Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not Just Another Pretty Voice

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen and heard all about Susan Boyle, the frumpy-looking 47-year-old woman whose singing knocked the socks off of the panel members on Britain's Got Talent. If you have been living under that rock, then you absolutely have to watch the YouTube video before you read another word.

And by the way, the term "frumpy-looking" modifies "47-year-old." They don't necessarily go together. My wife will be 47 in November, and is still a major league babe. In fact, I know a few 55-year-olds who are major babes. On the other hand, I know 20-somethings who are frumpy-looking.

But getting back to the main point, let's say it now and get it over with. She won because we didn't expect that voice to come out of that face and body. But what would've happened had she been "a looker?"

A friend of mine who's a music teacher said that Boyle has nice enough voice, but not necessarily better than any of the hundreds of kids she's had in her high school chorus over the past 10 years.

And she's right. Pretty voices are a dime a dozen. Some attractive 20 or 30-something, dressed nicely, and singing the exact same piece with the exact same voice, might not have even gotten a raised eyebrow from the panel. You expect people who you figure are right out of music school to be that good. But Susan Boyle had the perfect setup to make her stand out: the beautiful voice in the body of a frumpy-looking middle-aged woman. And it's exactly because of this setup that everyone is so amazed, and wishes her success.

Perhaps it's our perception of this "never been kissed" youngest of nine children, who stayed at home to take care of her ailing mother that has us rooting for her so much. To our minds, she never had a chance to get out there when she was younger, so let's give her the big one now. On the other hand, all those 20 and 30-somethings who are beating the pavement trying to get auditions and agents are still young yet, and have had plenty of other stuff in their lives (like boyfriends and girlfriends), so who really cares about them.

After seeing this video, one person wrote that he was "weeping over the years of wasted talent." That got me thinking about the millions of other people out there with beautiful voices who are living ordinary lives as doctors, teachers, pastors, steamfitters, whatever. People who maybe had their moment in the sun in their college choir, or who do community theater. Is this talent wasted because it never reaches millions? My friend Lonnie had a gorgeous voice, but rather than pursuing a career in music, is finishing up a doctorate in Nursing. Is her talent wasted? I don't think so, and I don't think that Susan Boyle's talent was wasted all these years by being shared only with people in her small town.

But we love a good Cinderella story, and Susan Boyle gave us one: the ugly duckling whose beautiful voice got her invited to the ball. And yet, as I've said many times already, it's worth noting that it's precisely because she's an "ugly duckling" that her voice was noticed.

Oh, and by the way, I can sing, and I'm 52. Does anyone want to invite me to the ball, even though I'm relatively good-looking?

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! It takes guts these days to mention the name "Susan Boyle" in anything less than divine terms, because you are sure to be crucified. In my blog, I mentioned the "Cinderella story" being played up by the producers - without saying a negative thing about Susan Boyle, mind you - and ended up being painted as a jealous misanthrope. I have been telling friends for weeks now that her voice itself was, while pleasant, surely no better than many of the women we went to college with. Yet, when you read the comments on some of the message boards and see the words "angelic voice" - even when she blows the first couple of notes of her performance - you gotta wonder if some people are just trying to hard to wish her to victory.

    Gotta run - and get back to being a jealous misanthrope... and you can siong for me anytime, good lookin'!