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.

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Week 3 Tryouts American Idol Season 8 (2009)

Find my latest American Idol article here.

I was struck by several things this week. 

1.  Paula seems to be holding things together more this season.

2. The show is really better when they show more singers and less idiots.

3. There is some actual talent showing up at the auditions, and I was afraid that this would not be the case this year.  Salt Lake City provided several good singers.

4. Kara adds absolutely nothing to the process but another, “yes.”  She is useless.  The only time she spoke last night was to inform a Puerto Rican with a great voice that he had a thick accent when trying to sing in English as if it were a bad thing.  Next, she plans to criticize Elvis for singing in an affected manner.  I hear she described Andrea Bocelli as sounding a little too ‘blind’ when he tried out for the show.  Thanks to Simon for appropriately dismissing her idiocy.

5. The sense of entitlement express by the serious contestants knows no bounds.  If you get four “no’s,” it’s time to reevaluate yourself, not the judges.

6. The judges will continue to put through a requisite number of idiots to cause as much havoc in the group-sing at Hollywood as they can squeeze in.  They have been putting through about one numb-skull per episode so far.  If you factor in the fact that most of the cities only averaged about a dozen contestants being sent to Hollywood, and the fact that most of the groups will contain 4-6 contestants when they get to Hollywood, that means that somewhere between a third and half of the groups in Hollywood will contain an idiot that has no better reason to there than to try to destroy the others in his or her group while getting as much attention as possible.

I do not have a lot of sympathy for the people who go on American Idol.  They have seen the show, and they know what they are getting into.  Also, the sense of entitlement expressed by many of these young people is just tiresome and wrong.  No one has a right to shortcut the hard work that most Americans have to put in and become suddenly famous.  I do wish they would be a little more fair (grammatically incorrect), and eliminate the group-sing in Hollywood.  It is as much for my own selfish reasons as anything else.  I want the best singers to make the top 12 so that I do not have to listen to a lot of nonsense.  Often, it seems that good singers are eliminated during the group-sing simply because they are paired with people who have no business being there in the first place.