The America’s Got Talent live quarterfinals continued apace Tuesday, and finally we found out which of Season 16's five wild-card contestants had been voted through to this crucial round. Perplexingly, these wild cards were some of the most memorable contestants of the season and arguably deserved to automatically advance: teen-prodigy musician Dylan Zangwill, rock-chick powerhouse Storm Large, crooner Matt Mauser (the family man whose wife died in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash), kid magician Patrick Kun, and dad-joke comedian Mike Goodwin.
America’s votes (or, more specifically, Peacock viewers’ votes, since the wild-card competition was a streaming-only event) went to Storm, whose initial AGT audition — a rawked-up remake of the old standard “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” performed in simple high-tops, a weathered leather jacket, and blue jeans — had been one of Simon Cowell’s favorite Season 16 moments.
At that time, Simon had praised the aptly name Storm's “amazing personality” and “naturally amazing voice” — which she’d honed 15 years ago on another NBC talent show, Rock Star: Supernova, a Dave Navarro-hosted televised search for the lead singer of a supergroup comprising Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, Metallica’s Jason Newsted, and Guns N’ Roses’ Gilby Clarke. On that show, Storm made it all the way to fifth place singing songs by Cheap Trick, the Cars, Dramarama, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd. But when she performed on AGT this week in a Jessica Rabbit pageant gown and warbled a slick, loungey (and, frankly, almost recognizable) rendition of A-ha’s “Take on Me,” it seemed like she’d squandered what she called her second “game-changing chance” at reality TV stardom.
Before this week’s AGT performance, Storm, now age 52, ambitiously declared, “It’s a lot of pressure, so tonight I'm going to try to level up. I am going to sing my own take on this huge hit from the '80s, and I guarantee you've never heard this song like this before. I've been rehearsing my whole life for this moment, and tonight when I walk out on that stage and those lights hit me, I am going to give you everything.”
To her credit, Storm’s version was lovely — and possibly inspired by the viral MTV Unplugged version that A-ha themselves recorded in 2017 — and her vocals were faultless. She even nailed that stratospheric Morten Harket falsetto! But Simon and his fellow judges absolutely thought it was the wrong song choice to showcase her trademark badass rock 'n' roll charisma.
“I'm sure people are going to love you, but for me this was not better than the first audition song,” said Sofia Vergara. “Ultimately, this show is about choice. I don't know that that was the best song choice to move you ahead,” lamented Howie Mandel. And Simon, who’d been the one to excitedly phone Storm with the good news that she’d won the wild-card vote, was the most disappointed, telling her, “First of all, I really, really like you. And I admire you, and you're gutsy. There was a rawness about you on the first audition which somehow has gotten lost. I don't know what happened — you know, even your styling. Everything was just too soft tonight, in my opinion.” It was obvious from the crestfallen look on poor Storm's face that his criticism stung. (Compare and contrast this week's A-ha cover with her audition below.)
On Wednesday’s live results show, seven of this week’s dozen contestants will advance to the Season 16 semifinals, and Storm will face stiff competition from two other power-singing divas that competed on Tuesday: former top three Voice contestant Brooke Simpson (whose cover of Billie Eilish’s “Lost Cause” was declared one of the best performances of the week) and rockin’ real estate agent Anica, who capably belted Bishop Briggs’s “River” (a performance that — unlike almost every other underwhelming performance this week — was declared an improvement over her first audition). But I do think that Storm has the pipes — as well as the core AGT fans' support, as evidenced by her wild-card victory — to still scrape through to the semifinals. And I suggest that, if she does advance, she put her leather jacket back on and gets back to basics next time.
I predict that the other six contestants that will make it through are Brooke Simpson, the World Taekwondo Demonstration Team, hand-balancing trio Rialcris, quick-change artist Lea Kyle, spooky magician Klek Entos, and Police Academy "voicetramentalist" Michael Winslow (despite the latter three all having a somewhat off night). That means I believe Anica, unicycle team Unicircle Flow, corny '70s-revivalist band the Curtis Family C-Notes, child dance troupe ChapKidz, and novelty dancer Keith Apicary will go home.
But whatever fate awaits Storm on Wednesday, at least she got another very deserved moment on national television, and she seemed very grateful to be back on NBC, telling the judges, “I would like to thank you guys very much for a dream I didn't know I was allowed to have.”
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