“America’s Got Talent” is one of those shows you watch with your parents every so often after all your other shows finish up for the season. Even so, it’s a feel-good kind of program and you can see some truly incredible things, like these cats who actually do what you say.
Some of the best people to show up on the AGT stage are those that you never would have seen perform otherwise; there was Jackie Evancho, who shocked everyone with her opera, and Kenichi Ebina, who I’m convinced has no bones in his body.
Evancho was 10 years old when we first met her, and Ebina was looking to win the grand prize to support his family back in Japan. “America’s Got Talent” prides itself on putting spotlights on people who probably wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.
So I was surprised to hear that Us the Duo had auditioned for the show and moved on to the quarterfinal round, when contestants perform live for the public’s votes instead of being subject to the judges’ (Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Mel B) opinions.
Michael and Carissa Alvarado took the stage with a guitar, a drum and a pair of maracas and belted out an original song for the audience. It got them enough “yes” votes to propel them into the next round, but was nevertheless met with some (probably fake) skepticism -- Mandel voted no and Mel B was on the fence.
You couldn’t deny the song was great, though, prompting Klum to praise, “Sounds like you have a hit there!”
...Yes, Heidi, they do. The song -- “No Matter Where You Are,” which the two wrote in lieu of wedding vows for each other -- was featured in the 2014 Golden Globe-nominated film “The Book of Life.” Even the background music NBC used as the audition faded to black is the studio recording of that song. You’re telling me no one had heard it before?
The couple, who met on the set of a music video in Los Angeles, married in 2012 and just recently announced that they’re expecting a baby girl in October. Fans love following their love story -- a brand-new Instagram account called Us the Baby already has over 50,000 followers. Lots of their YouTube videos, too, show the two being super cutesy. Us the Duo is the modern day internet couple.
They aren’t chart-topping famous, but that doesn’t mean they’re not too recognizable to be on a show like “America’s Got Talent.”
Let’s look at some of the past winners of the competition for fun. Terry Fator, the ventriloquist from season 2, was playing one-person audiences before showing up on AGT’s stage. Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. of season 6 worked at restaurants and car washes until his voice won him the million dollar prize.
Us the Duo, meanwhile, had over four million followers on Vine, a social media platform used for creating six-second videos, before Twitter shut it down. This is essentially what created their fame -- their little renditions were fun and recognizable by the way the couple framed themselves in the videos.
Their fan base is already huge and ever-expanding: They have nearly two million subscribers on YouTube. They were signed to major record label Republic Records and have four studio-length albums with over a million monthly Spotify listeners. Pentatonix and Oprah have booked them for tours, and they’ve toured themselves for their “Just Love” album. I’ve personally seen them in concert -- and they played the same venue I saw Nick Jonas at a year later. So there’s that comparison.
In fact, they got back from tour just last week.
In an interview with Billboard, the couple was asked straight up why they felt like auditioning for a historically amateur-only competition show.
“For us, we're independent artists, and we always want to do things that are better than the past, so Carissa and I, we've played stages before, but never a stage at the size and the magnitude of ‘America's Got Talent,’” Michael said, while still acknowledging that they’ve been playing club stages across the United States and Europe. “The other night of the performance, that was the biggest stage we've ever performed on.”
The couple says that their success took off fast and that the show is their next step to keep it going.
“And we just tried to keep putting out new music and keep getting on the road. It's what we love to do, so the fact that we get to do that is pretty amazing,” Carissa said. “But...we just need [sic] think this is really great exposure for us to take us to that next level and to gain some new fans that we weren't able to reach before.”
That’s all well and good, but in my opinion, they’re doing so at the expense of others. Others who are definitely less successful and potentially more talented. It’s the same problem I had with Cassadee Pope winning “The Voice” in 2012 -- she had already put out successful music. Her old band, Hey Monday, was pop punk and she wanted to go country when they disbanded. Great! But she used a platform she didn’t need.
I love Us the Duo -- I’ve been following them since their Vine days -- but there’s lots of toes being stepped on here.