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Review: Bradenton's Sam Woolf on 'American Idol'

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"America's little brother," in the words of "American Idol" special guest Jason Mraz Wednesday night, got his groove on with a performance of Ed Sheeran's "Sing" despite his own acknowledgment that "getting funky" was simply absurd.

Wednesday's theme was "America's Request," which meant viewers chose songs for the remaining five contestants on "Idol."

Wearing a blue tie-dyed shirt and a straw fedora, Woolf made a valiant stab at "Sing."

 

Sam also fielded a viewer question: What's the hardest part of the competition?

Sam Woolf performs Wednesday night on "American Idol."

Sam Woolf performs Wednesday night on "American Idol."

"For me it's just, like, being away from home. I miss my friends and my little dog Buddy," Sam said as a photo of the family shih tzu flashed behind him.

There was no microphone onstage for Sam, who was then surprised by the sudden appearance of  actress and singer-songwriter (and fellow Floridian)  Ariana Grande.

"Good luck to you; I hear you're amazing," Grande said, giving Sam a hug.

Before the performance, Mraz coached Sam in how to approach the song, including taking a break from guitar strumming

"You're still kinda groovin,' you're just not playing the guitar anymore," Mraz said.

"He just wanted me to own it more and get funky," Sam said. "Get funky." He laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole concept. "Tonight I'm  gonna go out there and get funky for America." More laughter.

The judges liked his semi-funky performance pretty well.

"That's a tough song," said Keith Urban, "because it's such a strong falsetto hook, which isn't really in your wheelhouse. But given that, I think you did as good as you could on that song."

Jennifer Lopez praised Sam for relaxing and getting into the song. "You said you were gonna get a little bit funky and you did.  For Sam you were more funky."

Harry Connick Jr.  gave Sam props for doing something "totally different" but said that the key to playing funk tunes is the rhythm.

"A lot of  times during that performance  you were laying back on the vocals, and when you've got a band that is plugging that groove so hard behind you... you need to be in the groove. It was cool to see you doing something different."

Sam's second song was  "How to Save a Life" by The Fray, a more singer-songwriter-style ballad.

Lopez and Urban said his performance was a bit shaky at the start.

"When you hit the sweet spot in your voice and you really let go, something beautiful happens," JLo said.

Connick said Sam needs to continue working on vocal dynamics so songs aren't delivered all at the same volume. But, he added, "The last line of the song had a little break in your voice, a little bit of a cry in your voice. I wish you had sung the whole thing like that so it's not just like pedal to the metal the whole time. Experiment with different aspects of your voice, loud, soft, things like that."

The results show airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on Fox. For live updates and commentary follow Wade Tatangelo on Twitter.

For interviews we conducted, videos, photo galleries and reviews of his performances on "Idol," visit our Sam Woolf page.

(Wade took Wednesday off to celebrate his amazing wife Kristin's birthday. He'll be back on the "Idol" beat Thursday.)

Last modified: April 30, 2014
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