On Wednesday night (Sept. 14), America's Got Talent (AGT) voters crowned Lebanese dance group Mayyas as the show's 2022 winner, edging out third place Drake Milligan and fifth place Chapel Hart. Yet Chapel Hart won big on two fronts: earning the added exposure recording and touring acts gain on singing competition shows and closing out its run on the series with a country celebrity encounter.
For its AGT swan song, Chapel Hart covered Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" with none other than Darius Rucker as a guest vocalist. It won't be the last Rucker collaboration for Chapel Hart, as he's already tweeted that the family trio will appear on his next album.
Rucker wasn't the only special guest onstage. Fellow contestant Drake Milligan had just performed Jon Pardi's "Last Night Lonely" with the man himself. Both stuck around to play guitar for Chapel Hart.
For Tuesday's (Sept. 13) live finale of AGT, Chapel Hart chased the show's $1 million grand prize with "American Pride." The original song preaches peace, love and forgiveness while encapsulating the family group's down-home upbringings in Mississippi.
Though judge Sophia Vergara praised the performance as "heartfelt," Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel shared mixed reviews.
"I was on my feet because, if this had been an audition, I would have stopped you afterwards and gone, 'Let's go back to that chorus. Let's do it a capella so I can hear that lyric and that melody, because the chorus, the lyric were beautiful," Cowell said. "And bearing in mind after 9/11, what a beautiful message to send out on the most important night of your life. You have my utmost respect, and I love hearing people like you singing about how much you love your country. Okay, some of the vocals were a bit off because of nerves. Forget that. I really, really like you and I'm really happy that you did what you did tonight. Good for you."
"You know, I agree with you," Mandel added. "Some of the vocals were off, and maybe because you were emotional and because there was a lot of pressure. I think America's gonna like that song. But the last two songs you did were 10 times better ... People have to vote."
Second Round Stunner
Not every act that wows reality singing competition judges reaches our TV sets and cell phones as unknowns. Take for instance Chapel Hart, the Mississippi-based trio of sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin, Trea Swindle. Many followers of country music likely recognized the group, between its CMT Next Women of Country laurels, its music video collaboration with Billy Gibbons and positive press for its Dolly Parton answer song, "You Can Have Him Jolene."
In August, the family group left another huge impression on AGT judges via a second original tune: "The Girls are Back in Town," the feisty title track of the band's most recent album.
With its Southern rock riffs, electrifying rap break and Gretchen Wilson-inspired lyrics (complete with Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams Jr. name drops), "The Girls are Back in Town" further introduces Chapel Hart as a trio ready, willing and able to hold court onstage at your nearest honky tonk.
Judges once again praised Chapel Hart, with Heidi Klum favorably comparing the group to fellow AGT contestant and country singer Drake Milligan. Mandel declared that the trio carries itself like a headlining attraction.
The following night (Wed., Aug. 17), viewers selected Chapel Hart and magician Yu Hojin as AGT finalists.
Five Golden Buzzers
The group's social media buzz began with a show-stealing July 19 audition of its original song about Parton's famed antagonist.
The type of spirited performance the group brings to venues night in and night out stunned all four judges and AGT host Terry Crews as well as the crowd, which chanted for Golden Buzzers amid a standing ovation. Though Cowell and Klum had already used their one Golden Buzzer for the evening, the AGT team broke precedent and allowed both to join Vergara, Mandel and Crews in giving Chapel Hart a perfect score and setting off a celebratory confetti shower.
Cowell offered high praise for the trio's stage presence and originality.
"Trust me, I needed you today," Cowell said. "I mean, that was fantastic. I love you and love the choreography you have going on around you. It was just brilliant."
While talking to the judges, Danica Hart explained the family singing group's motivation to appear on the popular NBC series.
"We've been trying to break into Nashville for the last couple of years, but it's been kind of hard," Danica said. "Country music doesn't always look like us."
"First of all, you might have just broken down that door with that song," Mandel responded. "I love the song. I love the energy. I love the look. You say country music doesn't look like you. That is your win, because you are going to be the original."
The successful audition inched the group closer to a larger goal that Swindle jokingly summed up in two words: world domination.
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