Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weighing in on Susan

I tried to avoid it as long as I could, but that damn singing Susan Boyle is everywhere -- news sites, NPR, blogs, pieces by Nora Ephron and Tina Brown, and finally a Facebook thread I got roped into, even though I'd never seen the clip. So I watched her on YouTube -- and I was duly impressed. Yes, she does have a lovely voice singing a cheesy show tune, and yes, she is a dumpy, unemployed, middle-aged Glaswegian. But all the bloviating about her inspiring performance in these gloomy times (paging Capt. Sullenberger et al) skips over the issue of why she's so inspiring. Is she a good singer? If there was no trickery, then certainly. Is she the greatest singer ever? Hell no. But is she the ugliest good singer ever? By implication, yes. It's a comment on the appearance-obsessed judges and viewers that everyone was smirking when they took a look at her, because how could anyone who looks like that possibly have a decent voice? Reminds me of a story I read somewhere about musicians auditioning for a coveted seat in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (I think). Eventually they played for the judges behind a screen so what the musician looked wasn't a factor, consciously or otherwise. So of course the judges were spluttering with rage when they learned they had selected a woman cellist. And God forbid that she wasn't pretty to boot.

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