Klum and fellow judges Howie Mandel and Melanie Brown joined host Nick Cannon to speak to reporters at NBC’s 2014 summer press day before the show’s May premiere, where they earnestly said that this year’s crop of contestants is the best batch ever. And yes, they’re aware they say that every year.
“I think we are truly, really excited about what we see,” Mandel says.
Several changes are coming to Season 9, including a “Golden Buzzer” that lets each judge save a contestant. Another big shift: the fact that the auditions took place this year in Los Angeles and New York City only. “Their first time out, it’s an epic experience,” says Mandel. “Much bigger and much more pressure than ever before … and people have risen to the occasion.”
Adds Cannon, “When you’re the most talented person in Poughkeepsie, that’s amazing, but [heading to New York and L.A.] rises the level of the talent. Okay, you’re great in your hometown, but are you great amongst the people in L.A. and New York?”
Although this year’s contestants also have some tear-inducing backstories, Mel B. says she won’t let an act through just because they made her cry. But she also won’t put someone through whom she doesn’t like. “For me it’s about the whole package. I want to like someone as well,” she says. “It has to be both. The act has to be good and they have to be likable.”
Says Klum, “For me, if the act is not good I don’t care how sad the background story is.”
“America’s Got Talent” Season 9 premieres Tuesday, May 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.