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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at




 Is She Great, or Are We Just Being Nice?

I guess by now the Internet video of Scottish singer Susan Boyle has been viewed at least twice on just about every computer on the planet.

Talk about pervasive. I receive at least 10 Susan Boyle YouTube links a day from people telling me “You HAVE to see this!” If every one of those 10 sends it to 10 others, and they send it to 10 others, and they send it to 10 others – well, it’s only a matter of time before the Amish are going to be talking about her too.

Hmm. For the benefit of you Amish folks out there, I suppose I’d better explain:

Susan Boyle is a 47-year-old Scottish woman who astonished the “Britain’s Got Talent” program, one of the million-or-so TV shows where people get up and perform in front of a panel of celebritroid judges.

Anyway, Susan is ... oh, how can I say this? Well, she seems very nice and she has a winning personality. I’m sure all the people in her neighborhood just adore her. She ... oh, heck. Let’s just say it. Susan is not a beauty. She’s what you might call 3F – frizzy, frowsy and frumpy.

Basically, she looks like me.

The audience tittered (they do that in England) when she came onto the stage. Then she opened her mouth to sing, and everything changed.

Susan has a beautiful voice. Clear, pretty good range, not bad as far as dynamics go, and with a throbbing vibrato that splendidly matched the emotion of the song she had chosen: “I Dreamed A Dream” from the musical, Les Miserables.

Well, the place went nuts. People leapt to their feet cheering, clapping, throwing babies into the air and in most cases, catching them. And when it was over Susan Boyle had received the coveted three “yes” votes from the judges, which means she gets to trade her voice for whatever’s behind Door Number Two.

OK, here’s what I like about the story:

* Frizzy, frumpy, frowsy looks-like-me nobody from little village in Scotland wows the world with her cheeky pluck (or is that plucky cheek?) and splendid voice.

That’s a great story. You can’t NOT like that story. I’m also fond of that song, sad through it is, and am always relieved when a singer doesn’t louse it up. If you want to know what I’m talking about, lousing-up wise, look up the version sung by Aretha Franklin. It’s on YouTube, too. Aretha, I love you, but this was not one of your better ideas.

But here’s what I wonder about:

* Frizzy, frumpy, frowsy nobody wows the world with her splendid voice.

The question is: Would we be paying this much attention if Susan Boyle were a babe? I’m inclined to say no. Would people be going on about her voice – “angelic” and “unbelievable,” they’re calling it -- or would they just say it was nice? Like I said, I wonder.

Oh well. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s enough to say this nice woman from Scotland has a lovely voice, a pleasure to hear in this cacophonous age. You might even say the world needs it right now, and that’s why her video has spread like wildfire. And someday soon even the Amish will see it. Although, being Amish, they’ll have to download it by kerosene lamp.




© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.