Acrobats The Kristef Brothers, magician Collins Key, singer Anna Christine, and opera singer Branden James advanced to the “America’s Got Talent” semifinals on Wednesday night as part of this season’s first results show.
James’ rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” was the highlight of the week, earning standing ovations from judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Mel B and most of the Radio City Music Hall audience.
The judging panel showered the operatic singer with praise, making him the apparent frontrunner for the $1 million grand prize.
As inspiring and impressive as James’ performance was, it should come as no surprise – if you’ve done a little research.
Simply put – and contrary to how “America’s Got Talent” presents him – James is an accomplished professional with an impressive resume, not an up-and-coming undiscovered talent.
“It’s like you’re a seasoned pro already,” said Mel B. “I felt like I was sitting in the front row at your concert and I’d pay to come and see you. That’s how professional you seem to me.”
Guess what, Mel B? Thousands across the world have already paid to see James sing. He seems so professional because he is a professional.
“You [took] command of this stage like a pro,” gushed judge Howard Stern.
What else would you expect a seasoned pro like James to do, Howard?
What surprised this viewer most is that the judges made these statements seemingly oblivious and ignorant about the singer’s professional resume.
A simple Google search reveals James’ accomplishments, but maybe Stern and Mel B are too busy to do a little research before doling out the praise.
James has sung with the Los Angeles Opera and performed two seasons with The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York City.
According to his website, James has “enjoyed a longtime affiliation with The 12 Tenors, touring the majority of five continents and appearing as soloist on their second full length release entitled, “I Believe.’”
In 2007, he performed at Pope Benedict XVI’s birthday celebration at The Vatican and, in 2011, he sang in seven Lyric Opera of Chicago productions.
In addition to regularly singing the national anthem for the Los Angeles Lakers, James has also recorded a CD, “Songs of Freedom and Inspiration.”
“America’s Got Talent” is an entertaining show that showcases some legitimate – and not so legitimate – talent. But its practice of presenting its contestants as undiscovered talent is deceptive and should be changed.
At the very least, the show should acknowledge its contestants’ experience and accomplishments, not skirt them and act as if they don’t exist. “The Voice” acknowledges its contestants’ professionalism, so why can’t “AGT”?
The show did this last season, too, with the misrepresentation of singer Tim Hockenberry and comedian Tom Cotter, so maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised by the deception.
As for the judges, they really ought to do a little research themselves before adding to the deception by acting as if contestants like James aren’t already accomplished professionals.
Then again, maybe it’s in the judges’ contracts to play dumb and not spoil the illusion.
The “America’s Got Talent” live shows continue next Tuesday on KSL 5 in Provo at 8 p.m. The results show will air on Wednesday at 8 p.m.