25 November 2009

Boyle or Boiler?

I don't especially care about the X Factor, and I never see the Saturday show anyway as it's strictly Strictly in this household. However, I watch the results show on Sundays, so I reckon I get a decent deal - all the egotistical bollocks from the judges without any of the weekly crucifixion of great songs.

I saw Susan Boyle perform on Sunday night (and, thanks to JM's marvellous weekly review, established that she didn't really) and enjoyed it. The material she's doing is very easy listening, of course, and as well as the new single, her album also contains a version of Madonna's You'll See, which I heard on Radio 2 the other day.

I would have loved to have been inside the brain of Dannii Minogue or Cheryl Cole as they watched this performance. Yes, those two have looks, youth and got lucky early etc - but they must know that despite all their riches, successes, hunky conquests, profile triumphs and the like, that they simply have absolutely nothing in comparison to a frumpy, bashful, untouched woman who kept her talent and ambition hidden until her dying mother instructed her to try to get noticed.

We've all heard the usual showbiz mantras about how image and looks and style matter too much in the music business. Here's the proof. It's pejorative and too simple to call Susan Boyle ugly, but frankly, she is no beauty. And yet her voice projects more light and drama and grace and theatre than any younger, thinner contemporary whose audience she now seems to be chasing. Could this amazing battle of talent over image really change the music business as we currently see it?

Look at Dannii Minogue. She got a record deal because a) she was in an Australian soap; b) she looked good when she was 19; and c) her big sister was already a proven pop star on little discernible talent and there were currency signs in some executive's eyes when the next Minogue rolled off the production line. There was no sign of a d) suggesting that she was a good singer. Listen to her debut hit Love And Kisses, if you dare. And even when she did break into the charts with that hideous record, she never got even close to Kylie's stranglehold and had, all told, a very ordinary pop career.

As for Cheryl, well she came through a reality show to make Girls Aloud and I do find that group entertaining, as well as easy on the eye. But that bum note she hit at last year's Brits will haunt her for life - and now she's telling unknowns how to sing and perform.

Three things have gained her individual status from the rest of her group; her court case, her marriage to a footballer and her role on the X Factor. None of the things have made her essentially the Chief Girl of Girls Aloud have anything to do with her ability. She could have released a fart and it would have gone to number one in the charts (and judging by the blandness of the record, hasn't strayed far from that notion) but that song has got to number one not because of artistic excellence, but of the personality and image behind it.

Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue are professional singers who didn't hit any branches on the way down from the tree. However, would they rather have the best looks, as they do, or the best voice, as Susan Boyle does? Even though it's a singing business, as Dannii herself likes to say when deciding who to keep in the show, I bet I know how both would answer.

1 comment:

Bright Ambassador said...

Quite frankly, I find all three completely unlistenable.
I wish Wild Horses would drag Boyle away.