". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Everyday Heroes

You are probably familiar with the Susan Boyle craze that is sweeping the blogosphere. She is the middle-aged woman whose audition for the television show Britain's Got Talent has taken on a life of its own. I have to say that when I first watched the video of her singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables, I didn't quite get what all the fuss was about. Yes, she has a very good voice--but I know a lot of good singers, including several that I think have better ones. Why aren't they on YouTube getting all this attention? All I could come up with is Susan Boyle herself and her life story and her looks, both of which for some reason make people think she won't be able to sing. So she's never been kissed and she's not model-attractive. Why does that make people surprised that she can sing? Watching the video of her audition, I will admit I was moved by the sight of an everyday woman like myself finally getting to pursue her dream. I get that. Good for her! But my initial reaction to her voice was that yes, it's nice, but it is lacking a bit in nuance and sounds like it could use a little more training. All you Susan Boyle fans out there, please don't come gunning for me!

But then I heard this recording of Ms. Boyle singing "Cry Me a River" (HT: Gene Veith). It's from a charity CD recorded in 1999. All I can say is "Wow!" Now that is a voice! I think it's much better than her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" and shows off much more of what her voice is capable of. The "I Dreamed a Dream" performance uses sort of an all-out Broadway approach, whereas this song in my opinion shows many more layers of Ms. Boyle's voice. I can't help wondering if the Britain's Got Talent people got hold of Ms. Boyle and made her dress and sing a certain way and perhaps even picked that song (listen to the words) so as to maximize the desired effect. Certainly it is to their benefit to have the Susan Boyle phenomenon sweeping the world the way it is, and seeing as how this is not the first time something like this has happened with this show, I can't help wondering to what extent it was set up.

I know; I'm a cynic. But none of this takes away from the personal stories of Paul Potts and Susan Boyle, both of whom are gifted people who in pursuing their dreams have obviously inspired and touched millions of people. At the same time, I'm a little troubled by the implication that neither of them did anything worthwhile until they hit it big on YouTube and that only now have their lives taken on any meaning. There are many, many talented people in the world--people who are just as talented as these two and whose stories are just as compelling--who will never win a talent competition or make it on to YouTube, and I am inspired by them as much as by Susan Boyle, even moreso, because some of them are people I know personally and have watched day in and day out as they try to make a living and care for their families and go to church. They may not have fame, but they are every bit as admirable and inspiring as Susan Boyle and Paul Potts, and I don't have to go to the internet to see them.

I bet you have some of those people in your life, too. Next time you see them, why don't you give them a YouTube moment and let them know how special you think they are?


Phillip said...

Oh, honey, I think you're being a grump. Maybe your sinuses are getting the best of you.

Of course the producers knew Paul Potts and Susan Boyle could sing. People tune in because they want to see that "Britain's Got Talent". That's the point! No reason to be cynical about it. It's all good fun - and with the British empire caved, their economy tanked, their leadership inane, and their society being over-run by Muslims and punks - I think it is jolly good that our friends across the pond are being inspired be all this. Perhaps a few of them might even get their moxie back. It's be good if Britain started dreaming and acheiving again.

But I do like your ending. So let me just add that I admire you greaty, think you are more than special, and thank the Lord that I have you in my life to make each day a great one!

atara said...

My guess is her popularity is more a result of the underdog showing everyone up. She's become the poster child for that, which I might add, is a pretty cool cause.

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Cheryl said...

Okay, okay, okay--I'm an allergy-beset grump! For the record, I'm not saying Susan Boyle isn't talented--clearly, she is--but that I don't quite get the huge sensation that she has become, especially since I don't think the "I Dreamed A Dream" performance shows the full extent of what she is capable. But maybe I have cotton in my ears. I'm clearly in the minority, not only in the world but in my own family. But that's okay. I can handle it.

I wonder how much of this is attributable to the wired world in which we live and the ease with which we can pass things like this around?

And to Phil: "I'm rubber and you're glue; everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you." :-)

Anonymous said...

Just a few quick observations:

1. You stated, "I am inspired by them as much as by Susan Boyle, even moreso, because some of them are people I know personally." Susan Boyle sang in obscurity for decades. Perhaps she sang in local small groups, perhaps in her church. Regardless, I suspect people who knew her wondered why she never received wider attention. It is not her fault that you are not among those people who knew her personally and wished her greater recognition. Perhaps one day one of your acquantances will be publically known. Then people in Scotland will have an opportunity to grumble.

2. You also stated, "Yes, she has a very good voice--but I know a lot of good singers, including several that I think have better ones." This is an interesting comment on talent. Susan Boyle's singing brought me to tears. I had never heard the song she performed so I searched for other versions of that song, most of them left me cold. On further reflection, I remembered a quote, which I found, regarding Miles Davis. "It should be understood from the start that Miles Davis was not a virtuoso trumpeter. There were plenty of other . . . men around at the end of the war who could blow him off stage without effort. Mile's great gift was musical rather than technical. He could place a note with the precision and accuracy of the painters he admired . . ." There is another review of his music which noted that he frequently played off key, cracked notes and got the tempo wrong, yet every mistake made the music sound better. I read a similar comment about a mathemetican whose partner stated, "I was the better mathemetician, but I never made a breakthrough. He was alway making mistakes, but somehow those mistakes were always in the right direction." This gets to the nature of talent. Susan Boyle made me cry, the other singers on YouTube left me cold. Her flat notes added emotion. The others' flawless renditions were sterile. And I suspect that is the reason people like her.

Kim said...

I think a lot of the appeal to people like this is not just that they have a good voice but that they came from a simple background and had the gumption to give this a try.

Sure lots of people have good voices but how many of them are willing to put themselves out there and audition for something like this? It takes a lot of courage to get up in front on that many people, a television camera, and 3 judges who can be brutal not knowing what they will say. Most people are inspired by that kind of courage mixed with the natural talent these people already possess.

Joy said...

I wonder when she'll finally tell people how insulting it is that everyone's fixated on her looks. If a news journalist asked me if I'd agree to a make-over, I'd say, "Are you suggesting I need one?"