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.