Clive James on Susan Boyle.

Commenting on Susan Boyle “the woman of unremarkable appearance who went on Britain’s Got Talent and proved to have such a remarkable voice that an aria from Les Miserables acquired the celestial overtones of a solo passage from a cantata by Bach and even such exalted arbiters of taste as Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell were reduced to helpless protestations of awe”,  Clive James, in his Friday edition A Point of View, reminded  listeners that with her surprising win ” the laws of nature had not been repealed, only momentarily jolted, and it remains a law of nature that appearance is a factor even in the world of serious singing.”

 So unless all concerned are very careful there might be a worse injustice on its way for Susan than getting laughed at when she was first exposed to the audience of a show that depends on a regular supply of contestants who are there to be made a fool of. She might be trapped by an even more pitiless expectation: that she will go on being a big star beyond the point where she became a star because she didn’t seem as if she could.


Susan’s future has undoubtedly been altered but we can only hope it has been altered for the better.


James declared, with enough force to make this listener guilty, but probably not guilty enough to permanently change his ways, that it is the case, and is likely to remain the case, that audiences will prefer a singing voice when it is married physical beauty, and that the “reason people flock to hear Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca singing together is that they look the part almost as well as they sing it.”


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