Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Susan Boyle phenomenon

As of this writing (and I'd better type quickly before this sentence becomes inaccurate), Susan Boyle's audition from "Britain's Got Talent" has piled up a mind-numbing ~ 70 million Youtube views, spread amongst several different uploads, all of it in less than one week. She's completely dominating Youtube's "most viewed" charts -- it looks like one of those 1964 American pop charts that had the Beatles claiming all of the top spots.

Beyond the rags-to-riches aspect of the story (hopefully you're not too cynical to allow yourself at least a morsel of enjoyment out of it, and can find a way to temporarily detach yourself emotionally from the Cowellized stink of reality show pop culture in 2009. It's the story of dreams coming true and you get to watch someone transform herself from anonymous nobody into a huge star in matter of seconds. If you can't appreciate that just a little bit, then fuck you), most of the analysis has centred on whether all of this was staged. Depending on what story you want to believe, either the judges were in on the stunt, Boyle herself is a plant, or both, or none of the above. This looks set to become the Survivor Series 1997 of reality show controversies, as the debate over who knew what and when might very well stretch on for years, depending on the scale of Boyle's future success. But I simply don't understand any argument (on the part of the producers of BGT) for letting the judges know in advance, because in this sort of situation you'll never get a staged reaction that's any better than the one you'd get from legitimately surprising them. Besides, why go through that trouble to coax a specific reaction from the judges when it wasn't their reaction that would make the segment, it was the audience's?

For all of Simon Cowell's faults, there's no doubt that he appreciates the value of pop music in creating memorable moments, and to that end, he is usually quite good at spotting star power. It's the way he tries to artificially create these moments, or tries to manipulate them into $$$ that makes people hate what he's done to the music business. Watch Simon's face during that clip, and there can be little doubt that he knew that he was part of a genuine moment, and that's something that can't be faked.

Sort of a shame that Simon didn't offer up his "I've always said that it's not just about the voice" criticism (e.g. Clay Aiken, Taylor Hicks, many more) afterward ...

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