Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Two Cents on Susan Boyle and Hollie Steel

For years I resisted the pop culture behemoth that is American Idol. Its appeal baffled me, and its stars seemed cheesy and false. I stubbornly kept my distance from the show, refusing to give it a chance despite its enormous audience that kept building season after season. I likewise ignored other shows of its ilk (So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, etc.), grouping them all together in the category of “Reality TV” that I disdained so much.

Then, last week, my outlook on these shows took an abrupt about-face. Having noticed the Britain’s Got Talent/Susan Boyle video on YouTube’s most-viewed list for several days, I finally broke down and watched it. I did not know what to expect; I honestly thought, given her appearance, something cruel and sad was about to happen. And then she sang. I literally got goosebumps as she sang the first verse of "I Dreamed a Dream." I was transported back to the days of Disney movies, when the songs I listened to were simple and hopeful, rather than over-produced and chock-full of sexism and cynicism.

Seeing the audience turn from scornful to awestruck, and the expressions on the judges faces--Piers's twinkling, Amanda's wide-eyed disbelief, and Simon's gradual grin--I felt the power of Susan's incredible voice.

Suddenly I realized why shows like Britain's Got Talent and American Idol are so popular. It's the potential to witness moments like this, when someone shocks the world with their talent, causing us all to stop what we're doing and share in their triumph and fame.

This week another YouTube BGT sensation popped up: the prepubescent Hollie Steel, whose equally unexpected voice rivals that of history's most brilliant singers. Granted, her performance seems a little more dubious, given that she pretends to be putting on a dance show, then bursts into song just as Simon is about to protest. Nonetheless, her stunning rendition of "I Could've Danced All Night" is absolutely breathtaking to behold.

Granted, Susan and Hollie will likely enjoy little more than several weeks of fame, given the world's ravenous appetite for new stories to latch on to. But I'm no longer the AI refusenik I once was, and I've rediscovered a love for classical vocal music that has been dormant for years.

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