America’s Got Talent is one of the most famous talent search reality shows in the United States. It covers more than just singing and dancing — where they welcome talents of any kind to audition and compete for the title. Every audition varies from the weirdest displays of human capabilities, adorable dogs performing and doing tricks on stage, and even seat-gripping performances.
For 13 years, AGT has had an influential and varying set of judges who predominantly presides who makes it through the next phases of the competition. Howie Mandel, who has been with AGT since season 5 will be returning along with Simon Cowell, who’s the executive producer of the show. However, Heidi Klum and Mel B will not be returning and will be replaced by actress Gabrielle Union and Dancing with the Stars alum Julianne Hough.
Moreover, every year, each judge gets a chance to press the golden buzzer that would allow their chosen contestant to head straight to the live shows.
This year, the new judge, Gabrielle Union, decided to press her golden buzzer for Kodi Lee, a 21-year-old singer. What’s interesting about Lee wasn’t just his angelic voice or his extraordinary rhythm with the piano. Lee is also blind and autistic that only made his performance even more emotional. He even received four standing ovations from the judges, along with the entire theater.
Lee performed Song For You by Donny Hathaway. He sang every word impressively, right on every beat, while playing the right keys on the piano. It was impressive overall performance — taking into consideration that he was introduced on the stage with a guide stick on the one hand and his mother’s grip on the other. He couldn’t speak straight and makes uttering high-to-low pitches during the interview portion.
“I’m a new judge this season, and I’m also a new mom this year,” Union says after his performance. “It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. You [just] want to give your kids the moon, the stars, and the rainbow. Tonight I’m gonna give you something special,” Union says before pressing the golden buzzer.
Lee’s display of musical skill can be prescribed to savant syndrome in people with autism. A course for Autism and Artistic Talent says that “roughly ten percent of those diagnosed with autism will have savant syndrome. These individuals will possess inherent autistic savant abilities, generally first seen during early childhood. Common abilities include extensive mathematical calculations, memorization, and artistic or musical skills.”
Lee’s mother shared to the judges, “[they] found out that he loved music really early on. He listened, and his eyes just went huge! He started singing, and I was in tears, that’s when I realized ‘Oh my gosh, he’s an entertainer!'” She adds, “through music and entertaining; he was able to withstand living in this world. Because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life.”
AGT‘s audition episodes run every week until July 9. Over the course of this time, we will see the three other judges press their golden buzzers along with this year’s host, Terry Crews.
The four episodes showcasing the judges’ cuts begin on July 16. The last of these will air on Tuesday, August 6. Each episode features a guest judge who gets a Golden Buzzer too.
AGT will start airing live shows — where we’ll get to see and hear from Kodi Lee again — on the three weeks of the quarterfinals from August 13 to 28 every Tuesday and Wednesday.
There will be 36 acts all in all for the live shows (nine Golden Buzzers, two dozen from the judges cuts rounds, and three wildcards chosen by the producers). Each week, 12 acts will perform with seven making it through to the semi-finals.
The semi-finals start on September 3, 4, 10, and 11. Aside from the 21 acts put through in the quarter-finals, there will be one more wildcard. Each week, 11 acts will perform with five making it to the finals.
The two-part finale will air live on September 17 and 18, and on the last night, the top five will be revealed before a countdown to the ultimate winner.
The champion act gets $1 million and a chance to headline at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.