Saturday, April 18, 2009


Susan Boyle invaded the universal public consciousness last week when millions of us watched her sing on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Have you taken a moment out to ask yourself why so many of us got choked up watching Boyle’s debut? I have. I’ve thought very often this past week of her, and of the big, tough lesson we have had to learn from this episode. If by chance you didn’t see this performance, you can see it now. And if you did see it, take a moment and watch it again. Click here.

I heard someone say the reason it was so stunning to us is that Susan Boyle is a sort of everyperson type, that her victory gives the common man and woman hope in a time when hope is in short supply. Maybe. I lean more toward the idea that Susan is one of those truly exceptional talents, a gifted woman. And for us to see how extraordinary a human being’s talent can be is life-affirming. I think we can all use a little affirmation right now. And I believe that is key to Susan Boyle’s cross-cultural appeal. Now we see that a voice can lift us.

Within short hours the video of Boyle’s performance went massively viral. At this writing (9PM EST, April 18), the YouTube video has been viewed 25,442,376 times. This was the same week that Ashton Kutcher’s battle with CNN to see who could amass one million followers first on Twitter came to an end with Kutcher victorious. Social media proved itself to be a formidable player in the world of new media. Boyle’s star may rise faster than any singer in history because of it.

The lessons of Susan Boyle are complex, and bittersweet. Our holy St. Oprah of Chicago would call this a “teaching moment.” To those for whom this experience was a hard slap in the face because they pre-judged Boyle based on her appearance, this could alter their future judgmental natures. And to those who see the new dedication to Susan Boyle’s success as a respite from all the hard realities we are experiencing now, this was an unexpected gift.

And for Susan Boyle? On Larry King last night, when asked how this event might change her, Boyle said, “I won’t be lonely anymore.” And when asked if it was hurtful that the audience laughed at her before she sang, she said, “That didn’t bother me at all. I just got on with my act. That’s what we were there for – to keep going.” Then she sang a verse of “My Heart Will Go On”:

Keep going, Susan. You can do this. You absolutely can.

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