Brooke White, American Idol: Season 7

Fox, The WB

To stop or not to stop?

The American Idol judges couldn't agree if Brooke White did the right—or wrong—thing last night by rebooting her performance of "You Must Love Me."

And there's not quite a consensus among outside singing experts, either.

"Unless it's a total trainwreck, I think you try to make it through," James Lugo, a record producer and vocal coach, said today. "Personally, I think starting and stopping is kind of hack."

To Gina Eckstine, a singer and vocal teacher, going forward is the only way to go. Most of the time.

"If there's no more, and you can't move ahead, sometimes you just have to admit it," said Eckstine.

White opted for the latter route on Tuesday. Some 13 seconds into her performance, she turned to the house band and said, "I'm sorry." Taking the hint, the band restarted the song. White made it through the number, introduced by Madonna in the movie version of Evita, without further incident.

After the song ended, Paula Abdul, the nice Idol judge, looked pained as she considered her words. Firmly but gently, she offered White the following edict: "You must never start and stop."

In a twist, Simon Cowell, the non-nice Idol judge, gave White a pass on the do-over, apparently because it entertained him. "This is why I love live TV," he said. "It was so dramatic—the beginning, you know."

Under questioning from host Ryan Seacrest, White said she restarted because "I lost the lyric."

Cowell claimed he would have done the same thing, and called White's decision "brave." Abdul persisted, telling White she should have vamped until she found the words. Cowell and Randy Jackson, the wild-card Idol judge, disagreed.

On the matter of to vamp or not to vamp, Abdul offered the best advice, the singing experts said.

"I'm not always in agreement with Paula Abdul," Lugo said. "But I am this time."

Eckstine was also on board with the "Straight Up" star. "Most of the time the audience doesn't [realize you've] made a mistake," she said.

The daughter of the late singing great Billy Eckstine, Gina Eckstine said her father taught her how to cover a muffed lyric: "If you forget the second verse, sing the first verse again."

In general, Lis Lewis, a Los Angeles-based vocal coach, concurred. But she reminded that American Idol is unique in that the judges, Abdul included, have tended to point out when a singer misses a lyric.

"Who cares? Except them [the Idol judges]," Lewis said. "The audience wouldn't care. The audience wouldn't really notice."

Lugo sounded a big amen. "Dude, you're singing cover songs," he said. "Who gives a s--t if you forget the lyrics? I think it's irrelevant."

Interestingly, on Tuesday's Idol, botched lyrics, outside of White's botched performance, were, for once, rendered irrelevant.

Both David Archuleta and Carly Smithson missed lines. Archuleta even mumbled through a rough patch. But neither was called out on the breaches. (Archuleta did, however, get a talking-to from Abdul during the first Beatles week when he sang gobbledygook for a few measures of "We Can Work It Out," and, to compound the sin, let the mistake show on his face.)

Lewis said she wouldn't even consider White's faux pas all that bad—"if she hadn't done it before."

Four weeks ago, White started, stopped and restarted "Every Breath You Take." The relaunch stood out less than Tuesday's because it came after White, providing her own accompaniment, had played but a few notes on the piano. Indeed, even White seemed to forget about the gaffe, saying that last night was the first time she'd missed a lyric. And, technically, she was correct. Her problem with "Every Breath You Take" was the key, not a lyric.

Whatever the case, both do-overs stood out to Lewis. "It seems to be a crutch she's relying on," she said.

Eckstine, who didn't watch Idol last night (not to worry—she TiVo'd), said she wasn't surprised to hear that it was White who suffered the meltdown. "She's been very unsteady and unsure," she said.

But will White's latest trouble be her last trouble? Will it seal her fate as Wednesday night's unchosen one?

"Unfortunately, if you're on a show like American Idol," Eckstine said, "you are being judged."

On every breath you take. Or not.

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