I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but there’s something I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past week. You’ve already heard about her, probably, as she’s the viral video of the moment (some 50 million Youtube viewings as of this writing). If not, check out the video here.
A lot of people writing about her bring up the discrepancy between her looks and her voice; to me, that isn’t the issue at all. The issue is the fact that such a voice exists at all; it is “the most beautiful, pitch-perfect, goosebump-making voice,” as India Knight wrote in her beautiful piece for New York Magazine, called “Life Worth Living: Why Susan Boyle is the First Big Star of the Global Recession. ”
She sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables by Andrew Lloyd Weber:
“I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die”
And it really can’t be described much better than the way India Knight wrote it: “Everything terrible about these shows—everything ghastly and cheap and cruel, everything that harks back to Victorian freak shows—fell away. And the thing that’s supposed to happen but never really does—the blossoming of a person, and of their audience, through the transformative power of beauty and, yes, art, even if it’s a sappy show tune—did.”
Really, Susan Boyle is just a pure artistic talent. No packaging, no pretense, no ego, no theory. Just a beautiful voice with an indescribable depth of emotion and musical sophistication behind it.
It reminds me of the last scene in the movie Basquiat (dir. Julian Schnabel, 1996), where Jean-Michel Basquiat (played by Jeffrey Wright) tells the story of a sound that is so beautiful that it made everybody who heard the sound lift their hands to the air and weep with joy. It’s one of the clumsier scenes in an otherwise pitch-perfect movie (the clip is above), but it was one of many vignettes and metaphors about the power of beauty and art in that movie, and it’s one of the only ways I can think of to describe Susan Boyle’s beautiful sound. The first measure of “I Dreamed a Dream,” as sung by Susan Boyle, is as close to a perfect sound as I have heard.