Jesurgislac’s Journal

April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle: “I dreamed a dream”

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

I don’t often post Youtube links. Nor do I often post them with this recommendation: Listen to this. Watch it.

I swear to you: it’s a peak experience. It’s worth just listening to, but the first time through: watch it, watch the faces. Then the second time through: watch it again knowing what you’re going to see.

Then come back here and tell me I was right to steer you there.

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

Fantine’s song from Les Miserables, sung by Susan Boyle, a 47-year old woman from Bathgate, West Lothian, who tells the panel of judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” that she wants to be a professional singer like Elaine Paige and hears the audience laugh and sees the judges smirk.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Piers Morgan: you got played by a wee lady from Bathgate. Everyone else: wasn’t the best moment when Simon Cowell’s look of mocking amusement just kind of flattened out and his eyebrows went up? Or was it when the audience gave her a standing ovation in the middle of the song? Or was it – the second time you watched it – when you saw her give that wee mocking smile before she started to sing, because she could see how they were reacting to this plain frumpy middle-aged lady and she knew what they were about to hear?

A voice. A golden voice.

She’d been training for 35 years: but she’s made it.

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

Hell, Susan: 47 is still young, and you are still unafraid.


  1. absolutely wonderful. for many reasons.

    Comment by Debbie(aussie) — April 16, 2009 @ 3:57 am | Reply

  2. Hi Debbie! I discovered once I’d swum up from the lake I’d been sunk in for the past week, that in fact it’s all over YouTube, and probably everyone who reads my blog had it already. But OMG, it is so worth recording! That expression on Amanda’s face, and Simon’s, and Piers’ swallow! And the way she just set out to walk off the stage after she’d sung, like she’d just done what she always wanted to do – brought a large audience to their feet in wonder.

    I’m still not over it. Can you tell? It’s really not often I witness something that really makes me feel, wow.

    Comment by Jesurgislac — April 16, 2009 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  3. she reminds me of bjork in the movie dancer in the dark

    so touching

    Comment by littleoslo — April 16, 2009 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  4. That’s a very pretty video. I’ve watched it carefully several times, and I think there’s a bit more stage-management to it than you’ve realized.

    First, the camera-panning catches of significant facial expressions is simply too good, too apropos, to be serendipity. The judges remarks are too well thought-out to be spontaneous; most of them indicate that a bit of time has passed for reflection and word-smithing. The cameraman on the flying boom was ready to make his zoom-in pass when Boyle hit her high note–again, indicating that a degree of advance preparation had occurred. Likewise, the fellows off the stage left had been prepped with several smart remarks and had a camera backstage ready to speak them to.

    Oh, there’s more. But that’s enough, I think, to convince most people that Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden were falsely pretending to be surprised after Boyle finished singing, and that Simon Cowell was telling the plain truth when he said that he knew Boyle’s singing would be extraordinary when she walked out on stage. Cowell probably intended that his correct statement would be DISBELIEVED, but it was, I think, true nonetheless.

    What I think happened is this. Susan Boyle made an earlier appearance at some sort of talent contest and was scouted by someone from Britain’s Got Talent. She was given an audition off-camera and then invited to sing on the TV show. The audience was salted with people who had been to acting school and knew how to make facial expressions of the sort people have when making snide or catty remarks, or alternatively when to look “surprised” or “ecstatic.” I think that the real stage in the video is the ENTIRE AUDITORIUM. Susan Boyle might have been the diamond in the ring, but she wasn’t the whole piece of JEWelry there.

    Still, all-in-all, the production was a worthwhile piece of art, and it achieves its lesser purpose of making viewers feel good. It also carries out a deeper purpose of providing a moral object lesson in the vein of “Never Judge A Book By Its Cover.” And, if I might presume, there is yet a third and yet deeper purpose that has to do with a very hidden tiger flexing its propaganda claws, just to stay in form.

    The video itself was harmless. But consider what this level of illusion-making talent could do if it chose to be mischievous or, dare I say it, even criminal. It could, for example, predetermine the outcome of political elections by making one candidate look heroic or visionary, while, subtly and unjustly, leaving a faintly tainted odor on the other candidate. Beware! Learn ALL the lessons that this video has to teach, not the pretty ones only.

