Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Susan Boyle Phenomena Debated

Sometimes the media can drive something into orbit and then take the other side and whack the same thing down, after being largely responsible for jazzing up the frenzy. Granted, Susan Boyle was very good. The fact that she was frumpy, even a bit fat and not in the requisite package, made her rise to stardom all the more wonderful and appealing. We have a strong streak in rooting for underdogs. Now after all the hype and hoopla, we have the detractors coming in to pour cold water on the Susan Boyle phenomena.

Some would compare her to Paul Potts, who won the previous year. The thing that made Susan's appearance on the show all the more remarkable was that she faced a hostile audience that treated her with complete disdain, yet she silenced and won them over within four or five bars of her song. Potts faced no such hostility during his audition in 2007 and the reason was he knew his place: he was fat, ugly, poorly dressed, a typical "mild, unassuming, probably a loser" and the look of someone who has been probably bullied way too often and discarded when he fronted the judges, it was almost pitiful - like he was bracing for the inevitable rejection. Susan Boyle, however, did not know her place: she was old, fat, ugly, dowdy, unemployed and didn't pluck her eyebrows, yet she had sass, she refused to shuffle meekly onto the stage, her body language said "like it or lump it".

That seems to be a big thing about prejudging people, that everyone should know their place in life, and not step out of those boundaries. If you do not look like a supermodel, don't try to wear those "revealing clothes". Don't pretend to be scholarly and smart when you cannot even deliver a proper sentence in English. Don't attempt to be sexy when you do not have the goods. Don't think you can be accepted by the snobs just because you learn a few simple terminologies from the Wine For Dummies book. Susan basically taught us all that no matter how you look or is presented, you are still a person, not a non-person in the many instances I have cited above.

It's that the judges and most of us that didn't know our place and we ended up looking like morons for judging a person in a singing contest on her appearance. We should embrace and feel comfortable in our own skin. There is nothing wrong with having self confidence and projecting an image of success at all times - even though we may not have the requisite appearance that the shallow society dictates. If you haven't grown out of superficiality by the time you hit your 30s, you probably never will. Aesthetics should always run second to substance.

We all have our Susan Boyles in life, people whom we have prejudged unfairly, and maybe never having given them a decent or fair chance before categorising them. People are only discovering now the way human nature works? If you're physically attractive, people will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you're a hot chick with a nice rack, men will be even more generous to you on a first impression. If you're fugly, people expect you to prove your worth. While that may be the unspoken mantra of the world as we know it, we should all strive to cut that bit by bit out of the already "false world" that we live in and that we somehow built up.

The second part of the debate lies in determining just how really good Susan Boyle was. OK granted, she was good but so too were the hundreds of aspiring singers who tried out for the same role of Fantine for Les Mis in London, New York, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, etc... If you put them together, maybe just 5 final shortlisted candidates for the role of Fantine for each staged musical of Les Mis, you'd have close to 200 candidates. I believe Les Mis has been performed in more than 20 countries already and counting. Thus we can argue that out of those shows, maybe there were 160 really good singers that are still trying out week in week out to make a decent living as a musical actor, and let's say just 20 of them are better than Susan Boyle - what about the fate of these 20 brilliant singers still barely making enough week in week out, who haven't tasted stardom, who are still locked into playing bit parts, waiting for the day for their big chance. The sad thing is for most of them, the big breaks never do come at all.

This puts into perspective that as good as Susan Boyle is, she is but one of thousands of similarly talented people. Her frumpiness and not-so-correct age may have actually given her a better chance at success than the 20 or 30 aspiring professional singers/actors I mentioned earlier, probably better looking and much younger Fantine wannabes in the Les Mis phenomenon.

I did say before that I think Susan Boyle sounded better than Elaine Paige, and she did, but we have to remember that Elaine Paige is more than just a singer, she is a stage and theater musical performer. Elaine is a more complete package when she acts and sings on stage, e.g. her performances in Evita and Cats were absolutely wonderful. I don't wish to prejudge Susan here, but it is probably going to take years of experience and training to sing and act anywhere close to the level Elaine Paige is at. Granted, I still think Susan sounded better than Elaine, its the timbre in her voice and the soaring range (that doesn't go into yelling) she has. Susan will make a good recording artist, probably of heart-stopping show-stopping numbers: Memory (Cats), You'll Never Walk Alone (yes, you Liverpool buggers, the song does not belong to your fucking club, its the magnificent number from the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel), I Am What I Am (now that would be wonderful to hear.... the song is from one of my favourite musicals La Cage Aux Folles) .... gee, I should get some fees as a producer!!??

So how?

p/s photos: Wen Wen Go


clk said...

Susan's popularity is most probably due to the fact that she carries an underdog label on first impression and no one imagines a voice like that.

She had an extremely low base to start with and that's what probably propel her to where she is today.

Imagine if she looks like an above average lady half her age, she would probably not get the kind of response she got from the show with this type of singing.

It all boils down to our initial expectation; and she bowled over all of us! Furthermore the average joe/jane can relate to her as well.

Jackie Lee said...

I have listen to her music. It was great. I was shocked when I saw it on the youtube.

When I have finished watching it, I feel my self so high in emotion and I salute her.

Great for Susan Boyle