Susan Boyle must be just about the most apt symbol imaginable of television’s absurdly fickle nature. First she was universally mocked for looking like a crazy cat-lady spinster-type who had the chutzpah to appear in front of the public despite being a bit old; mockery which was swiftly followed by faux-humility and chagrin on the part of the Britain’s Got Talent Lords of Misrule for overlooking her Elaine Page-esque pipes. Cue the following stages: international sensation, tragic downfall, some totally convincing-looking soul searching, pseudo-redemption, doesn’t win the competition but comes off looking fine anyway. Finally, oh-so-perfectly, she came full circle by appearing on The X Factor, not as a contestant, but as one of the “I’m better and more accomplished, both professionally and artistically, than you lousy finalists” special guests.
It’s a shame her debut album doesn’t betray any of that rollercoaster ride of emotion. However staged the TV shenanigans may have been, Boyle has undoubtedly come a long way in the last year, but nothing on I Dreamed A Dream sounds any more mature or developed than when she first burst into our lives. Every song – they’re all covers, not at all a worrying sign in itself – either started out as a big musical number or has been turned into one, and there’s no sign that Boyle has any interest in expanding her range further than sounding like she should be in Les Mis. Her voice is perfectly adequate, but it becomes un-interesting remarkably quickly, and even though opening track Wild Horses – the record’s first single – is a fine rendition of the Rolling Stones classic, it’s been performed better and with far greater conviction elsewhere. And there’s the problem with reality show winners in a nutshell: if they’re so willing to shill themselves for Cowell and his minions, no matter how great they are, why should anything they release afterwards seem believable?