Who Will Win America's Got Talent? Season 18 Begins With Golden Buzzer First

Date IconLast Updated: May 31st, 2023
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Who Will Win America's Got Talent? Season 18 Begins With Golden Buzzer First

America's Got Talent season 18 kicked off with a first in the show's 17-year history. 

The AGT audience gave an act a Golden Buzzer for the first time, sending them straight through to the live shows. 

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Mzansi Youth Choir were the lucky recipients in the season 18 premiere episode after they wowed the crowd and the judges with a performance of song "It’s OK," which was performed by former AGT contestant Nightbirde — who died in 2022 — during the auditions stage of the 2021 contest.

Nightbirde was a former Golden Buzzer contestant of judge Simon Cowell, who returned to the panel this season alongside Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Sofia Vergara, while Terry Crews is back to host the show. 

As with previous seasons, the AGT wannabes need at least three yes votes from the four judges to advance, but they can be buzzed off the competition. 

If buzzed by two panelists, the act is eliminated — as three wannabes, Allan Reinikka, Nancy LaFancy, and Kozo, were this week.

However, if one of the judges, or Crews, hits the Golden Buzzer, the act will automatically progress to the live shows, just like Mzansi Youth Choir. 

With these hypothetical odds provided by industry sports betting experts, we've looked into which remaining America's Got Talent contestants could have what it takes to be the show's season 18 winner.

Contestant Odds Implied Probability
Mzansi Youth Choir +300 25%
D'Corey Johnson +400 20%
Trigg Watson +500 16.7%
Steel Panther +600 14.3%
Orlando Leyba +700 12.5%
Philip Bowen +800 11.1%
Shadow Ace +1000 9.1%
Three G +1200 7.7%
Trex Flips +1200 7.7%

Mzansi Youth Choir Favorite For AGT Glory 

Following Mzansi Youth Choir's emotional performance of Nightbirde's "It's OK," the group admitted they chose the song because they wanted to "continue her legacy." 

Vergara described it as "the perfect AGT audition," and Mandel admitted they deserved "a thank you" as well as a yes for their audition. 

Cowell broke down in tears upon giving feedback to the choir, admitting he knew how much their "most amazing tribute" would've meant to Nightbirde. 

Cowell then admitted the judges had always discussed "giving the audience something" before deciding on the spot to give them a Golden Buzzer pick. 

All four judges and Crews pressed the buzzer simultaneously and the gold confetti rained down on Mzansi Youth Choir, with Crews telling them: "You have just received a Golden Buzzer from the fifth judge - the AGT audience."

The choir is now +300 favorites to win the 18th season, with a 25% implied probability, narrowly ahead of aspiring Broadway singer D'Corey Johnson. 

The youngster put in a theatrical performance of "Open Arms," and he also performed it a cappella, following a request from Cowell, which wowed the judges and the audience even further. 

Vergara admitted 11-year-old Johnson could well have cemented his place on Broadway following his impressive audition and described him as "amazing." The youngster is now +400 second favorite to triumph in the season. 

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Watson Magics His Way Into Next Round 

It might only be the season premiere, but Mandel thinks he may have already found this year's AGT winner in magician Trigg Watson. 

Watson is currently +500 third favorite to triumph in the season, after some serious praise. 

Following his audition, Mandel told Watson: "I've never seen anything more amazing, more jaw-dropping, more incredible. It felt like I was watching a dream. It didn't look real. I think you could win this season with that, I really do." 

In the act, Watson flicked through a big social media screen, which included videos of the judges, and he appeared to literally pull objects out of the screen and put them back in. 

Vergara also praised his audition as "so different," and while Cowell put one negative slant on Watson's audition, admitting he found him "a bit annoying" at the beginning, but he loved the act. 

Watson didn't require a magic wand to receive four yeses, the same fate as glam metal band Steel Panther. 

The metal group received a standing ovation even before their audition began, and joked they had decided to give Vergara and Klum lifetime tickets to their gigs, including backstage passes. 

The band took part in AGT because they "want to win," and they are now beginning their AGT journey as +600 fourth favorites. 

Steel Panther's audition went full circle as they also received a standing ovation after their performance, followed by a quartet of yeses from the judges. 

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Leyba Laughs His Way Into Contention 

Stand-up comedian Orlando Leyba laughed his way into the next round after telling jokes about his family life, especially his reactions to the TV show Yellowstone. 

Cowell described Leyba as "naturally funny," while Mandel added: "You are like fine wine, at the top of your game."

He is +700 to win the competition, narrowly ahead of +800 chance Philip Bowen. 

Violinist Bowen admitted he tried out for America's Got Talent because his mum said Cowell would love to hear him play. 

He said: "When I would play at home, she would be like, 'Do you know who would love that? Simon' So what a great full circle moment to be here tonight."

Cowell later described it as a "great audition," and all four panelists gave Bowen a yes. 

He is narrowly ahead of shadow artist Shadow Ace in the betting. 

Ace is from the Philippines and admitted his act was inspired by his community, who use candlelight and a wall to create entertainment due to their lack of electricity. 

Cowell thought kids would love the "fun and original" nature of his act, while Vergara went one better, describing it as "spectacular," with Klum calling it "fun."

However, at +1000, Ace might have plenty to do if he wants to win AGT. 

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Three G Outsiders For AGT Victory 

Ukrainian acrobatic trio Three G are +1200 to win this year's America's Got Talent after an impressive yet tricky start to the season. 

The trio attempted some ambitious moves, many of which they pulled off. Still, they fell out of formation on more than one occasion during their audition, including their final trick, which they attempted twice before giving up. 

Despite this, they kept calm during their audition, which earned them plenty of praise from the judges. 

Vergara described their performance as "spectacular," while host Crews admitted the trio has "amazing courage." 

The trio still managed four yeses from the judges but will need to improve their formations if they are to go all the way in the competition. 

Trex Flips is also +1200 to triumph after he impressed the judges by performing a series of gymnastic tricks while dressed in a dinosaur costume. 

He nearly had a red buzzer against his name after Vergara admitted at the beginning that she "wanted to say no" before Flips had even performed, after seeing him turn up on stage in his dino costume.

But after the routine, she changed her mind and gave him a yes, along with the other three judges. 

Vergara told him: "I am so, so happy that I did not say no to you. I can't wait to see what else you can do in this stupid costume."

Fancy dress fan Klum admitted she has the same costume at home, and Cowell joked Flips' audition was the "best dancing dinosaur" act that has ever been on AGT. Cowell hesitated about giving a yes before agreeing with the audience and putting Flips through.

Next week will see a host of other acts audition for the judges, while some will undoubtedly be buzzed off.