Thursday, April 23, 2009

Susan Boyle Reveals our Misassumptions

The first time I saw the YouTube video of Susan Boyle, I was pretty much blown away by her voice and the energy she invoked from the audience.
But what sticks with me is the reaction of the very attractive judges—first of mockery when she stood before them, then once they heard Susan’s voice, of delight and amazement.

Why is there amazement that an ordinary looking woman can hold a tune and have a beautiful voice? Why on earth would people make the assumption that an average looking person, or a disabled individual, or even terribly disfigured soul can’t sing?

Statistically, more ordinary people have great voices than very attractive ones do. It’s simple—let’s say that 75% of the population is ordinary looking and the rest fall on either side of the spectrum. Does it make any statistical sense that only the gifted in looks would also be gifted in voice?

Of course, ones singling ability has nothing to do with ones looks. What set Susan Boyle apart was her willingness—her courageousness—to face an audience and judges so warped as to assume only good looking people could sing.

The reality is, we have lots of famous singers who are pretty mediocre (at best) singers. They do, however, have other attributes: good looks, confidence, and performance ability. Virtually all of today’s female icons that could not even begin to compete with Susan’s voice. Instead, they know how to wear attention grabbing clothing, to dance and move; and they look great. These singers pick easy songs to sing that anyone who can carry a tune could pull off.

So why is the world so amazed with Susan Boyle? Certainly, she can sing and has a lovely voice. But are we amazed at her voice or is it her courageousness—her chutzpah—to stand before judges as an ordinary looking woman and ask to be given the chance that floors us? If so, shame on us.

On the other hand… many people, listeners of popular music only, may never have heard such a fine voice as Susan’s. Many are simply moved by her angelic voice.

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