    Comment by Jerry Abbott — April 16, 2009 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  5. It may be all over the Internet, but it hadn’t percolated down to me – thank you. Even half-expecting it, she blew me off my feet in one line.

    (I just looked up Paul Potts, too. He’s got a new record coming out in May, and “One Chance” is – for example – #8 in Music on Amazon right now.)

    Comment by Robin Z — April 17, 2009 @ 3:35 am | Reply

  6. After seeing Boyle I went back and watched Paul Potts again. Both were stunning.

    Comment by Jay Burns — April 30, 2009 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  7. I understand what people mean when they say this little drama is heartwarming. Yes, the “shallow assholes have a change of heart and deserving talent gets recognized” story is always nice to see. But this just made me angry. Perhaps I was naive and overly optimistic about people, but is it really so shocking that an average-looking middle-aged woman can sing a decent* show tune?! Have they never been to a symphony orchestra performance and seen older, often rather unassuming-looking people playing beautiful and difficult music? Have they never attended school and sung along to the piano playing of their frumpy music teacher? As Jesurgislac points out, 47 is not particularly old in vocal terms. The audience was looking at her like they expected her to grunt and squeal, at best.

    If Jerry Abbott is right and this was a set-up, then the TV producers take us for idiots.
    If he’s wrong, then god help us, we really are idiots.

    *Or maybe better than decent — I couldn’t really tell, since the audience screamed through three-quarters of it. They didn’t even stay quiet and let her perform — the minute they realized she could hold a note, they fell into transports of surprised joy. A lot of the commentary I’ve seen seems to have an implication of congratulations for the audience, suggesting that they did Susan Boyle a kindness by backpedaling on their bigotry, when I found it intensely insulting that they were so rude to her in the first place. So, for the moment, they ceased to be enormous flaming assholes. In the words of Chris Rock: what should we do, give them a cookie?

    Comment by j — May 2, 2009 @ 5:02 am | Reply

  8. I’ve watched this YouTube over and over. I don’t think it is staged; TV crews shot a lot of footage that usually ends up on the cutting room floor. These “reality” talent shows consider the audience to be an intergral part of the package and therefore always have cameras aimed at them for reactions. The guys in the wing’s job is to comment on everyone that performs.

    Some of the audience is knowledgable enough about the difficulty of that song to applaud when she successfully sang the low notes too.

    Anyway, the last time I watched it I glanced at the time counter as she begin singing. It only took her 4 seconds to go from ‘unknown’ to ‘star and less than 30 seconds to get them on their feet. Amazing!

    However, I’m still wondering why Simon didn’t stand up???

    Comment by Molly Schaeffer — October 14, 2009 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  9. I’d guess that there might be a 10% chance that this was Susan Boyle’s first and spontaneous singing of “I Dreamed A Dream.” Certainly, a lot of camera angles were used, with Boyle, with the judges, with the audience, and backstage. But this package was just too cute in some respects, including Amanda Holden’s “Elaine blew it” (near the end) and her affirmative judge’s commentary, which played up what was probably an intentional faux pas: “I am SO THRILLED because I KNOW that EVERYone was AGAINST YOU.” Amanda didn’t get to where she is by being that dumb for real. So I estimate a 90% chance that this was Susan Boyle’s “retake” performance, with the backstage guys prepped on what to say and (watch the quiet guy’s face) what expressions to assume. I thought I smelled a clinical psychologist in the woodpile when I saw that wise little smile and humble little nod.

    Comment by Jerry Abbott — October 15, 2009 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  10. Molly, I agree with you and I disagree with Jerry.

    Jerry’s cynicism about “that wise little smile and humble little nod” I think misses completely the smug self-confidence just *bursting* off Susan Boyle – she knew how good she is, she was ready to wow them.

    Plus, to be honest, like all conspiracy theories, Jerry’s requires too many people to keep too quiet for too long…

    Comment by jesurgislac — October 15, 2009 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

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