Saturday, May 2, 2009


Wow! The backup group is crappy, but she clearly had something back in 1984:

Hat-tip: Hot Air Headlines.

The woman who, in middle age, sprang to stardom on "Britain Got Talent," was a very polished performer at age 22 but, for whatever reason, never got a break. This kind of situation -- the undiscovered talent -- is really more common than might be imagined by people who aren't in the music business.

I used to know a bartender in Georgia who was a tremendous R&B singer. At one point, he had been under contract as singer for the group that eventually became famous as the Atlanta Rhythm Section. For whatever reason -- he told me the story, but I've forgotten now -- it just didn't work out, and he never really got another shot.

UPDATE: 'Lanches, light the corners of my mind . . .

UPDATE II: Some commenters are saying that Susan Boyle's thick eyebrows explain her lack of '80s stardom. Let me remind you of something:

That's Brooke Shields on the cover of German Vogue in 1984, when thick eyebrows on women were all the rage. Well, Susan Boyle's eyes weren't quite as startling and her mouth wasn't quite as pouty as Brooke's, and so everybody in the comments is saying that Susan didn't become a singing star 25 years ago because she needed a pair of tweezers. I think the explanation is otherwise, but I'm waiting for someone else to tell me what it is.

UPDATE III: OK, some of you guys in the comments (talking about the fact that there 5,000 musical geniuses waiting tables and driving forklifts in Nashville) are getting closer to the truth about the situation. Now check out my attempt to explain why Susan Boyle went undiscovered.


  1. How much of success is simply being in the right place at the right time? Most of it.

  2. Its now what you know, its who you know.

  3. Talent is not as rare a thing as those who market it would have us believe.

  4. a very polished performer at age 22 but, for whatever reason, never got a breakI don't want to be mean, but really?! You don't know why she didn't get a break?

    There is no amount of plastic surgery that could have made her pretty enough to meet the standards of pop music.

  5. a makeover would have done wonders - pluck the brows and a bit of makeup

  6. I met an undiscovered talent once in the Philippines. He was not only a great C&W singer, but a great con artist as well. He claimed to be Glenn Horton, the disinherited son of Johnny Horton—a country singer from the fifties and sixties. He sounded just like Johnny Horton. He became a great hit in the Country music bars in Angelus City. He rented one whole floor of the New Salem Hotel and raised thousands of dollars from fan investors to cut an updated album featuring his own songs and Johnny Horton standards. After about six weeks he disappeared with the money and without paying his hotel bill. He was a great singer though.

  7. All you have to do is come to Nashville and visit a restaurant. This town is populated by Susan Boyles.

  8. I think the bottom line is that - for whatever reason - Ms Boyle was never in the position to leave her village, head to a major city, and get represented by a top notch talent agent and really get a shot at things. Maybe she didn't have the money or the moxie - maybe she had responsibilities at home....Had circumstances been different, I'm sure she'd have made a name for herself much earlier.

  9. “There is no amount of plastic surgery that could have made her pretty enough to meet the standards of pop music.“

    Janis Joplin? Mama Cass? The Divine Miss M? Could they meet the standards of pop music?

  10. Anonymous said...

    oh, please...lack of beauty doesn't begin to cover the myriad reasons why Boyle never established professional success. In Canada, Rita McNeil is far less attractive and MUCH heavier than Susan Boyle and has a cleft lip to boot...and is probably not nearly as accomplished a vocalist as Susan Boyle.YET she managed to become an internationally recognized talent who came to prominence in the age of music videos.
    I'm supposing it was Boyle's inability to form a performing act with a real backing band(listen to the HORRIBLE accompaniment on that video to get an idea what a struggle it is for her to sing over imagine having to do that everytime you perform) willing to showcase her vocals and to develop a repertoire of songs that would best serve her as performer. Half the battle is being IN A BATTLE and standing on the sidelines waiting for someone to make your career instead of doing it for yourself may not be the best strategy.

  11. "There is no amount of plastic surgery that could have made her pretty enough to meet the standards of pop music."

    Barbara Streisand

  12. This kind of situation -- the undiscovered talent -- is really more common than might be imagined by people who aren't in the music business. It is indeed common, but talent isn't enough. There is lots of talent around, and I've heard plenty of people on stage in Nashville with great voices and/or playing talent.

