The second week of America’s Got Talent: All-Stars took place Monday, and among this week’s 10 contenders were many familiar faces and fan favorites — including one actual winner, Season 16 magician Dustin Tavella, and the contestant that many viewers thought should have been that season’s winner, runner-up aerialist Aidan Bryant.
But more on that rivalry later. Bryant definitely had some unfinished business this week, but so did bootylicious rapper Tone the Chiefrocca, a proud almost-hit wonder who never got the chance to perform for a certain AGT judge when he first competed a decade ago.
“When we found out that Simon was going to be here — the man who knows music — we knew we had to be here, because ‘B-Double-O-T-Y’ is the jammmmm,” Tone explained Monday.
Back when Inglewood’s Tone the Chiefrocca, flanked by his little brother/hypeman DJ ColyCole, tried out for AGT in Season 8, he unapologetically declared, “My dream is to be a one-hit wonder.” And while he only made it to that season’s semifinals, he did so by performing “B-Double-O-T-Y” three times — which was kind of impressive, if you really think about it — and he sort of got his wish. “B-Double-O-T-Y” actually made it to No. 1. Mind you, it was No. 1 for two days… on iTunes’ Children’s Music chart, due to a technical error. (“My cousin uploaded it wrong,” Chiefrocca shrugged.) But hey, that still counts. It’s more than most artists ever get.
Anyway, at the time, current All-Stars judges Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum were on the panel, but Cowell was not. That was a Howard Stern season, and Stern voted against Chiefrocca in the quarterfinals. Judge Mel B saved Tone and put him through as a wild card to the Semifinals, but at that point, a fed-up Stern buzzed him with his red X, and he eventually went home. So, this was the perfect opportunity for Tone to try, try again — with the same song.
“Same song, same guys… different decade,” Mandel chuckled Monday.
Over the past 10 years, Tone the Chiefrocca has released only one other track on Spotify, “Shake-a-Dat,” but he’s clearly stayed true to his original one-hit goal: “Shake-a-Dat” only has 9,550 plays to date, compared to roughly 209,000 for “B-Double-O-T-Y,” so it really isn’t a hit. Therefore, Chiefrocca, who claimed to be working as “Tone the Dishwasha” since his 2013 career peak, kept to his ain’t broke/don’t fix game plan — and performed his beloved booty-jam/earworm again Monday, for the fourth overall time in AGT history.
And it seemed this fourth time might be the charm, when Cowell, notoriously one of the hardest-to-please men in show business, actually loved it. He even rapped along a bit, as the lightstick-waving crowd went wild. Chiefrocca was so shocked by the token mean judge’s response, he mock-fainted.
“Some things get better in time,” said Cowell. “That was amazing! I love these guys. They’re funny — but the song is great!”
Simon wasn’t wrong. “B-Double-O-T-Y” was a bop, an old-skool rumpshaker a la the Fat Boys, Run-D.M.C., or, of course, fellow derriere enthusiast Sir Mix-a-Lot. But Monday’s competition was stiff, since only two of this week’s 10 “best of the best” alumni would advance to finals — one selected by an elite group of supposed “superfans” remotely watching the (pre-taped???) episode, and another chosen, via Golden Buzzer, by one of the cast members (this week, it was host Terry Crews’s turn).
Crews shook his own booty in earnest to Tone and ColyCole’s funky-fresh performance (“All you need is one song, if that’s good,” he pointed out), but he opted not to use his one Buzzer on them. So, that left it all up to America’s mystery jury. “I would like to say this,” Tone emphatically told the superfans. “If there’s only going to be one act, what better act than the act that has only one jam to rock?” To which Cowell quipped, “Good point.”
But again, this was a fiercely competitive night, so it was obvious that all this would just amount to 15 or so more minutes of fame for Tone the Chiefrocca — albeit with more of a shot of going viral than was ever possible during his old iTunes semi-heyday. Along with Tone, Monday’s other quickly eliminees included Polish teen singer Sara James (Cowell’s Golden Buzzer recipient in Season 17), despite giving what Mandel called a “winning performance,” and Argentine folk dance troupe and Season 11 Golden Buzzer act Malevo, despite being described by Cowell as “perfection” and “the standard everyone has to be.”
