Help me out here, folks, because I think I might have fallen asleep into some sort of weird classic-soul nightmare during last night’s Idol finale. Did I actually see the stars of Tropic Thunder singing backup for a holographic recreation of Gladys Knight circa 1973? And if so… why?! Kate and Mandi didn’t seem to mind, and I admit that it was way, way less painful than Mike Myers’ Love Guru shilling. But that’s no excuse. Look, I’ve made it clear how profoundly these beyond-the-grave duets creep me out before. And this was arguably even worse, since, as even TMZ realized (hat tip), it is way unseemly to do one of those jobs on a person who is still totally alive! That’s why they call the lady a living legend. Would it really have been that hard to get the actual Gladys Knight to show up? Her voice can’t have aged any more harshly than Graham Nash‘s. (Graham, I respect and admire your work very much, but you should probably not sing in public sans Crosby and Stills if you’re gonna sound that hoarse). Also, I haven’t seen Tropic Thunder yet, but does “Midnight Train to Georgia” have some connection to that movie that I’m not getting, or was this whole thing just completely random?

Anyway, I won’t blame the Tropic Thunder dudes since they were pretty funny and this was probably not their idea. But seriously, Idol producers: When TMZ thinks you’ve crossed a taste line, you know it’s time to reconsider your priorities. Anyone else’s mind boggled by this gratuitous digital karaoke bit (preserved below, for those who dare)?

UPDATE: Thanks to the poster who reminded me that this video is also on sale at iTunes, with proceeds going to charity — which sorta makes up for this bizarre spectacle. But only sorta!