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Why the Mzansi Youth Choir’s Golden Buzzer Audition Brought Simon to Tears
Cowell used AGT's first-ever extra Golden Buzzer when the South African singers gave "the most amazing tribute."
The Season 18 premiere of America’s Got Talent is here, and it’s already getting the best of our emotions.
Longtime Judge Simon Cowell used the all-new extra Golden Buzzer in the Season Premiere, letting the live audience decide whether the Mzansi Youth Choir should advance into the Live Shows. It was an especially tearful event when the South African group — from the historic Soweto, Johannesburg — came on stage to sing Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski’s “It’s OK.”
Nightbirde earned Cowell’s Season 16 Golden Buzzer, not only for her original song but for her enduring positivity and wisdom as she faced cancer in her lungs, liver, and spine. Cowell would later tell AGT Host Terry Crews that it was his favorite Golden Buzzer moment of all time.
“It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” Nightbirde said during her 2021 audition.
The singer was forced to withdraw from the competition due to her cancer battle, though her angelic battlecry, “It’s OK,” reached number one on iTunes before she passed away in February 2022 at just 31 years old.
Like Nightbirde, members of the Mzansi Youth Choir also hoped to build on the silver lining of tragedy, explaining that the band formed 20 years ago after a group of youths in South Africa carjacked the group’s founders. However, the “great ending” came when the crime inspired the formation of the choir to help underprivileged children.
“America’s Got Talent is the biggest talent competition in the world,” one of the members told the Judges. “And it has the power to inspire and give hope to the people.”
Dressed in all-white, the group gave a tear-jerking rendition of “It’s OK.” The Act prompted a standing ovation and moved Crews and the Judges.
Heidi Klum thanked the Mzansi Youth Choir for their “beautiful” tribute, adding that the song held “a special meaning” in her heart.
“What a surprise to hear that song; your voices are fantastic,” Sofia Vergara said. “That was the perfect AGT audition.”
Howie Mandel said he would “always remember Nightbirde.”
“And to see that it touched people on the other side of the globe? Unbelievable,” he said. “You deserve so much more than a ‘yes,’ and to be here, you deserve a ‘thank you.’ Thank you so much.”
When asked by Cowell, one of the members, Zoe, said they chose to sing Nightbirde’s song because they were “inspired and touched” after watching her Season 16 Audition on the same AGT stage.
They recorded their own version of “It’s OK,” which – to their surprise — prompted a response from Nightbirde, who “responded so beautifully.” The anthem then became a “pillar of strength” as the choir continued through their own difficult times.
“We just want to continue her legacy, and that’s why we chose this song,” said Zoe.
But most visibly moved by the performance was Cowell, who said to those around him, “This brought back so many memories for me.”
Audiences and Crews clapped as Cowell wrestled with his emotions. Vergara rubbed his shoulder to support Cowell as he began to cry, getting choked up while speaking.
“I know how much this would have — would have meant to her,” Cowell said with a breaking voice. “Right until the end, she was so passionate about sharing her music, and this has gone all over the world, and you come back here with the most amazing tribute.”
Cowell added that the Mzansi Youth Choir’s Act was “just breathtaking.”
Tuning into the emotional response of audience members, Cowell said he wanted to do something never done on AGT, and that was let the audience have a say on whether the choir should earn the extra Golden Buzzer.
With spectators chanting “Golden Buzzer,” Crews came from backstage and joined the Judges as, together, they pressed the Golden Buzzer in Nightbirde’s memory.
The Mzansi Youth Choir cheered and embraced as is rained gold confetti, with Crews loudly proclaiming, “You have just received the Golden Buzzer from the fifth Judge, the AGT audience!”
The Judges joined the group onstage, sharing their heartfelt appreciation for the song, as members of the Mzansi Youth Choir shaped their hands into hearts, spreading love to the world.
The epic victory comes just months after Nightbirde’s family and the Nightbirde Foundation released her posthumous debut album, which continues to inspire millions.