AGT 5th Judge Live Shows Premiere: Simon Cowell Predicts One Act Will Be as Big as Carrie Underwood

In the most brutal cut ever at this stage of the competition, only two of tonight's eleven acts will advance — check out our predictions and see if you agree!

This week saw the reveal of America’s Wild Card winner as well as the first 11 of 55 total acts who will perform in this epic semi-finals round on “America’s Got Talent.”

While that does mean we’ll get to see more different acts, it also means that there will only be three total performances from any act before a winner is crowned, and that makes us feel a little cheated.

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Especially when some of tonight’s acts fizzled out of the gate, failing to live up to their potential. Luckily, the majority of tonight’s acts did deliver, stepping up from their first auditions and really blowing us away. We’ll say that a few acts we were sour on with their auditions won us over.

Tonight’s acts included the Players Choir, singers Ava Swiss, Drake Milligan and Ben “Parmesan Guy” Lapidus. Dancers Stephanie and Yeeremy brought even more acrobatics, as did acrobatic troupe Amoukanama. Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends saw more cute dog action hit the stage, while Don McMillan and Lace Larrabee brought the laughs and Oleksandr Yenivatov’s contortions had us all grabbing our groins

Three different acts got slammed with X’s from the judges, including one act that got three different ones! We had to agree with two of those harsh instant judgments, though, as this is your shot to fight for the Finals and honestly, what were some of these people doing! The other one, though, felt a little unfair.

With this week, “AGT” expands to two nights with a results show following on Wednesday. Last season’s winner, inspirational magical Dustin Tavella, is back to dazzle us with some more magic, and probably update us on his life and touch our hearts all over again. You talk about a unique act that stands out, Dustin took magic somewhere no one had really done before.

As for that Wild Card, it was down to sword swallower Auzzy Blood, comedian Jordan Conley, and singers Ben Waites and Debbii Dawson. Ultimately, Jordan got the call — but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see him perform in the coming weeks.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

And just for fun, I’m gonna rank them from worst to first to see how my favorites do and then we can see how you did — i.e., if you agreed with me.

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Lace Larrabee

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(comedian) Something went wrong with Lace’s delivery and material tonight. She just didn’t have any confidence or really energy in her storytelling. On top of that, her barbs at her husband weren’t all that sharply written, and the material about drinking with her girlfriends wasn’t nearly as wild as it could have been. Stories about drinking whatever Chad is mixing could have been stories about licking whatever was running down the male stripper’s chest or something. She needed a lot more bite and edge. While Simon’s X rattled her, we have to agree that it was dragging on by that point.

Ben Lapidus

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(singer/comedian) With his wacky “Parmesan” song, Ben became the first-ever “AGT” contestant to get four X’s and still manage to advance to the live shows. And then, after a lame fakeout with a sincere song, Ben tried to rock out to the exact same song. Talk about misunderstanding why the audience fought for him. They wanted to see what else he could come up with because that first one was catchy and random. They didn’t want him to do it again with a larger production budget (is it all he’s got?). This was a terrible waste of time. He get three more X’s from the panel — only Heidi seemed into the craziness. Well, her and the audience, who were as hyped as the first time he did this.

Ava Swiss

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(singer) She has a lovely tone, but Ava’s nerves crept into her voice at times throughout this sleep performance. She has a sweet tone, and this was a pleasant enough performance, but we don’t see it as the kind of moment that’s going to encourage people to pick up the phone from her. We hate to say it, but this almost felt like a vanity performance of a song an artist loves at a concert, but isn’t necessarily a fan-favorite. With only one shot to advance, we’d be surprised if this gets her to the Finals, despite the standing ovation from the Judges. We think that had more to do with her being a school shooting survivor, which is a compelling and heartbreaking story, than her actual performance.

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Oleksandr Yenivatov

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(contortionist) Impressively, Oleksandr had more twisting and contorting to show us that we hadn’t seen before. We think we’re starting to get a sense of just how much he can distend his hips and twist his torso, but we loved the presentation at the beginning to basically twist him backwards on himself. The presentation is cheeky and fun and he definitely impressed us a lot more with this one than his initial audition. Coming from Ukraine, he’s performing for peace in his home country. He certainly did them proud. Is it enough to advance? We’re not so sure.


