Manuel, who first wowed the judges with his cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” impressed Mel B and Klum with his second audition piece of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately.”
However, Cowell and Seal were not loving the 32-year-old’s latest performance. Instead, he requested Manuel to re-sing Houston’s 1992 The Bodyguard anthem.
“You hit notes only I can dream of. I was always taught that you have to be ready, you never know when an opportunity is going to knock on your door,” Seal told the Flint, Michigan, native before pushing the golden buzzer, later telling Manuel: “It’s very rare to see talent like that.”
Manuel was signed to a record label at age 14 under the nickname Lil’ Johnny and once toured with ‘NSYNC, but only got a small taste of his big dream when he was dropped as a recording artist couple years later. “I am going to fight for this,” Manuel said before commanding the stage.
Manuel is the ninth contestant to head straight to the live rounds.
Last week, guest judge Laverne Cox chose 9-year-old singer Celine Tam. Other guest judges include DJ Khaled, who chose 21-year-old singer/songwriter Chase Goehring, and Chris Hardwick gave his Golden Buzzer to 9-year-old singer Angelica Hale.
— America’s Got Talent (@AGT) August 9, 2017
And previously, Klum chose 13-year-old singer Angelina Green while Mandel selected 16-year-old Christian Guardino. In addition, Mel B’s 12-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer and Cowell’s 29-year-old deaf singer Mandy Harvey are going to the live rounds.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.