Talk About Quality

Tom Harris

Zen and the Art of Boyle

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“Britain’s Ugly Duckling Breaks Out in Song” I slowly translated off the showbiz page of a foreign-language newspaper. I had to work at it to figure out that it said “Susan Boyle” and then look up her appearance on YouTube from a week ago. Anyone who wants to be moved by song, and doesn’t mind (or enjoys) the contrast with “beautiful people” celebrity judges putting feet in their mouths, should stop and listen.

I thought I would have nothing to add to the commentary on a musical appearance that saw over two million views (and that’s just on one upload, let alone the original TV broadcast). But after reading the 5-day-old Wikipedia entry, and some of the newspaper articles in the references, I wondered why nobody offered the obvious. Good singing comes from interpretive ability, soul, and poise. Anyone who has enjoyed opera would have no reason to be surprised–and every reason to be moved–by Boyle’s voice. Similarly by that of her “predecessor” Paul Potts. It is the furthest thing from coincidence that Potts sang opera, and Boyle sang from a musical, both genres that are formally performed live without a microphone.

So, while Tanya Gold and others may not be wrong in their social analyses, they are missing the point. Song, in contrast to the child of yesteryear, is to be heard and not seen.

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Written by Tom Harris

April 17, 2009 at 1:10 am

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