Simon Cowell teared up and broke down after watching the Mzansi Youth Choir sing Nightbirde’s song It’s OK during Tuesday’s season premiere of America’s Got Talent.
After the audience chanted for the Golden Buzzer, Simon said for first time ever they were giving the season 18 audience the power to pick their own Golden Buzzer winner.
‘This brought back so many memories for me,’ Simon, 63, said with tears in his eyes. ‘This is hard. Gosh, give me one second.’
‘I know how much this would have meant to her, it would. Right until the end she was so passionate about sharing her music. And this has gone all over the world. And you come back here with the most amazing tribute. It was just breathtaking, honestly,’ Simon said as judge Sofia Vergara, 50, supportively patted him on the back.
Nightbirde competed on season 16 of AGT, but had to drop out of the competition after succumbing to cancer and ultimately ended up losing her battle, passing away at the age of 31. Hearing the song performed by the choir, which came all the way from Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, brought back memories for Simon and the other judges.
Touching tribute: Simon Cowell teared up and broke down after watching the Mzansi Youth Choir sing Nightbirde’s song It’s OK during Tuesday’s season premiere of America’s Got Talent
Howie Mandel, 67, put his hands on his head mesmerized while they sang, harmonizing together, and danced across the stage. The crowd cheered for them and the judges gave them a standing ovation when they finished.
‘For anyone who doesn’t know we lost a very special person from our AGT family,’ Heidi Klum, 49, said. ‘Her name is Jane. Her nickname was Nightbirde, and she sang the song. It has a very special meaning in my heart. It was really beautiful, thank you.’
‘What a surprise to hear that song, and your voices are fantastic,’ Sofia, 50, said. ‘That was the perfect AGT audition.’
‘I’ll always remember Nightbirde and to see that it touched people on the other side of the globe,’ Howie said. ‘Unbelievable.’
‘Can I ask why you decided to sing that song?’ asked Simon, who hit his Golden Buzzer for Nightbirde when she auditioned.
One of the choir members said when they heard Nightbirde sing the song on the AGT stage, they were very inspired and touched by her story and decided to record her song.
‘To our surprise she responded so beautifully. This song has been such a pillar of strength for us, as a choir, through difficult times. We just wanted to continue her legacy and that’s why we chose this song, the choir member said.
The crowd chanted for them to get the Golden Buzzer.
Getting emotional: ‘This brought back so many memories for me,’ Simon, 63 said with tears in his eyes. ‘This is hard. Gosh, give me one second’
Familiar song: Heidi Klum was quick to realize the choir was performing Nightbirde’s song
Inspiring song: One of the members of the Mzansi Youth Choir said when they heard Nightbirde sing the song on the AGT stage, they were very inspired and touched by her story and decided to record her song
Offering support: Sofia Vergara reached over and rubbed Simon’s shoulder as he spoke with a voice full of emotion and tears falling
‘I’m going to suggest something we’ve never done before but we’ve always discussed one day giving the audience something,’ Simon said.
The crowd chanted ‘Golden Buzzer.’
‘This is for you,’ Simon said. ‘This is for Jane.’
The judges held hands and pressed the Golden Buzzer and golden confetti fell down on the choir.
The choir members hugged each other and doubled over in shock at receiving the Golden Buzzer.
‘Mzansi Youth Choir you have just received the Golden Buzzer from the fifth judge, the AGT audience,’ host Terry Crews, 54, said.
The judges came on stage and gave members of the choirs hugs.
‘You have no idea how much that really meant to us,’ Simon told them.
Talented singer: Jane Kristen Marczewski aka Nightbirde auditioned during season 16 of AGT in season 21 and received Simon’s Golden Buzzer but had to withdraw amid her cancer battle
Moving moment: Howie Mandel put his hands on his head as he was clearly touched by tribute to Nightbirde
Fifth judge: The audience chanted for the judges to give the choir the Golden Buzzer and they obliged
No idea: ‘You have no idea how much that really meant to us,’ Simon told them
Patrick Chiu came out wearing a brown dinosaur outfit to start off the auditions for the show’s 18th season.
‘Is it bad that I already want to say no,’ Sofia said.
Chiu then danced and did flips in the dinosaur outfit and the crowd cheered. All the judges gave him a standing ovation.
‘I am so so happy I did not say no to you,’ Sofia said.
Chiu said he wasn’t happy at his current job and just wanted to make people happy.
‘This is the best dancing dinosaur we have had on AGT,’ Simon said.
Heidi said she had the same costume at home. Simon also said he had worn that costume. All the judges voted him on.
‘That’s why I still do the show,’ Simon said.
First up: Patrick Chiuas Trex Flips came out wearing a brown dinosaur outfit to start off the auditions for the show’s 18th season
Philip Bowen, a project manager from Detroit, took the stage next with his violin. He said he wanted to show his three young kids that it was never too late to chase down a dream. Philip’s baseball cap came off because he played the violin so passionately. The crowd cheered for him when he finished and Philip teared up.
‘You are so talented,’ Simon said. ‘You have so much charisma.’
‘You are a beautiful young man,’ Howie said. ‘What you did, how you sound, and who you are are beautiful.’
Philip got four yeses.
