America's Got Talentreturned Tuesday night, and ET is following along throughout the two-hour episode to break down all the best, biggest and most surprising moments from the first night of the Judge Cuts round.
The show's panel of charismatic judges -- Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, and newcomers Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough -- are joined by a special guest judge, country crooner Brad Paisley, as they see some of those who made it through the auditions give it their best shot yet again with all new performances.
Last week, fans were treated to the final week of the season 14 auditions, and the final coveted Golden Buzzer honor was bestowed upon 12-year-old Broadway singer Luke Islam by Hough, in one of the season's most emotional and triumphant moments thus far.
The fun kicked off at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. Follow along with ET for a look at all the acts who laid it all on the line for their big shot this week.
The Judge Cuts Are a Real Bloodbath!
Wow! Matthew the aerialist's performance for his late father isn't enough to move him forward! Duo Togni aren't able to use their teeth to stay in the race either. There are so many acts that are getting the axe, it's almost heartbreaking. And, as I guessed, every act that we only saw part of doesn't make it through.
So which six stars are going forward?
- Emerald Belles, the high-kicking girl group.
- Messoudi Brothers, the handsome, shirtless acrobats.
- Berywam, the beatboxing techno-rap quartet.
- Lukas and Falco, the dog act that Simon freaked out over.
- Ndlovu Youth Choir, the enthusiastic South African singing group.
- Chris Klafford, the Swedish, bearded singer-songwriter who stunned everyone with an original tune.
African Singing Group Lights Up the Theater
The South African singing group, Ndlovu Youth Choir, wowed the judges with their spirited and enthusiastic group performance during the audition rounds, and their charm and charisma are in full display this time around as well.
Incorporating dancing, vocal showcases, drumming and a general sense of youthful excitement, the youth choir is something truly special and and, as Julianne explains, they are the true representation of "unity."
Every judge appreciates their energy and voices, with Gabrielle calling the number "pure magic." Their passion alone makes me hope they make the cut.
The Messoudi Brothers Beat the Odds
Before their performance, the brothers reveal that they literally just got into L.A. after traveling from Beirut -- they've had no chance to practice or rehearse, they're jet-lagged, and the airline lost their luggage.
However, you'd never be able to tell from their acrobatic act. It is start-to-finish flawless, and includes some feats of strength that impressed even Terry Crews (and he's the strongest human man in the world, I imagine, based on his torso).
The guys then invite their father -- the man who taught them everything they know before he retired -- to come on stage and join them in a unimaginable human configuration that includes one son balancing in the air with a single hand on his father's head.
Honestly, it's impossible to over-state how impressive they are. If they don't move on, that would be a grave miscarriage of justice. Out of every hopeful tonight, these guys are the closest to the essence of a real Las Vegas act, and they deserve to go to the finals.
Two Singers Pitted Against One Another?
Damiyr, a New York City subway busker, leaves the guitar behind and uses his raw, powerful voice for a rendition of A Great Big World's "Say Something (I'm Giving Up On You)."
The performance truly impressed the judges, and was praised by Simon, who says he's never heard that tune sung with so much passion.
Damiyr is seemingly being pitted against a Swedish singer named Chris Klafford, who risks everything with an original song -- always a dangerous move -- that simply exudes a true country-rock essence.
It's rare to hear original songs that sound like they should be No.1 hits, but Chris pulls it off and earns a standing ovation from all the judges. Simon even later says that it "wasn't a risk" because it was so incredibly amazing.
Both Damiyr and Chris are brought to tears by the reaction from the judges, but Brad seems to be absolutely floored by Chris' talent. It would be a real shame to let either of these impressive performers go.
Arielist Honors His Father
With Matthew Richardson's powerful "Dreamcatcher" aerialist routine, we may have seen the most emotional, heartbreaking act of the whole night.
After making it through during the sixth week of auditions, the wildly talented hoop aerialist returns with an act inspired by, and in honor of, his late father, who died of cancer and left him emotionally devastated not long ago.
The act includes audio recordings of Matthew's dad, and the special moment is made all the more powerful by the presence of his mom in the audience cheering him on and hugging him after the show.
It's hard to tell if he'll be able to find a spot in the finals, but he'd definitely deserve it.
Do Any Of These Brief Performances Have a Chance?
Wow, we are burning through a bunch of acts real fast, including a great comedian named Kevin Schwartz, who looks to be the king of one-liners.
You gotta wondering if any of them have a chance at making it into the final seven if they aren't even showing us the whole performance.
Sophie Is a Song-Writing Machine, and She Gets the Golden Buzzer!
In a pre-taped package before her performance, it's revealed that Sophie went home after her wildly successful audition and wrote five new original songs.
This time around, she returns to the stage with a new original song that she says is "the most personal" of all the pieces she's written. And it's clear how much emotion went into penning it.
She's 15 years old, and her songs have all the angst and pain that comes with being a teenager in the modern day, but her skillful songwriting talents and folk-guitar talent elevate her work to a whole new level.
The powerful tune gets a standing ovation from the entire audience, and receives nothing but praise from the judges, including Simon, who shares an impressive message about bullying and the importance of ignoring bullies to remove their power.
