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'America's Got Talent' recap: The four finalists vie for victory

September 14, 2011 |  8:32 am

They came, they saw and two (perhaps three) of the four finalists vying for victory on "America's Got Talent" on Tuesday night conquered.

First to the stage was Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., returning –- triumphantly –- to his Sinatra wheelhouse after proving last week that he could also deliver a solid Dean Martin number. The car-washer-turned-crooner, who tearfully revealed in a pre-performance video that he had been homeless as a teen, stepped out in a snappy white tux and socked out a note-perfect, open-hearted rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" (kudos to the Show Tracker commenter who correctly predicted Murphy's song choice). He took his time and built to a dramatic vocal crescendo, bringing the audience and the judges (and for all I know, some viewers at home) to their feet.

Piers Morgan called it a "million-dollar performance." Sharon Osbourne praised the emotion and range and said Murphy had saved the best for last.  And Howie Mandel told him, "There's a real good chance that you just sealed the deal."

Next, Team iLuminate – whose pre-performance video highlighted the individual dancers' effort and passion (more tears!) -- turned in their most ambitious and visually exciting performance to date: a bonanza of bodies in motion amid flickering lights of varying colors and textures. Electric. Again, the judges and the crowd were on their feet.

Osbourne said it was "an honor" for the show to be able to give "groundbreaking" talents like these an outlet: "You create everything from zero," she said, "and it's just brilliant."

Mandel told the group, "You also deserve to win," noting, however, that the group might be at a disadvantage because people may vote for a single, relatable personality like Murphy, rather than a group, no matter how spectacular. He added, "You can see this show anywhere, headline, any country, in any language, from 7 to 70. You got it!"

Morgan laid it on even thicker, evoking the nation's jobs debate and portraying the group as the solution to America's problems (sort of AGT as WPA): "We normally at this stage say you're what this show is about, but it's more than that. You're what this country is about. Because what America needs right now, more than anything else, in times of financial crisis, is smart young people with great ideas, completely original, that can create a business and create jobs and create prosperity and make America great again. You are exactly what America needs right now. That was superb."

"We never imagined that we'd get this far," Poplyfe lead singer Kehlani Parrish told us before the teen band took the stage. "We honestly thought we'd be going home a long time ago."

Alas, Parrish's admission foreshadowed the band's royal stumble on its Queen medley, in which a noisy "We Will Rock You" melded into an off-key "We Are the Champions" and assuredly cost them their shot at the AGT crown. The band had previously shown some cracks, sparking speculation that they might be just a more-talented-than-average high-school battle-of-the-bands contender enjoying a particularly lucky streak; in this performance, they pretty much totally fell apart. (Am I the only one who feared a buzz from Morgan?)

Facing the regretful-looking judges, Parrish's face was streaked with tears. She knew she'd muffed it. "We worked so hard," she said. "We really want this." The judges tried to comfort her. Mandel urged people to vote based on the overall season performance. Morgan said the craziness was part of the group's "magic" and declared his continued love. And Osbourne said that, no matter what, Parrish was a "star." But it almost felt like the judges were trying to reassure themselves as much as Parrish and her bandmates that Poplyfe deserved a presence in the top four. Do you think they did?

Last to take the stage, after some unexplained technical difficulties that had Nick Cannon vamping and the rest of us growing bored, were the Silhouettes. They turned in another lovely, sentimental dance performance –- this one taking us up in the air and deep under water and to China and Paris as Louis Armstrong's rich voice reminded us "What a Wonderful World" we lived in. As usual, the performance culminated in a single word, spelled out in human shadows: Love. 

Nice, very nice, but at this point perhaps also a little same-old, same-old. (Or was that just technical-delay fatigue?)

In any event, the judges and the audience adored it. Morgan called it "terrific." Osbourne said it was "inspirational." Mandel said the word "Love" was an apt ending: "We loved it." Did you?

My prediction is Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will emerge as this season's winner, just edging out Team iLuminate. I also suspect Team iLuminate will go on to have great success, performing in the U.S. and around the world. Poplyfe, meanwhile, may get a second crack at the big time and probably a record deal. And the Silhouettes, well, who knows? So much young potential. At the very least the performers will have a good story to tell their own children -– and their shadow-savvy choreographer has it made in the shade.

What about you? Who do you think deserves the win? It's your last chance to call it!


'America's Got Talent' results: Meet your four finalists

"America's Got Talent" recap: The top 10 take the stage

"America's Got Talent" results: Rounding out the top 10

"America's Got Talent" recap: Second semifinals, tough call

"America's Got Talent" results: Who made the top 10?

"America's Got Talent" recap: The semifinals start strong

-- Amy Reiter