“It was like a Saturday Night Live sketch”

“America’s Got Talent” contestant Travis Japan (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC via Getty Images)

After a disastrous qualifying episode last week where nearly every contestant received a bad review, AMERICA has talent returned to the track on Tuesday for the final qualifying round of Season 17 — making it very difficult for viewers to pick just two of the 11 acts to advance to next week’s grand finale.

Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas certainly looked like the one to beat this week, with Simon Cowell describing their mesmerizing performance as the kind that ‘changes the world’ and Howie Mandel even saying: ‘This – visually, headphones and in every way – it’s the best time I’ve seen AGT history.” But they weren’t the only dancers to receive high praise. Simon told Australian contemporary hoofer Max Ostler that his song choice (Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill”) was “flawless” and his choreography was “incredible” and said that pole-dancer/multimedia storyteller Kristy Sellars’ imaginative routine was “one of the most amazing, brilliant, creative acts we’ve seen.” Acrobatic group Urbancrew also scored a “10” from Simon and named Heidi Klum and Howie’s favorite act of the night.

Unfortunately, the one contestant this week he did not do it earning high marks – and even receiving the kind of harsh criticism that captured last week’s show – was Tokyo boy band Travis Japan.

Doing their opening tune “Party Up Like Crazy,” the J-pop septet dazzled with their own choreography (though not to a Mayyas/Ostler/Sellars-advanced level), but their vocals were sorely lacking. This was probably at least partially due to technical difficulties – their voices were so muffled and muffled, it seemed like their microphones weren’t working properly, plus their backing act was completely off – but the overall effect was underwhelming, especially in such a talent-filled night of final qualifiers. Howie actually called them out in the middle… though that might have been a bit much very harsh, as he immediately drew boos from the live audience.

Once Travis Japan finished, Howie explained, “Listen, I’m a big band fan. … You have to hit some of the notes when you sang the solos! It was really far. It seemed like a travesty. It was like one Saturday night live sketch. If Liza Minnelli goes to Japan and forms a boy band, this is what it looks like.” More boos followed.

Simon — who, as Howie pointed out, was responsible for putting together one of the biggest boy bands in recent memory, The X Factor UK‘s One Direction — it was a little nicer, interesting. But not much. “Look, it’s really hard to sing live,” Simon shrugged. “If you were to rewind the performance and turn up the volume away fromit would be perfect. Are you large. The personalities are fantastic. I love the choreography. The song was scary. Your nerves got the better of you. It was actually the wrong song, period.” Heidi “loved the sparkle and the dancing and the choreography” but felt that “the song needed something” and Sofia Vergara agreed that “the vocals today were a little off. The dancing was great. It’s hard to dance on that mic and sound great. I don’t think tonight was your night.”

Social media reactions were mixed, with many dedicated Travis Japan fans blaming microphone issues for the group’s underperformance. Other viewers agreed that the boy band he had failed to impress, but still thought Howie went too far with his red X and nasty comments. Later in the night, Howie tried to smooth things over with his praise for Japanese yo-yo trickster Su Takada, telling Su: “I think you redeemed your country again tonight. Japan should be proud!” Simon pointed out with a laugh: “By the way, Howie is only saying that because I saw his Twitter page after his very rude comments towards the boy band, and [fans are] I’m not happy with him!” To be honest, Howie’s shady comment probably got to him more.

Travis Japan has his own sizeable social media following — 952,000 followers on Instagram and 1.1 billion views on TikTok — so maybe his fans will rally to vote them into the final against Howie’s wishes. I’m still predicting Mayyas and Kristy Sellars to be in this week’s top two, but for those contestants who don’t make it through the public vote, there’s still hope. On Wednesday, all four judges, who had zero participation during this season’s revamped live format, will each submit a wildcard act. Viewers will then vote in an instant save round, with one of those four acts advancing to the final showdown on September 13.

My guess is Howie ordinary to suggest Travis Japan… but you never know what’s going to happen at this crazy show. See you then.

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

· ‘One of the weirdest nights we’ve ever had’: Everything goes wrong on ‘AGT’

· Welcome to the Dollhouse: Creepy Celebrity Sisters Pull the Ultimate ‘AGT’ Prank

· Mayyas honor late ‘AGT’ contestant with amazing routine: ‘What really got us auditioning this year is Nightbirde’

· Simon Cowell’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ Deadly Stunt Shocks Audience: ‘We Need a Doctor!’

· Nick Cannon quits ‘America’s Got Talent’: ‘One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career’

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