Dec 02

Susan Boyle- The Emperor's got Talent.

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I was right about The Darkness. Sorry, but while you were all hailing them as the new ‘Queen’ I was shaking my head and thinking, ‘That lad’s a ‘top C’ and a bag of chips away from disaster.’
I still feel I’m right about button flies. I stand there by the exit of public toilets, fiddling with myself and thinking, ‘This is how they came up with ‘The Cube’!’

I was wrong about Uggs- fair enough. I was wrong about Mark Wright- seems like a decent lad, he can live. I’m happy to be corrected.

So can somebody, please, tell me why Susan Boyle is worth millions?

I saw her this morning on the day-before-yesterdays ’This morning’, which I’m sure qualifies me for my own Tardis, and all I could think was what I always think when I hear her sing: “It’s just a woman, singing!”

As I write, my wife is treading the boards in a West-End musical. Many of our friends are from the same industry. Trained, talented people. My wife can sing. She’s a very good singer- a professional, as it were. She’s not worth millions.

Susan Boyle can sing, of course she can. She’s got quite a nice voice, but take the echo off her microphone and she’s just a woman who can sing, and there are thousands of those.

Everyone, even now, goes back to that moment on BGT when she came out onto the stage looking, it has to be said, slightly bovine and did what has, in my opinion, made her fortune. She sang ‘better than expected’. In other words, she sings better then she looks like she can sing. If she’d looked like Celine Dion she’d have got a raised eyebrow from Simon and a, ‘yes, but would the Queen like it?’ from Piers.

She waddled out before the judges, all flock wall paper and facial hair, and started gyrating her hips and speaking in tongues. Everyone thought she was going to be guided gently back off by someone in a smock and marigolds muttering, “Honestly Susan, I turn my back for five minutes…” But instead she nodded to the magic hand on the sound system that, thankfully for her, could still play C90 cassette tapes, and let rip.

It was impressive. Anton- the taller half of the conjoined presentation unit ‘Anton Dec’, turned to the camera, “You didn’t expect that, Didga!” I shook my head- I hadn’t. But then, I didn’t expect Diversity to be as good as they were. I didn’t expect that guy who swallows snooker balls and goldfish to be able to regurgitate Amanda Holden’s ring after unlocking it with his over-worked duodenum, but he did, and he’s not worth millions either.

Nine days later she’s an internet sensation and tipped to win the whole thing. She’s mentioned on Oprah and has been credited with reinventing music altogether and fathering/mothering Jesus, so I thought I ought to Google her performances since that moment on BGT and see what all the fuss is about.

Well, apart from that two minutes and twenty seconds of audition, and a CD version of ‘cry me a River’ from TEN YEARS previously. There was nothing… that would be ‘nothing at all’, the kind of thing that you’re left with if you take something from something- that nothing.

That CD of ‘Cry Me A River’ by the way, was dug up after her appearance on BGT. ‘Hello’ claimed it “cemented her status” as a singing star and no less a journal than the New York Times saw it as proof that she wasn’t just a ‘one trick pony.’ But, surely, even a pony with two tricks is no ‘Mr. Ed’.

Years pass and I’m left fiddling with my flies while I queue outside the Ugg shop for a £200 pair of lazily-crafted slippers, expecting the moment of revelation to come. Waiting for that enlightenment where I suddenly hear what everyone else can hear, but I can’t. All I can hear is a woman singing. All I can see is a woman who can sing better than her appearance would have you expect.

Susan, like Cher and Madonna, is now known by only one name but, unlike them and more like Jedward, it’s not her actual name but an abbreviated amalgamation: ‘SUBO’. Thankfully her second name isn’t Bale or it would be ‘SUBA’ which is ‘A BUS’ backwards and her PR people will want her as far from associations with the back of a bus as possible.

The worry is that, as her image is cultivated and her appearance improves, that ‘juxtaposition’ [wikipedia’s word- not mine] is lessened. As her fame and income increase she will, inevitably, end up looking more like Beyoncé Knowles and less like Nick Knowles and somebody, somewhere will finally look at her and think, ‘Hang on, it’s just a woman, singing.’

From what I’ve seen of her, Susan Boyle is a lovely lady. She seems to have a good sense of humour, a degree of humility and a half decent singing voice. I have nothing against her at all and wish her all the best. I just don’t understand, now the surprise has worn off, what all the fuss is about.

Maybe I’m wrong- maybe, thankfully, she’s not ‘in the altogether’ after all and her voice really is millions of pounds better than all the other women who can sing but, like the emperor’s new outfit, I just can’t see it.

  • Anonymous

    I have to disagree, I think he’s picked a perfect topic for a blog – you just don’t like his opinion.

    I kind of agree with the sentiment, and like Ian I don’t hold anything personally against Susan Boyle herself; rather I hold the whole record industry machine with contempt for promoting her (along with various other TV talent show prodigies) rather than cultivating real talent.