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(acrobats) One stunt saw a guy flip across the floor and onto the shoulders of another performer. In another, two hand balancing guys upside down spread their legs as another guy launched through them. These were highlights moments in a mixed-energy performance that slowed to a crawl with the tandem flips on discs (with extended setup calls). We were glad to have those moments because the act needed them to stand out and avoid being a repeat of what we saw before and just not that exciting or dangerous. This time around, they really did step things up.

Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends

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(dog trainer) In an effort to spice up her act, Veronica added “quick” change, but it was never quite quick or seamless. Still, it was a fun addition. As always, these kinds of acts go haywire from time to time, and she started off rocky with her first dog. But more of her stunts landed right than wrong, she kept her energy consistent throughout and the dogs did pull off some impressively solid small tricks. There was a sweet energy about the whole thing, though we could have used some bigger jumps or wow moments (or at least one) for it to really stand out.

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Drake Milligan

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(singer) Drake topped the iTunes country chart after his “AGT” audition, giving him a taste of that good life. He followed it up with another original song to continue pushing his own vision of himself as an artist. His hand gestures are a little too on point and corny, really pulling us out of the performance every time. It didn’t feel genuine to the performance, but rather like an over the top gesture to try and look cute or something. He doesn’t need to do that as much because the song is another catchy country tune, though not quite as dynamic as the first. He just needs to settle down a bit as a performer and ride the wave.

Stefanny and Yeeremy

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(dancers) We can see why they brought this act to the “AGT” stage because on a dance competition show they’d have been chided for emphasizing tricks over dance moves. The tricks, though, are mighty impressive. The strength on display from both partners is absolutely astonishing, with moves so rapid you have to hold your breath so you don’t miss the next one. It was a breathtaking performance, so we were surprised that Simon hit his X. He said he did so because it felt too much the same throughout and he felt it needed a transition. That could have been some actual intense dance content between the tricks, but tricks are fan-favorites, so if they’re playing for votes, they may have made the right call. They’re very impressive.

Players Choir

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(singers) A huge improvement over their audition, the guys actually arranged this Justin Timberlake track the way a choir should, with complementing parts enhancing the whole rather than everyone just singing the same thing the whole time. The difference was astonishing, with a confident and commanding performance we were not anticipating. These former NFL players finally sounded to us like a real, professional choir — and we did not get that the first time around. The solo work was solid, their physical movements complemented the song and there was an infectious vibe of fun working through the whole performance.

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Don McMillan

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(comedian) Like a walking meme generator, Don really has mastered his Powerpoint slideshow comedy style. His material was more consistently sharp this week with an emphasis on how engineers want to make things better. We appreciated his toner price chart and his observation about the “type the letters you see” verification pages. Basically, it’s observational humor with a modern, technological bent in many ways, which is very current. We really appreciate how he’s pushing the format forward visually in interesting ways.

Avery Dixon

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(saxophonist) Terry’s Golden Buzzer, Avery came out with so much more confidence this time after the validation he got after his audition. It resulted in a standout performance that was far, far stronger than his first audition. He took a familiar song straight to the jazz clubs with an incredible solo dropped right in the middle. We weren’t sure if he could take solo saxophone work and make it into a leading act on a stage like this, but Avery is a natural performer and an incredible talent on his instrument. Simon predicted he’ll be as big as Carrie Underwood, and if the caveat were in the world of saxophone playing, we’d have to agree.

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Possibly the most challenging prediction we could ever make because only two of these eleven acts are going to advance, which just feels crazy. There were way more than two who were deserving, and we don’t think America is going to agree with our rankings in their votes.

We do actually feel confident that Avery is going to go there because there really was something next level and magical about what he just did. That performance was like something beyond what you might see on a concert stage by a bona fide saxophone legend like Alto Reed or Clarence Clemons.

Beyond that, though, it gets murky. We really feel that Don McMillan is something special and so unique in what he does, but we also saw that response that Drake Milligan got. And we all know how big that country music following can be, so that could certainly help his chances. The Players Choir really stepped up in a big way, too. Honestly, our Top 7 acts could all make a strong case for advancing.

Ultimately, though, we have a feeling that it will be Drake Milligan joining Avery Dixon in the Finals. Both are certainly deserving and deliver quality entertainment. We’ll hold out hope for Don McMillan eking in there — there’s always the Wild Card finals slot (but talk about a tight competition — but it will be a slim hope.

“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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