Crews instead granted his Golden Buzzer to Detroit Youth Choir, just like he did in 2019, which — much like Mandel giving his Buzzer to Ukrainian dance team Light Balance Kids last week — seemed like more of a sentimental, emotionally driven decision. “For what you have done for the city of Detroit, for what you have done in this world, one Golden Buzzer is not enough,” Crew told their choir leader, as he slammed down his hand and confetti rained down on the joyously weeping children.
Perhaps Crew didn’t think this week’s obvious frontrunner, the above-mentioned Aidan Bryant, needed his Golden Buzzer. And that brings up to this week’s rematch, between Bryant and Dustin Tavella…
When Tavella won America’s Got Talent in 2021, he definitely wasn’t the frontrunner that season; Crews actually revealed that it was the closest finale vote in AGT history. However, Bryant, a small-town teen aerialist who taught himself Cirque du Soleil-level stunts by studying YouTube and swinging from sheets tied to trees in his backyard, seemed to have the best shot at that year’s $1 million prize and Vegas residency. When the championship instead went to Tavella — who’d never had a big breakout moment and certainly wasn’t one of the best magicians to ever compete on AGT (or even one of the best magicians to compete on Season 16) — many viewers were less than thrilled. But least thrilled of all was, admittedly, Bryant himself.
Bryant, who was 16 years old when he first competed, recalled Monday that when it came down to him and Tavella on the Season 16 finale and he heard the studio audience overwhelming “screaming my name,” he thought to himself, “Oh, I’ve got this” — and he was “crushed” when he didn’t win. Cowell also remembered the young acrobat being “in pieces” after his defeat, telling Bryant, “I’ve never seen anyone look so gutted in my life. And I remember going up to you after and saying, ‘I promise you, this is not the end.’”
“I want to win so bad, and I’m here to prove it,” Bryant declared Monday, proceeding to pull off, with only one barely noticeable glitch, a routine more daring and precarious than anything he’d attempted before, without a net or any sort of safety harness. (Side note: After stuntman Jonathan Goodwin’s disastrous accident on America’s Got Talent: Extreme last year, I am truly surprised that the show allowed this.) Klum was shrieking over the “nerve-wracking” spectacle but said it was Bryant’s best yet, and Mandel agreed, calling it “scarier and more dangerous and definitely much better than anything I have seen you do.”
In the end, Bryant landed in the top three and Tavella did not, so Bryant had already exacted some sort of revenge. (I have to say, this time it looked like Tavella was “crushed” and “in pieces,” or at least bitterly disappointed. But he’s already the second champ to not make the All-Stars finals, following last week’s shocking shut-out of Terry Fator.)
Interestingly, the other two contestants in the top three were international acts who didn’t have existing AGT fanbases: India’s Got Talent hip-hop duo Divyansh & Manuraj, whom Klum fittingly described as “Bollywood meets Brooklyn,” and Vitoria Bueno, an 18-year Brazilian ballerina born without arms, who received the Golden Buzzer and made it to second place on Germany’s Got Talent in 2021. (Apparently those superfans were more impartial than I gave them credit for.) Unsurprisingly, Aiden ultimately prevailed, so he’ll be heading straight to the finals, along with Detroit Youth Choir, Light Balance Kids, and last week’s superfan pick, hand-balancing trio the Bello Sisters.
Returning alumni to look out for in future America’s Got Talent: All-Stars episodes include singer/pianist and Season 14 winner Kodi Lee, spoken-word artist and Season 15 champ Brandon Leake, lovable comedian Josh Blue, saxophonist Avery Dixon… and, probably much to Cowell’s chagrin, recurring merry prankster Sethward. As for returning pranksters Tone the Chiefrocca and ColyCole, it’s too bad they won’t get a chance this season to perform “B-Double-O-T-Y” for a fifth time, but here’s hoping they take full advantage of their new exposure to increase their streams… and that their cousin uploads the track to the correct Apple Music category this time.
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