Season 18 of America’s Got Talent is officially beyond the auditions stage, and the remaining pool of competitors will be narrowed down even further as the live qualifiers rounds continue. The 55 acts that were advanced to the live shows are already the best of the best, but seven of them got an extra vote of confidence from the judges and host Terry Crews after winning a golden buzzer. So, as the stakes get even higher, let’s look at every Season 18 golden buzzer winner who was advanced straight to the live shows and which is most likely to win!
There are seven golden buzzer winners this season thanks to the fact that the judges and Terry Crews hit a group golden buzzer together as well as awarded an audience golden buzzer in the season premiere. It wasn’t easy to narrow down these seven to which acts have the best odds, and there's a lot more to it than levels of talent and personal taste. All are fantastic competitors. With a lot of factors accounted for, take a look, starting with #7!
7. Gabriel Henrique
Sofia Vergara hit her golden buzzer in Season 18 for Gabriel Henrique after blowing the audience away with his cover of Whitney Houston’s “Run to You.” On top of being an amazing singer, he had a sweet story about coming to AGT from Brazil, and even touched the judges’ hearts when he had to tell the tale of losing his dog. He certainly earned his golden buzzer!
Despite the fact that the Modern Family veteran’s selection in Season 17 went on to win the grand prize, I’d place Henrique at #7 for a few reasons. Singers aren’t exactly few and far between in Season 18, and AGT voters have moved away from the early trend of selecting musicians for the $1 million and Las Vegas stage show. The last singer to win was Kodi Lee in Season 14, and Henrique’s considerable talents may not be enough to outshine the non-music acts.
6. Lavender Darcangelo
Lavender Darcangelo was Heidi Klum’s golden buzzer selection for Season 18, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little teary after hearing her story as a blind and autistic performer with dreams of starting a school after being adopted by her dads. Her performance of “Out Here On By Own” by Irene Cara was a showstopper to the point that there was no doubt that somebody would hit the buzzer for her. Happy tears were seemingly shed by all at the end.
I actually had a hard time deciding where to rank Lavender Darcangelo, because I could easily see her making it to the end of the current season of AGT. Ultimately, though, I have the same hesitation for her as I do for Gabriel Henrique, as far as my guess that this season won’t go to a solo singer, even one with the talent and story like hers. Hopefully she goes far!
5. Chioma & The Atlanta Drum Academy
Chioma took the stage with little indication of what exactly he could deliver to win over the audience, with the 8-year-old seeming a little awestruck by being in front of a crowd of thousands. The youngster was all confidence once the performance started and the Atlanta Drum Academy joined him, and Terry Crews decided to hit his golden buzzer.
Again, music acts aren’t as successful in winning the grand prize in recent years, but Chioma & The Atlanta Drum Academy also bring some visual spectacle. Plus, acts involving kids are often fan-favorites, and this is a whole group of talented kids. At the same time, I’m not sure how much these performers will be able to elevate their performances above what they did in the audition, and that’s an expectation once the live shows begin. So I’m a fan, but placing them at #5.
4. Putri Ariani
Simon Cowell hit his golden buzzer for a singer in Season 18, with the 17-year-old Putri Ariani earning that honor early on. Before even singing a note, she shared that her biggest challenge is that people look at her as “a blind person, not as a musician” and she dreams of attending Julliard. Her cover of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” impressed Cowell so much that he asked for a second song, and she decided to sing an original, all while playing the piano.
While I have to repeat my belief that AGT voters aren’t going to go all-in on a singer in Season 18, Putri Ariani has a lot going for her on top of her voice. Of the other solo singers who got golden buzzers, she was the only one to also play an instrument. Plus, getting two songs, showing her skill with both covers and original songs, and the buzzer from Simon Cowell himself set her up for success in the qualifiers and beyond, even if not necessarily to win the whole thing.
3. Mzansi Youth Choir
Mzansi Youth Choir was the first act of Season 18 to get a golden buzzer, when their performance of “It’s OK” – originally performed by the late singer (and former AGT golden buzzer winner) Nightbirde – moved the judges and audience alike. In fact, they got the golden buzzer from the audience instead of one of the judges or Terry Crews. There didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the house after the performance by the choir from South Africa, and it was a thrilling way to start the season.
While a choir has never actually won a season of America’s Got Talent, the Mzansi Youth Choir has the benefit of being the first golden buzzer group of the season and therefore pretty memorable, along with paying tribute to Nightbirde. I can also see them finding ways to elevate their performances as the competition continues, which isn’t always possible for solo singers. Plus, the visuals of the choir singing and moving together just works on the small screen.
As somebody who immediately checked Spotify after the Season 18 premiere to see if their cover of “It’s OK” was available (and it is), I’d love to see them do well even if I don’t rank them higher than #3 in odds of winning.
And now, we move away from the music acts! Howie Mandel awarded his golden buzzer to French dance group Murmuration. They took the stage in black clothes and blindfolds to deliver a performance so hypnotic that it recalled the Mayyas from back in Season 17, who of course went on to win the whole thing. The scale and precision of Murmuration was incredibly impressive on screen, and unlike any other act of Season 18 that came before it.
If the Mayyas winning last season is any indication, AGT fans are all about unique dance acts that are visually dazzling. Murmuration filled the whole stage, and their precision with the blindfolds was truly mesmerizing. Their performance was clearly a hit live in the theater and also translates well through the screen. It’s easy to imagine this group finding ways to elevate their performance if they continue beyond the qualifiers.
1. Chibi Unity
The golden buzzer group that I rank at #1 is also the last group to get that honor in Season 18, as they received the group buzzer from the four judges and Terry Crews. The Japanese dance group cited Mayyas as an inspiration for coming to AGT, and then proceeded to dazzle the judges so much that there could be little doubt that they’d get the confetti raining down.
Chibi Unity combined the hypnotic qualities of the Mayyas (and Murmuration) with some acrobatic and gravity-defying moves that quite literally raised the stakes. Of all the golden buzzers, Chibi Unity is the one that I can most easily imagine topping themselves week after week on AGT, and their performance is likely fresh in the minds of viewers after getting the last buzzer of the season. Plus, like Murmuration and Chioma in particular, the performance is on a scale that looks great on TV.
So, I have to rank Chibi Unity as my #1 pick. AGT voters chose a dance group to win in Season 17. Howie Mandel already said that he’d love to see them in a Las Vegas show, and Sofia Vergara – who chose the Mayyas for her golden buzzer last year – said that theirs was the best dancing she’d ever seen in her life and it was the “perfect AGT audition.” Simon Cowell described it as “powerful,” “original,” and “incredible."
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that I only believe a dance group could win or that singers have no chance in Season 18. In fact, music groups Chapel Hart and Drake Milligan both made the Top 5 of Season 17, and Terry Crews revealed last summer that it was a very close vote that awarded Mayyas the grand prize over pole dancer Kristy Sellars. Still, even though singers have won six out of the seventeen seasons so far, four out of the last five grand prizes went to other kinds of performers.
Of course, AGT Season 18 is still anybody’s game, and there are plenty of talented competitors beyond these seven, even if getting a golden buzzer increases odds of winning the whole thing. For now, we can just keep tuning in to NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for live episodes of America’s Got Talent, with live results shows on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.