Susan Boyle in November 2009
|Birth name||Susan Magdalane Boyle|
|Born||1 April 1961|
|Origin||Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland|
|Labels||Sony Music, Syco, Columbia|
|Associated acts||Elaine Paige, Geraldine McQueen, Emeli Sandé|
Susan Magdalane Boyle (born 1 April 1961) is a Scottish singer who came to international public attention when she appeared as a contestant on the TV programme Britain's Got Talent on 11 April 2009, singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables. Her first album was released in November 2009 and debuted as the number one best-selling album on charts around the globe.
Susan Boyle's initial appearance on the talent show fired public imagination when her modest stage introduction and thick speaking accent left audience, viewers and judges alike unprepared for the power and expression of her mezzo-soprano voice. Before she had finished the song's opening phrase a standing ovation for Boyle had erupted. An international media and Internet response coincided. Within nine days of the audition, videos of Boyle—from the show, various interviews and her 1999 rendition of "Cry Me a River"—had been watched over 100 million times. Despite becoming an international sensation she eventually finished in second place on the show behind dance troupe Diversity.
Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed a Dream (2009) instantly became the UK's best-selling debut album of all time, beating the previous record held bySpirit by Leona Lewis. I Dreamed a Dream is ranked fourth in its first week sales according to the Official Chart Company in the United Kingdom. In her first year of fame, Boyle made £5 million with the release of I Dreamed a Dream and its lead-off singles, "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Wild Horses". The success was continued with her second album, The Gift (2010), and was followed by Boyle's third album, Someone to Watch Over Me, released on 31 October 2011. On 12 May 2012, Susan returned to Britain's Got Talent to perform as a guest in the final singing "You'll See". The following day, she performed at Windsor Castle for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant singing "Mull of Kintyre". Boyle's net worth was estimated at £22 million in April 2012.
Life and career
Early life and childhood
Boyle was raised in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland. Her father, Patrick Boyle, was a miner and veteran of the Second World War who also worked as a singer at the Bishop's Blaize; her mother Bridget was a shorthand typist, whose family originated from County Donegal, Ireland. Boyle was the youngest of four brothers and five sisters. She was briefly deprived of oxygen during a difficult birth resulting in a learning disability. Boyle says she was bullied as a child, and was nicknamed "Susie Simple" at school.
After leaving school with few qualifications, she was employed for the only time in her life as a trainee cook in the kitchen of West Lothian College for six months, took part in government training programmes, and performed at local venues.
Early musical training and career
Boyle took singing lessons from vocal coach Fred O'Neil. She attended Edinburgh Acting School and took part in the Edinburgh Fringe. Prior to Britain's Got Talent, her main experience had come from singing in her local Catholic church, Our Lady of Lourdes; in local choirs; and in karaoke performances at pubs in and around her village. She had also auditioned several times for My Kind of People. She also long participated in her parish church's pilgrimages to the Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland, and sang there at the Marian basilica.
Her repertoire through the years has included songs such as "The Way We Were" and "I Don't Know How to Love Him." British tabloids claimed "exclusives" of video clips of some early performances. In 1995 her audition for Michael Barrymore's My Kind of People at the Olympia Shopping Centre in East Kilbride was filmed – the amateur video shows Barrymore was more interested in mocking her than in her ability to sing.
In 1999, she submitted a track for a charity CD to commemorate the Millennium produced at a West Lothian school. Only 1,000 copies of the CD, Music for a Millennium Celebration, Sounds of West Lothian, were pressed. An early review in the West Lothian Herald & Post said Boyle's rendition of "Cry Me a River" was "heartbreaking" and "had been on repeat in my CD player ever since I got this CD..." The recording found its way onto the internet following her first televised appearance and the New York Post said it showed that Boyle was "not a one-trick pony." Hello! said the recording "cement[ed] her status" as a singing star.
In 1998 Boyle recorded three tracks—"Cry Me A River", "Killing Me Softly", and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"—at Heartbeat Studio, Midlothian. She used all her savings to pay for a professionally cut demo, copies of which she later sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV. The demo consisted of her versions of "Cry Me a River" and "Killing Me Softly with His Song"; the songs were uploaded to the Internet after her BGT audition.
