ll never work as a Vegas act because it requires so much setup for about a couple minutes of action. She’d be best off as part of a variety act or simply selling videos. (That still happens, right?)
Victory Brinker (opera) - The rap on her is that she can do the high belty notes great but struggles with the rest of the song. Other than that, she’s an opera singer. Not really my thing. Really did not like that the judges picked her over Unicircle Flow. Freaking travesty.
Gina Brillon (comedy) - Ugh. I’m almost always underwhelmed by the comedians here, but usually I can figure out at least how it’s supposed to be funny. Her finals routine left me flat as a pancake. It looks like she just ran out of gas.
World Taekwondo Demonstration Team (martial arts) - Wow. And wow again. In terms of skill, energy, passion, and, yes, wow factor, this one blew everyone else away…per usual. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but they hardly needed it. Sadly, martial arts never wins on this show, so this was essentially a final audition tape. A 25K annuity really isn’t worth much when split that many ways, anyway.
Aiden Bryant (hoop acrobatics) - What he does is really, really pretty, like a poor man’s Cirque Du Soleil act. How many people will pay to see this in a city with actual Cirque Du Soleil acts is questionable.
Brooke Simpson (singing) - She’s strikes me as a very good radio singer, and a First Nations-er doing good is always a good story. She deserves a solid recording contract. Not sure why anyone needs to see her in Vegas.
Dustin Tavella (mentalism) - Bleah. I see someone like Shin Lim and think, oh yeah, he’s definitely got it. Tavella is like that annoying uncle who insists on showing you this awesome new trick he learned and doesn’t know the first thing about delivery and takes forever to get anywhere. He’s by far the most amateurish contestant I’ve ever seen in a final.
Josh Blue (comedy) - All right, I have to be that guy again. I think he’s pretty funny, and he sounds really cool and friendly, and he’d be a lot of fun at parties. But I find his act absolutely exhausting to listen to for more than a minute or so at a stretch. It’s like, okay, you have trouble moving, we get it, find something else in the world to talk about! The fact that he’s also a ringer (he won something in '06, forget what) also leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Northwell Nurse Choir (singing) - It’s a choir. Whaddya expect?
I would’ve pulled for World Taekwondo Demonstration Team…after Unicircle Flow got shafted (), they were the only one left that I found truly impressive…but in my heart I knew they didn’t have a chance. In all honesty, I would’ve been fine with anyone except Victory Brinker, Gina Brillon, Josh Blue, or Dustin Tavella Winning.
So of course this happens.
I’m…at a loss here. Conventional wisdom would’ve called it a toss-up between Herrod and Blue, whereas if the quality of the Acceptable Story was the deciding factor, Northwell Nurse Choir (Heroes! Angels! Inspiraition! Covid!) would’ve nailed it. Baffling, baffling choice. But I suppose no more baffling than Brandon Leake, a goddam talker, somehow beating everyone else last season because beat poetry was a thing that was hip and cool all across the nation in 2020. Because reasons. (Seriously, has there been any discussion of this whatsoever?)
And that’s what made this show so frustrating to watch (y’know, other than the judges and buzzers and booing and crap). All the truly impressive acts…the light shows, the effects-driven theater, the high-flying aerials, all gone, as are the corny novelty acts and general funny stuff. They know they don’t fit the formula and aren’t going to waste their time anymore. Then I see Brandon flippin’ Leake win, and then I see Dustin blinkin’ Tavella win, and I ask myself, what the hell is the formula? Shows like American Ninja Warrior, Hell’s Kitchen, and The Voice are total junk food as well, but at least you know what’s being served up. AGT has become the NFL, where someone jumps out of nowhere to win it, and it makes no sense, and the way it makes no sense is totally different from how the last guy won.
You’ll hear the naysayers lament how far it’s fallen, but in my estimation, it didn’t fall, it mutated. Into a very strange beast where a completely undeserving act always wins…but it has to be the right completely undeserving act.
Good? Bad? Eh…at this point I’d say “at least it’s different” fits. I welcome your thoughts, though!