We're dealing with an ugly duckling tale. That's it. Susan Boyle is by conventional pop standards, unattractive, but sings like an angel, and her notoriety, as the thinking goes, is thus a heartwarming rebuke to an entertainment culture that far too often values looks rather than skill. If this episode sounds familiar, it's because it is--Britain's Got Talent spawned the exact same story two years ago when Paul Potts, a stocky cell-phone store manager, won the competition on the strength of his renditions of tenor arias like "Nessun Dorma." Your mother may have emailed you about him.
Of course, fairy tales are fiction. Potts' success did not result in a radical restructuring of show business norms (though his debut album, One Chance, did go double platinum in the U.K.)--extremely attractive entertainers are still more likely to get the good gigs. Susan Boyle's moment will have a similarly unremarkable effect. For all the back patting (see, we're not superficial!) her moment has allowed us to indulge in, the fact remains that popular entertainment is largely about helping us escape the mundane, whether it's for two hours or the length of a YouTube clip. And it's a lot easier to do that when the person doing the entertaining doesn't look like a crazy cat lady who lives next door. Right now Susan Boyle is an exception. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking she's going to be the rule.
See more at www.spin.com
SPIN's 40 Best Albums of 2008 http://www.spin.com/articles/40-best-albums-2008
Search 1,400 Album Reviews http://www.spin.com/reviews
- Susan Boyle