After Boyle won several local singing competitions, her mother urged her to enter Britain's Got Talent and take the risk of singing in front of an audience larger than her parish church. Former coach O'Neil said Boyle abandoned an audition for The X Factor because she believed people were being chosen for their looks. She almost abandoned her plan to enter Britain's Got Talent believing she was too old, but O'Neil persuaded her to audition nevertheless. Boyle said that she was motivated to seek a musical career to pay tribute to her mother. Her performance on the show was the first time she had sung in public since her mother died.
Britain's Got Talent (2008–2009)
In August 2008, Boyle applied for an audition for the third series of Britain's Got Talent (as contestant number 43212) and was accepted after a preliminary audition in Glasgow. When Boyle first appeared on Britain's Got Talent at the city's Clyde Auditorium, she said that she aspired to become a professional singer "as successful as Elaine Paige". Boyle sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables in the first round of the third series of Britain's Got Talent, which was watched by over 10 million viewers when it aired on 11 April 2009. Programme judge Amanda Holden remarked upon the audience's initially cynical attitude, and the subsequent "biggest wake-up call ever" upon hearing her performance.
This performance was widely reported and tens of millions of people viewed the video on YouTube. Boyle was "absolutely gobsmacked" by the strength of this reaction. Since the appearance, Paige has expressed interest in singing a duet with Boyle, and has called her "a role model for everyone who has a dream". Boyle's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" has been credited with causing a surge in ticket sales in the Vancouver production of Les Misérables. Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of the Les Misérables musical, also praised the performance, as "heart-touching, thrilling and uplifting".
She was one of 40 acts that were put through to the semi-finals. She appeared last on the first semi-final on 24 May 2009, performing "Memory" from the musical Cats. In the public vote she was the act to receive the highest number of votes and go through to the final. She was the clear favourite to win the final, but ended up in second place to dance troupe Diversity; the UK TV audience was a record of 17.3 million viewers.
The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) became concerned by press reports about Boyle's erratic behaviour and speculation about her mental condition and wrote to remind editors about clause 3 (privacy) of their code of press conduct. The day after the final, Boyle was admitted to The Priory, a private psychiatric clinic in London, Talkback Thames explained "Following Saturday night's show, Susan is exhausted and emotionally drained." Her stay in hospital attracted widespread attention, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown wishing her well. Cowell offered to waive Boyle's contractual obligation to take part in the BGT tour. Her family said "she's been battered non-stop for the last seven weeks and it has taken its toll [...but...] her dream is very much alive," as she had been invited to the Independence Day celebrations at the White House.
Boyle left the clinic five days after her admission and said she would participate in the BGT tour. Despite health worries, she appeared in 20 of the 24 dates of the tour, and was well received in cities such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dublin, Sheffield, Coventry, Birmingham and London. The Belfast Telegraph stated that "Despite reports of crumbling under the pressure..., she exuded a confidence resembling that of a veteran who has been performing for years".
I Dreamed a Dream and tour (2009–2010)
Boyle's first album, I Dreamed a Dream, was released on 23 November 2009. The album includes covers of "Wild Horses" and "You'll See" as well as "I Dreamed a Dream", and "Cry Me a River". I Dreamed a Dream became Amazon.com's best-selling album in pre-sales on 4 September 2009, nearly three months before the scheduled release. In Britain, Boyle's debut album was recognised as the fastest selling UK debut album of all time selling 411,820 copies, beating the previous fastest selling debut of all time, Spirit by Leona Lewis. I Dreamed a Dream also outsold the rest of the top 5 albums combined in its first week.
In the U.S., the album sold 701,000 copies in its first week, the best opening week for a debut artist in over a decade. It topped the Billboard chart for six straight weeks and although it narrowly failed to become the best-selling album of 2009, with sales of 3,104,000 compared to 3,217,000 for Taylor Swift's Fearless, it was one of only two albums to sell over 3 million copies in the U.S., and was also the top selling "physical" album of 2009, with only 86,000 of its sales coming from digital downloads. This has in turn garnered more media attention, as mentioned by People magazine.
