Has there ever been a more beautiful God-given instrument than Susan Boyle's voice? Probably not, and the way people respond, or have been manipulated to respond, is visceral and romantic - the underdog getting her reward. Almost everyone who is at all plugged in to the media though newspapers, TV; computer, etc., knows the story of the Scottish spinster who came to England to find fame and fortune at the ripe age of 48.
Claiming she had never been kissed, this plain and awkward lassie was led on stage to the disbelief and scorn of both audience and judges. The moment she opened up her mouth to sing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables, the joint went crazy with applause and catcalls. How could it be that this woman possessed the voice of an angel? She was embraced by the populace and expected to win "Britain's Got Talent."
Sadly, I detected what many other long-time singing students and teachers might have heard. As wonderful as her voice was, and as connected as she was at that second, there was a bit of instability; not just of personality, but in vocal production.
I had hoped that I was wrong, but upon her nervously wavering rendition of "Memory" from Cats, to her less-than-glorious repeat of Les Miz in the final round, I could see her going backwards into herself as she sang with much less confidence and focus. The fun was gone and she had an introverted, almost autistic air about her. The audience and press, primed for a fairy story, did not seem to notice or mention her defects, except to call her a "Prima Donna" when she started to lose emotional footing.
The world acted shocked when she did not win first place. I wanted to scream at the world, "she did not deserve to win." She is an amateur and there is a reason that at age 48, she had never had a professional engagement.
Upon reading this, you may ask "who is she to make that assessment," and I do not blame you. It's easy to be a critic people say, why not go out and see if you can do it yourself. Well that can be valid to some point, but it is also true that it takes one to know one. And I KNOW Susan Boyle.
Many of us are put here on Earth with talent, and so few end up becoming professional musicians or actors. As I mention in my interview with the uber-successful Brian Stokes Mitchell and other working musicians, I have learned the difference between the personalities of folks who possess raw talent, as opposed to those who are professionals.
Someone like Susan Boyle can say that she never had an opportunity, but there are opportunities out there, if one is made of the right stuff. And that stuff is steel, not gold. It is not just about having the talent, but developing it at a young age, learning who to trust and who to avoid, and being totally single-minded. It is almost a form of insanity itself, that type of mind-set. Whatever doubts these individuals have may or may not have, they seem to wear blinders. There is a matter of luck, also.
Most of us, no matter how gifted or supported, do not have that final ingredient. Susan did not, and going on TV on a whim will not replace years of study, endurance, performance and the experience that produces a professional musician, let alone a "Star." We strivers go on to be other things, plumbers, waitresses, writers, lawyers, agent's, teachers, moms and dads. Does that make us less talented? No, maybe just more human than God-like with our obvious frailties.
At this point of my observation, my friends and family (the handful who would even listen to this rant) roll their eyes and inform me that her Christmas CD is the best-seller of all time, or that she had a beautiful voice and say they can't hear what I hear.
Well, it all peaked last week, with her appearance on ABC's squawk fest, "The View." As she sang "Oh, Holy Night," her throat dried up and she had to stop singing, waving the orchestra to stop playing or turn off the tracks. In the surreal moments that followed, two of "The View's" vultures made their way up to the stage to soothe and encourage their guest, amongst the coaxed applause of the audience members. It was surreal - like something out of the movies Network or Rollerball.
In an interview more uncomfortable than Hugh Grant's discussion of his indiscretion with Devine Brown on "The Tonight Show," a vacuous Sherri Shepherd acted like nothing happened and asked her how it felt to have such a talent come out of her? The more intelligent Whoopi Goldberg (a real pro-herself when it comes to live performance) tried to discuss the "frog" in her throat and the consequences of it.
"Well, I just stop I guess" the narcotized looking Boyle warbled almost incoherently. The most embarrassing thing was the plug for the CD that continued on, following the debacle.
Yes, I know anyone can lose their voice in public from being sick etc, but that was not the problem with her. She temporarily lost her voice because she did not have even the slightest bit of the foundation that a singer should have. In fact, when she calmed her nerves, she taped the whole thing over for the West Coast. Things are always nicer in California!
Rather than bore you with technical terms about singing, I'll use baseball metaphors in the style my beloved voice coach and opera conductor, Vincent La Selva used to do, when I was just 15 and wanting to take on the world without any foresight.
Boyle doing a world tour is like an athlete skipping the rookie phase and spring-training, and just running onto the ball field without building up any muscle. A performer is an athlete, one who trains regularly and is confident with the knowledge that they are ready when they go out there. Sure, they may have nerves, but they are always backed up with a strong center, looking outward at the world and not into themselves. Introversion = paralysis.
I don't know how the powers that be have prepared her to take on the performing world, but they failed. The woman I was watching on "The View" was not a pro, but a scared hit-or-miss amateur, who seems to have lost the joy of singing after the luck, or misfortune, of becoming a reality-show queen wore off. I know - she is laughing all the way to the bank. Or is she?