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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Susan Boyle

So there she is, this unassuming Scottish woman who absolutely burst onto the world scene with her Britain's Got Talent audition. If you've not heard of her - or watched the videos, perhaps you're living under a rock or something. Posted on YouTube, videos of Boyle's performance have been viewed something like 30 million times.

So what is the deal? Well, you'd have to watch the video to really understand the phenomenon. Susan Boyle presents herself as a homely, frumpy, middle-aged nobody. That notwithstanding, she exhibits a level of self-confidence that seems to fly in the face of the fact that everyone in the audience (including those who start watching the video) discount her and don't expect much from her. If anything, you just expect to humor her, and perhaps even feel sorry for her.

And then it happens ... she moves you. Her stunning voice delivers a performance that has rocked the world. People, even famous people who aren't easily impressed, have confessed to watching this video 12 or 14 times. (I've watched it 3 or 4 times now.) Her chosen song is from the show Les Miserables. I saw that years ago and hated it. I thought it was appropriately named, and was a miserable show. Somehow I don't recall that song being in it. It is a beautiful song. Together with Susan's voice, it can move you, inspire you.

If you haven't watched the video yet, go check it out at In fact, I'd encourage you to watch it a couple of times and let the effect sink in. Then, for comparison, check out a 1999 recording that Susan did for a charity CD at The effect is slightly different on that song, but the voice is nevertheless phenomenal.

One of the writers on the Huffington Post ( surmises that there are two reasons behind Susan Boyle's overnight sensation - the shot heard round the world. First, he says she defies the "bitchy cynicism" that seems to pervade reality shows like America's Got Talent or American Idol. He claims we tune into such shows just so we can look condescendingly at the auditions, laugh and feel good about how much better we are than those fools who are auditioning. Second, he says Susan is old and that defies our expectations of new talent bursting onto the scene.

I don't know if the Huffington Post columnist has it right or not. I never considered the talent shows to be fully "bitchy cynicism." But I'll give that some thought. I do see that Susan Boyle is older than the typical teeny bopper aerobics dancer that usually "bursts onto the scene." But then again, she is younger than me. Does that mean I'm old? Heaven forbid! Can I still take my turn on America's Got Talent? (I'd hate to think that window of opportunity has passed me by!)

So I have my own theory about why Susan Boyle is such a worldwide phenomenon. I think we are used to dismal failures in this world. We are also used to unfair advantages. It always seems that the rich get richer, and the beautiful get all the breaks. We're used to it though, so we don't think much of it. Susan Boyle is frumpy, middle-aged and unemployed. She looks like one of those dismal failures - living the life we all thank God we don't have to live.

And then God intervenes. He's been saving her for 47 years. He knew He could use this precious soul to touch the world. And He spent 47 years getting her ready for it. Tens of millions of people are watching her video because it is a wonderful gift to the world. We are delighted. We are thrilled. We are encouraged --- and at a time when the world needs a little encouragement. Once again, we're told the under dog can win. There is hope even for the hopeless. There is a future even for those with dead end lives. Susan Boyle did more than audition for a talent show; she gave the world a gift.

The Catholics are claiming Susan Boyle as their own. The Christians are saying that "finally God is blessing His people." It will be interesting to see where Susan Boyle goes. She still must go through the brutal competition with the sarcastic Simon Cowell as a judge. Will the world see her through and make her a huge success? Will her fame lift her out of a dreary, dead-end life? We can only hope. In the meantime, we can thank God for this gift. And we can ask that His perfect will be played out in her life. Although somehow, I suspect that it already is.

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