There's something about Susan Boyle
There's something about Susan Boyle. The British spinster with the astonishing voice has taken the world by storm in a single week.
No need to worry if her career will be a success. Susan's already brought tears to the eyes of tens of millions of people. What more could a karaoke singer ever want?
Boyle's performance on "Britain's Got Talent" was so powerful that it is scaring people. After they wipe their eyes dry, normally collected skeptics ask: "What was that? What happened to me? Why did I cry?"
So, commentators, letter writers, bloggers and columnists are scrambling to explain their emotional responses.
Their excuses run the gamut: Boyle's story is a fairy tale. Her talent teaches us not to judge a book by the cover. Her astonishing performance is a wakeup call to a cynical world.
Boyle is a testament to determination. The story is "redemptive." Our eyes moistened because Susan is a triumph of the ordinary in a world of fake, polished celebrities.
A left-wing columnist for the San Francisco Gate claimed Susan provided relief from all those right-wing extremists dominating the airwaves.
A right-wing blogger claimed the same day that in a time of expanding government, Boyle is a reminder that in a capitalistic system, true talent rises to the top without government assistance.
As a recovering karaoke singer, I identify with Susan Boyle for my own reasons.
For years, Susan showed up at her local pub in Scotland to sing karaoke. Between her turns at the mike, she sat in the corner and sipped a half-pint of lemonade.
I used to drive 50 miles or more on odd nights of the week to find a bar with karaoke. Between turns, I sat alone in a corner -- unless one of the other karaoke addicts on the circuit showed up as well.
Wherever karaoke happens, you can often find a local version of Susan Boyle, alone in a corner with a can of pop, waiting for her turn at the mike.
As talented as they might be, most karaoke singers never go any farther than the pub. Like myself, they get over their karaoke phase.
In Boyle's case, the death of her mother caused her to withdraw from the karaoke scene and sink into depression.
When she began to recover, Boyle didn't return to the pub. Instead, she decided to honor her mother's wishes and try out for "Britain's Got Talent."
It turned out to be a momentous decision. The show was a perfect fit for the unassuming Susan Boyle.
As an experiment a few years ago, world-class violinist Joshua Bell played his violin in a Washington, D.C. subway during rush hour. He played some of the greatest works of J.S. Bach.
Only two or three commuters stopped to listen. A few tossed quarters into his violin case. The rest rushed past, utterly deaf.
Even a hushed concert hall is no guarantee that a great musician will be truly heard. The situation has to be right for even the greatest music to bring down the house.
Sometimes, however, a musician meets his or her moment. The audience is ready. The magic happens.
The moment every musician dreams of happened to Susan Boyle last week.
After years of singing for drunks in a pub, where the few compliments you get are either insincere or pretty well greased up, Susan Boyle was prepared for the snide Simon.
Primed to expect incompetence, the skeptical crowd erupted with joy when Boyle belted out her first caramel-covered high note.
The chills continued for several thrilling minutes. The video clip ends with Susan dissolved in tears of joy back stage.
Turns out, Susan Boyle is a musician, and a very good one. Her 1999 recording of "Cry Me a River" on a charity CD proves that.
But unlike most musicians, even those with long professional careers, Susan Boyle happened upon the perfect chance for a triumphant musical moment.
Boyle didn't just do well. She strode up to the plate in her first major league at-bat and knocked the ball out of the park.
Not only is it a great story, but Susan Boyle's gutsy performance is a smashing victory for singers who sit alone in the dark corners of karaoke bars across the world.
At least that's my excuse for getting teary-eyed.