The first round of “America's Got Talent” live semifinal performances on September 4 certainly seemed to validate the estimations of the judges who gave golden buzzer votes to many talents through this Season 13 of competition. Amanda Mena, who earned Mel B's golden buzzer, brought her most “sophisticated” delivery as the first performer of the night, according to Heidi Klum. The 15-year-old’s twist on Pharrell’s “Happy” was a soulful standout, depicting the teen from the Dominican Republic strutting along a highway to success. Mel B credited Mena for her bold choice and gushed with support.

Simon Cowell said he believed America would get behind Amanda, and Howie Mandel reminded the young singer to take pride in her accomplishment.

Amanda Mena had her own words for those who are victims of bullying. She said that with family support, “you can do anything,” saying to never give up hope, “because it does get better.”

Slick moves and soaring voices

The inspiring and spirited dancers of Junior New System took the advice of Howie Mandel for this high-stakes performance, putting on their red leather heels and doing daring leaps and moves right from the start. “Now that's what I call a semifinals performance,” praised Simon Cowell. Mel B's excitement would only allow her to scream. Heidi Klum said it was time to call the bomb squad because the dance troupe was so explosive.

Naturally, Howie Mandel could only end with saying: “See what happens when you listen to me!” No matter how the vote tally ends, these dancers deserve all the breaks that being an “America's Got Talent” contender brings.

The audience and the judges love Us The Duo, but Simon Cowell and his fellow panelists did not love this song so much this time, apart from Mel B.

The pair’s harmonies were sweet, but the song’s theme of “bills to pay,” however true, didn't ring like a song to remember, especially with its recurring line of “I'm still broke.” They promised a return to form if they survive the vote. This composition came off as just a little too desperate. Hopefully the young family won't be in constant financial straits like the Dillard family on TLC.

The song “Defying Gravity” from Broadway's “Wicked” seemed tailor-made for the Voices of Hope children's choir and their dedicated director, Ms. Sarah. Spirits and voices were instantly raised, and for this effort, somewhat older vocalists got to shine in solos. The raised hands of the choir and the audience translated into standing ovations for the golden buzzer pick of guest judge Ken Jeong. Simon Cowell again was a cheerleader for the kids, calling the performance his favorite act of the night, adding that it portrays “just who you are.” Howie Mandel noted that America looks for the kind of moments that Voices of Hope delivers, and Mel B praised that they always bring joy. Heidi Klum insisted that the performance matched the musical, saying that it was “wicked good.”

Slowing down

All season long, Boston magician Shin Lim has been lauded as the best close-up magician ever to be on “America's Got Talent.” For this pivotal performance, he opted for his slow sleight-of-hand movements even more, with Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum watching every motion right from his table.

Entire decks of cards, entire faces of cards, markers, and virtually all of Lim’s simple props vanished in smoke, only to appear out of his mouth, out of his back pocket, and from a basic plastic bag, He utterly mystified the judges again, with Simon Cowell calling it a “Hello” moment with added dramatics. Mel B dubbed the performance “classy and mysterious,” while Howie simply said that Shin needed to be in the finals, and Heidi Klum said that she could see his name all over Las Vegas.

Next came Heidi Klum's golden buzzer pick, Makayla Phillips, who pushed up the production on her version of Jessie J’s “Who U Are.” At certain points, the production overwhelmed the purity of the singer’s voice, but Heidi echoed total support for her girl.

Simon Cowell noted the production issues, but still called the effort Makayla’s best “America's Got Talent” performance. Howie Mandel was not in such a kind mood, saying that the 16-year-old needed to “take it up nine levels” and that this performance fell short. Phillips has been saved by the vote before, and she needs her supporters again.

Techno-light and dance act Front Pictures got another chance as a wildcard act in the semifinals and designed a performance that was aimed at sharing a love of the stars and space but confused the judges by melding galaxies with many undersea scenes and creatures. Simon Cowell gave an X before the close of the performance. Howie Mandel did not feel that adding a portion of final narration was helpful, while Heidi Klum and Mel B both saw beauty in the effort.

Married couple Duo Transcend upped the ante by adding skates and a blazing fire to the finish of their daring and romantic serial performance. Mary and Tyce were higher than ever, against a star background as they began with their beautiful and death-defying routine of swings, catches, and balancing. Suddenly, both performers took a deliberate drop, and the stage was set afire. In less than a minute, Duo Transcend were skating in a ring of fire, doing incredible feats to close another fearless set. Unanimous standing ovations came from the judges, despite Simon Cowell telling the couple that they had given him “a heart attack—twice.” Howie Mandel affirmed that they had delivered everything possible.

Mel B lost her voice from fear, and Heidi Klum lapped up the lightning speed of the performance from the danger-loving, devoted couple.

Three final performers not to forget

After that heart-stopping performance, comedian Samuel J. Comroe came forward with a set full of genuine, homespun humor to lighten the mood. The comedian who makes having Tourette's syndrome seem like a minor bump in life earned laughs along with respect for his routine, saying that part of the audience was Def Jam, and the other part was church, bringing in a playful jab about a lady who insisted on praying his Tourette’s syndrome away. At the same moment, he prayed that she would go away. He mixed in messages of getting along and racial unity, too.

Simon Cowell confirmed that Samuel had a hard act to follow, but that people liked him as much as his humor. “You need to make it,” praised Howie Mandel, urging people to vote. Mel B thanked the comedian for a “good belly laugh,” but Heidi didn't laugh so hard at the jokes this time.

In a pre-performance profile, Michael Ketterer was shown on the job as a mental health nurse, and it only made the story of the father of six more deep and real. These times are not easy for any family, and Ketterer gave credit to the strength and love of his wife, assuring that they would make it, no matter what comes. His choice of “When I Look at You” by Miley Cyrus captured all of that love and emotion in one fell swoop and the high note was a touch of heaven.

Simon Cowell gave an open plea to Garth Brooks to write a song for his golden buzzer choice, so let's hope that that request becomes a reality for Michael if the votes pull him to the finals. “You touch my everything,” Mel B told the singer. Heidi Klum concurred that Ketterer is a special person, and Howie Mandel declared that he deserved every hope and dream that happens because of his “America's Got Talent” journey.

The final act of the evening was Zucaroh, the golden buzzer pick of Tyra Banks. The most incredible aspect of these talented dancers and tumblers is that they have no formal training, only the love of their leader and dedication to learning. They already re-created Adam and Eve in the garden, and the wilds of the jungle, and for this closing performance, the vision of ice castles was evoked, with the expected dazzling tosses.

The hue changed to a golden glimmer as the troupe’s moves became more magnificent. These artists go to school and work at real jobs, yet on stage, they are unparalleled. Simon Cowell called their director, Peterson, “the greatest showman.” Howie Mandel remarked that the best truly was saved for last in these semifinals. Heidi Klum dubbed the offering “an epic spectacle.”

Catch the results show on Wednesday, September 5 to see which five acts make the cut.