Season 15 of “America's Got Talent” has been difficult, for everyone involved in the production—from the crew to judges, and most of all, to the talents who dreamed of the roar of audience approval after a stupendous performance. That form of artistic vindication is absent from AGT this season, with virtual applause being a poor substitute. More than ever, though, the competition has been a testament to the determination and drive to press onward, even under the toll of the pandemic. The September 8 start of the semifinals demonstrated that no one is untouched by current global conditions, even when every precaution is taken.

The performers also embodied the power of gratitude, forgiveness, and selflessness through many unforgettable words between parents and children. Just as this “America's Got Talent” season has been completely unique, the performances offered were uniquely unforgettable. Two artists from different generations, Brandon Leake and Archie Williams, provided a strikingly poignant perspective on the gift of being a present parent.

Shakes, shimmies, and spins set off ‘America's Got Talent’ semifinal fun

There's nothing wrong with a little levity and loving life to start any “America's Got Talent” semifinals, and the deliciously talented, fun-loving twins, Double Dragon, but things stirring with their mix of Lizzo’s “Juice” and J.

Balvin’s “Mi Gente” in a sparkling pink mash-up. There's no doubt that these daughters love what they do, and they dedicated their performance to their father, who always knew they should be performers. Sofia Vergara was absolutely infatuated with their infusion of the Latin language, including from Colombia.

Heidi Klum said that they were like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira at the Super Bowl. Only Howie Mandel was less than complimentary, saying that he wasn't sure that the sisters stepped it up from their last performance. No matter how the vote falls, Double Dragon definitely has the stage calling from somewhere.

Pink came into play for a wildcard performance by Dance Town Family, again broadcasting from Florida. The dance troupe with lightning feet from every generation donned hot pink and dazzling white pants to perform their ragtime-jazz routine. There is no doubt that what these family dancers do is phenomenal. If they could be seen truly “live” from the stage, they would be a knockout. The group also gave a dedication to their father, an immigrant from Chile, who started their dance studio dream. Their talent, energy, and enthusiasm are worthy of “America's Got Talent,”-- however difficult it is to translate those qualities long-distance.

Howie Mandel gave rare praise to the duo, Broken Roots, for their rousing rendition of “God's Country” by Blake Shelton.

The setting of the song was at the infamous Bates Motel, adding a scare factor. Mandel credited that the law enforcement officers were “checking all the boxes,” moving from rock 'n roll last week, with U2 and their Bon Jovi audition, to country this week. Heidi predicted that they could very well make it into the finals, and Sofia Vergara called the performance her favorite of the night with an early nod. The guys have already proved they can pull in votes, so now the public can take a stand again, as this musical duo dedicates what they do to their kids, inspiring them to follow their dreams. The choruses became shouts more than singing at times, but “America's Got Talent” fans may shout affirmation for the musicians again by their votes.

Another ‘America's Got Talent’ family is touched by trauma

Many “America's Got Talent” fans were concerned when Broken Roots were called up to replace singer Thomas Day with little explanation. Well, the 17-year-old football star was back singing as a wildcard this week and sharing his own story of overcoming the virus. Thomas described how his mother was struck first, detailing the difficulty of being separated during the illness. During her recovery, Thomas had several tests that were negative, until one wasn't. The son became a patient, and remained patient through recovery, until a reunion with his mother.

Day chose Billie Eilish’s longing, “When the Party’s Over,” and despite encouragement from Heidi Klum and Sofia that “the girls are going to love you,” some fans are angry on social media over Day not being completely transparent about his absence, as Yahoo reported on September 8.

The calls and clicks will determine his fate now in the competition.

Diabolo masters and siblings, the Spyros Bros, took Howie Mandel's counsel to “step it up” to heart, and almost sparked seriousness mishaps. The flying orbs were dropped twice, as Heidi Klum noted, and showering sparks from the ring of fire could have easily burned both brothers. The siblings gave thanks that they were not “on fire” after the performance. Howie Mandel praised their bravery and described how these kind of mistakes prove that “America's Got Talent” is real, with nothing pre-staged. In the loving introduction to his sons, it was clear that their father was overjoyed with their AGT experience, regardless of the outcome.