In Italy, it was the first album of the month in the Italian No. 1 Account by a non-Italian artist ever. In only a week, it sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, becoming the fastest selling global female debut album.
Boyle gave a U.S. concert tour in November as a lead-up to the album release. On 13 December 2009 she appeared in her own television special "I Dreamed a Dream: the Susan Boyle Story", featuring a duet with Elaine Paige. It got ratings of 10 million viewers in the United Kingdom and in America was the TV Guide Network's highest rated television special in its history.
In November 2009 it was reported that Boyle's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" would be the theme song of the anime movie Eagle Talon The Movie 3 which was later released in Japan on 16 January 2010. Boyle performed for Pope Benedict XVI on his tour of Britain in 2010. In May 2010, Susan Boyle was voted by Time magazine as the seventh most influential person in the world.
The Gift (2010–2011)
On 9 July 2010, Boyle announced that her second album would be a Christmas album entitled The Gift. As part of the lead-up to the album, she held a competition called Susan's Search, the winner of which sang a duet with her on her new CD. The album was released on 8 November 2010.
The album was produced by Steve Mac, who said that "Now Susan's used to the studio and the recording process, this time round we might go even further down a traditional route of recording by getting a band together and rehearsing songs before we go into the studio to see what works, how she reacts with certain parts, and so we can change the arrangements that way. I think that’s going to work much better....With Susan it’s very important she connects with the public and the public connect with her. She doesn’t want to sing anything that hasn’t happened to her or she can’t relate to." Boyle has suggested the album will include some jazz numbers now she's "a bit more content" within herself. "My next album has to have an element of surprise in it again. I'm hoping to make it better and a bit extra special."
In November 2010, Boyle became one of only three acts ever to top both the UK and US album charts twice in the same year. On 30 November 2010, in the United States, Boyle performed on ABC's The View singing "O Holy Night" and then on NBC's Christmas at Rockefeller Center program performing "Perfect Day" and "Away in a Manger". During her appearance on The View she was unable to finish her song, stating that she had a "frog in her throat"; she wanted to start the song over but was not allowed to. The audience applauded her anyway and she later performed an unaired version of the song which was uploaded to The View's YouTube account.
Someone to Watch Over Me (2011–2012)
Emeli Sandé was reported to have helped Boyle to write songs for her third studio album, which was released on 31 October 2011. Boyle performed on the second semi-final results show of the sixth season of America's Got Talent, which aired on 31 August 2011.
Boyle made her first appearance in Australia, on X Factor Australia, on 8 November 2011 and sang "Autumm Leaves".
Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage (2012–present)
Boyle released her fourth album Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage in November 2012. She reportedly took piano lessons as she planned on playing it for the album. A reporter told The Sun "Susan loves the piano and always dreamed of being able to reach a standard which would allow her to play on stage and on her albums." In two of the songs, she collaborates with Donny Osmond.
Film Debut (2013-present)
Boyle will be making her first appearance in acting as Eleanor Hopewell in The Christmas Candle. Talking about her first acting role Susan Boyle said: “I can’t believe I’m making a film. I’m very excited to be a part of The Christmas Candle. Everyone on set is a delight to work with and it’s a fantastic experience to be part of the team."  Previously in television, Boyle starred as herself in I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story and in a 2011 documentary titled Susan Boyle: An Unlikely Superstar.
Websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been crucial in facilitating Boyle's rapid rise to fame: The most popular YouTube video submission of her audition garnered nearly 2.5 million views in the first 72 hours. On the day following the performance, the YouTube video was the most popular article on Digg and made the front page of Reddit. Within a week, the audition performance had been viewed more than 66 million times, setting an online record, while on Wikipedia her biographical article attracted nearly half a million page views. A total of 103 million video views on 20 different Web sites was reached within nine days. The Los Angeles Times wrote that her popularity on YouTube may in part be due to the broad range of emotion packed into a short clip which was "perfect for the Internet". In December 2009 her audition was named the most watched YouTube video of the year with over 120 million viewings, more than three times higher than the second most popular video.
