Earlier this year, while visiting family in Florida and pretty much killing time, Pfc. Paul Ieti won $150 at a Florida fair’s karaoke contest by belting out “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.
His latest rendition of that hit came with a bit more pressure. And earned him a chance at bit more cash.
The 21-year-old petroleum supply specialist from American Samoa was the last of six male singers featured during Wednesday night’s two-hour episode of “America’s Got Talent,” part of the NBC show’s “Judgment Week” festivities that determined which 48 acts will move on to perform live at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The top act earns a $1 million grand prize.
Ieti teared up when discussing his parents in American Samoa during a pre-performance video package (“Just to see my mom’s smile … the best I can do now is just to do this for them”), performed for an audience consisting of four celebrity judges (his audition benefited from the crowd’s standing ovation), then was summoned back to the stage shortly thereafter (“Am I in trouble?”).
He wiped away tears after judge and former Spice Girl Mel B. delivered the good news, then called his mother — listed under “Mommy” on his cellphone, a fact revealed by a surprisingly well-placed camera — and kept it simple.
“I made it through to the live shows,” Ieti said.
“I’m so proud of you, son,” came the reply.
He was the first of the night’s selections; nearly all the rest came at the end of the show. They did not include another singer, Sal Gonzalez, a former Marine who lost part of his left leg to an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004.
The rest of the show contained the requisite amounts of children crying; a band made up of 12 siblings whose names all start with the letter “J”; a trio of folk artists who covered OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”; a pig that went 2-for-3 solving math problems by picking up cups with numbers on them (drawing negative remarks from the judges, but … it’s a pig); and a foursome of stunt-pogo-stick jumpers.
The live shows begin next week. Missed the show? See an earlier version of Ieti’s “Bless the Broken Road” here.