For whatever reason, Howie Mandel was disappointed in the daring display of aerialist, Alan Silva. The incredible flying man chose chains instead of his silks to suspend himself from the rafters. He still had the same lightning speed in his dissensions, closing with a near-miss into blazing sparks. Sofia Vergara admitted that she can only watch so much from Alan before she had to turn away. At one point, Silva was dependent only on one foot to keep him in the air. This performance to the song, “You're No Good,” was another that added an element of fright to be evening. As far as Silva’s son was concerned, his dad is already a hero, in life and on the “America's Got Talent” stage.

Georgia singer, Shaquira McGrath, dedicated her performance in the semifinals to her mother, who sacrificed so much when there was little else that they could live without.

The words brought both mother and daughter to tears in the pre-performance segment, and McGrath must have drawn strength from every second. She sang the Fleetwood Mac classic, “The Chain,” with a soulful vengeance that was all her own, and filled with conviction. Howie, Heidi, and Sofia were all in one accord on this one. Howie had been advising Shaquira to stick with country tunes, but no one could argue with this selection for her “America's Got Talent” shot to the finals. No matter the vote tally, she likely will no longer need to find work as a waitress. McGrath has transformed her future, and her stages will only grow bigger.

Drumbeats and heartbeats on ‘America's Got Talent’

America's Got Talent” has always been set apart from other talent TV Shows because of its willingness to let viewers decide what constitutes talent.

Drummer and performance artist, Malik Dope, did more than dabble with keeping in time with his drum sticks blazing. He moved from level to level on a hoverboard as his percussion became more penetrating. “American Idol” or “World of Dance” has no category relevant to what this artist does, but he assuredly has talent, and has brought his best to the AGT stage. It was no coincidence that Howie Mandel said that he could see Malik sharing a stage with Brandon Leake or several other talents from Season 15.

In a very real sense, the hope, resilience, grace, and power to change within the human spirit were all represented in the performances of Brandon Leake, Archie Williams, and the 11-year-old, Roberto Battaglia, who closed the “America's Got Talent” performances for the night.

Brandon Leake performed the most personal and wrenching offering of his AGT journey thus far. In a series of letters to his father, consistently absent from his birthday parties and his life from age 5, he moved from hopeful wishes and a deep need to anger, resentment, rage, until finally granting himself the gift of forgiveness. Leake is more than an artist with a gift never before seen or felt on “America's Got Talent.” He is a young man rising to a necessary moment in these times. His words flow not only from his heart but to millions of hurting young people, pointing to a path of healing.

Howie Mandel asked Brandon if his father was in his life. The performer responded that he had talked to his father that day.

Heidi Klum reminded Brandon that she thinks she is his biggest fan, just like Howie. Sofia Vergara said there was no other performer who made everyone feel every feeling from the depths of his own heart. “America's Got Talent” could very easily come down to choices between Brandon Leake, Archie Williams, and single mom, Cristina Rae, with her own overcoming story.

Archie Williams shared his own story of having a daughter he was never able to be with during his incarceration. He movingly displayed how he held his daughter close, keeping her “live” on his cell phone during his performances. There was a meaningful quiver in his voice as he sang “Flying Without Wings” by Westlife. The song was not written for him, but the way he performed it was purely his own, and felt by every father, every parent, in earshot.

The quiet singer couldn't quite put into words what it meant to be reunited with his daughter, but everyone knew what his heart meant as he called it “the most special thing in the world.” This was yet another golden “America's Got Talent” memory to treasure.

Fortunately, Roberta Battaglia doesn't have to struggle with the pain of fathers who aren't there, desperate situations, or desperately striving to prove her innocence. The young girl simply dreams of adventures she hopes to have with her family, and singers she would love to see in concert. Showing off the power of her vocal prowess that should belong to someone much older, she tore into Pink’s “What About Us,” ending the night with the same color as it began, and conveying the endless possibilities of youth, far beyond “America's Got Talent.”

Predictions for performers moving ahead to the finals:

Archie Williams

Brandon Leake

Broken Roots

Roberta Battaglia

Double Dragon

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