Yahoo Music is posting weekly first hand accounts from beloved Idol alums. This week, Season 7 singer, Brooke White, recalls that horrible time she forgot the words to her song and asked the band to start again. It is certainly a moment that has gone down in the annals of Idol lore.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was the mentor Top 6 week. Brooke rehearsed “You Must Love Me” from Evita with the legendary Broadway composer. Things went extremely well in rehearsal and Brooke was poised to have a major moment on stage. That is, until it all fell apart.
The fact that he watched the show and knew about each one of us said a lot to me. This wasn’t just a promo moment for Sir Webber. He then asked me to sing the song… I should mention that it is always terrifying to stand there and sing a song written by a legend, for the legend themselves. Like, make-you-wanna-hurl scary. I wobbled through it, and he stopped me and said something like, “Darling, do you even know what the story is behind the song?” Nope, I didn’t, and it was obvious. So he told me – about Eva, who she was to Argentina, that she is sick, dying, discouraged, and desperate, her plea to Che, her husband. “You MUST love me.” It was heart-breaking. I found a little bit of her in myself.
He then said, “OK, now try again.” I did. I felt every word. And I knew anybody that was standing on that stage felt it too. It had perhaps felt like the most honest thing I had ever sang, ever. It had nothing to do with performing, or my voice, the technicalities, or being impressive. It was simply just telling the truth and being 1 billion percent present in the moment and in the story. I had never done that before. And it was all because of Andrew Lloyd Webber. When I finished, he told me I had done it. “Let It Be,” was a highlight, singing with Graham Nash was unreal, but this moment probably meant the most to me of my entire Idol experience.
On the day of the show, Brooke was feeling good, until a fan she ran into in the bathroom right before she was supposed to go on put doubt into her mind. The fan quoted something she read in the Los Angeles Times about Webber hoping the singer could “pull it off.” Brooke took the stage. She started and then…she stopped.
I walked to the stage, where I was perched on a stool in the middle of a full orchestra. I remember thinking, “Where am I right now? Is this really happening? How did I get here?” The commercial break was over, the lights were down on the audience, and they rolled my pre-package of that special mentor moment playing on a giant screen behind me. I heard Webber say, “She is a wonderful natural actress, but will she be able to keep that up? I don’t know.” Then the lights went up, the strings played that sweeping intro, and I looked down in the audience to see Andrew Lloyd Webber sitting directly in front of me. I didn’t want to let him down.
“Where do we go from here, this isn’t where we int……….“
Nothing. I could remember nothing. It was like a blank white wall in my mind. All at once, the orchestra seemed to melt with me into a complete stop, and all I remember is looking to my right at Rickey Minor who was conducting and saying, “I’m sorry, can we do that again?” And we did, from the top. This time I remembered the words, thank the Lord, but I was kind of in a state of shock. My voice trembled the whole way through, trying to hang on to dear life. I fought like hell to the end. I sang, “YOU MUST. LOVE. ME.” And then it was over.
Maybe, because she was a performer herself, Paula Abdul was the toughest, lecturing Brooke that she should never stop a performance. Not EVER. Simon agreed with Brooke’s decision to begin again, but didn’t think she got back on track. “I think you are going to be very disappointed when you watch this back,” said Simon.
When she got off stage she immediately began bawling her eyes out. Fellow contestant, Carly Smithson came up to hug her. Ironically, it was Carly who went home that week, which Brooke felt guilt about for a long time.
Instead of admonishing her? Producer at the time, Ken Warwick ran over to her backstage and cried, “THAT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT, BUT DON’T EVER, EVER DO IT AGAIN! Now stop your crying, darling, you are going to be fine.” Of course the producers loved it. Because that moment was an instant American Idol water cooler classic. As these things usually do, Brooke’s gaffe spurned her fanbase into action. Between their votes and casual “pity” votes, Brooke was safe through the next week. And only the next week–the singer left in 5th place.
I used to wish with all my heart that I could take that moment it back, like it never happened. I wished that I had gotten a handle on my nerves, that I would have just had the confidence. But that’s not how it went down. Actually, I was kind of a wreck throughout the show over my imperfections, and it forced me to deal with them in front of millions of people. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable that was, how it kind of broke me. But strangely, that moment that tortured me then seems to be what people remember the most now, and with such generosity and fondness. It has taught me to embrace vulnerability. We all make mistakes. I just happened to make mine on live television. And just imagine, if that had never happened, I would have never gotten the chance to do “Brooke White Stops and Starts the Classics” on VH1’s Best Week Ever.
HA HA HA HA THE DAMN BEST
An aside, Brook also recalls how she struggled during Top 7 week. Mariah Carey was the mentor. Because the diva was FOUR HOURS LATE Brooke was unable to catch a plane to Arizona to attend her sister’s wedding. Sigh. Brooke sang “Hero” that week. During the performance, she added an extra verse, prompting Simon to say “It was like a hamburger with no meat.”
I remember thinking that Brooke’s insecurities got the best of her toward the end of her run. By Top 5, Neil Diamond Week, when she sang “I am…I said” and “I’m a Believer,” the singer seemed ready to go home. I may or may not have begged folks not to vote for her that week.
You can read the rest of her first person account at Yahoo Music.