AL Kennedy: Susan Boyle, the reality TV anomaly

Singing sensation from reality TV show is not a typical media darling - and how refreshing, says AL Kennedy

Susan Boyle - as modern British television, she doesn't make sense. Yes, she is currently famous because of a talent show of the Free Content from Unhinged Walk-Ups type, but beyond that the aggressively hair-gelled emotional predators who tend to be in charge of our broadcast media may feel they have passed into strange territory - somewhere aesthetically challenged and scary.

Boyle is hearty about her snacks, she has the slightly masculine bearing of the long-term single lady and yet the Nation likes her - it may even love her (in the multimedia sense of that word) and Boyle not only seems quite content with herself, but actually has a remarkable talent of the sort few people associate with plump, cat-owning middle-aged ladies from West Lothian. (For those of you swinging London types West Lothian is a wide moorland expanse roamed by wolves and colourful, fast-moving peasants. And yes, I am Scottish, but no - I haven't met the 47-year-old.)

Nevertheless, Boyle has a voice - a big, serious, lyrical, swooping great voice, one that makes sense of her generous proportions as soon as she produces that sound: a sound as big as that needs serious lungs. And last Saturday night, she opened her mouth and sang in such a way that an audience full of the violently fashionable and young rose to its feet and cheered her. (The same audience which could only laugh uncomprehendingly on hearing the phrase: "I'm 47.") Now, that outpouring of admiration may be an indication that desperately shallow people are quite fickle, but I'd like to think it's about something slightly less repellent. I'd like to think it's about human beings occasionally being able to scrape together some kind of fellow-feeling for each other.

Our media repeatedly tell us that what we should be - must be - interested in are ugly demonstrations of greed, stupidity and catastrophic self-loathing. Messy sex, lingering death, messy lingering sex deaths and heartfelt appeals to our sense of patriotism and being hard-done-by are meant to entrance and thrill us.

But looking at Susan Boyle - non-airbrushed, un-focus-grouped, unexpected Susan Boyle - I do seem to remember that I have no right to assume I understand the scale and scope of anyone else, their potential.

And, in a land of offshore money pits and arrogantly limited opportunity, I can remember that there are few things sweeter than seeing someone open out the dream of their heart and let it play.

Contributor

AL Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

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