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Music Review: Susan Boyle I Dreamed A Dream

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When Susan Boyle opened her mouth to sing “I Dreamed A Dream” on the U.K. reality show, Britain’s Got Talent, lightning struck. Jaws dropped. The judges kvelled. The audience cheered. Her fame was assured. The rags to riches story of how this dowdy middle-aged woman from Scotland took the stage and captured the hearts of millions is now classic. The timing and choice of song could not have been more perfect. Even Simon Cowell, that brutally honest force behind Talent and American Idol, was impressed.

But sudden fame took its toll, causing Susan Boyle to plead exhaustion and step out of the limelight for awhile. But she’s returned now (just in time for the holidays) with her major label recording debut.

There are a few surprises on I Dreamed A Dream (Sony Music) but for the most part the album steers the safe course. You'll find a few religious classics (“How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Silent Night”), a song originally recorded as a demo in 1999 (the bluesy “Cry Me A River’), and her signature tune “I Dreamed A Dream.”

What makes this album slightly better than mediocre are the offbeat songs, the ones that make you go "hmmm." The album’s opening cut is the Rolling Stones classic “Wild Horses.” Ms. Boyle does a surprisingly fine job on this one–adding a touch of Sarah McLachlan-esque pathos to it. This is the album’s loveliest moment.

Then there is the Skeeter Davis chestnut “The End of the World” and an nice rendering of the John Stewart/Monkees classic “Daydream Believer.” Two more unexpected gems on which Ms. Boyle shines.

Next time out Susan Boyle should consider venturing into the world of rock and roll. A little back beat and rhythm wouldn’t hurt. She has a powerful voice and with the right producer could reinvent herself and perhaps wow her audience all over again.

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About Mindy Peterman

  • Kev, I don’t think that Cowell & Co are ruining rock music, that happened long ago, but I do think he and Subo have ruined a perfectly good song with a passionless cover.

    I also don’t see SuBo as a pop artist, which is why I wrote that she ought to confine herself to MOR, which so far she is doing.

  • Kev

    Christopher Rose quote above ” ‘Subo’ does have a powerful voice but really ought to confine herself to the MOR light entertainment field that exploitative people like Simon Cowell specialise in.”
    It sounds like youre just unhappy that Simon and Co are now “ruining” rock music! 😉 I say that light heartedly of course, but Susan becoming a full blown modern pop-only cover artist? Could never happen. Everything would be against her in the full blown modern pop field, in looks and unlikely potential fan base of a certain age range. She would not have agreed to anything else but her own choices of music to cover on her first album. As for the field Simon Cowell specialises in, that field is recognising a good singer, and of course lets not forget, MAKING MONEY. Its got little to do with any musical style. What could potentially sell, wins.

    Im pretty sure Susan Boyles album is selling, albeit perhaps to a much wider age range than ever before, hence such large sales on its release. The middle aged that watch the program are buying the product, its by those people that thought they never would purchase a Simon Cowell product ™, helping sales dramatically! Something about going to no1 in a rather large amount of countries all at once, and having the fastest selling uk and us album of all time. Now all she needs is a good song writer to be give her the chance to gain some personality (to last a few more yrs) and end with a discography that will total at least two albums worth

  • Scott

    Nothing wrong with a cover artist, but the album art IS rather dull. Wild Horses is the best track, although its nothing like the one we’re used to, and its very slow, so you either have to be in the right mood, or youll never ‘get’ it. The X Factor is getting really boring though, will it last another 5 yrs? I think theyll just keep rebranding it, eg “Pop Idol>>X-Factor>>…the NEXT-Factor?”” and giving it a different look, until Simon Cowell either gives up/pops it and Ant & Dec finally take over. I dont expect Susan to last more than 2 yrs max, just like the majority, 2 albums, and then youre gone.. before Simon shouts “next!”. Andy Warhol said in 1968 “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes“. Its happening right now.

  • Mindy Peterman

    I think Susan’s problem (if it can be called a problem) is that she doesn’t have celebrity ‘chops’. This whole experience floored her. Her sudden jolt into the limelight caused her to hold on tight to what makes her tick and her reticence with reporters is not a case of ‘blandness’ but self preservation.

  • No, Susan Boyle’s version of “Wild Horses” doesn’t move me – unless you count the rage I feel as the passion of the song is suffocated by a person who is incapable of such emotion.

