Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Physics and talent

Boyle's Law states the following:
For a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional (while one increases, the other decreases).
Susan Boyle's Law is slightly different:
For a fixed amount of talent kept at a fixed exposure, pressure and success are inversely proportional (while one increases, the other decreases).
The "celebrity" culture that prevails in the UK's media has been subject to my ire before on this blog. This time, the mechanics are slightly different, but the end result is the same: someone that no-one had ever heard of just a few weeks ago has gone into a very public meltdown.

If you don't know who Susan Boyle is, don't expect me to explain it to you. Even people living under rocks have heard of her. 20 million YouTube viewers can't be wrong. Well, no - clearly any number of YouTube viewers can be completely wrong 100% of the time. Scrap that comparison.

Susan Boyle's fame is based on one thing and one thing only: the fact that we're all meant to be surprised that an unattractive person can be talented. Now, this is a frankly ridiculous concept. I mean, Rodin was an ugly fucker but he couldn't half sculpt.

More to the point, pick an attractive pop star. Can they sing? On the whole - no, they can't. Without studio trickery, Girls Aloud sound like they've entered Stars In Their Eyes with the line, "tonight, Matthew, we're going to be five cats struggling to escape from a sack in a canal". Kate Nash may well be easy on the eye, but putting on a mockney accent and talking over a piano track (whilst sounding like you're holding a punnet of strawberries in your cheeks) does not pleasant music make. The talented one in the Spice Girls was the one that looked most like a boy, and the talented one in Savage Garden was the one that looked most like a girl.

I could go on, but I only have a finite amount of pop-related insults and you never know when I might need to use some in the future.

Susan Boyle's performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" was good, but nothing more - not really. Amanda Holden's reaction (especially the face she pulls when Susan starts singing) just makes me want to beat her with a brick. "Oh my gosh, this frumpy spinster can hold a tune!" Piss off, botox features.

When Susan Boyle returned on the semi-final, her performance of "Memory" was poor. Based on that performance alone (which is how the show should work), she didn't deserve to reach the final. In the final, she performed "I Dreamed A Dream" again. Is that the only tune she can sing well? The only reason she was runner-up was because of the storm generated by her first TV appearance.

But even in the semi-final, some of her mannerisms seemed false. They were not really Susan Boyle, they were "Susan Boyle, celebrity", and they were hard to watch. The whole "Piers-y baby" air-humping thing that she did was downright disturbing. No-one likes to watch their gran being sexually suggestive on live television, but that was what this felt like.

Maybe Susan has now "made it". After all, she's in the Priory - and that's where all celebrities go, isn't it? Maybe now normality can be restored. Maybe the media will forget about her. Unlike Jade, I don't see there being a series of reality TV shows made about her future exploits. Then again, the schedule on LivingTV has been rather bare since Ms Goody departed.

Susan Boyle's lesson is an important one for us all. I was cheering for her as the perfect representation of "normal people", who take their chance to shine and seize it with both hands. The trick is to keep your feet on the ground, and perhaps Susan's sheltered upbringing (if what I've read in the papers is true) might be one of the reasons why she's not coped particularly well with the media attention.

It is possible to go from "nobody" to "world star" without losing the plot. Leona Lewis, for example. Beware the price of fame: the higher you rise, the further you have to fall.

And the quicker the rise and fall happens, the harder your recovery will be.

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