'America's Got Talent': Sheldon Riley Wows With Haunting Billie Eilish Cover Before Auditions Go Virtual
By Jennifer Drysdale
There is no one else like Sheldon Riley. Tuesday's episode of America's Got Talentshowed the first batch of virtual auditions amid the coronavirus pandemic -- as well as the stunning last batch of performances done in-person. Among them was Australian singer Riley, who stunned the judges with his beautiful rendition of Billie Eilish's "idontwannabeyouanymore."
The Australian singer first had Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara and Howie Mandel (Heidi Klum was out sick) perplexed as he refused to answer Cowell's simple question about his name. Dressed in an avant-garde black ensemble and concealing his face with a glittery chain mask, Riley instead turned around, and then began singing.
The judges were entranced by Riley and praised him for his vocals and originality.
"I'm really passionate about fashion, and I'm really passion about music, but... I didn't really talk that much, and people didn't really want to talk to me. It wasn't really until I started doing this that people really looked at me or really cared, to be honest with you," Riley explained after his performance. "I've always kind of shied away from big things like this, and what's bigger than America's Got Talent?"
"It's always interesting that people kind of second-guess what we like and what we don't like. And it's 90% of the time originality rather than predictability. The fact I don't even know what you really look like, I love," Cowell remarked. "I like mysterious people."
Riley said that coming to the United States, he realized "how accepting everybody is, and everyone is so open to different." "It was this that really helped me find myself a bit," he shared.
"You have an amazing voice," Mandel praised. "And the fact that I don't know what you look like, and the costume and the drama, for me, that's what made this great."
"I wish I could see your face, because I think you're very handsome. I can see those eyes," Vergara said, as Cowell pointed out Riley's "Cleopatra eyes."
The judges then proudly awarded Riley three yeses.
"I didn't have much inspiration when I was a kid. I didn't have someone to look up to. So I guess me coming to this stage, I just want to show to all the little kids out there, if you just want to be authentically yourself, you can be, and you don't need to be afraid to be that," Riley told host Terry Crews after his positive reception.
Shortly after Riley's performance, the coronavirus outbreak forced auditions to go virtual.
"The mindset was ... where we can, we've gotta try to see as many people as possible, and then by day 11, we just went OK, it really, really isn't safe now for the crew, anyone who auditions, so we stopped that and then we started doing some remote auditions like we're talking now, which was interesting," Cowell explained in a May interview with ET. "The good news is, we did see a lot of people, so it hasn't affected the overall quality of the talent. We still found some amazing people as we do every year. I think you'll see on episode 1, it's jam-packed full of the most amazing people, the most amazing stories, and I think the team, bearing in mind how they've had to do it remotely, have done an amazing job."
Cowell said he and the America's Got Talent team were still thinking of innovative ways to film the show as everyone continues to practice social distancing. But he did assure viewers that there will be a winner at the end of the season.
"I mean, I don't think we're gonna be at the Dolby Theatre with 3,000 people," he added about no longer having a live audience. "I don't think that is gonna happen this year, so we've come up with about three different creative ideas about how we can make the live shows work but not feel as if scale and everything else connected with the show is lost. It will look different, but I think if we go with the plan I personally love, it will look different, but it will still give every act the opportunity to shine as they normally do in the finals because I am aware particularly this year, you know, anyone who makes the top 10 because it can change their lives. They're gonna need this more than ever, so whatever we're gonna need to do, we will get to the end of the finals this year. There will be a winner and we'll make sure no one's compromised, you know, through the process."
America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. See more in the video below.