Ms. Susan Boyle, the middle-aged Scottish singer who is scorching the internet with her YouTube'd performance on Britain's Got Talent, has touched a raw nerve in viewers around the world. What is it about this frumpy lady with a golden throat that has compelled over two million people to watch her boldly face down a cynical audience and a panel of jaded judges, and gobsmack them all with her startling performance?
Quite a lot, actually.
First, there's her unassuming appearance. This is not a woman who has aped Hollywood starlets in a pathetic attempt to look the part of a successful performer. She's simply the "spinster from the village" who lives with her cat. A more unlikely candidate for stardom you could not find. I cringed as I watched her wiggle her hips at Simon--I was embarassed for her. She reminded me of that kid in 5th grade who always got picked last for the Red Rover team; someone who often tried to be clever but never succeeded. She reminded me of myself when I was that kid. I felt the familiar reluctance to sit by and watch the train wreck actually unfold. What is she going to do? I could hardly bear to watch.
And then she began to sing.
I reacted just like the audience and the judges did - with shock and remorse. Shock at the beautiful voice that belted out that beautiful song, and remorse for my horrible prejudice that had been turned on its ear. Like many others, I choked up and cried.
Her choice of music is fascinating. I've loved the soundtrack from Les Miserables for over twenty years - I had it memorized before I ever saw the show. It inspired me to read the book for the first time. Haunting and compelling, exhilarating and tragic. The song, "I Dreamed a Dream" expresses the lost hope of a young woman whose life is shattered by war - the Paris Uprising of 1832. And I note the atmosphere in our country this very day, April 15, when hundreds of angry Americans attended "Tea Parties" to protest what they feel are abuses of power, unfair taxation, and scandalous bailouts by our government. A Grassroots Uprising.
Is this why so many people have watched and re-watched this YouTube video? Are we feeling like victims of the economic and political situation, and need the powerful voice of an underdog as a rallying point? Do we feel powerless to save our dreams in the face of circumstances we can't control?
Or do we just love it when Simon gets his flippin' clock cleaned by a simple girl from the Scottish countryside?
"Do you hear the people sing,
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again.
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums,
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"
--from Les Miserables