Hetlinger, of Broomfield, took the stage before the studio audience and the panel of celebrity judges, including Simon Cowell, who asked a series of innocuous questions about the contestant's background. Hetlinger, a former Navy pilot who worked in aerospace engineering and was program manager of the instrument that repaired the Hubble Telescope, said that he started singing karaoke when he retired about fifteen years ago.
While the panel of judges smiled panderingly at Hetlinger's hiked-up khakis and toucan-emblazoned collared shirt, he cued the band. His performance — of hard-rock band Drowning Pool's 2001 hit "Bodies" — made jaws, well, hit the floor. (And Nick Cannon's face look like this.)
Watch Hetlinger's performance below.
We're not sure why Hetlinger chose "Bodies" for his debut performance on national TV (but if we find out, we'll tell you), but associations with the song have a somewhat complicated and controversial history. It remains the biggest hit for the band Drowning Pool, which continues despite its original vocalist's death in 2002 (not long after the song and band rose to fame). It's a track that often pops up on playlists of active U.S. military. The song has also been associated with its use during interrogations at the Guantánamo Bay detention camps and the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, to which the band issued a statement saying, "'Bodies' was written about the brotherhood of the mosh pit and was never about violence."
We would bet that Hetlinger chose the song for its dissonance with his appearance and the shock value rather than those controversies, but in any case, he performed the heavy-metal hit with verve, personality and vocal variation.
America's Got Talent airs on NBC.