Belatedly, Susan Boyle


It has taken me a while to catch up with the Susan Boyle phenomenon.  I’m not a fan of ‘reality’ talent competitions as a rule, so I didn’t see the episode of Britain’s Got Talent where this woman wowed the judges and audience with her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables.  Just in case you are one of the few people who, like me, had not seen this, the video is up on Youtube.  Have a look and listen, then pop back here.

Right.  I had read about the performance in various blog posts and newspaper articles, but it wasn’t until a colleague asked my opinion that I finally investigated it.  I have to confess I was cynical.  Was this performance really going to wow me?  Was this just the first of the inevitable tabloid stories that such television series inevitably generate?  Still, I was intrigued.  It’s not often that the nation starts discussing someone singing a showtune, even from such a popular show as Les Mis.  So I tried to approach Ms Boyle with an open mind, but I wasn’t expecting anything special.  My first observation was that the singer was nowhere near as ugly as I had been expecting, in fact, ugly is definitely far too harsh a word.  The various reactions in the press had made me expect someone truly hideous, but this was not the case – plain, perhaps, and not having had the dubious ‘benefit’ of a makeover of any kind, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  The reaction of the judges and audience, though, was fascinating – here was someone who is not beautiful, who wanted to be a professional singer, they thought, clearly this is going to be a disaster.

And then she sang.  The crowd went wild, and expressions of shock abounded.  It was immediately obvious that here was a woman with a great singing voice.  Unrefined, yes, and sometimes there was a feeling that she wasn’t really connecting with the lyrics, but in this case Britain has talent.  I have heard better renditions of the song.  Quite a lot of them, in fact, given how very many people have recorded it, and I have heard much worse versions as well.  There were no moments when she went horribly off-key, as there so often are on these shows, and no flights of histrionic nonsense.  She certainly connected with the live audience, and the way they responded gave me chills.  They adored her, and surely that’s all that counts?

However, with my cynical head back on, I couldn’t help but wonder what will happen the next time she sings for us – the surprise is gone, we know she can sing now, and all the media attention will lead us to expect great thinks from her.  If a large part of the appeal is the difference between the expectations her looks and her nervous personal demeanour evoke and the voice that appears when she sings, then what more has she to offer? It seems obligatory to talk about her story, not just her talent, and I fear that this story may well outshadow her abilities.  If she ever appears in a designer dress, or has a new hairdo, will the British public turn on her?  I hope not.  She has truly great potential.  And my goodness, she’s so much better than the terribly overrated Paul Potts.

    • Free online videos
    • April 19th, 2009

    I’m late to the Susan Boyle party as well, but what a great voice!!

  1. I didnt see the original broadcast (I loathe the show and all its ilk)but caught up via youtube as well. It was obvious that she faced an uphill struggle from the moment she walked onto the stage – not only from the “judges” but the audience as well. There’s a particularly nasty teenage girl in the audience (who seems to be constructed mostly of hair products and mascara) who pulls a face and laughs with her friend when Boyle says that she wants to be a professional singer. What’s missing is the camera shot of this girl when Boyle actually starts singing. I’d pay a lot to see that.

    Boyle will succeed simply because she’s homely and the wrong side of 30. There are a lot of people out there who’ve had their dreams trampled because of their personal appearance – interestingly, it seems that Boyle had turned up to audition for The X Factor but left when she realised that it was so looks-orientated. What is immediately obvious, however, is that no amount of sudden fame is going to turn this tough cookie into something she isnt. I suspect her head is going to remain very firmly screwed onto her shoulders. And its for that reason we should root for her.

  2. Google her version of “Cry me a River” – there are MP3s on the interweb. The lady sings the blues. My spine’s tingling just remembering it. Made me think the Clyde had a delta.

  3. I caught her performance of ‘Memory’ from the semi-final – yikes, her first few notes were horribly off, but she went back in tune after that. I don’t like the song at all, but I did feel that she wasn’t connecting with the words at all, and the performance was not as good as her ‘I Dreamed a Dream’

    • Teuchter
    • June 1st, 2009

    Oh dear. It seems she’s having major problems, according to what I’ve heard on BBC radio this morning. I thought their reporting was unkind – full of innuendo about the necessity of a police escort etc.
    She’s a very vulnerable wee wifie.

    I thought the act which won that competition was very, very good. And isn’t it great to see young black men receiving such positive press for a change?

    • The way it’s being reported is most upsetting, given that she was very graceful in ‘defeat’ (as if coming 2nd in a national competition is really defeat). The winning act were amazing, and she said so herself.

      Hopefully, she will bounce back – she’s certainly famous now, and will probably be so for longer than the worthy winners, I’d have thought. She certainly seems potentially very fragile – if she’s left alone by the media for a while, she should be OK. I hope.

  4. Susan must prepare herself if she really wants to be a professional singer. When she sang I Dreamed, that was really amazing! And people will be people, they will expect for more, if not the same high spirited performance or even better, no more less than that… or else, people will start to comment. They will say things she doesnt want to hear, might hurt her or even dissapoint her… but then again, who cares? Susan just got her dream come true! Wow!

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