The wave started with a few laughs, eye-rolls and even jeers when Susan Boyle had the nerve to step to the center of the “Britain’s Got Talent” stage, the TV venue for acid-tongued critic Simon Cowell & Co., and said her dream was to be a professional singer.
Then she opened her mouth to sing —
And the shock continued after the audience was silenced, stunned by her drop-dead-gorgeous voice, in press accounts of how she, a 47-year-old “spinster,” a church volunteer from a small Scottish village, had “shocked” Cowell & crew and the world by actually having gifts.
Unsaid — but loud and clear in every account — is the phrase “despite her age and her looks.”
Boyle is no beauty. She’s pie-faced, middle aged, far beyond the cookie-cutter “ideal” weight. Her hair looks untouched by a professional or salon, and her clothing announces that she is the poster child for “frump.”
But that she turns out to have the voice of an angel — this sends shockwaves?
What’s shocking, I think, is the million-dollar industries built around no-talent, one-voice-fits-all Barbie dolls with perky, perfect bodies and technically augmented voices. They all aspire to sound like young, but sexually active children gasping in the throes of orgasm.
They are legion, and given the conformity of their brand, I need not name them.
I can only be grateful that I — a middle-aged, far-beyond cookie-cutter “ideal” weight — grew up in an age when people recorded music because of their enormous vocal talent, not vivacious thigh movements.
Had Aretha Franklin started her career in this day when idolizing women adept at physical training — never mind vocal — is the rage, we’d never have heard from the Queen of Soul. Also among the missing would’ve been Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, the Wilson sisters and almost every female opera singer who ever lived.
I applaud Ms. Boyle in my best, loudest shower singing voice. I hope she will continue to shock the pants off the critics, and to point out our formula-fed media’s notions — especially that “form” overcomes “content” — to raise questions about the value we place on true talent.
And on well-packaged crap.