Before Steel Panther, a heavy metal band from Los Angeles, took the stage Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction taped a message that said the band was ‘absolutely groundbreaking’ in the 80’s. The band, who still performed together, regrouped for the show. Before they started, the group said they were giving Heidi and Sofia lifetime tickets to their show with backstage passes. The group then sang their song Eyes Of A Panther. The judges and the crowd gave them a standing ovation when they finished.
‘I feel like I was just at the most amazing shortest festival I’ve ever attended,’ Howie said. ‘I love this kind of music. This kind of music needs to come back to the forefront and you are here to bring it.’
‘I absolutely loved it,’ Heidi said.
Sofia then revealed that her husband Joe Manganiello, 46, had actually hired the band for his 40th birthday.
Passionate performance: Philip Bowen, a project manager from Detroit, took the stage next with his violin
Rocking out: Steel Panther rocked out and got four yes votes from the judges
‘And it was the best birthday he ever had,’ Sofia said.
The judges all gave them yeses.
Next, Alan Reinikka tried to show the judges his pole dancing abilities but the judges almost immediately buzzed him. A woman wearing a pink wig came out and said she was Nancy La Fancy and did a dance with an umbrella but the judges also quickly buzzed her off.
‘I found it a little bit boring,’ Simon said.
Three G, a three-person sexy acrobatic act from Ukraine, went next. They balanced and did handstands off each other but then all fell to the ground when one of them buckled from the weight. They got up immediately and finished their act but then toppled down again while standing on top of each other.
‘Are you okay?’ Simon asked.
The crowd cheered for them and they decided to try the difficult move again.
‘I mean this is insane,’ Heidi said nervously watching them.
Acrobatic act: Three G, a three-person sexy acrobatic act from Ukraine, went next
Going down: They balanced and did handstands off each other but then all fell to the ground when one of them buckled from the weight
Shocked reaction: The judges were shocked when the act went wrong and they fell
They fell again for the second time attempting the same move and then bowed for the judges.
‘It’s okay,’ Simon said.
‘I think you did a wonderful job,’ Howie said. ‘I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter that you fell down. What matters is that you got up and you kept trying and trying and trying. ‘
‘I really admire that you guys kept trying to do it,’ Sofia said. ‘The part that you were able to do was spectacular. I really liked it because you guys have it in you.’
‘Lesser people would have given up and you didn’t,’ Simon said. ‘We saw enough to know this act belongs on this stage.’
The judges gave them four yeses and the women cried and hugged each other.
Trigg Watson, 33, a magician from Los Angeles went next. He brought a big phone on the screen and was able to pull things out of the video and then put things back into it.
‘I have never seen anything more amazing, more jaw-dropping, more incredible,’ Howie said. ‘It felt like I was watching a dream. It didn’t look real. I think you could win this season with that.’
Second time: They fell again for the second time attempting the same move and then bowed for the judges
Moving forward: The judges gave them four yeses for their valiant effort and the women cried and hugged each other
Magic act: Trigg Watson, 33, a magician from Los Angeles went next
‘At the beginning you are actually a bit annoying, but the act itself, I loved it,’ Simon said.
The judges all voted him on.
Kozo, from Japan, landed a toy helicopter on his butt but the judges were not impressed and he got three X’s.
‘I liked it,’ Howie said.
D’Corey Johnson, 11, a singer from Louisville, Kentucky went next. He said he wanted to be on Broadway and in movies. D’Corey sang Open Arms by Journey. The audience gave him a standing ovation when he finished. Simon then asked him to sing without the backing track. Simon stood and applauded him when he finished and D’Corey broke down crying.
‘To be here, I’m just so happy,’ D’Corey said.
‘I think you have such a distinctive, great voice,’ Simon said. ‘I think you are going to get better and better.’
The judges all gave him yeses for him to move on. He hugged his mother when he got backstage.
Good effort: Kozo, from Japan, landed a toy helicopter on his butt but the judges were not impressed and he got three X’s
Journey song: D’Corey Johnson, 11, a singer from Louisville, Kentucky, sang Open Arms by Journey
Shadow Ace from the Philippines took the stage next. He had a black box brought on stage and said he was going to revive the lost art of shadow art. Howie asked him who his favorite artists were and he said it was Beyoncé.
He then did a show where his fingers pole danced, boxed, shaved their legs, drank, and danced to Psy’s song Gangnam Style.
‘It was spectacular,’ Sofia said. ‘This was a real show.’
‘I can watch this all night,’ Howie said.
‘Kids are going to love it,’ Simon said. ‘I loved it.’
He got four yeses from the judges. Before they took away the shadow box, Heidi ran up to the stage to show everyone her dog and then danced in the box.
‘Of course what she goes and does,’ Sofia said.
Stand-up comedian Orlando Leyba, 45, from Miami went next. He made jokes about how he had been married for 15 years and how he was a big fan of Yellowstone. He had Simon, Heidi, Sofia and Howie all laughing.
Shadow art: Shadow Ace from the Philippines said he was going to revive the lost art of shadow art
Funny guy: Stand-up comedian Orlando Leyba, 45, from Miami made jokes about how he had been married for 15 years and how he was a big fan of Yellowstone
‘You are just naturally funny,’ Simon said. ‘It felt like you were telling us something that really happened.’
‘It really did happen,’ Orlando said.
‘From the second you walked out the stage, you were winning,’ Howie said.
Howie said he was a huge fan. Heidi agreed. He got four yeses and moved on.
America’s Got Talent will return next Tuesday on NBC.