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America's Got Talent Season 5 Favorites And Odds After the Initial Auditions
AGT Favorites Mostly Singers Yet Again
Seasoned watchers of America's Got Talent know one thing - a singer almost always wins this reality TV talent show. Season 5 of America's Got Talent appears to be no different. Now that the initial auditions are over, the one thing that is clear is that there is a strong increase in vocal talent and little to no increase in non-vocal talent as compared to last year's version of the hit summer series.
This new season boasts some tremendous vocal talent and maybe the best the show has even seen in its 5-year history. Michael Grimm, Alice Tan Ridley and Carlos Aponte all look to be the strongest contenders, with a few additional singing groups having outside odds at making a run for the title (see my America's Got Talent 5 Auditions Recap for details and odds on the other acts this season). Out of the non-singing groups, Fighting Gravity appears to be miles ahead of every other non-singing act based on what we have seen so far. Based on past history, my early prediction is that Michael Grimm is the early AGT favorite and will sail to victory and become the champion of America's Got Talent for season 5.
Fighting Gravity leads the early pack of favorites among the non-singing groups. This group of college frat buddies has a fairly amazing and unique act. While it isn't exactly magic, their flying-in-the-dark act has a magical feel to to it. Obviously, when the crew turns off the lights for this act, the guy dressed completely in black are somehow holding and maneuvering the guys with the flourescent material. But the speed and precision in which this act seems to defy gravity is what makes it so special. This is sort of like a dance act with a twist. And the "twist" can take you a very long ways in a show like America's Got Talent.
Fighting Gravity's unique mix of acrobatics, dance and magic should carry them through to the finals. As to whether Fighting Gravity can win, it seems that, outside of singing acts, that a fairly narrow gimmick-based act like this finishes as high as third but falls short in the end. Unless Fighting Gravity has a more diverse set of gravity-defying skills to show us, they will likely fall short to one of the singers. Singers really only need a backstory to go far on this show, and a backstory and singing sure seem to go well together on America's Got Talent.
Note: Consider that even ventriloquist Terry Fator, the second champion of AGT, is one of the best singers the show has ever seen. Singing was an integral part of his act, as well.
Strictly dealing with only traditional technical factors like power and vocal control, Carlos is probably the best singer in this group. However, Michael Grimm and Alice Tan Ridley have other qualities (discussed below) that put them on par with Carlos.
I am not a fan of backstories, and I never support a contestant based on that. But these backstories are relevant to some voters, so looking at AGT favorites and odds requires some discussion of a contestant's backstory. Carlos is from Puerto Rico and seems to pretend not to be very good at English. Something tells me he is much better than what he is letting on, and we really don't even know from the show what a Puerto Rican was doing in Chicago. But the story here is obviously that Carlos is a person from a foreign land struggling to learn English and find his American dream. I suppose that's a good story for some. It doesn't affect me at all except for the fact that I sense he is exaggerating the situation. In the end, I don't think backstory really affects voting that much, but it could be a factor in close cases.
What does affect me is Carlos' singing. Based on what I saw in Aponte's audition, he is probably the best opera singer the show has ever seen. He obviously has tremendous power and an amazing vocal tone and control. He almost certainly is better as an opera singer than America's Got Talent champion Neal Boyd. Neal had a tendency to not be able to hold out the big notes. Carlos not only hits the big notes. He can hold them a long time.
However, perhaps one of the secrets to Neal's success was that he tried hard to mix it up. Rather than singing opera only, he even sang Eric Carmen's "All By Myself." Barbara Padilla never tried to mix it up and show some versatility, and I can virtually guarantee that Carlos will sing nothing but opera. His voice and training don't sound like they will fit anything else, and his "I don't speak English very well" act won't let him pick a lot of songs without looking like he is scamming the audience with his backstory. Nope. Carlos will not be singing anything but opera, and people who don't go for opera will likely never vote for him.
In short, Carlos, like Barbara Padilla, is likely going to fall short of the America's Got Talent title. Pure opera singers with no versatility just can't get certain blocks of casual voters to come on board. However,he will almost certainly be a finalist and have the opportunity to earn a decent living with his phenomenal talent.
Alice Tan Ridley:
Alice is the mom of now-famous Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the Oscar-nominated actress from "Precious." Now, this may have gotten Alice attention at the auditions, but there's no doubt it's her talent that has made her an early favorite for America's Got Talent 5. Alice, who also has the backstory of being a New York City subway singer for many years, is a good example of what makes music popular. Alice doesn't just sing. She feels the music. She has the soul to perform, not just the voice to sing.
Based on many YouTube videos that I have seen, I can say that Alice is a bit "hit and miss" when it comes to arranging a song. She also has spots in her subway performances where she seems to lose energy. This could be just because of the environment. We'll have to see how she performs in later rounds. Alice, in my opinion, is not technically the best singer. But it's the way she takes songs and puts her own feeling into them that makes her special. Make no mistake about it. She does have power, range and control. The point is that she needs more than that to overcome someone like Carlos Aponte because Alice is not going to have that much control. But she makes up for it with her soulful style and renditions.
Alice is clearly one of the early favorites despite some inconsistencies in her performances. My prediction is that she has some chance of winning but will fall short to a guy that simply has a better vocal tone, even more soul and seems to be a more consistent singer than Alice.
And of course, that guy is Michael Grimm, the would-be orphan who was "rescued" from having to go to a group home by his grandma. This guy, who is sort of like an even more soulful Michael Bolton, has probably the most soulful vocal tone in the history of this show. A lot of times, vocal tone is going to be the one thing that catapults a singer above the competition. For example, David Archuleta, runner-up on American Idol 7, pretty much became a star just for having a great vocal tone.
Michael Grimm, on the other hand, has a variety of other skills to bring to the table. He plays the guitar, which seems to be becoming more of a positive in recent voting on TV talent shows. He also has much more power than an Archuleta and, unlike singers with just a good vocal tone, Michael is extremely good at adding grit to his voice for songs like "A Little Help From My Friends." In other words, he has versatility. And of course, like Alice Tan Ridley, the guy just seems to ooze emotion when he sings.
When considering Michael Grimm's vocal tone, his soul and his ability to mix it up with both smooth and rough voices, Michael may just be the best singer in America's Got Talent history. His backstory, while nothing special, may help him, too.
In short, I would say that this season, while not having a large number of highly talented acts, has a wealth of talent in the top three or four spots. Surely, at least one of these acts will somehow fall short of my predictions. But I truly feel that, at this point, Michael and Alice are the clear frontrunners in this competition. I don't think they will falter, and while I think Michael is the favorite at this point, Alice could also catch fire and run away with the title of America's Got Talent champion.
Note: Of course, I am making these predictions based only on the initial auditions. Until these contestants are picked in Vegas to appear on the live voting shows, nothing at all is certain. I'm not even sure what kind of visa Carlos Aponte has or what he is doing in Chicago. We need to learn a bit more to make informed predictions, but Michael Grimm and Alice Tan Ridley appear to be the strong American's Got Talent favorites based on what we have seen so far.