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America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer Explained (History, Winners & More)

America’s Got Talent has been using the legendary Golden Buzzer for many seasons now. Here’s everything to know about this powerful AGT button.

The judges on America’s Got Talent have buzzers right in front of them that can end an act before it is actually finished. No contestant wants to hear the loud buzzing sound of the red X that halts their performance. However, there’s one buzzer that all acts definitely want to get: the Golden Buzzer. Here is everything to know about the Golden Buzzer on AGT.

The Golden Buzzer first appeared on America’s Got Talent season 9. Back then, however, it had a different meaning. When that magical button was first introduced, it was used to save an act from being eliminated. If a performer didn’t receive enough yeses to make it to the next round but a judge wanted to put them through, the judge would use the Golden Buzzer to get the act to the Judge Cuts. The first recipient was a comedy martial arts act called Dustin’s Dojo. Heidi Klum and Mel B didn’t find it funny the way their fellow judges Howie Mandel and Howard Stern did, so while the two women gave them noes, Howard Stern allowed them to continue in the competition. Alas, the following season brought along a Golden Buzzer with a new meaning. Starting in season 10, the Golden Buzzer sent acts straight to the live shows. With that said, it isn’t limited only to auditions. During the Judge Cuts (where the acts re-audition and the judges narrow down the bunch), the show brings along a guest judge who gets the chance to use the Golden Buzzer as well.

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Related: America’s Got Talent: Simon Cowell Cutting Off Auditions Early Angers Fans

The rules for the AGT Golden Buzzer were changed again in season 11, this time without any warning. 90-year-old Dorothy Williams came to the stage to relive her career as a solo dancer, and she told Nick that all she wanted was to have a special moment where she could feel like a star. “It’s kind of unfortunate because on this show each judge gets the opportunity, once a season, to hit the golden buzzer an act gets to go straight through to the live shows,” he announced after her dance routine. “But all of our judges already hit their golden buzzer but you know what? I don’t care, Imma break the rules,” and with that, Nick jumped off the stage and headed for the judging table, becoming the first host to send an act to the live shows. Subsequent hosts Tyra Banks and Terry Crews have been allowed to use the Golden Buzzer as well.

America’s Got Talent changed the rules yet again during its current season. Simon Cowell decided that nine-year-old singer Victory Brinker deserved to go to the live shows despite all four judges having used their buzzers already. So, in an impromptu fashion, Terry, Howie, Heidi, Sofia, and Simon all pressed the button together and Victory made history as the first AGT competitor to get the buzzer from everyone. In total, five Golden Buzzer recipients have gone on to win AGT. The first was ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, who received it during the judge cuts. Next was season 11’s Grace VanderWaal, followed by Darci Lynne in season 12, Kody Lee in season 14, and Brandon Leake in season 15. They all received the buzzer during their auditions.

This season, a few Golden Buzzers have been given to singers such as Victory Brinker, Jimmie Heron, Nightbirde, the Northwell Health Nurse Choir. With the judge cuts coming within the next few weeks, we can expect more confetti-filled stages from celebrity guests. Maybe one of them will even win America’s Got Talent this year.

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