Perhaps Sam Woolf wished for some chutzpah while blowing out the candles on his 18th birthday cupcakes last week, because the Bradenton student sure displayed some much-needed confidence Wednesday on “American Idol.” The judges praised him more than any other remaining contestant and the voting public put the Braden River High School senior into the Top 5 during the results show that aired Thursday. Soul singer C.J. Harris was sent home.
Yes, Woolf displayed the kind of charisma Wednesday that has been missing from his past performances on "American Idol." The Top Six – Harris, Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse, Alex Preston and Woolf – sang two songs apiece. Each contestant performed a rock song in the first hour and a country song in the second and final hour of the show. Woolf garnered the strongest overall reviews from judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr.
He took the stage about 15 minutes into the episode and gave a winning performance of the 2012 indie rock power ballad “It's Time” by Imagine Dragons. Consistently applauded for his vocal skills, Woolf has also been criticized for his lack of stage presence and ability to connect with an audience. But on Wednesday he conveyed the lyric about taking a stance with aplomb.
"That's a great song for you," said toughest-critic Connick. "(You're) blossoming man."
"There (had) gravitas, a weight about it," Urban said.
For his country song, Woolf chose Shania's Twain’s 1998 country-pop ballad “You're Still the One.” It’s a glossy, slow-burning romantic number that requires a certain amount of showmanship to pull off. Woolf accomplished this with another flawless vocal and some much-needed interaction with his army of female fans occupying the front row of the Los Angeles sound stage.
"You're so cute it's crazy," Lopez said, undoubtedly echoing the thoughts of myriad girls and women watching the performance.
It’s hard, now, to imagine that earlier this month viewers voted Woolf off the show. He remained only after earning the judges’ sole “save” of the season. The visibly nervous teenager performed David Gray's pop-folk ballad "Babylon," the same song Woolf chose to perform during the Top 31 episode of “Idol.”
“That was crazy,” Woolf recalled Tuesday during a phone interview with this reporter. “I just thought, Screw it, I’m just going to sing my best and not worry about moving around or anything else.”
For interviews we conducted, videos, photo galleries and reviews of his performances on "Idol," visit our Sam Woolf page.