Johnny Manuel Returns to AGT Stage for Judge Cuts

Simon Cowell likely preserves Johnny' Manuel's chance at the Million-Dollar Prize after delivering a stunning rebuke.


In June we brought you the story of Flint resident Johnny Manuel’s try out on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. In an amazing performance that blew the judges and audience away, Johnny sang the Whitney Houston hit “I Have Nothing.” His stunning vocal earned four yesses from the judges and he moved on to the second round of the competition.

Last night Johnny was back on the AGT stage for the Judge Cuts. Guest Judge “Seal” joined regulars Producer Simon Cowell, Spice Girl Mel B, Model Heidi Klum, and Comedian Howie Mandel. The Judge Cuts episodes give acts another opportunity to impress the judges with their talent. Each week the performers, like Johnny, that earned passing grades in the first round come back to try and advance further towards the Million-Dollar Grand Prize. At the end of the two-hour episode, six acts are advance based on the judge’s deliberations. One additional act moves forward based on the guest judge’s option to hit the “Golden Buzzer.”

When the final field of competitors is determined, the shows go live and television audience votes determine who advances and who goes home. Last night Johnny performed a version of the Stevie Wonder song “Lately.” While the judges gave Johnny compliments on his vocal performance, there was something missing. The audience reaction was nothing like the wild standing ovation he received during his first audition.

Judge Simon Cowell, known for his biting critiques, did not echo his fellow judge’s compliments. “With all the trills and everything, I thought it was quite annoying,” Simon remarked. But, as a record producer, Cowell knows talent. And clearly, Johnny Manuel is a talented singer.

Cowell went on to tell Johnny “I like it when you do something we don’t expect. Whereas I’ve heard a lot of people sing Stevie Wonder like that, just give me 30 seconds of the song you sang before.”

Johnny immediately went into a reprise of the Houston song he performed previously. Singing acapella, Johnny hit the notes perfectly, including the high arching tones that Houston was known for. This time the audience reaction mirrored his first audition and the judge’s response was far different. Guest Judge Seal threatened to hit the golden buzzer. After building some drama, Seal delivered on the threat. Sending Johnny straight to the live shows.

For Johnny to move forward he now needs to impress America’s television viewers. Song choice will be critical to avoid a repeat of last night’s good, but not great, performance.

Here is some of the competition Johnny faces in the live shows.

Judge Cuts Golden Buzzer Moments