    As I’ve said above, Subo does have a powerful voice but really ought to confine herself to the MOR light entertainment field that exploitative people like Simon Cowell specialise in.

    As to personality, why do you think so much of hers is being blanded out?

  • The Listener

    The X-Factor? Can’t stand the show. Simon Cowell? He’s knows what he’s doing, but he’s been on tv too often churning out wannabe stars that couldnt write a song to save their life, to make it to number 1 (if only at xmas) yr after yr, is getting tiresome. Susan Boyles cover of ‘Wild Horses’ full blast on the hi-fi or headphones? Listen to it, and dont tell me that doesnt move you. Now thats a ‘real’ cover. Even Mick Jagger thought her version was far better than his. I never thought I would say it, but perhaps (just this once) it has been worth the ride. Just this once..

    Now lets hope Susan can get more personality into her work next time (please, not another cover album). I just dont want the top 10 album chart in 5 yrs time looking like a top 10 of X-Factor finalists! 😉

  • Mindy Peterman

    There are talented songwriters out there. It takes some effort to find them but they’re there. Have you heard of Neko Case? She is a young songwriter who writes brilliant (hummable) material that Susan, with her considerable talents, could make her own. If Susan attempted venturing into rock and roll territory, she would not be setting a course for failure. Staying on the safe road might. Sure, it’s easy but it can eventually get old. It’s a lot more interesting when an artist takes chances and strays from the norm. I’d like to see Susan give it a try.

  • Eleanor

    Sorry to say but the young people of today are first being exposed to good music via Susan Boyle. I wish there were more show tunes on her album. When you suggest Susan sing rock & roll you set her up for failure. As to the music of today, she’d do well to leave that alone, for if you cannot hum it then it is not music.

  • Mindy Peterman

    Offensive? That’s a pretty strong word. How does this version offend? True, Ms. Boyle’s rendition puts the song in a very different light from the original (which is what good interpreters of song do) but she has a good feel for the tune and does it proud.

  • In that case you have the musical taste of a slug. SuBo has a great voice for a certain kind of music but her version of “Wild Horses” is little short of offensive.

  • Lucacentric

    I think that Susan’s cover of “Wild Horses” is one of the best things about the whole album. She could do a whole disc of rock cover tunes and it would be amazing. Did anyone hear about the Susan Boyle special on the TV Guide channel Sunday the 13th?

  • Shane

    Susan Boyle, has extreme talent, her album will sell in the millions.

  • John

    One of the reasons that I like the album and adore Miss Boyle is that she is helping to bring beautiful music back to the world. There is so much fluff and drivel coming out of the music industry these days that I am sick of it. I like many forms of music including Rock, but in all the music I listen to there must be two elements. One the artist must have a voice and talent and two I must be able to understand the words. In so many offerings today the words are covered up by gimmicks, noise and electronic wizardry. Miss Boyle’s lovely voice belts through and moves me. I will say one thing I don’t hear the power and fire in her voice in some of the recordings that I did in the BGT auditions. Maybe some thing will be learned and the next album from Miss Boyle will be more her than engineering.

  • trennie

    Relax. Susan will sing what she feels. If she’s in a rock mood, that’ll be on the next one. Jazz, blues, gospel, folk songs, hymns…Susan has the pipes to sing anything and the soul to make it work

  • We have already seen that Susan can sing anything she likes. I predict her album will go platinum, probably diamond, in a matter of weeks. She is magnificent.

  • hipgrammy

    Mindy – I think you are right. Susan seems to be talented enough to give anything a good performance. I like to hear her do some folk as well. But, I would probably like to hear her to anything!

  • Mindy Peterman

    Thanks for your comments.
    If Ms. Boyle tackled a couple of rock & roll songs next time it would not make her a rocker, just a bit more versatile. I honestly think she is talented enough to make it work.

  • Carol

    There are already so many “rock and roll” performers out there now, you can’t swing the proverbial cat w/o hitting one.
    “Slightly better than mediocre”??
    There are still many facets to Miss Boyle’s voice that we have not heard but I really don’t think you should jest about something as unthinkable as her becoming a rocker.

  • KathyM

    I’m sure Susan could rock with the best of them.
    She’s so versatile. From belting out a show tune, to a sultry Cry Me A River, to an angel singing hymns.
    Susan is one incredibly talented little lady!
    I’m thrilled with what I’ve heard so far, and what she can do seems limitless.

  • PWattis

    Please, Susan, not rock and roll.