Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017 during preliminaries. Photo courtesy of 4029tv.com.The talent portion of Miss America 2017 failed to impress many viewers. Social media and internet searches of the talent portion are full of criticism. Given that talent is such a large portion of the score, it's hard to believe that the performances that unfortunately brought back memories of a school talent show made the Top 10. Many singers were slightly off key and the dancers struggled to gain power for leaps and balance moves. Since I am unable to find more than a few videos of the talents from prelims, this cannot be a comprehensive list of the top 10 talents from the entire pageant. I'm sure there were some incredible performances that we didn't get to see. For example, the two instrumentalists in the Top 12 didn't make the cut to the Top 10 to perform their talents. So, this list will be a ranking of the Top 10's talents at Miss America 2017.
Hannah Brewer, Miss Maryland 2016. Photo Courtesy of the Miss America Facebook page.Hannah sang "God Bless America" on the anniversary of 9/11. It could have worked very well. Unfortunately, it became obvious that she's no Betty. Maybe it was the nerves or the fact there was literally zero warm-up time for the singers or that contestants have 10 seconds to go from their names being called to performing. However, her notes were off and the big, powerful moment she shot for failed to resonate. 9. Miss California 2016, Jessa Carmack, Acro Dance
Jessa Carmack, Miss California 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss California Organization's Facebook page.Given that this is a very nontraditional talent to hit the stage, Jessa was at an extreme disadvantage. Tumbling on a stage is very difficult and she just couldn't get the height. Her leaps and turns seemed very tight after two weeks of long days in heels. Her dance technique wasn't as strong as her gymnastics and it showed. There is no doubt the adrenaline and lack of warm up played a role here. But, major kudos for going out of the box on such a big stage and in front of Gabby Douglas. 8. Miss Washington 2016, Alicia Cooper, Tap Dance
Alicia Cooper, Miss Washington 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization Facebook page.Of all the dance styles, tap seems to be one of the hardest to communicate on the MAO stage. For some reason, it never comes off graceful and looks more clunky. Alicia had a few moments that juxtaposed the heaviness of tap, but I would love to see a tap dancer revert back to the old days of Ginger Rogers and tap in heels. The heels elongate the legs; just look at the Rockettes, and you automatically appear more graceful simply by eliminating a heavy, often black, shoe. I've searched all over the internet and cannot find a video of Alicia's talent during finals or prelims to re-watch it. My apologies for the ranking if it was better than I remember. 7. Miss Texas 2016, Caroline Carothers, Baton Twirling
Caroline Carothers, Miss Texas 2016 performing with Baylor University. Photo courtesy of the Miss Texas Instagram.Oh, Caroline, I was so looking forward to seeing a baton twirler. Way to make it to the Top 10 with such an unappreciated and often mocked talent. We've seen a few baton twirlers in recent years and MAO this year had quite a few, so way to represent. However, the song choice killed it here. There is no way to perform to that song without it coming off cheesy. It honestly would have been more entertaining if we had we seen her spin the three baseball bats as it said in the info tab at the bottom of the screen. It just didn't resonate. Props for recovering from the drop, though. (Read: Should You Perform a Traditional or Nontraditional Talent?) 6. Miss Iowa 2016, Kelly Koch, Ballet en Pointe
Kelly Koch, Miss Iowa 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss Iowa Scholarship Program's Facebook page.Her song choice played a big role in making this entertaining. Everyone loves "Pirates of the Caribbean". The problem? Her dance didn't have the power that the song has. Her choreography also had a similar move throughout and her leaps and balance moves seemed tight. Again, this is very much due to lack of warm-up time prior to performing on the stage. She had great musicality, though, and her choreography went well with the music. She had a big smile on her face, but it came off a bit nervous at times. 5. Miss Mississippi 2016, Laura Lee Lewis, Vocal
Laura Lee Lewis, Miss Mississippi 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization's Facebook page.Laura's dress was a great color for the song "A Piece of Sky". However, it was a blue version of Miss Oklahoma's dress from last year. It's not fun to see an iconic dress again, even in a different color (and this happened a few times this year between MAO and MUO). Laura was plagued by the same troubles as the other singers: no warm-up time. She was unable to hit her low notes and it took a bit off from the performance. The rest of her performance actually wasn't bad, but it was very similar to a lot of MAO Barbra Streisand renditions. 4. Miss New York 2016, Camille Sims, Jazz Vocal
