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'America's Got Talent' judges spotlight Grace VanderWaal and Jon Dorenbos as the acts to beat, Howie Mandel says Grace "has to win"


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/14/2016 

America's Got Talent's Season 11 finale is hours away, and if the judges' comments from the final performance show are any indication of who's going to win, it's between Grace VanderWaal and Jon Dorenbos.

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On Tuesday night's show, the Top 10 unique and deserving finalists absolutely wowed the audience and AGT judges Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Melanie "Mel B" Brown with their performances -- everything from juggling to mind reading to opera singing.

In a night of extremely tough competition, the judges still managed to name this season's frontrunners heading into Wednesday night's live two-hour finale at 8PM ET/PT on NBC in which one act will win $1 million and the chance to headline a show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas next month.

Grace, a 12-year-old singer/songwriter and ukulele player from Suffern, NY, was luckily enough to close Tuesday night's show with another original song called "Clay." Grace received a standing ovation from all four judges and had them raving about her talent.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound," said Howie, who had pressed his Golden Buzzer for Grace earlier in the competition. "It's not only a song. It speaks to you. You are amazing."

Howie then went as far as to insist, "Grace has to win. This is my favorite moment of the night."

Simon, who previously labeled Grace "the next Taylor Swift," also predicted Grace might be crowned the champion of Season 11.

"In a few years' time, people are going to look back at you [and say] you did it in a real way. No gimmicks. It was just you," Simon explained. "You deserve your place tonight. I don't know what's going to happen, but you're going to be there at the end. I can feel it."

But the person who might stand in Grace's way of victory is NFL star and magician Jon Dorenbos, who was raised by an aunt after his father was sentenced to 13 years in prison for murdering Jon's mother.

Jon executed a flawless series of card tricks while telling an emotional and inspirational story about how magic changed his life. Jon wanted to instill a message of love, optimism and hope in his audience.

"You are more than just a great performer," Simon told the act. "You are someone who I think we would all be glad to say, 'The winner of this show is John Dorenbos.'"

Mel B, Heidi and Howie all agreed with Simon's sentiment that Jon is a "class act" and deserves to win the show.

The eight other acts, who all impressed the judges, are as follows: Teen opera singer Laura Bretan, A cappella quartet Linkin' Bridge, mind-reading duo The Clairvoyants, crooner Sal Valentinetti, singer Brian Justin Crum, contortionist Sofie Dossi, juggler Viktor Kee and miming comic Tape Face.


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