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Published: Tuesday, 4/7/2009

Susan Boyle: Hey, Was That a Sound Check or a Reality Check?

Hi, Dave

Wow. You know, I m not what you d call an easy weeper, but every time I click on that YouTube video of Susan Boyle singing, I leak like a bad roof.

Susan Boyle.The Scottish church lady who lives alone with, yes, her cat. The woman who prompted eye-rolling from audience and judges alike when she galumphed across the stage to compete in the TV show Britain s Got Talent.

The oh-so-ordinary woman with the better-than-Broadway voice who, once she opened her mouth and let it rip, wowed all the eye-rollers in, oh, .025 seconds.

So what if her eyebrows are as bushy as a pair of caterpillars warning of an impending hard winter?

As I write this, Susan Boyle has already detonated YouTube s previous records. The number of times we ve all clicked on her awesome performance is a number big enough to be on a piece of federal paperwork somewhere deep in a Washington subcommittee. Yeah, that big

I call her ordinary, but ugly is what most people call her. And I suppose that s true if you compare the woman who is suddenly the hottest singing sensation against the average singer visually pleasing enough to be television-worthy.

But look around the next time you re in line at the grocery store, Dave. Really, Susan Boyle is not that far outside the average spectrum.

Agreed: Her voice is spectacular. But I think one reason her story resonates so much right now is that we re all feeling like beaten-down, under-appreciated, under-valued, asset-less, wary, kicked pups.

Susan Boyle is the maypole around which all of us underdogs can rally round to feel better for however many minutes her YouTube clip plays.

Another hare-brained theory: Hidden beneath our topmost layer of awe is a kind of squeamishness at our own reaction. I think the Susan Boyle story confirms the nagging, unspoken question many of us wonder about ourselves: Am I just a superficial jackass?

Susan Boyle, AKA, The Answer to My Question Is a Resounding Yes!

(Never mind the evolutionary explanation for our instant attraction to the most handsome men, the most beautiful women.)

As the humorist Andy Borowitz wrote on HuffPost:

In living rooms around the world as well as in the executive suites of media giants, those exposed to the Susan Boyle phenomenon are grappling with the paradox - thought impossible up until now - that an ugly person could be talented.

Eh, but it s more than just a smack-down between Ugly and Beautiful.

Davey, we ve got a gender issue here, too. Believe me, no one switched on Willard Scott first thing in the morning and threw up in their mouth a little. But when s the last time you saw Willard Scott s female equivalent on national television, hee-hawing about the jet stream ?

Thought so.

Finally, my friend, the inevitable question: Now that Susan Boyle has been discovered, must she flee from her original incarnation and morph into someone else?

The Web site Daily Makeover has already noodled around with virtual before-and-after photos. There s probably spirited debate somewhere about whether Susan looks better with the bob or that longer, layered shaggy do all of which utterly misses the point.

Which is this: Please, dear God, do not change Susan Boyle if she s happy just as she is. And she seems to be. And should be.

You can learn a lot about the instantly famous singer in an interview that ran Sunday in the London Times, not the least of which is this:

I know what they were thinking but why should it matter as long as I can sing? It s not a beauty contest, she says.

Maybe I ll consider a makeover later on, she laughs. For now I m happy the way I am short and plump. I would not go in for Botox or anything like that. I m content with the way I look. What s wrong with looking like Susan Boyle? What s the matter with that?

Well, Dave? What say you to that?

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Dave Hackenberg Dave Hackenberg
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Bert:

You re really asking two questions here. So I ll answer both of them because, after all, I am a man and there is nothing simple about a man s view of a woman.

First off, if you re asking whether I would want to be stranded on an otherwise deserted tropical island with a bottle of all-body tanning lotion and my choice of Susan Boyle or Amanda Holden, the Britain s Got Talent judge sitting in the middle, well, darlin , I might be a nice guy but I ain t blind. I wouldn t much care if Amanda could carry a tune or not under those circumstances. She wins.

If you re asking, What s wrong with looking like Susan Boyle? my answer would be, not a single damn thing.

You see, Bert, I have far more in common with Ms. Boyle than you do. If my memory serves, you had a TV gig with a local station a few years back. They put you on the air because you were, and are, an attractive female with brains and personality. Yours truly, on the other hand, once tried to get a little TV deal and was told I had a face for radio and a body for ship-to-shore Morse code.

I ve watched Ms. Boyle on YouTube about 10 times now and I am struck by several things:

1. If and when I get to Heaven, I expect the voice of God to be that of Harry Kalas, the Philadelphia baseball announcer who died last week. But if God is a She, as my wife has insisted for years, then Her voice will undoubtedly be that of Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed a Dream. At the very least, it is the voice of an angel.

2. The kids out there won t know of whom I speak, but the greatest female vocalist in American history may well have been Kate Smith, a big, sweet blob of a woman. So, kiddies, do a Google on the late, great Kate and click on a YouTube offering of this old girl belting out God Bless America and tell me a tear doesn t come to your eye. If Susan Boyle sings God Save the Queen the British monarchy will surely be safe for centuries more.

3. Current pop culturists can take your Mariah Careys and Shania Twains, your Whitney Houstons and Beyonces, and God knows you can take your Jessica Simpsons and Britney Spears and stick em where the sun don t shine. Beautiful? Every last one of them, I suppose. But I ll stand in a long, slow line to buy Susan Boyle s first CD when it comes out and I wouldn t spend a penny to hear any of the others. (Well, there is Carrie Underwood. She s devastatingly gorgeous and I don t want to be a complete hypocrite.)

4. Ms. Boyle brought out the humanity in even Simon Cowell and, man, that ain t easy.

Is Susan ugly, frumpy, ordinary, unsightly, whatever such term you want to use? Yeah, I guess, by all of our superficial standards. Should it bother us? Not if you just close your eyes and listen. Better yet, keep em open and listen. Sounds the same. Think about that for a minute.

I m a bit disappointed, Bert, because I came across a People story where Rosie O Donnell said Susan Boyle was like Shrek comes to life, and I thought it was a slam dunk that I could make lots of fun of Rosie, who Donald Trump once called a pig of a woman, or something like that.

But it turns out Rosie was paying Ms. Boyle a compliment. In fact, to sum it all up, Rosie put it better than I ever could:

That moment is what every artist tries to capture. Here is this freaky miss, a fat ugly girl, like Shrek comes to life, directing energy towards her soul something authentic in a world that is usually manufactured.

Yeah, that just about says it.

Hack

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Readers: Have something to say?

E-mail:

dhack@theblade.com

roberta@theblade.com



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