Camille Sims, Miss New York 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization's Facebook page.At first watch, I didn't like this, but the second viewing I actually liked it. I loved that she sang in a different language and did so comfortably. What would have put this over the top was if she had limited her motions to very subtle movements and used a stationary microphone. She was walking about the stage and it was distracting. She also didn't hit the notes as low as they could have been to really give the song an edge. It was entertaining, but it also seemed kind of hit-and-run-ish the way she bolted across the stage during the performance. 3. Miss Tennessee 2016, Grace Burgess, Vocal
Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization's Facebook page.Grace performed an arrangement of "Desperado" that her Uncle helped her with. Unfortunately, he passed away and yet, she still performed it. This song, if done well, can be a total hit and there are lots of ways to arrange it. The arrangement and Grace's voice were really good; however, her choreography to it was a little awkward. Add in the gown (Deshauna's from Miss USA) and it came off a tad 1980's Grand Ole Opry. Her notes struggled a bit, but it wasn't too distracting. She did win Preliminary Talent earlier in the week. Do yourself a favor, if you totally hated this performance at first, re-watch it, but just listen to it, don't actually watch her. Suddenly, she sounds like a cross between Sara Bareilles and Martina McBride when you aren't distracted by her movements. (Read: 5 Ways to Make Your Traditional Pageant Talent Stand Out) 2. Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, Jazz Dance
Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017. Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization's Facebook page.Savvy's bubbly performance to "They Just Keep Moving the Line" from Smash was entertaining and energetic. I went back and forth between first and second here, but Savvy definitely had a lot of adrenaline and it came off just a tiny bit erratic. Her Marilyn Monroe-esq spunk in the performance no doubt sealed the deal with the judges. Prior to performing, she was interviewed by host Sage Steele and you could tell she was genuinely excited about the prospect of performing her talent and that she would be happy no matter the outcome. Savvy won Preliminary Talent earlier in the week before winning Miss America 2017 on Sunday night. 1. Miss South Carolina 2016, Rachel Wyatt, Dance
Rachel Wyatt, Miss South Carolina 2016. Photo courtesy of earnthenecklace.com.Rachel's dance to "Something in the Water" by Carrie Underwood was expressive and entertaining. It was technically sound and she had more power in her leaps than any of the other dancers on finals night. She had clean lines as a result, which made for a beautiful number to watch. We've discussed it before, if technique or entertainment value matters more, and it's a combination. If you aren't technically sound, it'll be awkward to watch. But if you have the technique but not the spunk, then it's boring. Rachel had both technique and entertainment. From her fingertips to her toes, she filled the stage, often the camera struggling to stay with her, and she was beautiful and graceful throughout the performance, which was why she made our number one spot on this list. (Read: Is Technical Skill or Entertainment Value More Important in Pageant Talent?) Going Forward Ladies, remember what type of floor you're going to be performing on and that the acoustics are going to be different. Plan your talent accordingly. You aren't going to have time to warm up, so don't put a note or move in your performance that will need that. Additionally, not everyone is Idina Menzel, so don't try to hit those notes unless you can do it every time and on the spot. Not every performance has to have a show-stopping, big finish; sometimes the show stopper is less in your face and more subdued. I wish MAO would take into account that people need to warm up for their talents to be top notch. Because the performances often come off bad on TV on finals night, the audience calls for a "get rid of it" move. This isn't necessary. It would be just fine if they called the Top 10 who will perform their talents to go backstage and get ready, then had a non-finalist, prelim talent winner (or two) who have been able to warm up backstage while the rest of the competition has been going on, perform while the Top 10 warm up. They could even have the MAO Teen and reigning Miss America perform their talents. Some of the 30-minute wait time to call the Top 15 at the beginning of the pageant could also be cut out to fit this in. We really wouldn't mind seeing them perform if it gave the Top 10 time to get ready for the most important one minute and 30 seconds of their lives. Even though there were some small mistakes and less-than-perfect performances, we are so proud of all the hard work that these ladies put into their talent performances. We know that it's not easy to perform in front of such a large crowd, and we applaud you all for that!
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