    Luck matters too, but even talent and luck together are not sufficient.

    What music industry people will tell you is that presence matters just as much as talent. That's the indefinable capability to connect with an audience.

    It's not clear that Susan Boyle has that. She's spunky, but she's more than a bit frumpy. That would not have gone over well in the 1980s, though it might do better in an age where people are searching for more authenticity. But I still don't see that she has the presence to be a real, long-term star.

  13. In any field, with enough talent and determination you are guaranteed success, and with less talent and determination you will succeed if you are lucky. However, different fields have different ratios of these types of successes. In the pop music biz, maybe 5% of the stars would have made it under any circumstances, a much lower percentage than other professions because the structure of the industry makes "getting a break" so critical. In the writing business the percentage is higher, in pro team sports the percentage is higher still, in pro individual sports it is yet higher still.

  14. Both Yaro and anonymous are partly right - even at 22, she was not very attractive, and pop music wants attractive women. (No, it's not the eyebrows, it's the shape of her face. A better hairdo would have helped, but only somewhat.)

    However, watching the 1984 video and the recent one, she's a *much* better singer now. She unclenches her teeth now, which gives her a voice a better sound - she had a good voice back then, but it's noticeably better now.

  15. I can think of several "undiscovered" YouTube performers who are more talented than Britney and Miley etc:

    like heror heror heror heror heror herMost have just several hundred views of their videos--amazing.

    And, that's just a fraction of a fraction of the undiscovered talent out there.

  16. Susan Boyle is no worse looking than Barbra Streisand (shudder)

  17. Thousands of people can sing really well. Only a few have the artist inside that makes how they sing something special.

    Copying a Rembrandt isn't that hard, it just takes training and practice. Turning a blank canvas into something special is what separates the just talented from the real artist.

  18. Mike the bassman . . .Sun May 03, 06:14:00 PM

    There are lot's of Susan Boyle's in the world. I've played in hundreds of bands with people as good as her. She doesn't give me shivers or send a tingle up my leg. She's a good singer but as a performer . . . not so good. A great voice when compared to the population at large, a very average voice when compared to all singers currently performing. I couldn't stand to listen to her sing a whole album of material.

  19. Persistence counts, too. In the late 60s I was the 'roadie' (I'm not sure the term was invented at the time) for my roommate's band. (I had a biggish car and could carry a lot of equipment.)

    They were, in terms of earnings, the best band at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. They got top local dollar, and played every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night. They were students first and musicians second. When 4 of the 6 graduated, the split and each went their own way.

    Meanwhile, a band further down in the UofI Top Ten (if there was such a term) persisted and eventually became successful on a larger scale (although not with all the original members.) They were REO Speedwagon.

    Were they better in 68-69? Absolutely not. Was the raw talent there? Evidently.

    (Oh. And my roommate's band was offered a recording contract, but it was for so little they said to forget it. Guess they just didn't want it enough, maybe.)

  20. Story I read was that as one of the youngest in a large family, she stayed with and took care of elderly parents who were not well. Her father died several years ago, her mother two years ago.

    I don't believe she sought a singing career, having bigger fish to fry.

  21. Britain's Got Talent has launched a number of people on the road to stardom and when their true vocal talent was revealed to the public via via that tv show. Two years ago Paul Potts a man every bit as as frumpy as and even more talented than Susan Boyle was catapaulted to international stardom by his appearance on BGT.
    For the sake of anyone over 45 who enjoys popular music that moves one emotionally, inspires us to a higher plane, and stirs the intellect rather than one's loins Susan Boyle and Potts are a godsend Let us hope BGT launches Susan Boyle and others like her to vodcal stardom and contiuning musical success.
    The so called impresarios, promoters,and producers who peddle perversion, vulgarity, and mayhem as music are so digusting and I and millions of other adults refuse to buy for their tasteless artless rubbish as theyb wonder why music sales crater.
    The only part of the music industry that can produce real music and new artists that one could remotely say reflects the genius of Guido de Arrezo is part of the American country music business and and opera.
    Susan Boyle and Paul Potts' appearance on the music scene have at least inspired me to forfeit purchase price of cd to savor the talent of a new singer in 25 years.