    She is an OK singer at best, but now has the advantage of a very slick and professional studio production team behind her; but she is (IMHO) certainly not worthy of the career she is now enjoying.  She is sadly the latest example of a record industry clutching at straws, and chasing the lowest common denominator rather than striving to promote/produce quality acts.

    I am a professional musician (not a singer!), and know and work with many singers who would knock SUBO into the proverbial cocked hat (with or without the polished studio production). As for 14 million CD’s in 14 months etc – sales don’t automatically equate talent: don’t forget, the general public regularly buy records of dubious merit – even Timmy Mallet managed to shift quite a few copies of Itsy Witsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini!

  • Hi everybody. Firstly, let me thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. I just thought I ought to put a few things straight.
    Firstly, my wife isn’t struggling, in fact she’s doing very well indeed. she’s an established performer in musical theater and has played some of the biggest roles in some of the biggest musicals- I only mentioned her to illustrate that, unlike your average guy, I am surrounded by highly trained and successful professional performers and singers.
    Secondly, I have made it quite clear that I don’t begrudge Susan any of her fame or fortune. As I said, she appears t be a lovely, decent person and I wish her all the best. The point of my blog is really about the level of her fame. People with equal status usually have something that I can say, ‘it’s because of that’ whether I agree with it or not but with Susan it’s really just her voice [she doesn’t play anything, or write anything and it’s not about being pretty or having huge stage performances and a wild lifestyle- not that any of that is in itself a good thing or any more deserving of success) and although I agree that she does have a lovely voice, it’s not, in my opinion, good ENOUGH to warrant such a level of fame.
    She’s a good singer and I would expect her to be at the same level as others of that ilk who have a solid fan base and release cover versions of famous songs- and do very well out of it, deservedly so. But her stratospheric fame isn’t accounted for, in my opinion, by her talent alone. That’s my point.
    I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve what she has because who can say what anyone deserves from footballers to painters- is Justin Bieber worth more? not in my opinion but he’s a megastar and fair play to the lad I say. It’s no skin off my nose if she earns billions, I’m really just musing on why she’s as famous as she is when her talent isn’t that much better than many others.

  • Anonymous

    Also…You & quite possibly any sharks coming here ready to devour made an assessment of Susans talent or “singing ability” on THREE songs.
    You did lousy research.
    Try 52.
    That’s how many songs sung by Susan Boyle are on-line.SEVEN from before BGT , FOUR during BGT- including 2 expanded versions for the BGT Tour, and the rest post BGT – including 3 RECORDED Duets, and 2 unrecorded duets sung on stage.This also includes 4 songs exclusively for Japan and 2 extra songs exclusively to QVC when you purchase her current Cd SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME .
    .Its what SETS SUSAN APART from other singers , that have made her so popular.
    Real Susan Boyle fans have made the discoveries of just what she is capable of vocally’’a voice that only comes along once in a century.Babs, Celine,Whitney,Annie Lennox Mariah, Kelly, Adele, Carrie they are all phenomenal singers, but for every song they sing , their voice is recognizable.
    Not so with Susan.Cant tell you how many debates Ive come across from folks trying to convince others that “its not Susans voice” but someone younger ..or …its autotuned.
    Nope. She is a mezzo soprano at 50 with perfect pitch no auto tune required and she can sound like so many DIFFERENT singers at once:
    Bette, Celine, Judy Garland,Beverly Sills,LULU, Tammy Wynette, Liza Minelli, Kate Smith Julie Andrews,Kate Bush, Aretha, Tori Amos,Adele, Janis Joplin,Lena Horne, just to name a few.
    Pick a genre , she can sing it .Her voice also transports you to times and places.
    Wild Horses sounds like you are watching a herd of wild horses running across a misty field.
    Up to the Mountain she sounds like a worn and weary hillbilly woman from the Smoky Mountains.
    Wings to Fly feels like an angel lifting you to heaven. Her high notes in O Holy Night are different then her high notes in Unchained Melody ..or Proud or Who I was Born to Be.
    O Holy Night will either knock you to the floor or rapture you .
    Autumn leaves sound like the crispness of Autumn, First Star (or Sukyaki) only exclusive to Japan sounds like she is IN Japan..
    Enjoy the Silence is haunting. Mad world SURREAL and sounds like a teenager.Her vibrato makes your body shake and go check out Don’t Give Up on me exclusive only to QVC ( on Youtube) .
    She sounds like a whisky drinking chain smokin “bluesy soullful ” Janis Joplin !
    Before you make ur “assessment” go listen to all 52 songs then you will hear what gets Susan Boyle fans excited and shes only just begun…at 50 ! Sorry but NONE of the popular artists today match that calibre. Even Barbra Streisand called her a “musical poet”. And artists everywhere are dying to work with her …and YOU thought all she was capable of was SHOWTUNES. Trust me she has A LOT more sides to her, to reveal to the world.SUSAN BOYLE FANS KNOW THIS !