No one, however, seems to like her more than Brad who marvels at her message before slamming the Golden Buzzer for the young singer, showering her in shimmering confetti.
Sophie is now assured a spot in the finals, and -- as Brad shared after giving her a hug -- the world can't wait to hear what she comes up with next.
Howie Gets Airborn
It's hard to describe the insane acrobatics act known as Duo Togni, except to say they are two insanely beautiful performers named Daniel and Loretta who do a high-rise danger act that involves Loretta holding Daniel in the air with nothing but a strap between her teeth, and Daniel holding Loretta by her long hair.
Needless to say, it's amazing.
But, to wrap up the "Howie is being a mean grump" story line of this episode, the acerbic judge is called into stage by Loretta, who says she wants to prove how good they are by lifting Howie with her teeth.
He reluctantly agrees and takes the stage, and she makes good on her promise in amazing fashion, lifting Howie almost 10 feet off the stage as he flat-out panics. Once safely behind the judges desk, Howie promises to fight for them to move on if they promise to never do that to him again.
The Sentimentalists Return to Wow
The retro charm of Mysterion and Steffi Kay -- the mind-reading duo that impressed but failed to stun the judges during the auditions -- graced the AGT stage once again, and this time, they came with marbles.
After getting each of the judges to pick randomly colored marbles, they incorporate Brad by bringing him on stage and having him show Mysterion a random photo from his phone.
With her eyes closed, Steffi guesses that he chose a photo of a yellow guitar, and it proves to be true. But that's not enough to wow the judges.
No, what really gets them is when they open a locked box with a strip of paper that correctly predicts the color of each marble the judges picked and had the word "yellow guitar" on the back.
Despite it blowing everyone away, Howie remains unimpressed. He's really shaping up to be the bad guy tonight.
Mind-Blowing High Kickers Set Out to Prove Themselves
When the Emerald Belles hit the stage earlier this season, Howie didn't vote "yes" because he said they weren't as good as the Rockettes, which is an insane standard.
This time around, the girls set out to prove Howie wrong and show that they deserve to go on the the live rounds. With a truly impressive blend of gymnastics, choreography and synchronization, they wow the judges before their final impressive move -- in which all the dozens of dancers simultaneously do the splits.
While Julianne has some serious notes -- delivered in the manner of a true professional giving feedback to other aspiring dancers -- Howie remains unimpressed. After he tells them he doesn't think they're good enough to move on, Simon encourages the audience to boo louder, because he absolutely loves their talent.
Brad agrees with Simon, telling Howie he "can suck it." Brad's a great addition to this panel of judges.
Berywam Crew Brings A Capella Techno to 'AGT'
This French dance and singing crew are next-level amazing, and tonight they are doing their best to "bring everybody into the night club."
Using only their voices and mouths, the four-man group manages to pull off techno-sounding beats, essentially turning themselves into an a capella dubstep song by layering the noises and rap breaks.
Brad compares the group's originality to Jimi Hendrix, which has to be an amazing compliment. In fact, all of the judges seem to really love the group except for Simon, who is surprisingly unimpressed by their performance.
Comedy Acts Can't Bring the Magic Twice
Andy Rowell hit the stage with a comedy karaoke act during the auditions that seems to win over the judges. This time around, the same joke doesn't land twice -- especially with Brad, who has no idea what's going on and doesn't seem to care about it at all.
Comedy magician Jecko then comes out to do his bit, and despite pulling off the card trick he set out to perform, his eccentricity rubs everyone the wrong way.
The same can't be said for a comedy magician and quickchange artist who goes by the name The Orange Magician - who can only say "It's good," to any question asked of him. While at first it seems like he's going to be terrible and irritating, the performance is actually amazing.
Even Simon recognizes the dichotomy between how annoying his personality is and how impressive his actual talent is. While it's hard to tell how much the judges actually liked it, the Orange Magician definitely has a better shot than the two acts who came before.
Dog Act Kicks Off the Night
Up first tonight is Falco, an adorable dog who does tricks for his human owner, Lukas. Obviously, Simon is already in love with the performance because he's got a soft spot for puppies.
Hitting the stage in a ringmaster's outfit, Lucas' performance is themed entirely around The Greatest Showman, and features his lovable canine companion doing tricks and stunts in an act set to the Oscar-winning song "This Is Me."
There's a lot to love about the number, and, from Simon giving it a standing ovation, he clearly appreciates it. In fact, Brad even makes a joke that Lukas "tailored his entire act for Simon."
With only seven acts moving on to the next round out of a total of 18 hopefuls performing tonight, it's tough to predict whether or not the pair will be moving on. However, it seems Simon loves them a whole lot more than the other judges, who all seemed to have pleasantly enjoyed it, at most.
Welcome Brad Paisley!
After six long weeks of auditions, it's finally time for the first night of the Judge Cuts Round, and the first special guest judge is country crooner Brad Paisley!
It'll be interesting to see how Brad reacts to performances the other judges have scene, but that he's watching for the first time. Especially since he's got the honor of giving out the Golden Buzzer tonight!