Susan Boyle is the talent show sensation who took the world by storm when she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009. She was presented as yet another desperate but clueless hopeful, one of the unfortunate that are relentlessly ridiculed by both judges and the audience and the effect was completed by the use of slapstick music as she entered the stage. There was much laughter and eye-rolling as Susan stated that she was trying to be a professional singer, one as successful as Elaine Page. Susan Boyle had the last laugh.
Within a couple of weeks, videos of Susan Boyle’s audition had reached over 100 million views and although she did not win Britain’s Got Talent, she went on to release her debut album I Dreamed a Dream in 2009 to record breaking sales.
Susan Boyle returns in 2010 with her Christmas album The Gift. The album opens up with a (dare I say) perfect rendition of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” followed by a searching and low-key version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The next track isthe first Christmas song on the album “Do You Hear What I Hear?” This song features Amber Stassi, the winner of the Susan’s Search competition which was a global search to find a guest to duet with Susan on her new album. Susan wanted to impart some of the fortune she has found since appearing on Britain’s Got Talent and chose the paramedic and mother from America as her winner. It is not hard to hear why Amber won as she has a lovely, rich voice which really complements Susan’s voice.
Many of the remaining songs on the album are traditional Christmas songs and include versions of “The First Noel”, “”Away In A Manger” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” but Susan’s version of the Crowded House classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is a stand out track. With a mixture of lesser known Christmas carols, a couple of popular songs and some Christmas favourites, The Gift is not a typical Christmas album. For me, it relieved the rush of anxiety that one feels in the run up to Christmas as we scramble around to find gifts for our family and plan the perfect Christmas dinner. This album reminds me of long evenings spent relaxing before a fire, cocoa or brandy in hand, reflecting on the year that has passed and the joy up ahead. It is an understated album but most certainly one that has become one of my favourite Christmas albums to date. My only complaint is that I am unlikely to listen to it for the rest of the year and so I give it four-and-a-half stars out of five.