Johnny Manuel has a golden feeling after his latest performance on America’s Got Talent.
The former child star took the tough route by tackling Stevie Wonder’s sublime (and vocally challenging) 1980 hit “Lately.” Though the Flint, Michigan native impressed the audience and most judges, he didn’t get the nod from Simon Cowell, who found Manuel’s histrionics “quite annoying.”
So Cowell set him a test. He asked the contestant to hit a 30-second sample of the song he performed during his first audition, Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” And there was no mistake this time. “Honestly, you are one of the best singers in this competition, so thank-you,” the typically-acerbic Brit remarked.
Guest judge Seal took it to the next level. “You know, Johnny, you have such an incredible voice,” he explained. “It is undeniable. You’re hitting notes that I could only dream of. I was always taught that you had to be ready at every situation. You never know when opportunity’s going to knock on your door.” And opportunity did knock as Seal slammed down on the golden buzzer. “It’s very rare to see talent like that,” Seal enthused.
It’s been an unusual journey for Manuel, who was signed to a label in his teens and once toured with *NSYNC. Manuel now heads to the live rounds of AGT which start next Tuesday. Watch his performance below.