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Saturday, April 18, 2009

What does Susan Boyle mean for music?

AROUND THE WORLD & OF NOTE: By Now, you know who Susan Boyle is. And if you don't know who Susan Boyle is - you may need to plug in a computer. In a world of grey, this one's pretty black and white.

Boyle, a single, unemployed woman who lives alone with her cat in a small, relatively quiet Scottish village was unknown to most of her neighbors up until a recent televised singing trial for Britain's Got Talent." Diminutive in stature, but high in pep, Boyle (who is certainly not the traditional sex-symbol we are used to seeing on tv) immediately went from small town poppet to world sensation in hours.

Susan Boyle became a Global Sensation overnight



Exaggeration? (Just listen.) Copies of Boyle's performance began proliferating on the online video sites. (One is below.) If you add all the views up - more than 100 Million people were exposed to her performance through internet video alone - and in just the first few days after she sang for the fist time on the show. The performance was also televised (and then re-televised globally) and has since landed her television and radio exposure as well. (Here is Entertainment Weekly's coverage of Boyle's appearance on Larry King Live. Remarkable!)

And it was all due to her unbelievably good performance. (Of course, her looks, her age and her self-ridiculing jokes helped to effectively lower the audience's and judges' expectations.) But no one could have ever expected this:



I think it's safe to say that we all like to see the underdog win - and it certainly costs us nothing to cheer for Susan Boyle. (Especially since supporting her doesn't hurt anyone else... in Celebrity, there's always room for more - at least that's what we tell ourselves...) But let's consider for a moment what Boyle's well-deserved overnight success might mean for Music in general. Are the days of labels "creating" seed bands (you know, the fabricated "boy-" and "girl-" bands - the most successful of which was probably The Spice Girls and N-Sync) over? What would happen to people if we didn't have payola to decide for us what to listen to on the radio or to decide which new talent gets the largest marketing budget and who gets iced based on principle alone (not on actual talent)?

Obviously, Susan Boyle isn't going to change the world on her own - but much can be learned from her success. Our mass exposure to Susan Boyle threatens the Global media outlets. (They see you as consumers instead of interested parties... Well, the consumers are being enlightened by a woman from Scotland!) What can you do? Buy and listen to only what's good. (One would think that's easy enough...) Don't believe the hype. And maybe the best lesson: Great things do come in new forms and small packages.

Since music is the international human language, people can recognize talent when they see it. (They don't need a television judge to tell them what's decent!) Perhaps that's the greatest irony of Boyle's emergence on a talent program. She is far better than the platform! And now the whole world knows.

4 comments:

Jeff said...

Yeah, this story has gotten a lot of attention, but it also happened once in the past on the same show. The 2007 winner was Paul Potts, who came out of nowhere and blew everyone away with his opera singing. I got choked up when I saw it and I don't even like opera. Watch the video on youtube.

If you like rooting for the underdog, you should check out Anvil! The story of Anvil. It's playing at Kendall Square now. If you've seen Spinal Tap, this is the real Spinal Tap.

The Lone Beader said...

I think it's interesting that she never pursued her dreams of singing until now! I think she should do Broadway. She's perfect!

March to the Sea said...

Paul Potts from the season before was a similar story. He has a second cd coming out, has toured etc and was a similar "wishy washy" looking person at the outset.

I like the story, and her voice. Its far better than the crap that American Idol is trying to sell. I wish her well. Will I buy her cd? Probably not..but still its nice to see the "losers" "win" once in a while.

Michael Johnson said...

Wow, this is a great observation! I've been thinking quite a bit lately about similar issues, and this is something I had not even thought of! It's especially funny that Simon, who was one of the masterminds behind the Spice Girls, was won over by Susan Boyle.

Thank you so much for this post. It made my day!