On the Cultural Relevance of Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle on “Britain’s Got Talent” — subsequent success and co-optation by the music industry tabled for the moment — is probably the most uplifting media event the world has seen in the last several years. I might be biased, since “Les Mis” was the first musical I ever listened to, saw, and remains seminal for me as a person. And yet — the fact that this middle-aged woman could walk out there with the confidence she had, to the complete disbelief of Piers, Amanda, and Simon who, very much in reflection of the sort of world in which we live, dismissed her immediately solely on the basis of her appearance — is irrefutably a poignant rejoinder against the sort of jaded cynicism that I and so many among my generation affect.

Because the fact of the matter is — and this seems to be so rare among at least the disaffected 20-somethings to whose cohort I too often belong — that was a moment that couldn’t be… cynicized. When she belted out the lyric “I had a dream my life could be/So different from this hell I’m living,” that wasn’t a jaded, polished singer just rehearsing lines. That was a woman who’s lived something similar to Fantine’s hell singing her heart. It’s heartbreaking to watch and insanely inspiring. More importantly, it’s completely genuine. There is zero in the way of shit that is affected during that entire performance.

What Susan Boyle did and has since done is confirm the essential human-ness of we humans. What makes us who we are, at our best, is an ability to be naive. Naturally, this ability, too, has been exploited, parodized et al many many times over the brief course of our history. Irony has sort of become its own religion among my generation, but it shouldn’t be. Sincerity, the capability to feel and feel deeply — these are what make us who we are, and are not to be fucked around with. It’s rare that a media blockbuster affords the chance to celebrate that sort of innocence, nowadays at least. The Daily Show, 30 Rock, Colbert, Parks and Rec — all trade (quite brilliantly) in professional cynicism. Yet, I can’t watch this video without getting all verklempt, and for a good reason — this may sound odd, but Susan Boyle provides an antidote to cynicism, and a desperately needed one.

Interjection first: Susan’s version was likely the most inspiring, but Ruthie Henshall kicked the living hell out of that song, to a degree I, as a decidedly non-musician of any sort, can only wonder at: http://bit.ly/Y3RvP

Interjection the second: /clearlywatchinglesmisyoutube videos but holy fuck Lea Salonga is so talented.

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~ by Benji on April 28, 2011.

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