Bradenton's Woolf makes it to 'Idol's Top 20

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 19, 2014 

There are only 10 male contestants left on this year’s edition of “American Idol,” and Sam Woolf of Bradenton is one of them.

On Wednesday, the 17-year old singer-songwriter made it through yet another round of cuts to reach the Top 20.

Thirty contestants — 15 males and 15 females — started the week still alive on “Idol.”

On Tuesday, judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. eliminated five women.

On Wednesday, they repeated the process, knocking five males out of the competition.

The judges decided on their 10 cuts before the show started, but maintained suspense by calling the survivors on stage one at a time to perform live, with a dwindling pool of contestants awaiting their fates backstage.

About 40 minutes into Wednesday’s show, Urban began introducing Woolf.

“We don’t always agree, but this guy came out and we all agreed,” Urban said. Woolf “didn’t do so good in the group round,” Urban said, but he impressed the judges again last week by performing an original song.

“I think he’s going to be in this competition for a long time,” Urban said.

Before Woolf came onstage, the TV audience saw footage of him working with coaches, including former “Idol” judge Randy Jackson, who told him not to look at the floor when he sang. Woolf said he’d go back to his room and watch videos of some of his favorite performers.

Then he came onstage and wowed the judges with a version of David Gray’s “Babylon” while looking noticeably more self-assured than in earlier performances.

“The people love you, Sam, and with good reason,” Urban said after the performance.

Lopez was even more effusive in her praise.

“You have such a great quality to you,” she said, “and it’s no surprise that everyone has already fallen in love with you.”

Connick was the only judge who tempered his praise with some advice.

“I hope that you can gain some small layers of confidence as this competition goes on,” Connick said.

But Connick also made it clear that he’s an unabashed Sam Woolf fan.

Woolf doesn’t have much time before he faces his next hurdle. Judges will eliminate another seven “Idol” contestants on the show airing from 8-10 p.m. Thursday on Fox — leaving only 13 still in contention. Viewers pick 10 contestants through call-in and online voting and judges will pick the remaining three.

Marty Clear, entertainment reporter, can be reached at

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