Surely, you haven’t forgotten Susan Boyle.
When the middle-aged Scottish woman stepped onto the stage of the show Britain’s Got Talent, she probably had no idea that her stunning performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” would become virulent YouTube material as well as land her a recording deal with Sony. Her album, I Dreamed a Dream, released November 24 with opening-week sales of over 700,000, proves what a talent Boyle really is.
She was lauded for the passion she conveyed singing on stage, and that passion is definitely not lost in the album. Boyle’s classic voice was made for dramatic songs: her incredible range and penchant for vocal flourishes serves her well. Also, she’s easy on the ears, even in loud soprano songs such as “Wild Horses,” the first title on I Dreamed a Dream (think toned-down, British version of Celine Dion).
I Dreamed a Dream showcases Susan Boyle in an array of singing styles, from the jazzy “Cry Me a River” to an oddly elegant cover of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” Unsurprisingly, several of the titles play to the notion of lost love, which is a major reason why Boyle’s song in Britain’s Got Talent tugged on our heartstrings in the first place. This blatant emotional appeal is quickly justified when listening to Boyle, however, whose vibrant voice adjusts to each different style as appropriate, bringing variety to a common theme.
I am disappointed that I Dreamed a Dream features so many songs that electronically tamper with Boyle’s voice. The album uses weird echoes liberally, which detract from, rather than enhance, the beauty of the song. Boyle—with her good enunciation, strong attack and clear sound—has enough skill to stand alone, without anything to make her sound more ethereal or interesting.
The arrangements of most of the songs do not impress me, either. I’m shocked at how many times a gospel choir rises up behind Boyle’s voice: it does not mix well with her almost-Broadway sound. In addition, much instrumental potential was lost in the attempt to mellow out songs using synthesized instruments.
However, I Dreamed a Dream—and Susan Boyle—is a definite keeper. The singer has already made an emotional connection with her audience that is invaluable to the effect of her album. Reflective and poignant, I Dreamed a Dream will please a wide range of listeners with Boyle’s undeniably beautiful voice accompanied by a message that her voice breathes life into.