Casual America’s Got Talent viewers were in for the scary-clown shock of their lives this Tuesday, when a 6-foot-8, satin-pantalooned, Keane-eyed harlequin took the stage, and in an unexpectedly rich and glorious baritone belted Sia’s “Chandelier” on AGT’s Season 12 premiere.
But Puddles the Clown is no joke.
The 52-year-old crooner, who has fronted the Atlanta rock band Kingsized since 1995 under his real name, Mike Geier, is actually a massive YouTube star — his 2013 cover of Lorde’s “Royals,” with viral jazzbos Postmodern Jukebox, has racked up 19 million views to date, and his delightful “Puddles Pity Party” YouTube channel boasts more than 96,000 subscribers.
Since his PMJ debut, the operatic comic has amazed the Interweb with his charming, genius covers of everyone from Bowie and Lennon to Blink-182 and twenty one pilots, and before that, he even toured with the Aqua Teen Hunger Force and indie band the Eels. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has dubbed Puddles “Pagliacci by way of Pee-wee Herman and David Lynch”; the L.A. Weekly praised his “tear-jerking bravura,” while the New York Times praised his “textured voice laced with melancholy”; and The List described him as “an archetypal figure, an embodiment of the romantic despair that infuses so much popular romantic music… a fun, compassionate, and an all-round entertainer.”
Puddles’ “Chandelier” was already a hit on Postmodern Jukebox’s YouTube channel (since 2014, that version has received more than 6 million spins), so it’s likely that as he advances on AGT, he’ll look to his recent YouTube past for more cover-song inspiration. So I’ve combed his channel, and PMJ’s, for his finest, most Golden Buzzer-worthy musical moments. These are songs that could take Puddles all the way to the AGT finale — and then a different, non-pitying sort of party will be in order.
Dressed like David Bowie from the Scary Monsters era, this is a wonderful and respectful tribute to the Thin White Duke by the big white-faced clown.
“Viva La Vida”
Inspired by Super Bowl 50’s halftime show, Puddles delivers a royal version of Coldplay’s kingly classic. And he doesn’t even need an assist from Beyoncé or Bruno Mars! (Although the stand-up bass accompaniment by former American Idol contestant Casey Abrams is a pleasant surprise.)
This evangelical Leonard Cohen ballad has become a singing-show staple, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser and vote-generator. So why not add Puddles to the long list of Idol, Voice, and X Factor contestants who’ve had their way with it on national TV?
“Day After Day”
The story of Badfinger may be the most tragic tale in rock ‘n’ roll history. Puddles does this sad band justice.
“I Want You to Want Me”
Puddles wrings pain and pathos from every sorrowful syllable of Cheap Trick’s once-effervescent Budokan singalong. Didn’t I see you crying (crying, crying, crying), indeed.
“My Heart Will Go On”
Celine Dion’s recent Titanic tribute at the Billboard Music Awards proves America Can. Not. Get. Enough. Of. This. Song. If Puddles sings this in finale week, he’s a lock to win. (He should try to borrow Celine’s puff-sleeved BBMAs gown, while he’s at it.)
“The Star-Spangled Banner”
Yes, this would be a transparent, pandering ploy for votes, but hey, it’d probably work! U-S-A! U-S-A!
“I Started a Joke”
The joke’ll be on all Puddles doubters, when he wins the show with this irresistible Bee Gees weeper.
“Mad World” with Haley Reinhart
American Idol Season 10 alumnus Haley recently teamed with future America’s Got Talent Season 12 alumnus Puddles for this vaudeville-style remake of the melancholy Tears for Fears-via-Gary Jules classic. Let’s have them reprise their duet on this season’s AGT finale!