America’s Got Talent: Three Consecutive Years of Golden Buzzer Success

America’s Got Talent Season 12 winner Darci Lynne reacts after receiving Mel B’s golden buzzer in the audition round. Photo credit:

Season 12 of America’s Got Talent (AGT) has concluded, and thanks to the results, the golden buzzer appears to finally be building some momentum.

For three consecutive years, AGT winners (the last two were kids, at that) have been recipients of golden buzzers. In Season 10, Paul Zerdin received guest judge Marion Wayans’ golden buzzer during judge cuts. Last season, 13-year-old singer/songwriter Grace VanderWaal earned Howie Mandel’s golden buzzer in the auditions. This season, also in the auditions, 12-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer secured Melanie Brown’s (Mel B) golden buzzer.

The golden buzzer is a concept that was introduced in Season 9 of AGT. Each judge (and host) is only allowed to press it once during the season. In each year except for its year of inception, the golden buzzer has been used in both the auditions and judge cuts to send acts to the quarterfinals. Contenders who receive the buzzer in the auditions bypass the judge cuts and are sent straight to the live shows. Additionally, since Season 10 of AGT, special guest judges were brought onto the show for judge cuts (the round separating the auditions and live shows) and were each granted one use of the golden buzzer to send an act to the next round.

While AGT’s last three years consisted of golden buzzer winners, what’s even more impressive are the volume of finalists who were granted golden buzzers. This season’s runner-up, 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale, was the recipient of guest judge Chris Hardwick in Week 1 of Judge Cuts. Aside from Farmer and Hale, golden buzzer acts who advanced to the Season 12 finale were: Light Balance (auditions), Mandy Harvey (auditions) and Chase Goehring (judge cuts). In total, the finale had five golden buzzer recipients (half of 10 acts), which matches last year’s amount. 

Season 10’s Finale included four golden buzzer recipients. A majority of them — three out of the four — including Zerdin got the designation from Judge Cuts. 

The installment of guest judges and the golden buzzer in judge cuts have evidently helped the concept make a name for itself on the show. In fact, even though most of the golden buzzer finalists from the last two seasons received the honors from the auditions (shown in the table above), the golden buzzer contestants from judge cuts have contributed to a fairly significant amount of the idea’s success.

Plus, as a concept that’s still fairly recent (Season 12 is its fourth year in place), three straight years of success is just the kick the show needs to demonstrate the golden buzzer’s relevancy. These past three seasons, with such high numbers of golden buzzer finalists, have proven the buzzer’s use on remarkably talented acts. That wasn’t always the case though. 

In its debut season, the golden buzzer was only used twice. Howard Stern used it for Dustin’s Dojo, a comedic martial arts act. Howie Mandel used it for Emmanuel & Phillip Hudson, a comedy act that rapped about “ratchet” girls in its audition. It’s important to note both acts would not have advanced without the golden buzzer, which made the buzzer serve a purpose more along the lines of “saving” an act. Both acts were eliminated at judge cuts, making the golden buzzer’s commencement year its least successful.

The following season, each judge used their golden buzzer, but out of all the golden buzzer recipients from the auditions, only comedian Drew Lynch advanced all the way to the Finals. Still, with a golden buzzer winner that year (Zerdin), along with golden buzzer winners the following two years, it’s clear the concept is making strides in AGT history.

Stay golden, AGT.

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