“A lot of people thought Tom was going to win,” judge Simon Cowell noted Monday on America’s Got Talent: All-Stars, when Tom Ball nervously emerged onstage. The sweet, shy, 24-year-old schoolteacher/balladeer disappointingly stalled in third place on Britain’s Got Talent last year, but when he sought redemption on All-Stars this week, his master-class rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” was the breakout performance of the night — so much so that Cowell actually evoked the name of another famous BGT finalist who became a huge star despite not winning that show.
“You’re like Susan Boyle’s grandson, because what you do is not what we expect,” Cowell proclaimed, referring to the BGT runner-up opera singer whose “I Dreamed a Dream” performance made her a viral sensation in 2009. “For me, this is the best performance we’ve seen all series.”
Even though Cowell was a big fan of the contestant who beat Ball on BGT last year, comedian Axel Blake — in fact, Blake was Cowell’s Golden Buzzer pick that season — on Monday, after seeing Ball stunningly perform, Cowell seemed to be second-guessing that BGT result. “I’m actually angry about something. I wish this was the first time I’d ever heard Tom, in a weird way,” he mused, later telling Ball, “This is the song that I believe, if you had done this, you would have won [Britain’s Got Talent] that year. Because that was incredible.”
As usual, only two of this week’s 10 “best of the best” alumni advanced to the All-Stars finals: one selected by an elite group of “superfans,” and another unanimously chosen via a group Golden Buzzer by the three judges and host Terry Crews. And this week, everyone agreed with Cowell, giving Ball a standing ovation — with Heidi Klum describing Ball’s performance as “outstanding” and “larger than life,” and Howie Mandel saying Ball was “amazing,” “lovable,” and “beyond sensational.” And so, the group Golden Buzzer went to Ball.
And so, this means that after five long weeks, a solo singer is at long last headed to the AGT: All-Stars finals. Vocalists typically fare well on America’s Got Talent — seven of the show’s past 17 winners have in fact been solo singers — but oddly, that hasn’t been the case on All-Stars. Week after week, mega-talented belters like Jimmie Herrod, Cristina Rae, and Sara James have gone home after performing only once, and this week, three other singers weren’t as lucky as Ball and were passed over, even though they all gave performances that the judges declared their best yet. Two of those singing contenders, deaf songbird Mandy Harvey (who was actually Cowell’s Golden Buzzer pick in AGT Season 12) and Celine Dion-endorsed child prodigy Peter Rosalita, did make the superfans’ top three this week, but both were ultimately cut.
And in the biggest shocker of the evening, crooner Archie Williams, who went viral in Season 15 after he shared his heartbreaking story of being wrongly incarcerated for 37 years, didn’t even make Monday’s top three and was immediately eliminated — despite performing in the episode’s supposedly advantaged final slot and being declared “one of the most deserving human beings I know” and having “everything it takes to make it all the way” by Mandel.
Another interesting All-Stars development this season — which didn’t change this week — is that no actual past America’s Got Talent winners have made the finals. In fact, the only champions from any edition of the Got Talent franchise to advance so far are aerial act Power Duo, from the Philippines series, and 13-year-old Romania’s Got Talent ventriloquist Ana-Maria Mărgean, who in a bit of an upset topped the superfans’ vote this week. (Ironically, Mărgean was inspired to take up ventriloquism after seeing a performance by Terry Fator, the most successful AGT winner of all time — but Fator himself didn’t even make the All-Stars finals this year.) As for above-mentioned reigning Britain’s Got Talent champ Axel Blake, who also competed on All-Stars this week in an obviously producer-orchestrated Blake/Ball rematch, he too got the chop.
So, all of these circumstances could very well clear the lane for Ball leading directly to the AGT: All-Stars winner’s circle in just three weeks’ time. But there is still one more episode of qualifying performances to go before the finals, and next week could change the game for Ball and everyone else. Season 15’s champion, spoken-word artist Brandon Leake, will compete, as will fan-favorite comedian Josh Blue, who will make America’s Got Talent history if he ultimately wins All-Stars. (Blake may have triumphed on BGT last year, but no stand-up comic has ever won AGT.) And next week will also see the return of arguably the most beloved winner in AGT history, who also happens to be a solo singer: Season 14’s Kodi Lee. So, watch this space, and see you then.