What’s up with Susan Boyle?

I often have an adverse reaction to hype.  So, the fact that I do not hate Susan Boyle, and the incredible amount of hype she has generated in the past couple of weeks, is surprising to me, but the fact is, she has a pretty good voice.  The main problem that I have is the over-hyped situation associated with her.

I thought about the situation, and have come up with a few theories as to why this situation has blown up as much as it has.  Part of this has to do with the American Idol effect (Yes, I know she was on Britain’s Got Talent).  These types of programs offer several different stereotypical contestants.  Two of the main types are the ‘serious good contestant’ and the ‘complete bit contestant.’

The serious contestant is the one that the show thinks has a real possibility of competing.  They are usually very good singers, and average looking to decent looking or very good looking and decent singers.  Sometimes they offer the ‘total package’- the guy or girl who is both very good looking and a very good performer.  They go far in the competition.

The bit contestant is the one whose sole reason for being on the program is that he or she did not get enough attention as a child (no father figure), and has decided to make up for it in one impulsive spectacle that at best makes us laugh, but mostly makes us wonder why they, and the producers of the show are wasting our time.

Then, there is Susan Boyle.  I do not mean to be cruel, but it is not secret that she is not beautiful, quite the opposite.  As I said before, she can sing.  But is her voice that great?  Aren’t there lots and lots of singers out there who can sing that song just as well as she can?  The answer is ‘yes’.  So, what happened that catapulted her to fame so quickly?  I believe a lot of it had to do with expectations.  Those types of programs are built on expectations.

If  Adam Lambert, who has raised expectations very high on American Idol, came out this week and simply did a decent job, but not the great job (as he usually does), the judges would probably savage him because he would not be meeting their expectations for him.  While a guy like Scott MacIntyre, who recently left the show, received praise for doing a decent, but not great job after having a couple of off weeks.  He had lowered their expectations, and when he did better, he received praise.

This effect is multiplied in the case of Susan Boyle.  She came out, and the audience heard the collective giggles.  She looked silly, and she acted a little silly as well.  The expectation was that she would be one of the bits that provide a moment of comic relief on the show, and when she came out an sang a very nice version of the song “I Dreamed a Dream,” she so exceeded everyone’s expectations, that it was made to be more than it was.

The truth is that if a beautiful woman who looked like she belonged on the stage, had come out on the stage and performed as well as Susan, it would not have had nearly the impact that this performance did.  It all had to do with expectations. 

There is another factor that also helps.  There are lots of women out there who want to do what she has done.  They are sitting at home wishing that there was more to their lives.  For these women, Susan Boyle makes their dreams seem more achievable.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with that.

I hope she does well, and I hope that she cashes in quickly.  Eventually, I see her working in the theatre where there are lots of nice seats far enough away that all you really have to worry about is her voice.

4 Responses

  1. I think you’re off base with this a little. It has nothing to do with expectations and everything to do with the “Rudy” effect. American’s love the underdog. And America is where this thing really blew up. It’s the same reason that Scott (the blind guy) stayed on AI for as long as he did this season. He was an average to above average singer at best. But people sympathized with him because of his handicap.

  2. I think there is something unexpected in an underdog. That is part of the charm, and one of the things that makes them an underdog. Just as Rudy did not look like the typical football player, but made up for his size with heart, Boyle does not look like the typical professional singer, but makes up for it with talent.
    I still think the idea of turning people’s expectations on their head is spot on, and goes further to describe the impact that something like Boyles performance had on her audience. Even the idiot backstage in her video remarked how unexpected her performance was.

  3. Susan is fabulous. It’s about time the entertainment industry started promoting REAL talent. People are looking for a change. They want something different. Their souls are crying out for the extraordinary not the ordinary. To make it in the entertainment industry today you must meet a certain image and financial criteria, talent is no longer a prerequisite. Today, you not only need money to pay your way in, you also must look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain age and weight and imitate the actor and singers that make up the fad of the times. In
    essence, you must lose your entire identity and allow yourself to portray something that isn’t unique. Few entertainers today are individuals.
    What is filmed, written and recorded now will reflect our past, but
    what our children learn from it, will represent our future. Using the media as our message tool we, as a race of people, have the ability to make a difference for all the young and impressionable minds. For more Entertainers like Susan Boyle, Check out these links; http://www.youtube.com/singingsibs

    • I give you Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church and Loreena McKinnitt as examples of women who sound much better than Susan Boyle. They are also Beautiful women. It does not have to be one or the other. You can have both. I still think that a lot of her fame is driven by the fact that people do not expect her sound as well as she does. I do not believe that she sounds as good as any of the women referenced above, and there are probably a lot of women in London, Hollywood, L.A. and even Nashville who have struggled for years to achieve fame who have both the looks and the talent.

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