Bradenton's Sam Woolf amps up on 'American Idol'

Local teen sensation rebounds from first close call with energized vocals

mclear@bradenton.comMarch 20, 2014 

The top 10 took on the top 10.

On Wednesday's performance episode, Bradenton's Sam Woolf and the other nine "American Idol" finalists were required to sing a song that had been on the Billboard Top 10 at some point since 2011.

The contestants chose songs by everyone from Pink to Florida Georgia Line and from Lady Gaga to Hunter Hayes.

After a couple of decent performances opened the show and drew positive but unenthusiastic responses from judges, Alex Preston kicked up the energy with a performance of One Direction's "Story of My Life" that all three judges -- Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. -- agreed was the best of the night.

Sixteen-year old Malaya Watson followed with a gorgeous rendition of "When I Was Your Man" by Bruno Mars.

Woolf, the 17-year-old Braden River High School student who has impressed judges with his vocals and won the hearts of teenage girls with his looks, was the last to perform.

Last week, he finished in the bottom three for the first time, after performing the Beatles' "Come Together."

This week, he chose a song he said was a better representation of who he is an artist.

The song was "We Are

Young," the 2012 hit by Fun. Woolf told host Ryan Seacrest it was a tune he felt comfortable performing.

He went back to performing with a guitar while standing at a mic stand.

Last week, he sang with a handheld microphone, walking across the stage as he sang.

This week's performance was livelier than some of his past vocalizations. Lopez swayed and sang along and Urban smiled through the entire performance.

"I loved it," Lopez said. "I liked it so much more than what you did last week."

Urban predicted, as he has before, that he was sure Woolf would be back. He said he had a lot to say to Woolf, but that he knew he'd have other chances to talk to him.

Only Connick was less than enthusiastic about Woolf's performance. He said he hoped Woolf would "own" the songs he performed, the way he owned his early performance of Ed Sheeran's "Lego House."

"You can do this," Connick told him.

Woolf told Seacrest he thought this week's performance was one of his best.

Woolf and his fans will find out whether he'll make it to the top nine at 9 p.m. Thursday in a one-hour results show on Fox.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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