Crossover to Susan Boyle
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced yesterday that their latest album, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," had topped the classical charts. This caught my eye simply because it was a chance to see what was on the charts these days, something I don't follow very carefully. (Other list-toppers are Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, Placido Domingo - are we sure this isn't a chart from five years ago?) The classical charts are not especially meaningful, first because sales of a few thousand are enough to shoot a recording to the top of them, and second because the term "classical music" is adulterated with the kind of "Il Divo" thing that purists declare isn't classical music at all - which swings the discussion right into the peculiarly unproductive high culture-low culture, my-art-is-better-than-yours debate that ends up with one side branded as hopelessly elitist and the other as yahoos.
Paul Potts is one of the many sheep-from-the-goats dividers in this ongoing fight: the mobile phone salesman turned world star, thanks to his rendering of what is by now a crossover standard, "Nessun dorma," on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent" two years ago. I confess myself thoroughly immune to Paul Potts: like his story, don't care for his voice.
But last week the current "Britain's Got Talent" cycle spawned a new phenomenon, Susan Boyle, who came out on stage looking like a rather dumpy housewife and has already racked up 12 million views on YouTube by force of what she did next. I am not at all immune to Susan Boyle. I endorse her here to demonstrate that lovers of classical music aren't necessarily elitists. We just want to hear good voices and musical expression, and she appears, on the evidence of this one song, to have both.
April 16, 2009; 4:41 PM ET
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