  • Anonymous

    Dear Sir, you picked the wrong topic for a blog.
    If you really want to get the convos going , then you need to do some deeper research , into the RADIO industry , revealing the dark truths about it , because , here is the truth: Susan Boyle SHOULD be even MORE successful then she has been , but , what you & many others don’t even know is that she is “locked out” of Radio play ; UNLIKE all the other artists that you hear of .
    You speak of your wife , and to any sharks coming here to devour Miss Boyle ,you best listen too , cause this could be YOU in the future .
    How do you think it feels to a Susan Boyle fan knowing that , all the OTHER “name” artists (many belonging to a certain “club” ) that you REGULARILY hear about all the time , get frequent daily RADIO PLAY and Susan gets NONE ;not on easy listening or soft rock ;NONE .
    Have any of you ever once thought about how artists GET played on the Radio or do you take it for granted cause your so conditioned to not give it a second thought when you turn on your car radio. ? How would you like it if your WIFE was locked out of regular radio play sir , but all the other artists get heard ?
    You best do some research , to find out how things work , cause they are NOT as they seem.
    Susan became as successful as she did , WITHOUT the benefit of frequent RADIO play, unlike Adele , whom NEEDED that help & it has been that non stop RADIO PLAY that has catapulted ADELE to the fame she has now, but, the reality is that WITHOUT it , few people would even know whom Adele is .
    Well…this is the year that Susan NEEDS that frequent radio play to MAINTAIN her success, because unless she is HEARD , not many people even know she has a cd out , so now you’re learning about the unfairness of the biz. It will disilusion you and discourage & enrage , when you dig deeper to learn what goes on behind the scenes and why some artists get that non stop play & others are locked out .
    Are you sure all you sharks coming here hungrily to prey on Miss Boyle , really want to do that , knowing that one day YOU TOO could be locked out of radio play, just like she is ?Don’t you think that’s just a bit unfair to Susan and no different if it were to happen to you ?
    Write up a new blog sir, one worthy and beneficial for others -not a menial piece like this to tear down some little 50 yr old Scottish woman whom only wants to be a professional singer.If she doesn’t get the FREQUENT radio play that she DESERVES , she will LOSE that success sir (it could happen to any of you ) then do you really want to kick someone down further ?
    14 million cds in 14 months & NO#1 in 30 countries DOES NOT automatically mean frequent radio play ,so whom does she have to rely on except her diehard fans.

  • J S

    I’m wondering which other successful singers you don’t feel are worthy of their good fortune.  I’d imagine there are quite a few who you think should give it all up and allow people who are better to fill their spot.
    Now the question is, just how will this be accomplished?  Who’s going to decide who deserves a singing career and who doesn’t?  You?  Then everyone will get to enjoy only singers that you deem fit.
    Talk about hubris.

  • J S

    Mr. Watson, if your wife ever gets her big break, I know that she’ll just throw it away because there’s thousands of better singers out there who deserve that chance.  Am I right?

  • Anonymous

    Susan has grown so much in the past two and a half years.  Her music has grown with her.  Her voice is rich and powerful, and you can hear her heart when she sings … she doesn’t just sing a song – she sings a whole feeling.  I’m sorry you find it necessary to compare what she has worked for and achieved with people, like your wife, who are still pounding the boards, as you say. Those people have a hard task, but  Susan deserves all she has received! 

  • Anonymous

    Not only does Susan have an engaging and beautiful voice, she also possesses a charisma that a lot of singers don’t have.  But, some don’t get it, as you don’t.  That’s ok with me…sorry…that’s your loss.  I wish your wife well in her career.  But don’t begrudge someone who-after working on her craft against many odds for many years-finally caught a break.

  • Anonymous

    The theatre is a hard road to take and I sympathize with your wife.

     Perhaps, you don’t know that Susan Boyle attended the Edinburgh Theater School for 2 years to prepare herself for what your wife is doing.  But family responsibilities prevailed and when she was free, she was too old to start at the bottom.  She needed to sing and make a living at it.  She took the path that was available to her.  Don’t blame her that it turned out to be lucrative beyond her wildest dreams.  Money, other than paying her bills, clearly doesn’t mean much to her.   Given the option, which she wasn’t, I think she would have preferred to have your wife’s career.

  • Anonymous

    Well, that about sums it up:  you just can’t see it.  What I read here is an awful lot of resentment, which just might be coloring your hearing.  The implication is that everyone who loves her voice (sorry, there really are many) is either tasteless or gullible.  I know better than that; I know all the reasons (the real reasons) why so many of us genuinely like her.  But I also know better than to try to explain it to you, because you don’t want to know.  I’m sorry your wife is struggling, and I’m sure she’s very good.  Maybe it’s just bad luck.  But then maybe not all good singers can reach me deep inside as Subo does.  There is something about her voice.  It’s OK if not everyone can hear it.  I can.

  • Anonymous