We’ve been covering “America’s Got Talent” since the very beginning of the series, and as a result of that one of the things that we’ve always wanted to get together was some sort of piece looking back and actually ranking all of the winners. After all, what you’ve got here is a pretty eclectic mix of people who are largely forgotten by the public, acts who were entertaining when the show was on and in the immediate aftermath, and then also really successful people who are currently performing in Las Vegas.
So, as we gear up for the final weeks of this season, here’s where the past winners stand. We may fluctuate these slightly over time, and we’ll see where this season’s winner is placed in once we get to the days following the finale.
12. Neal E. Boyd (season 3) – He is the only opera singer to have won the show, but since that time appearing on TV and the years that immediately followed, all has been for the most part quiet on his front. His first audition was big, but his appearance is somewhat forgettable over time.
11. Kevin Skinner (season 4) – If we’re just talking here in terms of likability, he’s much higher on the list. His “chicken catcher” story was funny, and his audition was incredibly moving. With that said, we’re not sure any performance he gave on the show ended up matching that.
10. Michael Grimm (season 5) – He’s a part of that run of singers in the early seasons of the show that tend to blend together; we think in some ways, the beginning of the Howard Stern era really revitalized the show in terms of non-singing acts getting a chance to win. What’s almost as notable for Grimm as his win is who he defeated: Jackie Evancho, largely considered to be a bigger star than several winners on this list.
9. Olate Dogs (season 7) – The first non-singing act to win the show, and a really fun one to see on the show. We’re not sure personally that there’s much here that sustains beyond watching them for five or ten minutes, but as a dog lover they were incredibly entertaining to watch.
8. Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. (season 6) – Out of the four consecutive male singers from seasons 3 to 6, Landau is the one who we believe still has the greatest impact, with him performing with the Boston Pops and other big organizations. We also think that, from audition to finale, he had the most consistent run on the show.
7. Kenichi Ebina (season 8) – On a personal level, one of our favorite winners ever just because what he did was so unique. We’ve certainly seem people utilization animation and other similar dance styles, but it was his use of technology and story that pushed him over the top.
6. Bianca Ryan (season 1) – The original winner (and still only woman to win) is in part one of the reasons why “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going” is such a prominent song choice for many singers in this genre of TV, and we do think she’s continued to have some sort of presence online since the show ended. On Twitter alone, she has more followers than all of the other singers who have won the show combined.
5. Grace VanderWaal (season 11) – It’s still a little early to know just how her talent will be embraced in the long run, but of the singer/songwriters who have won the show, she is set up for the longest career thanks to her creativity and her ability to tell stories.
4. Darci Lynne (season 12) – She’s not the only singing ventriloquist on this list, but just on the virtue of what it is she does she should be able to make it incredibly far as an international success. She’s still young, but in three or four years she could easily be one of the wealthiest winners.
3. Paul Zerdin (season 10) – By the virtue of his humor and his puoppets, we do think that he has an act that is unique and entertaining enough that he can tour with it and sell out shows around the world. Plus, his win at the time felt refreshing and deserved given how many non-singers often win.
2. Mat Franco (season 9) – At the moment, there’s a pretty big divide between the top two and almost everyone else, given that these guys have successfully performed in Las Vegas now for more than a year and shown significant staying power. (Paul’s on his way there.) Mat managed to be that rare magician who was not only really good, but also young and hip enough for the majority of the voters to flock to him.
1. Terry Fator (season 2) – In the end, though, it’s hard to argue with success, and Terry combined some of the ventriloquism that Paul does and the vocal ability of many other acts on this list. He’s probably made more money than the majority of reality TV winners regardless of the show, and has done it for so long that “AGT” fades slightly into the background.
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