This week on America’s Got Talent: The Champions it was Simon Cowell’s turn to send one act straight to the finals via the golden buzzer. He used it on singer and plane crash survivor Kechi, continuing a very specific pattern AGT fans have started to pick up on.
Using the golden buzzer on a singer is a common thing for all four judges currently on the panel. (In fact all of the AGT golden buzzers from Season 11 onward from Howie, Mel, Heidi, or Simon have been given to singers except for when Heidi hit it for knife-throwing act Deadly Games a couple of episodes ago.) However, there’s another common quality all four of Simon’s golden buzzers on the show have possessed: the heartstring-tugging factor.
Simon has produced AGT since the very beginning, but didn’t take a seat at the judges’ table until Season 11 in 2016. His first golden buzzer went to Calysta Bevier, a teenage pop singer with aspirations to become a recording artist who had recently won her battle with ovarian cancer.
Calysta made it past the first round of live shows, but was eliminated in the semi-finals. This was especially tough for Simon since he was the only judge whose golden buzzer act didn’t make it to the finals that season.
In Season 12, Simon used his golden buzzer to send Mandy Harvey straight through to the live shows. A singer-songwriter who was able to continue to write music and stay perfectly on pitch after losing her hearing at the age of 18, Mandy was one of the season’s frontrunners and made it all the way to the finals.
Mandy’s fourth place finish is still, to date, the highest any of Simon’s AGT golden buzzers have placed. (For that reason, along with the fact that she was just generally awesome and one of the most memorable acts of that season, we were very surprised that she did not return for Champions.)
Simon’s golden buzzer for Season 13 went to pediatric mental health nurse Michael Ketterer. Michael was yet another contestant with hopes to launch a singing career from AGT, but the most memorable thing about him – and the thing that most likely moved Simon enough to golden buzz him – was probably the fact that he and his wife had adopted a bunch of children over the past several years.
Michael ended the season in fifth place, though many viewers expected him to finish higher and maybe even win the whole thing. Simon and the other producers are probably relieved he didn’t, though, since just days after the show Michael was arrested for suspected domestic violence.
So far on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, Simon seems to be enjoying the singers more than the other acts on the whole. During episode 4 in particular he criticized a lot of the variety acts despite some pretty impressive tricks from them. Of course, this was also the week he was the one with golden buzzer privileges, and ended up giving it to Kechi, a singer who finished in the Season 12 finals.
Kechi survived a plane crash over 10 years ago and still has visible burns and scars from the accident, so people were going to find her performance moving no matter what, but Simon noted her improvement from her previous season and those two things combined seemed like a recipe for a golden buzzer (and, of course, it was).
Why The Singers With Tragic Backstories?
It’s certainly noteworthy that all four of Simon’s golden buzzer selections on America’s Got Talent have all been solo singers with such powerful backstories. It becomes even more odd when thinking about his golden buzzer choices across the pond on AGT sister show Britain’s Got Talent, which have varied a bit more. (Yes, he was the one who picked singer Callum Scott, but he also chose Boogie Storm – a group of dancing Stormtroopers – one year.)
So what’s with this strangely specific trend when it comes to the American version? Considering that AGT is the only show on this side of the pond Simon currently judges on, I’d wager it probably has something to do with trying to make acts he can potentially sign to his record label big in America. Simon doesn’t need to take things quite so seriously on BGT because he also has The X Factor UK in that market, but AGT is currently his only chance to foster potential stars in a televised format in North American, he’s bound to be much more focused on searching for star potential there.
As for the backstories, well, they’re great for endearing audiences to the talent. And let’s be honest – for all his harsh comments, Simon can be quite the softie at times, so I guess this might be his way of letting that side out.