Pianist and singer Kodi Lee was the big winner of America’s Got Talent season 14 on Wednesday, beating out stand-up comedian Ryan Niemiller, the Detroit Youth Choir, and the kiddie dance troupes.
Selected by judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Julianne Hough, and Gabrielle Union, along with the viewing audience, Lee, who is blind and autistic, earns a grand prize of $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas. The Detroit Youth Choir came in second, followed by Niemiller in third, V. Unbeatable in fourth, and Voices in Service in fifth place.
“It was a no-brainer,” Mandel told EW after the show. “From the moment he walked into the auditions… I’ve been watching this show for 14 years, I’ve been on the show for 10 years, we have never had a more buzzworthy or more viral moment than Kodi Lee stepping on our stage. The moment he was introduced as this young man with autism who is blind who then sat down at the piano… it seemed like an eternity to the time he hits that first note. You go, ‘I just want this to be good. I don’t know what to expect!’ And then he opens his mouth and hits the keys — the roof is blown off the place. Within 48 hours, there was a half-billion clicks internationally on every digital platform. We’ve never had anything that viral, that buzzworthy. From that point on I went, ‘This is the winner.’”
Ninety minutes into the show, the top five were whittled down from the 10 acts who went into the season 14 finale. But at least all the acts got one last time to shine.
Chinese pianist Lang Lang accompanied 11-year-old opera singer Emanne Beasha in a performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro,” followed by Niemiller doing a comedic skit about wrestling. Benicio Bryant got to croon “Baila Baila Baila” and “Taki Taki” with Ozuna, while judge Hough sung her song “Transform” while tripping the light fantastic with V. Unbeatable. Billy Ray Cyrus teamed with Voices of Service to perform “Some Gave All,” and Lee wrapped up the night by playing “You Are the Reason” for Leona Lewis.
To help bide some time, the show also featured taped moments featuring Cowell and Cher sharing “random thoughts” about beards and dark chocolate, followed by Cowell (again?) waxing on about the American dream. “If you believe in yourself… then life starts to work for you,” he said, with images of the finalists.
But the real highlight of the night (other than the winner, of course) came courtesy of Cher, who sang Abba’s “Waterloo” with a phalanx of lycra-covered backup dancers.
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