Brad Paisley joined the judges’ table on America’s Got Talent on Tuesday and pressed his Golden Buzzer to send singer Sophie Pecora, 15, to the live shows in Hollywood.
‘I loved it,’ Brad, 46, said of the teenager’s original song, which dealt with feeling bullied, surviving social media and allowing her writing to save her ‘in a crumbling world.’
‘Misfits have some powers that are really pretty rad,’ Sophie memorably sang, in a line that Brad highlighted.
Guest judge: Brad Paisley served as a guest judge on Tuesday’s episode of America’s Got Talent and pressed his Golden Buzzer for teenage singer/songwriter Sophie Pecora
‘I think I know you from that one song,’ the three-time Grammy winner told Sophie, adding: ‘To stand up there with just a guitar—that takes incredible cojones.’
The father of two said that critiquing social media was vital, especially since so many young people failed to understand that it wasn’t ‘real’ at the end of the day.
‘You have schooled so many people in this moment, and… I think I’m done,’ he said, pressing the Golden Buzzer.
The show still had an hour to go.
Original song: Sophie performed an original song that earned high praise from Brad
‘I never expected this to happen in my life,’ said Sophie, at a total loss for words, as golden confetti fell in her hair.
‘She has no problem with words when the guitar’s playing,’ Brad teased.
Sophie’s parents said she had written five songs after her last AGT performance, validated by the judges’ approval.
Teen talent: The teenager wrote five songs after her last AGT performance
‘I am a quiet person, but I do have a pretty loud mind,’ she said before launching into her ‘most personal’ song.
The audience jumped to its feet, but judge Simon Cowell, 59, offered advice.
‘You continue talking about [bullies], they win,’ the father of one said, urging her to adopt a more positive slant.
Positive slant: Simon Cowell encouraged Sophie to return with a more ‘positive slant’ and to stop mentioning bullies because ‘they’re not worth talking about’
‘I don’t want you talking about these people ever again, ’cause they’re not worth talking about,’ he related.
Brad was guesting on AGT to help narrow 18 potential live show contestants down to seven, which was no easy task.
The first person hoping to get to Hollywood was Lukas Pratschker, 23, whose choreographed dog act with Australian shepherd Falco, 9, charmed the judges.
First up: Lukas Pratschker, 23, performed a choreographed dog act with Australian shepherd Falco, nine, that charmed the judges
The pair’s circus-themed act was set to ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman, one of Simon’s favorite films.
The judge grinned, admiring the ‘beautiful dog’ as he danced, jumped, spun, rolled out a red carpet and pulled off his owner’s top hat, the two of them always in sync.
‘Wow wow wow—or bow wow wow,’ said Simon, who revealed that over the weekend, he had actually had a drunken conversation about remaking the film with dogs.
Judge cuts: The judges were narrowing 18 acts down to seven and Lukas & Falco made it
Dog lover: Simon absolutely loved the dog act
‘You couldn’t have done more to make me love this act,’ he admitted.
‘I think you actually got a lot better from the first audition, and we loved the first audition,’ judge Gabrielle Union, 46, marveled.
The Orange Magician, 30, returned to the AGT stage with flaming red hair and a bright orange suit, and as before, would only answer ‘It’s good’ to any question asked.
New judge: Gabrielle Union wore a long floral print top and golden trousers
The judges adored the quick-change artist, who easily switched colorful suits, donned mummy and coffin outfits, and changed into a wig and dress in literally two seconds.
‘My little kids would flip out over this,’ said Brad, who has sons Huck, 12, and Jasper, 10, with his actress wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley, 47.
Other acts that initially passed through on the strength of their weirdness fell flat the second time around.
Magic act: The Orange Magician performed his unique routine blending magic and quick-change
Family fun: Brad remarked that his two sons would enjoy The Orange Magician act
Mugging with balloons, punching a top hat, and stabbing at cards failed to win Jenko, 42, the judges’ admiration.
They were equally unimpressed with the comedy stylings of Andy Rowell, 24—who stood before a loading computer screen saying ‘Turn down for what?’ as confetti exploded during his odd karaoke act.
French beatbox crew Berywam had previously won plaudits from Simon, who called them ‘ahead of the times.’
Nice try: Andy Rowell, 24, stood before a loading computer screen saying ‘Turn down for what?’ as confetti exploded during his odd karaoke act
They hoped lightning would strike twice.
‘After the first audition, we worked so hard, every day, every night, to find new sounds, to come back and surprise the judge[s] again,’ one member said.
They got a rousing cheer when they hit the stage and presented a set that brought the audience ‘into the nightclub’—but the judges’ responses were mixed.
Mixed responses: French beatbox crew Berywam brought the audience ‘into the nightclub’
While Juliette liked them, Simon said they had work to do.
Brad praised them for ‘busting’ down doors with their work, which mixed scatting, synth beats, synchronized dance and The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit Rappers’ Delight.
Ten-year-old singer Dylan rapped Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 chart-topper Humble, but failed to get a standing ovation.
Young rapper: Dylan performed Humble by Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar
‘When I was 10, I auditioned for something and I was terrible,’ Brad offered.
‘Well you showed them wrong, since you won three Grammys,’ Dylan retorted.
‘I like this kid,’ Brad said.
Standing ovation: The audience stood up at the request of Dylan
The host: AGT host Terry Crews kept the two-hour show moving
The Emerald Belles, a high-school high-kick drill team from Southlake, Texas, was compared to the Rockettes at auditions, but felt they had their own unique style.
