If you don’t yet know who Susan Boyle is, crawl out from under your rock, go to Youtube, watch all seven minutes of her “Britain’s Got Talent” audition, then come back to this page and continue reading. A dowdy, 47-year-old, never-been-kissed Scottish woman has turned the entertainment world on its ear and elicited a genuine grin from Simon Cowell. I believe hell might have frozen over for a few minutes there as well.
Three years ago it was Paul Potts, the British cell phone salesman in need of dental work who opened his mouth on that same stage and made folks across England look twice at their tellies and inquire, “Luciano?” And now we have Susan Boyle, a woman who could probably sell out a U.S. tour in a matter of moments right now, yet completely unknown just two weeks ago.
What shall we make of this?
Well, I have a theory (you knew it was coming, didn’t you). Actually my theory is two-fold. First, I think this phenomenon might have something to do with the aging baby-boomer generation. Those of us in our late 40s, 50s, and 60s represent a mighty marketing demographic, and we’re just about wise enough now to appreciate true talent over superficial beauty. Thirty years ago if a would-be celebrity couldn’t appeal to 17 year olds, they weren’t considered viable in commercial music. Now? Well, screw the whippersnappers. Who needs ’em? We might be stiff crawling out of bed in the mornings, but we can deliver up platinum album sales if we take a mind to.
The second part of my theory is a bit more esoteric. I wonder if there might be an evolutionary step we’ve taken that has caused us to be more in tune with what is real. I’m a creative person and value the creative process. I’ve read “The Artist’s Way.” But, there are some things you can’t create. Susan Boyle’s moment in the spotlight was the artistic equivalent of lightening striking, and even the best director or producer would tell you that you just can’t create that. Sometimes magic happens, whether on a movie set, under a Broadway proscenium arch, or on a talent show stage. And that magic is when absolute authenticity shines from a pure place.
Susan Boyle might not look like a star, but she’s real. And that true self she presents to the world is what we crave. We don’t want to sing like Susan Boyle. We want to have the courage to be as authentic.
Either that, or it all boils down to Boomers becoming as Youtube savvy as the whippersnappers.