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.


AL Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Susan Boyle: a dream come true

Susan Boyle became one of the most talked-about people in the world this week after a brief TV appearance. How?

Leigh Holmwood

17, Apr, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
Is Susan Boyle ready for the road to reality TV riches?

Ben Dowell: Girls Aloud, Will Young and Leona Lewis lead a list of the highest-earning reality TV stars – could Susan Boyle join them?

Ben Dowell

29, May, 2009 @9:33 AM

Article image
Media Monkey: Susan Boyle subtitled on Oprah Winfrey

Media Monkey: Britain's Got Talent star subtitled when she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show


13, May, 2009 @9:06 AM

Article image
UK viral video hits: from Susan Boyle to Danyl Johnson

Five clips that spread worldwide through being shared on sites such as YouTube. By Leigh Holmwood

Leigh Holmwood

03, Sep, 2009 @3:04 PM

Britain's Got Talent: Susan Boyle hits South Park

Join Heidi Stephens from 8pm on Saturday for live coverage of Britain's Got Talent

Leigh Holmwood

24, Apr, 2009 @11:38 AM

Article image
Susan Boyle dreamed a dream, now TV show stress has become her nightmare

The pressure on Susan Boyle has grown in the run-up to the live final of Britain's Got Talent on ITV1 tonight

Stephen Brook and Severin Carrell

29, May, 2009 @7:03 PM

Article image
Video: Susan Boyle in the Britain's Got Talent final

Watch highlights from final, in which favourite Susan Boyle was defeated by dance act Diversity, and see the reaction of locals from her hometown

01, Jun, 2009 @10:17 AM

Article image
Britain's Got Talent contenders: Susan Boyle, Shaheen and more

See the most memorable acts from this year's Britain's Got Talent as it heads into the live semi-finals

22, May, 2009 @11:29 AM

Article image
Susan Boyle: culture secretary joins debate over duty of care

Andy Burnham today said broadcasters need to take more responsibility for the pressure put on the contestants of reality TV shows such as Britain's Got Talent. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

02, Jun, 2009 @3:47 PM

Susan Boyle is uneasy with instant fame from Britain's Got Talent
Susie Orbach: Boyle has to learn to manage fame. That's a challenge to anybody, vulnerable or not

Susie Orbach

29, May, 2009 @6:42 PM