‘America’s Got Talent’: Simon Cowell Reveals How This Year’s Competition Is Both ‘Easier’ and ‘Harder’

by Blake Ells

The 17th season of America’s Got Talent is the first with a live studio audience since before the pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions began in the 15th season. The show relied on a virtual audience. Host Simon Cowell tells People that the show’s new live format is “more exciting” for viewers.

This year, 55 acts were split into five qualifying rounds. Each week, two acts advance. One is chosen by the overnight vote of the audience. One is chosen by the judges from the acts that finish in the top four.

“We had a ton of great acts this year,” Cowell said of America’s Got Talent. “So trying to get that number down to 36 would have been really difficult. In some ways we’ve made it easier by putting more people through. In other ways we’ve made it harder because only two people per night are going to go through to the final. But I think that’s more exciting.”

The Tuesday shows will be from the Pasadena Civic Center for six weeks. Last year, a lot of acts advanced through each show. That affected the entertainment value for the audience, Cowell believes.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen until it happens, I think, makes it more exciting,” he said. “Compared to where we were a year ago, where seven people went through per night, I didn’t feel there was much at stake if I’m being honest.”

This year’s America’s Got Talent finalists will be announced on September 7. There will be 10, with an 11th “Final Wildcard” act chosen by viewers. The two-night finale is on September 13 & 14. Just one winner earns the top $1 million prize, along with a chance to perform “America’s Got Talent Las Vegas LIVE.”

‘America’s Got Talent’ Already Producing Stars in Season 17

A couple of acts on this season’s America’s Got Talent already had music careers, but the televised competition has given them a much larger audience. Drake Milligan is one of those acts. Milligan has a spot in the finals locked up. He is already promising that new music is on the way. Dallas/Fort Worth arrives on September 15. It includes 14 tracks about his roots in the Texas metropolitan area of the same name. He’s working with legendary producer Tony Brown on the record. Brown produced records for George Strait and Reba McEntire among countless others.

This season also gave a spotlight to Mississippi family trio Chapel Hart. The country act is one that Cowell loved. The judges loved the girls so much that they offered a unanimous “Golden Buzzer,” despite using all of their previous selections.

Sofia Vergara thinks that Aubrey Burchell can win the whole thing. The competition is fierce this year, and it’s been an entertaining run. It definitely has a renewed energy with the live audience’s return.