'America's Got Talent' Judges Simon Cowell & Mel B. Talk Going Live, Show's Promising Singers

America's Got Talent
Trae Patton/NBC

Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell photographed at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium for the America's Got Talent auditions.

America’s Got Talent begins airing live Tuesday (July 26) from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and judges Simon Cowell and Mel. B. both have their work cut out for them.

Of the remaining 36 acts left in the competition, during a conference call with press Cowell said it’s impossible to predict who will be the last one standing for the show's finale -- and which act will be this season's biggest success story.

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“If you look at One Direction or Susan Boyle, I don't think any of us when we first worked with both acts could have possibly have predicted what was going to happen next,” he said. “It comes down to the act. It's got to be in them that they are going to push and fight for a successful career afterwards. And some people do it and some people don't.”

Cowell added that he believes the show has made significant strides in one key area -- singing.

“We did do a lot of work in advance to tell a lot of singers to trust the show because the show's always done well,” he said. "I don't think we've had enough good singers turning up for the show in the past. So, we all made a huge effort this year. I did a lot of radio interviews basically trying to put the message out, 'Look, you can trust the show.'"

"And it was a combination of that," he continued. "The producers cast it very well. People just wanted to be on the show. And they were judged well on the show. You could see that when you watched the singers back. You had a panel on who really liked -- I think unanimously -- the same kind of music, which really helped."

One particular guest judge, he said, helped greatly in this area -- One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson.

"Louis is great. I mean it was so funny and it was so kind of odd that he had auditioned for me five years ago. Now he's sitting where I'm sitting judging other people and doing it really well," he said. "I was really happy for him and he loved doing it."

Cowell praised the X Factor alums -- One Direction stars Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Niall Horan -- for their loyalty and willingness to be pitch in and be involved with any show he is involved with.

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"We are talking to all of them at the moment," he said. "And you know what the great thing about these boys are -- well not all of them but most of them -- they're incredibly loyal. And you don't always expect that. Niall, Harry, Louis -- amazing."

Cowell said he is particularly impressed with American Idol Season 14 alum Sal Valentinetti, who sailed through his AGT audition when judge Heidi Klum hit the golden buzzer after he crooned Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

"I think it's one of my favorite auditions of all time when I watched it back," he said. "I love everything about that guy."

Cowell was particularly impressed with Valentinetti's "swagger and confidence," and is excited for when he hits the screen for the live shows.

"I know what he's singing next actually and it's going to surprise a lot of people. But I think it's going to work," he said. "I'm really happy that he got it even though he was really confident. Every singer always in that moment slightly doubt themselves a little bit. And, you know, he did his thing and he's got his shtick. But when he got it, you could see in his eyes--and particularly with his family -- how much it meant to him."

Valentinetti isn't the only singer in the competition that got the coveted golden buzzer. Mel B. pounded her buzzer hard for 13-year old opera singer Laura Bretan in the first week of auditions. 

"She was so like timid and almost a bit frail, but as soon as she started to sing, it was almost like she couldn't even believe how great her voice was," she said.

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Cowell also had praise for Brian Justin Crum, who impressed the judges with a flawless cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love" his first time on the AGT stage.

"He hasn't got the biggest personality. He was quite shy when he first performed with us," he said. " But he sang [Radiohead's] "Creep" in the second round and I thought he was superb; really, really good. I'm really excited to see what he's going to do because he's a big singer and he's got great taste."

Cowell continued, saying the show's other acts, including Howie Mandel's golden buzzer pick Grace Vanderwaal and Cowell's pick Calysta Bevier, are all ready to give America a run its money. 

"Grace -- the little girl who played the ukulele -- had this massive response of the show," Cowell. said. "Genuinely on the day I thought she was good. I didn't think she'd get that response... I like Grace. I'm really curious to see what she's going to do next."

Cowell also said Bevier had his heart the second she sang, Rachel Platten's "Fight Song."

"I've got a soft spot for her because I loved her story and I love her," he said. "I think she's really good."

Aside from the singers, Cowell said some of the show's more macabre acts have a real shot at a run in Las Vegas. He particularly loves the squirm-inducing duo of Ryan Stock and AmberLynn. Stock has no fear and freaked out the panel by swallowing a drill, an act Mel B. calls "terrifying."

"I think they like all that stuff in Vegas. It's like watching a horror movie," Cowell said. "You kind of don't like it, but you do like it and you want to see more of it."

Other favorites? Orlando Juggler Victor Kees, "a real showman," Cowell can see in Vegas, among others.

"I like the guy who drills things into himself. I like Tape Face... I thought that was funny and then he gets like 30 or 40 million hits on YouTube," he said. 

"There's not many people who I'm disappointed about. Normally at this stage there's about ten I actually care about," he continued. "This year fortunately there's a lot more than that."

Mel B. said she is particularly pleased with the younger contestants.

"What I'm excited to see is the kids because I do feel like this season the kids have just popped out of nowhere with such confidence," she said. "I'm really excited to see what they're going to bring -- especially the two young comedians."

"I like the whole mix of the show this year," Cowell added. " I think there's going to be some surprises. I've got no idea what's going to happen."

America's Got Talent goes live at 8 p.m. EST tonight on NBC.


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