It's coming down to the wire, for performers on the “America's Got Talent” competition, and they are the only ones succumbing to the stress. Simon Cowell was in a particularly persnickety and negative state of mind on the August 20 second round of Live quarterfinals for Season 14. Fortunately, the same moods did not apply to Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, or Julianne Hough. Getting X’s, though, this late in the game didn't do any good for several acts hoping for a brighter future. By the end of the night, however, everyone had found a smile.

The sizzle and sharpness are gone

Charlotte Summers made no secret that she “loves my life here” in the “America's Got Talent” limelight. The 13-year-old from Spain declared that she was going to “fight like a fighter” for her place in the semifinals. She certainly attempted a big song with “Diamonds Are Forever,” the iconic Shirley Bassey Bond song from “Goldfinger” that sold worldwide multimillions.

The teen singer gave the song a fierce go, and Howie Mandel noted that she indeed has talent beyond her years. Julianne Hough missed the presence of Charlotte’s personality in the song, while Gabrielle Union praised that she really stepped it up. Simon Cowell slammed the choice of song, which brought tears to the singer. Only time will tell if the final tally will be forgiving.

Singing certainly wasn't a strong point for Nick & Lindsay, either.

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This singing, violin playing pair, who also fling knives, couldn't get a note right on “Ring of Fire.” Their attempt at campy fun turned completely wrong when the blades thrown from Lindsay's toes never even managed to stay in the board around her crooning mate. The wrong things caught on fire, and flaws overcame any thrill that might have come from the flames. Simon Cowell called it the “worst live performance ever,” on “America's Got Talent.” He and Howie Mandel both X’ed the couple.

Julianne Hough called it “so bad it was so good,” but even the crowd got bored along with Simon Cowell, who kept his back turned during much of the time.

Swedish singer-songwriter, Chris Klafford, earned the approval of the audience, and Simon Cowell, in his first two performances from the stage. Cowell went so far as to say that the risk would have been not to do his original song in the Judge Cuts round.

The soulful singer performed his own composition, “Cold at the Altar,” written in honor of his last days spent with his grandmother prior to her passing. The ballad was as genuine as it gets, and it got Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union to their feet, along with the audience. Simon Cowell remarked that the song fell short, however, saying that he lost the “emotional connection” of the former, original piece. Howie Mandel was in agreement but still credited Klafford’s “amazing hair.” It's a good thing fans have this vote.

Scorn and salute

Contortionist, Marina Mazepa, transformed herself into a serpent creature from the pit for this performance, and Simon Cowell still wasn’t pleased, in a creepy way, or otherwise. Simon gave another X to the strangely gifted artist, saying that she went from crazy to boring. Julianne Hough raved that she loved the weird in Marina. “One man's boredom is another man’s dream,” Howie Mandel contested of Simon’s critique. If the viewing audience managed to watch, they might have been intrigued by what they watched, maybe even enough to vote.

No one could vote against blues singer Robert Finley. Four standing ovations from the judges came for the first time for the senior who put his “America's Got Talent” experience into grateful words in his own song, “Starting to See.” Finley’s daughter was one of his back-up singers, and the blind artist’s song was a treat for everyone's senses, hearts, and souls. Cheers rose from the crowd, as Gabrielle Union gushed that “you are a gift to us all.” Naturally, Howie Mandel didn't know the song, but he knew that it connected with everyone. Julianne Hough said that she had been to “Robert Finley Church” and was filled with gratitude. Simon Cowell simply called the performance “bloody fantastic.”

The praise wouldn't last long. The psychic couple, The Sentimentalists, was called back as a wildcard, and their routine centered around smells and tastes was long, involved, and rambling. A pleasant part was seeing. Howie Mandel chow down on pastries, but the performance was not well-honed. All the judges were in agreement that this was not an “America's Got Talent”-ready act, and voters will likely concur.

Rolling to a better finish

Ryan Niemiller was more of a riot than ever with his routine about trying to wear a Fitbit without any arms to lose weight and trying to battle a tornado in his trailer park as a youth. Resilience simply shines from this comic, and courage with a broad smile, too. He even coined a new phrase, “Club-nub,” to start the night, which only got better after he came onstage. He got total love from Howie Mandel, and Julianne called this his best performance. Simon Cowell confirmed that Ryan was “born to do this.” He deserves to move onward and upward, on “America’s Got Talent” and through life.

Aerial dancers V Unbeatable kept the bar, and their bodies, rising in another breathtaking display. The group got the second round of standing ovations. Howie Mandel dubbed it “the best performance I’ve seen,” and Gabrielle Union said that her husband, Dwyane Wade, was right to grant the group his golden buzzer, declaring that “it takes a champion to see champions.” Julianne Hough called the performance the best of the night, and Simon Cowell called the dancers’ creativity “incredible.”

Howie Mandel kept smiling when his golden buzzer pick, Joseph Allen, took the AGT stage with an uplifting rap/R&B tune of his own, with his mom loving every note. The judges were all captivated by the mutual devotion, but Simon Cowell was down on the song and the stage ambiance. Howie Mandel said he felt blessed by the young man who is so authentic and a “shining star.” Gabrielle Union said she loves “a vulnerable man,” and that Joseph is a gift. Julianne Hough counseled that Allen should always “be you.” No matter the vote results, this young artist’s life is already changed forever.

Light Balance Kids were hoping to wow the judges and the voting viewers with their sharp, technically-tough display, but Simon was dismayed yet again that it wasn’t enough. Cowell saw no wow factor in Ellie Kemper’s golden buzzer kids, but Gabrielle Union said that the group continues to top itself. Howie Mandel agreed, and Julianne Hough praised their creativity as “beyond imagination.” Only voters will deem if the performers’ gifts translate to the small screen.

Tyler Butler Figueroa brought a smile to Simon Cowell. The boy who won the British judge’s golden buzzer along with his heart by his example of turning to music and the violin as a testament to bullies in his battle with cancer was brilliant in grace with "Don't You Worry Child" and everyone felt it. Simon Cowell called Tyler “amazing, inspirational, and current.” Gabrielle Union credited the young musician for inspiring more youth to “pick up an instrument” Instead of turning to a screen. Julianne Hough commended Figueroa as a “great human being” for bringing his gift to hospitals and places where performances are rarely seen. Howie Mandel didn't offer an ovation but said that “just being here” was a testament from Tyler.

The closer for this definitively up and down round of “America's Got Talent” was the South African Ndlovu Youth Choir. Donned in bright pink, the ensemble’s performance pulsed with hope in their take on U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Simon Cowell said “you popped tonight,” and it was perfect timing. Gabrielle Union gushed that these resilient youth, and their director, “set the stage on fire.” Julianne Hough praised that the chorus showed the power of being expressed, and Howie Mandel said there could be no better way to end the evening. Every life and voice involved with these hopeful youth deserves whatever blessing can come from their “America's Got Talent” journey.

Tune in for the voting results to put just seven performers through to the semifinals tonight. Here are predictions for the ones going forward:

Ryan Niemiller

Robert Finley

V Unbeatable

Chris Klafford

Tyler Butler Figueroa

Charlotte Summers

Light Balance Kids—based on audience reaction

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