‘They kick to eye level,’ their leader said. ‘We whack our foreheads.’
Wearing belly-baring suits, the Belles rotated, gyrated and slid across the stage to Britney Spears’ 2013 barn-burner ‘Work B****,’ leading host Terry to say, ‘That’s power.’
Powerful routine: The Emerald Belles, a high-school high-kick drill team from Southlake, Texas, impressed with their powerful routine
New judge: Julianne Hough also wore a floral print top and sparkling jewelry
As the song ended, all 76 Belles landed in a split at the same time, their arms around one another.
‘Okay,’ crowed Simon. ‘Somebody’s in it to win it.’
‘I don’t think it’s enough to move on to the next level,’ replied judge Howie Mandel, 63, maintaining his previous assessment of the group.
Not enough: Howie Mandel remained consistent in his criticism of the Emerald Belles
Howie hadn’t liked mind-reading duo The Sentimentalists on their last show, either—and he remained unmoved.
Everyone else was blown away. Mentalist Steffi Kay knew which color marble each judge would choose when offered one, and what photo Brad would show viewers on his phone.
What made it truly mind-blowing was that she had written all of it down in a locked box before the show began.
Mixed reviews: The Sentimentalists received mixed reviews from the judges, but let Brad ‘floored’
‘I’m floored,’ said Brad. ‘You should be in Vegas, and you’re not getting anywhere near my wallet.’
In their prior performance, aerialists Daniel and Loretta, known as Duo Togni, also failed to earn a ‘yes’ from Howie.
But as they spun in the air, Loretta using her teeth to suspend Daniel, and Daniel holding Loretta by her ponytail before she plunged to the floor, Howie yelled ‘Whoa!’.
Tough crowd: In their prior performance, aerialists Daniel and Loretta, known as Duo Togni, also failed to earn a ‘yes’ from Howie
‘You said ”no” the last time, so we have a surprise for you,’ Loretta offered. ‘I would like to hold you with my teeth.’
‘Put me down!’ Howie screamed as he rose in the air.
‘That’s what happens when you say no,’ Simon teased.
Big lift: Loretta held Howie by her teeth as he was lifted in the air
‘If you promise to never lift me in your teeth again, I will fight for you,’ Howie promised.
Comedian Kevin Schwartz, 50, laid down some funny jokes, yet Simon wasn’t sure he was ready for Vegas.
Singer Loki Alohikea, 27, belted out Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One, but the judges were equally uninspired.
Good effort: Singer Loki Alohikea, 27, belted out Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One, but the judges were equally uninspired.
Acrobatic performer Matthew Richardson wowed the audience with a piece about his father, who died a month after his son learned that he had pancreatic cancer.
‘My dad was my biggest fan,’ Matthew said, spinning around the stage in a giant dream catcher as tapes of his conversations with the man played over classical music.
He received a standing ovation, with Gabrielle saying she couldn’t wait to buy a ticket to his act in Vegas.
For father: Acrobatic performer Matthew Richardson wowed the audience with a piece about his father, who died a month after his son learned that he had pancreatic cancer
Emotional routine: Matthew performed an emotional routine that earned a standing ovation
‘You’re special,’ Simon said.
New York City subway singer Damiyr, 34, earned his own standing applause with a moving version of A Great Big World’s 2013 hit Say Something, which reduced him to tears.
‘I’ve never heard anyone sing that song with the passion and intensity you did,’ Simon raved.
Subway singer: Damiyr earned his own standing applause with a moving version of A Great Big World’s 2013 hit Say Something
Fellow singer Chris Klafford, 30, from Hagness, Sweden, performed a gutsy original called Something Like Me, which he said was about people judging his appearance.
He, too, teared up as the audience stood for him.
‘You’re something else,’ Brad mused.
Gutsy original: Fellow singer Chris Klafford, 30, from Hagness, Sweden, performed a gutsy original called Something Like Me, which he said was about people judging his appearance
Strongman act The Messoudi Brothers arrived from Beirut late after their plane had engine trouble.
They had just minutes to spare, no luggage and no time to warm up, but they soldiered on, winning Simon’s respect.
Using brute strength, the brothers, ages 25 to 30, lifted each other into impossible configurations and made the women scream as they took off their shirts.
Running late: Strongman act The Messoudi Brothers arrived from Beirut late after their plane had engine trouble
Then they brought their dad onstage with them, building a four-man tower by doing handstands on one another.
‘In the face of adversity you rose to the occasion,’ Howie said.
Ending the performances on a high note, South Africa’s Ndlovu Choir sang a rousing song about their homeland.
Family affair: The brother brought their dad onstage with them and built a four-man tower by doing handstands on one another
Coming from an impoverished region, the choir members, ages 13 to 27, were astonished by their good fortune.
Their upbeat, sunny performance had the crowd on its feet.
‘Your voices all together, your energy… pure magic,’ Gabrielle said.
Pure magic: South Africa’s Ndlovu Choir sang a rousing song about their homeland
‘If I could bottle it, I would drink it every day,’ Simon added.
At the end of the show, the judges revealed the choir would be moving on, along with Sophie and five other acts: The Emerald Belles, The Messoudi Brothers, Berywam, Lukas and Falco and Chris Klafford.
America’s Got Talent will return next Tuesday with Judges Cuts: Part Two on NBC.
Live shows: At the end of the show, the judges revealed the choir would be moving on, along with Sophie and five other acts: The Emerald Belles, The Messoudi Brothers, Berywam, Lukas and Falco and Chris Klafford