Why Simon Cowell Broke the Golden Buzzer Rules for Sky Element: AGT Season 19’s Unforgettable Moment

Element AGT Season 19 saw the drone-show Act, Sky Element, who prompted Cowell to make a big rule change.

After 19 seasons, it may be hard to believe that America’s Got Talent has an Act the Judges called unlike anything they’ve ever seen before, but that’s exactly what happened with Sky Element.

They thought outside the box (and AGT‘s Pasadena Civic Auditorium). Their show was heralded as “breathtaking” by the Judges and forced Simon Cowell to rethink the rules of the competition with his Golden Buzzer.

The group, which was started by two college best friends with a passion for blending art and coding, took the stage and promised the Judges a great show, but admitted the theater where all the other Acts performed wasn’t big enough for what they had in mind. So, the Judges and crowd moved outside where Sky Element had something great prepared.

What did Sky Element do for their audition?

Terry Crews and Sky Elements smile on America's Got Talent Episode 1902.

The group got its start making elaborate Christmas light displays synced up to music. From there, they moved on to pyrotechnics and fireworks. However, in 2024 the natural progression of their skills led them to drones. What started out as an Act with just six drones has since ballooned to the 1,000-drone spectacle they brought to the AGT stage (well, outside of it, but you get the idea).

From a nearby launchpad, the group sent all of its light-affixed drones into the sky until they were in position right above the Judges. Synced to music, the drones began telling a story of an astronaut launching from Earth into outer space and planting an American flag on the moon. After that, the face of the astronaut was revealed to be a massive visage of Cowell that Mandel described as being “three blocks wide!”

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the light show ended with the 1,000 drones creating the AGT logo high in the sky for all of Pasadena, California to see. You’ve simply never seen a drone show quite like this.

Simon Cowell breaks the rules with his Golden Buzzer

Fans knew going into Season 19 that things would be a little different this time around. It was announced before the premiere that each Judge would get two Golden Buzzers to use instead of the usual one. That means that a total of nine Golden Buzzers (including host Terry Crews’ one) are up for grabs during the Audition phase this year. However, after giving up his Golden Buzzer to Liv Warfield earlier in the night, Cowell seemed so moved by Sky Element that he rethought the rules of the competition in the moment, much to the confusion of the producers and his fellow Judges.

After smacking his second Golden Buzzer of the night, Howie Mandel shot up in his chair and looked at the crowd in disbelief as he questioned what was going on with the rules. A producer went up to Cowell to ask what he was thinking to which the Judge explained he didn’t see a reason not to give away another Golden Buzzer.

“I… I… I just thought, why not? There’s nothing in the rules that says we can’t,” he explained.

The judges clap on America's Got Talent Episode 1902.

Speaking on the red carpet earlier this year, Cowell elaborated further on his Golden Buzzer decision.

“I really, really thought last year when I watched back the Audition shows, I was like ‘I wish there was a Golden Buzzer in every episode, I genuinely did,” he explained. “So I basically did it last night.”

He added: “Bearing in mind there aren’t actually any rules on this show when it was created, the Golden Buzzer came in after a few years, and there was no rule that said ‘you just have one.’ It’s just what we started off with. I figured, logically, since people like them so much, why not give the more? I could have given… I would say the panel could have given out 25 Golden Buzzers this year and every one you’d say “yeah.” Some of them are a bit bonkers, but that’s still good.”

In an act of fairness, the producer revealed that each Judge would then get two for the season in a moment that was seemingly the catalyst for the Season 19 rule change.

Regardless of the machinations that went behind it, it was a triumphant moment for Sky Element, who will now go on to the Live Rounds where they’ll do something new and clever with their drones again in the hopes of winning the entire competition.

Additional reporting by Tara Bennett.

To find out how far Ashes and Arrows will go in the competition, watch America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC or available to stream the next day on Peacock.

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