Susan Boyle — Ten
SUSAN BOYLE occupies a different realm to any other singing star. Not because of her voice, although that voice has rightly been her fortune, but because of her story. There is something of the lottery winner about her, that sense of being plucked from the vast, unglamorous public for another, incomparably brighter life.
Yet she also offers the paradoxical satisfaction of seeing that lottery won on merit. Like all good stars, she has a founding myth: that she succeeded on her talent despite not looking the part. The more complicated truth is she succeeded because she did not look the part, which allowed her talent to take everyone by surprise. It was a wonderful piece of theatre. Incongruity gave her fame but it is her gift that has maintained it.
Ten marks the decade since her sudden ascent, arrives after the longest gap between albums yet and consists chiefly of selections from the previous seven albums. The exceptions are the first four tracks, opening with a duet alongside Michael Ball, A Million Dreams (another key motif in the Susan Boyle story: you can’t have too many dreams).
Those recordings may be new but their purpose is to knit with the old and they might have been made at any point since 2009. Whether it is a recently minted show tune or a dark-horse pop standard such as The Proclaimers’ (I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles, you are guaranteed it will be reassuringly Susan’d.
That realm of Boyle’s, its operatic pop redolent of a pre-Beatles era for which so much of our nation seems to have so powerful a yearning, is one that lies beyond change — and, candidly, beyond critique.