How did a plain and dowdy 40 year old virgin become an overnight sensation? Many would say talent that launched Boyle and it is true that she has an extraordinary vocal chords. But talent, as anyone in the music industry knows, only goes so far.
No, Susan Boyle is a hit because she is every man or woman who ever sang in the shower or in front of a mirror momentarily dreaming that they were on stage receiving the adulation of thousands as they belted out a heartfelt ballad. For just a few moments our collective extra pounds and bad hair didn’t matter. The crowd reacted; and we felt it in our bones.
Susan Boyle is a hit because of her story – or the more precisely her amazing lack of one. “Out of nowhere” is a briefer, more touching and far more broadly meaningful story than “out of Compton”, “from Nigeria by way of Paris” or “formerly of” will ever be. And the producers of the show alongside a cadre of amateur video editors eager for their own 15 minutes of fame knew just how to package this short and effective story for YouTube and the viral web.
What can the music industry learn from Susan Boyle? Even in the internet age, people still deeply need to connect emotionally and music can sometimes fill that void. Susan Boyle is a hit because she is authentic. The music industry can’t manufacture authenticity and should stop trying. But as great executives did when they signed Joplin, Hendrix and Dylan, the industry can learn to recognize, support and celebrate it. – Bruce Houghton