Review: Susan Boyle’s Debut Album

Now here’s the feel-good story of the year, I think.

I first wrote about Susan Boyle when she went big on Britain’s Got Talent. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was heart-felt, inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable. Later, when I discovered a recording of her singing Cry Me a River, I claimed that I’d be interested in buying an album should she ever make one.

Well, that time has come.

Susan Boyle recently released her debut album, I Dreamed a Dream. It has, as expected, made Susan wealthy and launched what could potentially be a solid and successful career. Good for her, and I’m glad.

A coworker brought the album to work today, and I just listened to it….

The Good

I’m not sure if anything can take away from the fantastic feel-good story that surrounds this album, and that feeling is there. As far as I could tell, the album is entirely filled with covers. I think that’s a nice way to start, personally. While she’s certainly not an unknown, her talents are still unproven, and the covers provide a sense of familiarity from which to base our judgments.

Many of her song selections are solid choices with my personal favorites being Cry Me a River, Wild Horses, You’ll See, and I Dreamed a Dream. Each of these has a measurable comparison to the original and either meets or beats my expectations. My only real complaint is that I Dreamed a Dream is accompanied by piano instead of the full orchestra it so deserves.

The Bad

Hmmm…. Some of the song selections are out of place and don’t really showcase Susan’s rich and potentially dominating voice. I already pointed out my problem with I Dreamed a Dream, but the entire album seems to take this muted, quiet tone that is so different than the thunderous start she had back on Britain’s Got Talent. Also, the final song, Silent Night, while appropriate for the season, stands out in fairly stark contrast to the rest of the album. It just didn’t fit.

In my mind, a truly good album is one that distracts you from what you’re doing. One that you suddenly realize that you are caught in the music and moving with it. Eric Clapton’s Unplugged is one that comes to my mind immediately as does, in particular, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of Homeward Bound. Coldplay has, of late, been particularly good at weaving an incredible story in their music. Their X&Y album is a particular masterpiece that almost begs to be listened to in order from start to finish.

This album doesn’t do that.

I found myself wanting more to just listen to the few truly excellent pieces (listed above in the Good section), and even then, the muted energy was low enough that I quickly moved on to other music.

Conclusion

Sigh… maybe 2 out of 4 stars. I might bump it slightly higher based more on her personal story than anything else, but even giving it all the grace and forgiveness I truly want to throw her way, there is no justice in scoring it much higher than that.

If you were captured by her first performances, you’ll be happy enough buying this album, but don’t be surprised if it collects a little dust between listenings.

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2 Responses to Review: Susan Boyle’s Debut Album

  1. CanadianBill says:

    Great research – Susan did have one original song – Who I Was Born To Be.

    The mix of songs was definitely unorthodox, but true to Susan – and clearly has appealed to many people: 8xPlatinum New Zealand, 7xPlatinum Australia, 4x Platinum UK, 2x Platinum USA, 2x Platinum Canada, Gold in Switzerland, Mexico, Argentina, etc,etc,etc. Not bad for a 2 star CD.

  2. JeffreyD says:

    I haven’t heard the album. I will watch for it at the library.

    Two points:

    1. if the accompaniment can detract so soundly from Susan’s showcase album, then is her voice really extraordinary? It’s moving, real, and not unpleasant. Knowing her story complicates your evaluation and improves the listening experience. I’m not dissing the album. This is as all art should be. Sadly, our society has lost this facet of creative expression and turned personal expression into a commodity to be consumed passively, distractedly—served by disinterested third parties with selfish motives.

    2. music sales in this case are not necessarily an indicator of her ability. Rather, it shows that supporting art, dreams and creativity is its own reward. People may be buying the album to “pitch-in” to the dream, to support the underdog—not because of her voice, but because of the joy of her story. The subsequent albums will better indicate the strength of her talent.

    Her art will always be improved for the story behind it. This isn’t a criticism or her, rather a celebration of the forgotten part of art patronage, ie. “supporting the dream”. This is why some people seek out undiscovered bands and artists. They want to have an intimate relationship with the story behind the expressed art and take a proactive role in its success.

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