Additionally, Boyle’s first on camera interview with Scots journalist Richard Mooney for her local newspaper the West Lothian Courier, was named as YouTube’s Most Memorable Video of 2009. The video went viral after being uploaded to YouTube on 14 April 2009.
Many newspapers around the world (including China, Brazil and the Middle East) carried articles on Boyle's performance. British tabloid The Sun gave her the nickname "Paula Potts" in reference to the first series' winner Paul Potts. Later, the British press took to referring to her by a short-form of her name, 'SuBo'. In the U.S., several commentators also drew parallels between Boyle's performance and that of Potts. ABC News hailed "Britain's newest pop sensation", and its Entertainment section headlined Boyle as "The Woman Who Shut Up Simon Cowell".
Within the week following her performance on Britain's Got Talent, Boyle was a guest on STV's The Five Thirty Show. She was interviewed via satellite on CBS's The Early Show, Good Morning America, NBC's Today, FOX's America's Newsroom. and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Via satellite on Larry King Live, Boyle performed an a cappella verse of "My Heart Will Go On". She was also portrayed in drag by Jay Leno, who joked that they were related through his mother's Scottish heritage.
At the invitation of NHK, a major Japanese broadcaster, Boyle appeared as a guest singer for the 2009 edition of Kōhaku Uta Gassen, annual songfest on 31 December in Tokyo. She was introduced as the ōen kashu (応援歌手 lit. "cheering singer" ) by the MCs and appeared on the stage escorted by Takuya Kimura, and sang "I Dreamed a Dream".
Although Boyle was not eligible for the 2010 Grammy Awards, its host Stephen Colbert paid tribute to Boyle at the ceremony, telling its audience "you may be the coolest people in the world, but this year your industry was saved by a 48-year-old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes." There was also earlier controversy, when Boyle was not nominated in any of the categories for the 2010 Brit Awards.
A stage musical of Boyle's life was originally planned with Boyle appearing as herself. She said she hated "having to sit watching people up there" who are actors. However it was later decided that actress Elaine C. Smith would portray her  and Boyle would join the cast of I Dreamed a Dream for a cameo appearance.
I Dreamed a Dream opened on 27 March 2012 with fans from all over the world occupying the Theatre Royal, Newcastle for the opening week. The musical received rave reviews. David Cavendish wrote in his 5 star review "The overall shape of the show is hard to fault, and in matching the gutsy good humour of its heroine without stooping to hagiography, this is a delight that deserves to go far, and fast, as she has done." John Dixon from his 5 star review on WhatsOnStage.com wrote "This production is a standalone show that should still play to audiences long after Elaine C Smith and Susan Boyle have left. In fact it deserves to become recognised as the Scottish equivalent to Blood Brothers, so strong are the production values. There is no doubting I Dreamed A Dream is one of the musical events of the year."
The musical will later tour the UK and Ireland.
Boyle said she was initially upset by the show, because she was "not used to it". She called it "surreal", but later changed her mind and found it "clever and amusing".
Judging by appearance
The Huffington Post noted that the producers of the show would have anticipated the potential of this story arc, by deliberately presenting Boyle in a manner that would enhance this initial reaction. The Herald described Boyle's story as a modern parable and a rebuke to people's tendency to judge others based on their physical appearance. Similarly, Entertainment Weekly said that Boyle's performance was a victory for talent and artistry in a culture obsessed with physical attractiveness and presentation.
The Washington Post believed that her initial demeanour and homely appearance caused the judges and audience to be "waiting for her to squawk like a duck". New York's Daily News said that an underdog being ridiculed or humiliated but then enjoying an unexpected triumph is a common trope in literature, and the stark contrast between the audience's low expectations and the quality of her singing made Boyle's performance such an engaging piece of television.
R.M. Campbell, music critic for The Gathering Note compared her to Ella Fitzgerald, in that "[... it is] really, really hard to make a career if a woman isn't attractive." In another Huffington Post article, Letty Cottin Pogrebin wrote that although people may "weep for the years of wasted talent", Boyle's performance was a triumph for "women of a certain age" over a youth culture that often dismisses middle-aged women. Tanya Gold wrote in The Guardian that the difference between Boyle's hostile reception and the more neutral response to Paul Potts in his first audition reflected society's expectation that women be both good-looking and talented, with no such expectation existing for men. Los Angeles vocal coach Eric Vetro stated, "She's an Everywoman as opposed to an untouchable fantasy goddess, so maybe that's why people react to her."
