Finding talent

If you haven’t heard of the singer Susan Boyle – and I must confess that until yesterday I hadn’t – you really need to watch the clip on youtube which I will give you at the end of this post.

Susan Boyle is from a rural area of Scotland, and according to her own account has been an enthusiastic singer from a very young age, wanting to be a professional. And I should tell you, she has a voice that would make ice melt. Think Elaine Page (to whose style she aspires), but then think 3,000 times better. Think of one of the best popular female singers you could imagine hearing. That’s Susan Boyle. It’s not necessarily the style of music that I listen to most, but I’d make an exception here.

Susan Boyle appeared on a British television show, Britain’s Got Talent, and she wowed the audience and the judges to such an extent that they were giving her a standing ovation before she had even got to the third bar of her song. And at the end of her performance the judges declared her to be the best singer they had heard in three seasons of the show. And from there she just took off, jetting from rural Scotland to the television studios of America and almost instant celebrity status.

So what is so amazing? Well, Susan Boyle is 47 years old. She has a wholly attractive and vivacious personality, but let us say her looks are not the looks of someone whom the editors would choose for the front page of your average fashion magazine. Some have called her ‘frumpy’.

As she sang on the show that discovered her, you could see the audience just willing her on, and you could see that it was only partly because of her extraordinary voice; it was partly because in their hearts they all knew that the world doesn’t normally given the Susan Boyles a chance. So she stands in the limelight for all those who don’t have what someone decides are conventionally good looks, for all those who have talent but who come up against the superficiality and prejudices of the rest of us. And that may be the end of the story, unless we learn to give everyone the chance they deserve on the basis of who they are. I hope she lights a fire.

So here is Susan Boyle.

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4 Comments on “Finding talent”

  1. Will Knott Says:

    She recorded a charity CD in 1999 (it sounds like lots of local acts / singers put something together) where she sings “Cry Me A River”.
    It is a brilliant version of the song. Its also on youtube now.

  2. Iain Says:

    “Rural” is also a highly romanticised description…ex-mining, bleak, windswept, etc, is probably closer to the truth for much of that part of West Lothian. But hey, I’m from Paisley, which is ex-industrial, bleak, rainswept! hah!

  3. Wendymr Says:

    The Cry Me a River recording on the Scottish Daily Record website, plus the story of how it came to be found.

    And I sincerely hope she resists attempts to turn her into some sort of made-over identikit ‘star’. If that first appearance taught us anything, it’s not to judge anyone purely on the basis of looks.


  4. “Conventionally good looks” are not “what someone decides”. How convention arises is more complicated than that.

    And besides, there is a case to be made that for performers, looks are an *inherent* part of their aptitude rather than just “superficiality and prejudices”.


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