A Cynic’s View of Susan Boyle

Britain’s Got Talent (does it?) star, and internet sensation Susan Boyle took the masses by storm last week with her performance of Les Misérables‘s “I Dreamed a Dream.”

The performance is notable for its exercise in contrast. Ms. Boyle is the 47-year-old virgin singer who had never been kissed; who lived alone with her cat; who though homely in appearance sings with the voice of an angel.  In the youtube clip of the performance, one can nigh feel the Lord Himself urging us on toward our better persons through song.

Naturally, such viral interest heightens my skepticism. For once, I am not alone. Saturday’s New York Post easily published the most cynical response to the Susan Boyle phenomenon of any major publication in the world. The Post op-ed appears in relevant part below:

Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It’s a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to “take the risk,” who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast – she now seems too much of this world. “I’ve been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can’t say much about it,” she said this week. “It’s early days.” Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.


Aside from being a bit self-flagellating, writer Maureen Callahan utterly nails the cynic’s response. Aside from the substantive change in Ms. Boyle’s life, Ms. Callahan’s larger point is that the performance would be eminently forgettable were it not for the contradictions. In other words, if Ms. Boyle were more attractive, might not we be less entranced? And, by extension, isn’t Ms. Boyle a bit overrated?


Regardless, I leave you to decide. The video clip of Ms. Boyle’s performance is below. Enjoy! (Or not).

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