Thursday, April 16, 2009

Humility, Talent and Song Meet Your Moment: Susan Boyle

There's a saying in the business: "She killed," as in going on stage and having the audience in the palm of one's hand.

By now, everyone's seen and had their say about Susan Boyle, as if scripted by Tinsletown's storymakers. She has that completely potent and disarming combo: humility and talent. The truth is she has limited range but there are certain songs that match well with particular singers - this was a case. Even here with "I Dreamed a Dream," she struggles on the lower register at 3:17-3:29. A good vocal coach can help her around that, and we'll see. Nonetheless, she has the power and good tonal quality that matches this song well. Coupled with her charm and talent, the couldn't-have-been-scripted-better-Hollywood-buildup of doubt and outright laughing at her based upon her appearance and age... then the complete killing of the audience, and it's a classic.

Most people comment they love Simon's look/reaction when she first begins to sing, but there are two points in the video I like;

1. The first occurs at about 3:00, and is a shot of a few seconds from behind her. The bright lights and the loneliness of a solitary performer on stage makes a dramatic shot.


2. The second is at about 4:12, and would normally be the point in the song where "the big dramatic pause" takes place, where a singer, particularly a show singer (think Liza), gathers herself for the crescendo. Some showy singers also emote, closing the eyes, tilting the head, or flowery hand gestures... None of that bullshit here. Instead, with the camera on a medium shot she stands there smiling and nodding in time. Completely unpretentious.


After the big finish, she proves how unpretentious she is by just strolling off the stage, la dee da, la dee da, completely unaffected by all the hoopla, and they have to call her back for the judging - I gotta say, it's pretty cute.

Amanda Holden was the only one who was honest, saying while turning back toward the audience, that everyone "was against you," - that's code for, "because you're ugly, no one takes you seriously" - and that Susan's performance was "the biggest wake-up call, ever."

There's so much more I could say about her performance, because, not that I'm Godard, but like the great one did extrapolating and deconstructing the photograph of Jane Fonda in, A Letter to Jane, I think someone more competent than I could have a field day riffing about beauty and assumptions, let alone humility and being unpretentious.

Aged 47, never married, she says she's never been kissed. I think part of Susan's charm is because people recognize that she's not canned, trained or spit out by a machine, let alone affected otherwise. She is your "basic real person" and an anomaly in today's world; humble, talented and unpretentious. Oprah's already reached out to have her on. Will she survive? I hope so.

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