America’s Got Talent (AGT) is a televised talent show competition. The show includes a variety of talents such as singing, dancing, and a variety of other niche acts.
In its 15th season, AGT continues to include more unique talents like the spoken word and Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics. Just one week out from the finale, AGT fans are on the edge of their seats.
Who will take home $1 million and secure a Las Vegas residency? In this post, I explore my top America’s Got Talent picks and why I think they have what it takes.
The betting lines listed are current as of September 17th, 2020.
Brandon Leake Speaks Into the Finals
Who is Brandon Leake? If you are just joining in on the AGT excitement, Leake is the first-ever spoken word artist on the program. After watching Leake’s performance on September 8th, I got chills as I began to understand the hype that is Brandon Leake.
While Leake previously shared monologues about his sister and his mother, he has generally shied away from speaking about his estranged father. That all changed on September 8th as Leake recited a piece addressing his nearly nonexistent father.
The judges wholeheartedly approved of Leake’s exceptional performance.
“Your words are definitely the window to your soul because we sit here, and we definitely get you. We feel what you’re feeling. It’s unbelievable. It’s such a special talent that you have, and I hope that America loves what you’re doing as much as we all love it.”- Judge Sofia Vergara
Not only do the judges love Leake, so does America.
Oh wow!! I am at loss for words. I don't know how to describe Brandon Leake's performance, but he keeps knocking it out of the park every time he takes the stage on #AGT. He is one of my favorites to win the whole thing. I hope he does. He's got my vote. #AmericasGotTalent
— 🌈🇺🇸 ᴏᴘʜɪᴏᴘʜɪʟɪꜱᴛ🇳🇵🏳️🌈 (@whovianpbt) September 9, 2020
Leake is a strong pick. With a betting line of +400, Leake provides strong returns as well.
Roberta Battaglia Belting Out
I have yet to see a singing competition that does not go bonkers over a young singing sensation. With very well-developed chops, eleven-year-old Roberta Battaglia is no exception to this trend.
“This voice does not fit your 11-year-old you. It really doesn’t. There is so much maturity in your voice and so much control in your voice and poise. You’re just incredible for 11 years old — or any age. You’re amazing.”- Judge Heidi Klum
The Canadian songbird auditioned for a spot on the show with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s famous Shallow. In the season’s episode 19, Battaglia belted out a beautiful rendition of P!nk’s What About Us.
While her fellow Canadians are glowing with pride, glowing is all they can do. According to AGT official voting rules, “The voting methods are open to viewers located in the fifty (50) United States, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who are thirteen (13) years of age or older.”
Billboard published poll results on August 26th, which revealed voters picked Battaglia’s cover of Lauren Daigle’s You Say as their favorite so far. However, 93.17% of the votes came from her home country of Canada.
Can Battaglia, wow enough Americans to win the competition? The betting sites seem to think Americans like her just as much as Leake.
Cristina Rae Captures America’s Hearts
Talent is just one part of the equation. These competitive productions look for talented individuals, who have a great backstory (something that makes them relatable to the show’s current and future fans).
Cristina Rae fits the bill. In her audition, Rae mentions she was living in her car while pregnant with her son, Jeremiah.
Judge Howie Mandel asked Rae, “Why AGT?” While holding her son on stage, Rae replies “This will change my life by putting us in a home, my own home, not just in family situations.
Fast forward to the quarter-finals where Rae secured her spot in the semifinals with her flawless performance of Hallelujah. Voters and fans raved about her performance.
I did not hear one single flaw in that song. I don't know if I have ever said that for one of these shows before. That was damn near perfect.
Bravo Christina Ray.#AGT
— Nick Meals (@nickmeals) August 26, 2020
Does this Nashville based powerhouse have what it takes to win the competition? Will Jeremiah finally have his own home?
Golden Buzzers Predictive of AGT Champions
AGT introduced the Golden Buzzer in Season 9. The Golden Buzzer can be awarded to acts the judges feel should advance to the quarter-finals.
Each judge (permanent or guest) can award only one Golden Buzzer. In recent years, the host is also able to give out a Golden Buzzer.
Season 15 had 5 Golden Buzzer acts.
- Brandon Leake +400
- Roberta Battaglia +400
- Cristina Rae +700
- Voices of Our City Choir +800
- A.F.F.L.E. Crew +1200
According to Fandom, since Season 10, 4 of the 5 AGT winners have been Golden Buzzer recipients. With an 80% predictive rate, I would be willing to bet the next AGT champion will also be a Golden Buzzer holder.
Two of those threats are now eliminated following the last round of cuts on September 16th, but Leake, Battaglia, and Rae all still have a shot.
Who Would Make a Good Vegas Headliner?
AGT guarantees the winning act a headlining show in Las Vegas. Being a former Las Vegas resident, I have seen my fair share of headliners.
The best headliners can keep a diverse audience captivated for at least an hour. I am questioning if I would spend money to see any of the acts above for an hour.
Leake digs deep into our emotional souls. He makes us feel a level of connectedness and awareness we did not feel before.
While I got chills watching his semifinal performance, I am not sure I would want to feel that level of seriousness while I am vacationing in Sin City. If Leake won, his show would need to be heavily workshopped to appeal to the masses who visit Vegas each year.
Again, Battaglia is a Canadian favorite. I personally think the jury is still out on whether she is an American favorite.
If Battaglia won, would she be able to garner the audience needed to sustain a Las Vegas residency? In 2018, Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority released the top countries tourists came from. Canada did not make the list.
Rae may be the only act left with true Vegas star power. Her versatility allows producers to easily craft a show that can appeal to a wide audience.
Why does any of this matter? In 2017, Nicki Swift posted an article about the validity of AGT’s voting process.
“The contract for the show states that producers reserve the right to determine the winner by any means they choose.”
Money is a network’s love language. Who do you think would bring in the most money?
W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew was my pick prior to this affable group being shown the door on Wednesday.
That is no longer the case, so fans of entertainment betting now have to look at the updated AGT odds and gauge who is the best act that fits the mold of a Las Vegas headliner.
If you look at the odds, Leake and Battaglia are fighting for the top spot, and everyone else is left with scraps. Once you factor in backstory and Vegas appeal, of course, it’s clear to see Rae is the top contender here.
There should be mild interest in Daneliya Tuleshova, Alan Silva and the Bello Sisters as Vegas-y sleepers with potential, but Rae makes the most sense as the season 15 winner at this point.