Since April 11th, she’s had over 65 million views on YouTube for a single 4 minute performance, making it one of the most popular videos ever posted. Susan Boyle, a 47 year-old frumpy spinster, had told her mother, who died two years ago, that she would do “something” with her life. She had never been married. Never even been kissed. When she came on stage for the “Britain’s Got Talent” show, she sang so sweetly, so powerfully, that the entire audience was on their feet giving her an ovation only a few lines into the song.
Only seconds earlier, the crowd were rolling their eyes, cynical that this woman could ever do anything special. Let alone stand up to the talent that is on tap for these kinds of shows.
Executive Producer and panelist Simon Cowell said in his typical sarcastic fashion, “That’s a big song!” – when Susan explained she’d be singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” from the musical “Les Misérables”. The audience wondered just how could this old aunty possibly entertain them — except perhaps to get them rolling on the floor with laughter as she made a stock of herself. Like the dog trick where the dog came to a skidding stop, refusing to jump through the burning hoop — now that was funny stuff.
There was nervous movements from the audience. People were clearing their throats. Rolling their eyes.
And then she began to sing. And the audience embraced her.
Can it be that Susan Boyle is what singing is all about, and something we’ve been missing and not even known that we’ve been missing it? She’s not sexy. Or pretty. Or gimmicky. Or polished — she’s not the kind of star material that the recording companies get behind. She’s just got a voice that melts our hearts and brings tears to our eyes.
She is in a class of great female singers, and when I thought about who those great singers are, my list is rather sparse. Kate Smith, (“God Bless America“). Vera Lynn (“We’ll Meet Again“). Marlene Dietrich (“Falling In Love Again”, “Lili Marlene“). Edith Piaf (“La Vie En Rose“). Cas Elliot (“Dream A Little Dream”). Barbra Streisand (“Memories“). Celine Dion (“Pour que tu m’aimes encore“).
Could we possibly be starting to realize that the shiny stuff doesn’t count? That all we’re all looking for something real?
Susan Boyle may be more than the most talented Britain there is. She may be the marker we’ve been looking for all along. A reality check.