Thursday, April 16, 2009

Britain's Got World-Class Talent... from Scotland

This is one of those stories that made me redouble my efforts here to The Cyberculturalist, as I'd heard about this days ago and all but forgotten it until I saw it earlier on the national news. Yes, it's official: 47-year old Susan Boyle is a worldwide phenomenon. And for good reason: the Scottish church-goer is an absolutely incredible singer!

Boyle told the audience of the TV show, Britain's Got Talent, she's always wanted to be a singer. Unfortunately, Susan Boyle lacks that certain... flair for style which seems inherent to most entertainers. In fact, she was so... unglamorous that many audience members concluded she was another "fake" contestant - one who takes the stage knowing she has no chance at winning, and basically no talent, just for the chance to be on TV - and were quite vocal about it. The crowd was pretty ugly at the onset, and threatened to get rowdy...

And then she sang.

Now, Susan Boyle has caught the attention of Hollywood power couple, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher; her performance has garnered over 11 million hits on YouTube and nearly 7000 Diggs; she's become international news and lit-up the Blogosphere; she's even prompted her own fansite! According to everyone - including notoriously hard to impress judge, Simon Cowell - Susan Boyle is now the clear frontrunner of the 75,000 contestants of Britain's Got Talent.

"I found it very nerve-wracking to begin with, but once I settled down and began to sing, I thought that the audience accepted me a bit more. Then I sort of relaxed and began to enjoy it," she told the BBC.

Susan Boyle's sudden fame - her literal overnight success - is almost entirely dependent on the Web, and YouTube in particular. Even five years ago, her story might have made one or more entertainment news magazines/shows, and maybe a few papers - but the nightly national news!? Not very likely. She might have shown up in the last story - newscasts traditionally have a "human interest" story at the very end, an upbeat and often "puff" piece - but the Web beat them to it. Susan Boyle's performance is no longer a mere human interest matter; it's a matter of entertainment, technology, and sociology.

Her's is also a much needed story of triumph in the face of adversity. The 47-year old spinster is unemployed and told the audience she has "never been kissed." She spends her time volunteering at church and lives in a Scottish burg almost no one outside of it has ever heard of. In fact, the mayor of the province said, "Susan has put Blackburn, West Lothian, firmly on the map." She cared for both of her parents in their old-age; her mother passed in 2007, at 91. And though she's sang at church and in clubs since she was 12, and is known for her karaoke performances, no one in that audience - even on the judges' panel - thought the dowdy spinster capable of delivering the heartfelt rendition of Les Miserables' I Dreamed a Dream which has the entire Western world gawking and talking.

She's going to be on Good Morning America today! The whole "overnight success" concept is no longer a figure of speech; it is a literal possibility, and not one that TV alone has ever accomplished.

The current state of the world, the societal expectations of what talent should look like, mainstream culture's ever-growing cynicism, the sheer wealth of mediocrity which passes for entertainment these days - a conflagration of things made Susan Boyle a sensation, but only the Web made her a worldwide star in under a week.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

1 comment:

ManoDogs said...

And now, Oprah's producers have acknowledged the Scottish singing sensation will appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show, though they cannot say when.