‘America’s Got Talent’ 2011: Winner named, Sharon Osbourne shocked, duets shine — NBC’s reality competition program, America’s Got Talent, came to its final conclusion for the season Wednesday night when the winner from thousands of auditioning hopefuls was announced. The winner receives $1 million and will headline an act in Las Vegas in October. When one of the Top Four was eliminated before reaching the Top Two, judge Sharon Osbourne looked shocked at the judges’ table. The show was filled with shining duets by the contestants and established entertainers. Which act won the competition, and which act’s results falling short of that surprised the show’s only female judge?
The two-hour finale to the summer show, America’s Got Talent, included duet performances with the Top Four and their idols in entertainment. The show also featured other performances from well-known singers or other acts.
Opening the show was a duet between contestant Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. and established performer, Patti LaBelle. They sang “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Host Nick Cannon spoke with Mr. Murphy following the performance. He said even before his first audition when his wife asked him whom he would like to sing with, he had said Patti LaBelle.
Following this duet, Def Leppard took to the stage to perform a medley of their hits. Then, Team iLuminate, a dance group among the Final Four, performed with Cobra Starship. The leader of the dance group called the experience “an honor.”
The “Audition All-Stars” segment of the show featured some of the acts that were immediately eliminated from the audition process early in the season. After that, dance troupe, Silhouettes, performed “Give” with LeAnn Rimes from her new CD. Ms. Rimes was moved to tears by how the lyrics of the song coincided with Silhouettes’ dance interpretation of it.
Another segment showed antics among the three judges throughout the season — Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel. Mr. Mandel played several practical jokes on Piers Morgan, including putting a soda machine in front of his stage door and then calling him to the set and folding up the steps to his trailer and knocking on his door.
The band One Republic also appeared on AGT Wednesday night, singing two of their songs, then the legendary singer Tony Bennett and Queen Latifah took to the stage and sang a duet of “Who Can I Turn To?”
Nick Cannon talked with Jerry Springer, who dropped by the program (literally hanging onto a rope suspended over the stage), about the upcoming AGT show in Las Vegas. Mr. Springer will host the show to be held at Caesar’s Palace. It will feature not only the winner of this season’s AGT but also all Top Four contestants and a few from the Top 10. Season Five winner, Michael Grimm, will also be part of the Vegas show in October.
Possibly one of the most appropriate performances for the evening among a night full of good acts was the duet by the young band Poplife and the superstar, Stevie Wonder. They sang Mr. Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” The performance was a particular highlight for viewers especially in view of the disappointing final competition performance Poplyfe had on Tuesday night. Kalani, the lead singer, knew she was off and was obviously upset Tuesday night, but singing with Stevie Wonder on Wednesday, she was back on track and having the time of her life, right along with the young musicians in the band.
The duet was in the true spirit of the AGT finale performances — putting a seasoned superstar on the same stage as talented young hopefuls who still have much to learn. Mr. Wonder, who also started singing in his teens, called their duet together, “Poplyfe and Team Wonder.” Asked by Nick Cannon if Poplfye’s “got it,” Stevie Wonder replied, “They got it. I’m feelin’ it.”
Cirque du Soleil also performed. Their acrobatic act was from their show, Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema. The show is currently playing at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
Second place finisher of Season Five of America’s Got Talent, Jackie Evancho, returned to the show and gave another powerful vocal performance, this time of “Nessun Dorma.” The audience rose in a standing ovation for the young singer who has always been popular with AGT viewers.
Finally, it was time for the eliminations and the announcement of the winner. Fourth place went to Poplyfe, and the judges did not seem surprised. However, when third place was announced to be Team iLuminate — a judges’ favorite all season — the camera showed the reaction on judge Sharon Osbourne’s face. Her mouth gaped open in shock.
Silhouettes was left standing on the stage with Sinatra-like singer, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.. Mr. Murphy was declared the winner. As a car washer and detailer from West Virginia, America’s Got Talent fans related to Mr. Murphy’s story and his style on stage and gave him the votes. He also had a powerful final competition performance, singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra that judge Howie Mandel said at the time may have “just sealed the deal.” Apparently, it did.
This year’s winner continues a tradition in America’s Got Talent of individual singers winning the competition. Of the show’s six seasons so far, most of them have been won by singers — Bianca Ryan, Neal E. Boyd, Kevin Skinner, and Michael Grimm. Ventriloquist Terry Fator, who won in Season Two, also sings as part of his act.
PHOTOS: See pictures of the Top Four from America’s Got Talent here.
VIDEO: Watch Poplyfe perform “Higher Ground” with Stevie Wonder here or in the left-hand column of this page.