Style: Slow ballads and torch songs; compare to Celine Dion, Elaine Paige
Top tracks: "How Great Thou Art," "Proud," "I Dreamed A Dream"
There has been plenty of chatter—online, naturally—about the effect that the Internet is having on our lives and our culture, but there is no greater emblem of this modern phenomenon than Susan Boyle. The 48-year-old sensation rocketed to worldwide renown, fueled primarily by a YouTube clip of an appearance she made on the popular UK TV show Britain's Got Talent in April of this year.
Seven months, some 100 million views of her soul-shaking rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" (from Les Miserables), and a near infinite amount of media appearances and news coverage later, comes the next chapter of this success story: Boyle's debut album.
Named after the song that pushed her into the limelight, the disc is exactly what you would expect. There's a new recording of the title track and 11 other songs chosen to show off her strong mezzo-soprano pipes ("Cry Me a River," "You'll See", and "Proud," a song written for the album by producer Steve Mac). The music sticks to one steady course of slow lingering piano lines, swooping strings, and tempos that never get above a crawl.
Not surprisingly, this approach to the album works best when Boyle and her producers have chosen songs that reflect the singer's faith—and thus the album is also being distributed in the Christian market. Sprinkled throughout the project are a few familiar hymns—"How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace," and, just in time for Christmas, "Silent Night"—that are fairly riveting thanks to the emotional musical performances and Boyle's haunting vocals.
What you don't get is any sense of what Boyle is capable of outside of the slow, smoky ballad. Even the pop numbers picked for her by the album's production team "Daydream Believer" and "The End of the World"—are stretched into slow motion. Seems we will have to wait for the next album to see if she can mix it up with some up-tempo material.
In that sense, Dream is really an emblem of how pop success works in our modern age. Someone gets known for their ability to do one thing, and the people that end up advising them won't let them do anything other than that one thing. For Boyle, that means singing blustery songs whose sole intention is to induce gooseflesh or teary eyes in the listener.
Unless there are other hidden talents lying under the surface, Boyle's success will likely be a fleeting one, with a fade into the background that will be as quick as was her rise to prominence.
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