Several media sources have commented that Boyle's success seemed to have particular resonance in the United States. An American entertainment correspondent was quoted in The Scotsman comparing Boyle's story to the American Dream, as representing talent overcoming adversity and poverty. The Associated Press described this as Boyle's "hardscrabble story", dwelling on her modest lifestyle and what they characterised as urban deprivation in her home town. Similarly, The Independent's New York correspondent David Usborne wrote that the United States will always respond to "the fairy tale where the apparently unprepossessing suddenly becomes pretty, from Shrek to My Fair Lady".
Boyle still lives in the family home, a four-bedroom council house in Blackburn which she purchased from her earnings in 2010. Her father died in the 1990s, and her siblings had left home. Boyle never married, and she dedicated herself to care for her ageing mother until her mother died in 2007 at the age of 91. A neighbour reported that when Bridget Boyle died, her daughter "wouldn't come out for three or four days or answer the door or phone." Boyle is a practising Roman Catholic and sang in her church choir at her church in Blackburn. Boyle remains active as a volunteer at her church, visiting elderly members of the congregation in their homes. On a 2010 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Boyle summarised that her daily life was "mundane" and "routine" prior to stardom.
In August 2010, British tabloid, News of the World, reported that Boyle was experiencing financial woes as she was unable to access her fortune, which was being controlled by her management team – consisting of Andy Stephens, Ossie Killkenny and Boyle's lawyer and niece, Kirsty Foy. Boyle's brother Gerry said that his sister was fearful of losing her contract and of returning to her previous financial situation and also that she has been unable to move into her £300,000 five-bedroom house in Blackburn because she does not have the cash to furnish it. He said "[Her] millions are ring-fenced but Susan has no concept of money" and that she was "extremely distressed" at having to live off £300 a week after being banned from withdrawing money from the bank or owning a credit card. This story was contradicted the following day, however, by the news that she had bought two houses. It was also reported that Boyle had been on a spending spree in which she had bought a grand piano, an iPhone and five dresses made by Stewart Parvin, dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II. The press had previously stated that Boyle was suing her brother Gerry for other stories he had sold to the newspapers.
In November 2012, when asked if she had tried to find love through internet dating, Boyle said she was too scared, saying: "Knowing my luck I'd go out on a date and you'd find my limbs scattered around various Blackburn dustbins!"
The American cartoon show South Park made a reference to the Susan Boyle craze in the episode "Fatbeard", which aired on 22 April 2009; the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show aired a comedy sketch showing the "feel good" effect that Susan Boyle's performance has had on people; The Simpsons aired a new commercial for its 20th-anniversary show "Springfield's Got Talent", in which Homer Simpson talks about his dreams "to be a great singer like Boyle". A European trailer for the video game The Sims 3 includes a character mocked up as Boyle. In June 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a short story called "I Dreamed a Dream" that was based on a combination of Boyle's appearances on Britain's Got Talent and the political difficulties of Gordon Brown. The 5 November 2009 episode of the show 30 Rock showed recurring character Kathy Geiss (Marceline Hugot) – who has a dowdy appearance – singing in the style of Susan Boyle as Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy teared up. In a Season 35 sketch on Saturday Night Live, an accountant (Andy Samberg) doing Boyle's taxes notes that her income for 2008 was $1, $900,000,000 for 2009, and projected to be $1 for 2010. Bobby Moynihan played Boyle in the sketch.
- I Dreamed a Dream (2009)
- The Gift (2010)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (2011)
- Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage (2012)
Awards and nominations
|2011||53rd Grammy Awards||Best Pop Vocal Album – I Dreamed a Dream||Nominated|
|2012||54th Grammy Awards||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album – The Gift||Nominated|
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Susan Boyle|
- Official website
- Susan Boyle at Allmusic
- Works by or about Susan Boyle in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Susan Boyle at the Open Directory Project