Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle

If you haven't seen this yet, watch it. It is astounding.

I confess, I've watched this YouTube video about six or seven times in a row. And I'm not done yet. What is it about this performance that is so riveting?

Let's face it, 47-year-old Susan Boyle is never going to be Miss America. And a day at the salon is not going to change things too drastically for her. When I first saw her, I did not want to be her. I felt sorry for her. But when she opened her mouth to sing, everything changed.

Let me step back. I'm probably one of the few humans on Planet Earth who doesn't watch American Idol. It's not because I'm too good for the show; it's because I cannot, absolutely cannot bear the shame of the mostly untalented contestants. I'm told by my friends who love the show that mocking the losers who are so un-self-aware, that hating the judges for saying what everyone is thinking, that indulging in the judgment - is all part of the show's appeal. It's not so much that I am above all this that makes me not want to watch the show; it's that there is a nasty, low part of me that would enjoy all this that makes me not want to watch the show. The part of me that would revel in tearing down the poor talentless freaks who are so full of themselves, the part of me that wants the pretty people to do well and the homely people to be sent home, this very low, mean-spirited, judgmental part of me that the show draws out - I don't want to be in touch with that part of me. I don't even want to acknowledge that she exists.

I first clicked on the video of this episode of the British American Idol as a link on a friend's Facebook page. When I first saw Susan Boyle, I thought to myself, who is she kidding? She was so relentlessly perky in her cheap dress and cheaper optimism. This was going to be utterly humiliating. And that low, ugly part of my psyche stirred and waited for her to fail.

But then she opened her mouth and effortlessly let out that voice. That transformative, beautiful, astounding voice.

My initial thought was "what an odd container God has chosen to pour so much talent into." I watched the video two or three more times. I googled Elaine Paige, the singer that Susan Boyle mentioned that she would like to be like. Boyle's version of this song is better, much better. It isn't so much that Boyle was good. It's that she was perfect. Every note, the phrasing, the pitch, the clarity... if ever there was a cosmic, perfect, whole moment for this song, this woman has evoked it. Her voice and her talent are extraordinary.

And so, yes, God has chosen an unusual vessel for this remarkable talent. And that ugly part of me that I don't want to acknowledge has quietly slunk away.

Go Susan Boyle, and take it to the finish line.

UPDATE: here's Susan Boyle singing Cry Me a River in 1999. Unreal.


mk said...

What a voice! She just needs a new wardrobe a little war paint, and she could be the next Madonna. ;-)

smoo said...

I really appreciate how self aware you are. Human nature has underlying mechanisms that aren't always pretty. Attractiveness and symmetry is pleasing and evokes positive reactions. The converse is true for ugliness. What sets us apart from our evolutionary programing is the ability to recognize the fallacy of such base determinations and CHOOSE to rise above it. Sadly, most humans have not reached that level of comprehension and cognitive behavioral modification.