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'America's Got Talent': Gladys Knight and the cheerleaders

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Last night showcased some of the more talented singers left in the competition, like Alice Tan Ridley, who gave us a powerful rendition of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Ridley really can sing, and I can’t help but think that if age wasn’t a factor, she would at least make it to Hollywood week on American Idol. (How did her version of the song compare to that of Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox?) Michael Grimm took to the electric guitar for Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone,” and gave another soulful, enjoyable performance. And then there was 12-year-old Lil Chris. (Is there room for another “Lil” artist on the market these days?) He can sing, and he’s a great dancer — plus I always appreciate a good Ne-Yo song — but doesn’t his voice still need to change? It may be too early for him to headline a show on the Vegas strip if puberty is still a ways away. Let’s wait a few years.

What I don’t understand about America’s Got Talent is how the aforementioned acts are forced to compete against all kinds of crazy like air bands, muscle men, cheerleaders, and magicians. I’m all for variety, but I really don’t understand some of these acts. Here are my biggest headscratchers from last night:

Cheer SF, the cheerleading group from San Francisco. I was surprised these peppy gymnasts were still in the running last night (and got to advance straight to Hollywood!) and the judges seemed to feel the same way, looking less than enthused by their performance. Don’t they have cheerleading competitions for this exact reason? Plus, Bring It On came out 10 years ago, so I think we can say the sport’s pop culture moment has officially passed.

Antonio Restivo (who looks like Ron Jeremy if he had auditioned for Rock of Ages). The magician emerged from atop his flaming throne to the sounds of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” (suck up, much?). Last night his “trick” was making a woman appear and disappear in two different glass boxes. Impressive — maybe — but I was so distracted by the pyrotechnics and flashy dance moves his assistants were doing across the stage, I almost missed them. Check him out below:

Can acts like Cheer SF and Antonio Restivo even compare to Alice Tan Ridley and Michael Grimm? Who do you hope makes it through tonight, PopWatchers?

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