The judges have been saying they want to see another side of Sam Woolf. They saw it Wednesday but were only moderately impressed.
The 17-year-old Braden River High School student was the first of the remaining 11 contestants who performed live for judges and the public on Wednesday’s episode of “American Idol.”
The theme was “Songs from the Cinema.” Contestants were asked to perform a song either written for or prominently featured in a movie.
Woolf chose “Come Together,” the Beatles classic used in the 2007 film “Across the Universe.”
It showed a different side of Woolf, who up until now has performed slower, more introspective songs.
For “Come Together,” he walked and swayed across the stage and added some more inflection into his singing than he has in previous performances. The judges liked it but said they still want him to stretch his talents.
“It was great to hear that side of you, because we haven’t heard that side of you, quite that way,” judge Keith Urban said. “I love the way, I said to Jen, the way you’re loosening up a little bit. You can just keep going on that trajectory.”
The “Jen” he referred to was fellow judge Jennifer Lopez, who echoed Urban’s critique.
“It was like little baby rock star,” she said “We need big rock star.”
She called Woolf’s performance “a nice start to the show.”
Harry Connick Jr., who’s been stingier with praise for all the contestants than Lopez and Urban, called Woolf’s performance “average,” but also said it was a big step forward. “I really think you’re on the way to where you need to be,” he said.
Before Woolf’s performance, the other finalists got a chance to poke fun of him in a taped “screen test.” They made good-natured jokes about his youth, his rabid following of young women and his hometown.
“I’m Sam Woolf,” said one of them. “I’m 14 years old and I live in a retirement community.”
One more contestant will be eliminated Thursday through a public vote. Sam and his fans will find out his fate in a results show at 9 p.m. on Fox.
This week’s vote is especially significant. The 10 finalists will be part of the national “American Idol” tour over the summer.