Susan Boyle Can Sing. That’s The Point.


I finally got to see the Susan Boyle video on YouTube and, not surprisingly, I was extremely impressed with her performance of I Dreamed a Dream; she has an amazing voice and I’m sure that she’ll be starting a new and exciting career. Sure, it’s not exactly my type of music but there’s no denying the fact that this woman has a true gift.

The big deal in the media the past few days seems to be about how she’s become an overnight star and the biggest sensation in YouTube’s history (according to Mashable):

Now, the YouTube video of the performance is approaching levels of some of the biggest viral hits of all-time. Visible Measures, which tracks online video usage, estimates that so far Boyle’s performance has already been seen more than 47 million times in all, taking into account all of the reproductions of the original.

Also, great news for someone who deserves it, and she certainly does. Her instantaneous rise is a rare Cinderella story of someone who comes out of obscurity to win hearts and cause everyone to literally stand up and take notice.

The video also shows the obvious callousness on the part of the judges and audience members because of her physical appearance, a point which seems to have been the setup for her performance the subsequent angle of most articles written about her.

The BBC said:

Last Saturday, viewers saw Boyle, with double chin, unkempt hair, frumpy appearance and eccentric demeanour, step onto the talent show stage and proclaim her dream of being a professional singer.

The judges rolled their eyes and the audience pulled incredulous faces. Onlookers, on set and at home, were rubbing their hands at the prospect of another hopeless, deluded loser being crushed by a withering Simon Cowell insult.

A “withering Simon Cowell insult”? Really, in these hard times, who would give a fuck about what this self-important narcissist had to say… about anything?

Later in the article there were quotes about how she has shattered stereotypes associated with stardom and physical appearance. Not quite redemptive enough to counter the story’s introduction, though; I don’t know if I’d feel better if I read an article about me that started off by describing me like that and, at the end, the author tacked on some quotes to offset a jab… particularly from a supposedly reputable media source such as The BBC.

The LA Times felt the need to include in their report that she was “just another 47-year-old Scottish virgin” and WalesOnline refers to her as “[t]he whiskered wallflower from West Lothian” who “has gone from ‘never been kissed’” to overnight celebrity.

There’s plenty more of the same out there right now, including a few that imply she should consider getting a “make-over”.

My question is: what do any of these details have to do with the fact that Susan Boyle can sing? Because she made Simon Cowell see dollar signs? Because token female judge — an attractive blonde, by societal standards — pretended to be moved by Boyle’s voice? Or, as most sites and blogs are noting, that Susan Boyle “shattered stereotypes” about appearance and talent?

The popular question floating around is, “What if Susan Boyle couldn’t sing?” That’s the polite way of asking, “What if Susan Boyle looked like a Barbie doll?” The unexpected — but rehearsed (don’t be fooled by clever editing) — appearance on Britain’s Got Talent has given a jaded global audience of pop-culture consumers a platform to feel better about themselves; they’re busy patting themselves on the back by parroting that they can see past her looks and behold the beauty within. If that were the case, why the need to broadcast it day and night? Why not just talk about her singing, or when will she release an album?

While bloggers can squawk all they want and hide behind their online personas, the profit-making media machine is still expected to report rather than opine or speculate for the sake of sheer sensationalism. If they — the “mainstream media” — would like to continue to enjoy their lofty status as the distributors of the world’s propaganda and distractions while still making a few dollars, they might want to regroup and go back to staying focused on delivering the facts; leave the rest of the bullshit to the bloggers. Just a thought.

Here’s a question: if you heard Susan Boyle on the radio, or downloaded one of her songs from iTunes, would you care what she looked like?

Why do people let their eyes do the listening?

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