The first round of the “America's Got TalentLive semifinal performances, on September 3 for Season 14, couldn't have started with more energy, unity, harmony, or grace than demonstrated by the Ndlovu Youth Choir from South Africa. The ensemble performed Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” (later remade by Whitney Houston), lifting every heart with their energy and spirit, even beyond their voices.

Five solid standing ovations followed from the judges’ panel, as the crowd hit their feet. Guest judge, and “Will & Grace” star, Sean Hayes said, “I can't see how you're not going to the finals.” Julianne Hough exclaimed that the chorus represented global love.

Howie Mandel teased about Simon Cowell's glasses, saying that this was the “first act he’s seen all season.” As for Cowell, he called the performance the best from the choir all season. Other acts would not please the British judge quite as much.

Slipping and rising

Ansley Burns probably holds the record, for “America's Got Talent,” for second chances. She was told, by Simon Cowell, to restart performances twice, once with her audition and again during Judge Cuts. The young South Carolinian, from the small town of Easley, sobbed bitterly when she was sent home but then was chosen as a wildcard and made it to the semifinals. She was determined to choose her own song, this time, and she went big with Carrie Underwood's “Cry Pretty.” The mammoth props alone nearly swallowed Ansley, but she persisted, even after missing a cue.

Juliette Hough and Gabrielle Union said that America would pull for Ansley, while Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell counseled that the song choice was way above the 13-year-old’s realm. Simon said that perhaps America would reflect on the singer’s “entire time” in the competition. This may be the end in this season of competition for Ansley, but it's not her last stage.

Julianne Hough got the moment of her dreams when the Messoudi Brothers summoned the dance champion up to the stage for her “Magic Mike” fantasy. She savored every moment, and the strength and balance trio topped their former performances by balancing altogether on a single spike, on top of the sensual elements. The viewing public may not appreciate the difficulty of their performance, but a promoter on some Vegas stage is probably already creating an act for the siblings.

Julianne simply said “thank you” for her time in the spotlight. Simon Cowell related that the success of the performance was all due to his prior critique, of course. Gabrielle Union gushed that it was “Magic Messoudi” and Howie Mandel concluded that the effort was “so fantastic.”

Simon Cowell was up on his feet even before Tyler Butler Figueroa came to the stage. The violin-playing prodigy truly did put on the performance of his 11-year-old life with his rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Break Free.” Simon Cowell couldn't have been prouder of his golden buzzer choice, saying, “TYLER” with glowing emphasis, and relating what a showman this young boy is beyond being such a good person. Figueroa filled the stage with positive energy and his flying strings, surrounded by other youthful cancer survivors cheering every note.

Gabrielle Union called him “a brilliant young man” while Julianne Hough marveled at how he used his greatest trial to now become his triumph.

Voice impressionist artist, Greg Morton, quickly got the crowd roaring in approval with his routine that embraced Bugs Bunny, Bullwinkle and Rocky, and Scooby-Doo, among a cavalcade of other cartoon favorites. Simon Cowell was not in favor of any of the performance, calling it “a mess,” likely because Cowell couldn't recognize the older cherished characters. Julianne Hough and Sean Hayes both noted that Morton should not spend another day of his life without high-paying work from a studio. Howie Mandel still praised the routine, despite it not being as current.

Morton certainly thrilled the crowd, and the reaction may translate to votes.

Let the light shine

Kodi Lee completely captivated the entire audience and the full judges’ panel once again as he performed Callum Scott’s “You Are The Reason.” Gabrielle Union’s golden buzzer pick overcomes every dimension and barrier of his blindness and autism spectrum disorder every time he delivers a song, and the most exceptional element is the emotion that pours into the verses. Even though the singer cannot display emotion in his daily life, his brother and sister remarked how they feel his love through his music. Sean Hayes was in tears. Gabrielle Union commented that Kodi continues “changing the world with every performance and we are grateful to be in your orbit.” Simon Cowell encouraged the audience’s chants so that Lee could hear the roar.

“You are magic,” Howie Mandel reminded, and the magical moments for this talent likely will go on in the finals. A sea of glowing lights accompanied his performance, and there is a God-light to this artist that transfers to every life he touches.

Comedienne Jackie Fabulous was fantastic as ever in her routine about weight loss. She can never be less than her authentic self, and her audience gets her completely. “You are fabulous,” praised Howie Mandel. Gabrielle Union reminded Jackie that “you're really hot,” and that her routines “make us think.” Simon Cowell found something lacking in this act, even though he still loves Ms. Fabulous. Julianne Hough felt the “energy so big” from the comic who doesn't try to contain herself.

It's going to be a tough go for Jackie with all the “America's Got Talent” competition this season, but a comedian deserves to take the top prize.

Simon Cowell has made his fortune as a music entrepreneur and expert, but he wasn't enthralled by bluesman Robert Finley’s choice to play his electric guitar, as well as sing, on the perfect anti-age reflection, “Age Don’t Mean a Thing.” Many might say that the choice only makes the 65-year-old more of a genuine artist. Sean Hayes said he only dreamed of being “as cool and hip” as Finley. Howie Mandel asked to be added to the congregation of Robert Finley, even though he confessed that “I know more about Jews than blues.” Robert may be on the bubble in this week's vote, but he already is truly living his lifelong dream, beyond “America's Got Talent.”

Eric Chien couldn't quite conjure enough magic to the lights Simon Cowell in the semifinals, either.

The close-up magic wonder made playing cards turn into pictures, and then into Americana landmarks to place on his map. Simon flatly stated that his idea of “something big” was decidedly different than Chien’s. Julianne Hough was also “confused.” Gabrielle Union judged on present and past performances, noting that the world Eric Chien created with his magic was “unreal.” This may mark an AGT departure for Chien, but other stages await for him.

Light Balance Kids tried going big this week, too. Their display for the semifinals centered on the world of Marvel comics, and Simon Cowell was delightedly pleased by the lift he said that the kids brought to the competition. Howie Mandel said he was impressed enough to put his own money behind an act in Las Vegas.

Gabrielle Union praised that the group put the stage on fire. Julianne Hough was disappointed that the group gave up their creativity to take the Marvel comics branding. They will probably be safe for the finals, based solely on audience response.

Benicio Bryant got the benefit of being the closer for this “America's Got Talent” semifinals night, and the 14-year-old singer-songwriter sensation turned his fate around with another original song, “Fall Apart.” The pure tone of his voice and the truthful place from which the teenager writes work together. “That was pretty outstanding, I'll see you in the finals,” admitted Simon Cowell. Howie Mandel also said that he took back all his comments from last week.

Gabrielle Union assured Benicio that he could win the competition, and Julianne Hough agreed. This performance is likely a game-changer.

Predictions for the five performers to the finals:

Kodi Lee

Ndlovu Youth Choir

Tyler Butler Figueroa

Benicio Bryant

Light Balance Kids—based solely on audience response, despite pulling for Robert Finley.