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'American Idol' season 13 commentary: judges use save on Sam Woolf... was it the right decision? [VIDEO]

by Carolyn Menyes   Apr 4, 2014 09:27 AM EDT

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The Top 8 on American Idol remain intact, though they're much less safe than before. For the third time last night, 17-year-old Floridian babyface Sam Woolf found himself in the dreaded Idol bottom three, but this week, he was spared from being sent to retirement and was given another chance. Yes, the judges buckled and finally used the one save per season on Sam. But, did they make the right choice?

The theme for this week's Idol performances on Wednesday night (April 2) was "Back To The Start," meaning the Top 8 had to perform their original audition songs once again. However, this time, they had the benefit of weeks of coaching and a full backing band to fully show their growth over the Idol journey.

As could be expected at this point, Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse, Jena Irene and Alex Preston were properly solid and sure things to move on to the next week, which they all did. The other four contestants were a little wavier, though Dexter Roberts somehow managed to wiggle his way into the safety of the lounge after yet another cookie cutter country performance (this week, of Brett Elderedge's "One Mississippi"). That meant that Malaya Watson, C.J. Harris and Sam were all in the bottom three, but it was Sam's turn to sing for his life/the save.

The fact that Sam wound up in this position this week should come as no surprise to regular American Idol season 13 viewers. For the last few weeks, the pattern has gone thusly for eliminations: bottom three, bottom three, elimination. Sam has spent three of the last four weeks with something near the least amounts of votes, so a third time in the bottom... well, you're out.

His vocally fine but personality-flat performance of Ed Sheeran's "Lego House" on Wednesday night didn't help his chances, either.

As the judges have pointed out repeatedly about Sam, he's a solid singer (especially for a teenager!) but he consistently fails to connect with the Idol audience, despite the fact that he's this season's toke cute boy. He should be shoe-in every week with his "Woolf Pack" only expanding, but his chronic shyness and lack of eye contact with the masses of screaming girls ends up hurting him.

So, that brought us to last night (April 3), when Sam had to sing for the save. He returned - smartly - to David Gray's "Babylon," but that performance has the same issues with any other time he's sung this season... he's got solid vocals but lacks any sort of musical personality.

In a totally lackluster moment, unlike the dramatic (and tearful) elimination of MK Nobilette two weeks ago, judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban chose to save Sam from elimination, giving him another week on Idol. It was a simple moment with very little hype surrounding it.

But, should they have?

As mentioned above, Sam's performances are rife with little personality errors, and while that's something that could be fixed on six days' time, it seems unlikely.

He's also insanely young. At 17 years old, Sam has a lot of growth ahead of him as an artist, and he's maybe just not ready for the big leagues. There's nothing wrong with that; he's just a kid. He needs a few years to season up, gain some confidence and boost his persona.

It's not a fluke that Sam has landed in the bottom three thrice now. There's something a little off about his performances, and the voting American Idol viewership notes it.

Shockingly enough, this season's bottom three results largely have been performance-based. It's not as though America just doesn't like one contestant, viewers are smartly dialing/texting/Facebooking/Googling in the consistently best singers. So, three bottom threes, and yeah, you're probably just not good enough to win this time around.

Simply put, the judges wasted their one-and-only save on this season of Idol. It could have been used for two more weeks, when perhaps a consistently great performer (like Caleb) has an off week or when America just frankly got it wrong.

They didn't this week, though. And Sam Woolf will probably go home (again) in another week or two. So, it was all for naught this week on American Idol.

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