America's Got Talent: Best Auditions From Houston and Minneapolis

America’s Got Talent audition episodes are a lot more palatable at a crisp 60 minutes than in two-hour blocks. But since the temperature outside is surface-of-the-sun hideous, I didn’t mind the double dose of Houston and Minneapolis tryouts on Wednesday — even if it meant having to endure twice the amount of shameless mugging from Nick Cannon. Below, my picks for the best auditions from each of the featured cities. When you’re done reading, hit the comments and tell me if we shared the same favorites, or if you’d have picked different acts!

Houston: Daniel Joseph Baker (pictured)
Sorry, ye-olde-time guy who throws knives at his lassie and man who dives off 26-foot platforms into kiddie pools, but Daniel’s dramatic rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” won the night. Piers Morgan noticeably winced at the snap-tastic 19-year-old’s flamboyant strut-twirl-dip entrance, but the kid quickly won over his detractors with a performance that was both original and completely in tune. I loved the way he played with the song’s tempo, and I loved that he didn’t turn down his camp dial from 11 just because he was going out in front of a national audience. Best of all, I didn’t get the impression Daniel will be a one-auditon wonder.

Minneapolis: Silhouettes (partial video below)
I almost gave top prize to devastatingly gorgeous Lys Agnes and her emotional take on “Ave Maria,” but the edge goes to an appropriately named dance troupe that marries the art of shadow puppetry and modern dance — with stunning results. Granted, Silhouettes’ routine occasionally got a little saccharine — seriously you’re gonna get up there and spell out the word “imagine” with your bodies? — but they also created some breathtaking shapes behind that screen of theirs. The “tree,” in particular, was magical.