Confession: watching random America’s Got Talent videos posted by people I barely know on Facebook and then snotting into a tissue even though I know I’m being emotionally manipulated by that corporate machine and the snarky English fellow is one of my extremely secret personal catharses. (The other one is Damn You Auto Correct. Please keep this between us.)
When the dizzying talent on display turns out to be Portland-grown? Bring me the full box of Kleenex, please, I'm all in. And judging by the millions of views clocked up on platforms various after two bedazzling numbers on Season 16 of America's Got Talent in recent days, I am not alone.
To wit: Last week, Storm Large—whom many of you know best from her frequent appearances as part of local musico ensemble Pink Martini—sauntered on stage in jeans and a leather jacket, sassed her sass at the notoriously curmudgeonly Simon Cowell, and then surprised everyone with a spine-chilling, almost sinister rendition of the formerly jaunty Sinatra hit, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that brought all four judges to their feet.
“If someone asked me, you wanna sing and what voice do you want, I would pick your voice,” said judge Sofia Vergara. “It’s super sexy and powerful.” Even Cowell admitted that her “amazing voice” and “amazing personality” made for a “really really really good audition.” Four emphatic yeses (and two tissues) sent her through to the next round.
Then last night, Jimmie Herrod—also a rotating member of the Pink Martini cast—did it all over again, and then some. With a winning, wide smile, he told the judges he teaches kids music online, and then announced he was going to sing the song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. “Do you know that is my worst song in the world?” was the response from Cowell. “You should do another song.”
Undaunted (or maybe a little daunted, it was hard to tell) Herrod soldiered on and delivered what may well be the most goose-bumpingly hope-filled and pitch perfect version of Cowell’s least favorite tune ever performed. (Full disclosure: This has not been fact checked. But God, it was gorgeous.) Readers, he held that final note for what seemed like ever, giving the judges plenty of time to leap from their seats.
Cowell retracted his distaste for the tune (eat crow, Cowell!) as he and two of the other judges stood and applauded. Vergara, who stayed seated, sounded the only offnote: “I have to say that I didn’t like it that much!” she said to loud boos from the audience. You’ll never guess where this is going, people...
“BUT I LOVED IT!” she clarified, pounding the Golden Buzzer that rained golden confetti on Herrod (see picture above) and sent him automatically through to the live shows later in the season.
You may refuse to be taken in by the scowling judges and faux suspense, but I defy any of you to be unimpressed by the performances. Portland’s got talent, people. And serious pipes.