Of all the singers that have come to prominence through British TV talent competitions in the twenty-first century, Susan Boyle's debut was undoubtedly the most dramatic. When she walked out on stage during the auditions of the 2009 series of Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent there were few in the theatre or home audience who would have expected what would follow. Susan Magdalane Boyle was raised in Scotland and while learning difficulties lead to her being bullied at school she found solace in singing, although it was largely confined to the church choir, choral societies and karaoke in local pubs and clubs. Her parents were both musical and encouraged Susan, the youngest of their children, to enter talent contests, the first of which was Michael Barrymore's My Kind Of People in 1995. Despite neither making it through that show's audition or receiving a positive reaction to a self-financed demo that she had sent to record companies Boyle continued to sing and pursue her ambitions. After the death of her father she became her mother's full-time carer and together they would watch Britain's Got Talent on television and would dream of her taking part. Even though she began taking singing lessons from a vocal coach she didn't seriously consider entering the competition until after her mother passed away and her teacher urged her to try out for the show. Accepted on the programme her audition was set for January 21st 2009 and after taking her place centre stage it was obvious that her answers to Simon Cowell's questions did little to convince him, his fellow judges or the audience that she was going to impress them. Clearly uncomfortable, the nervous forty-seven year old was an unlikely star but her barnstorming rendition of 'I Dreamed A Dream' from Les Misérables captivated everyone and left the judges open mouthed. Successive appearances throughout the competition made her the favourite to win although she ultimately came second to the urban dance troupe Diversity. The day after the final Boyle was admitted to The Priory clinic suffering from exhaustion but after three days was well enough to leave and later take part in the subsequent Britain's Got Talent tour.
Despite failing to win the show she was signed to Cowell's Syco Music and Sony Records and her album I Dreamed A Dream entered the charts at No 1 and became the UK's fastest selling debut album ever. The record topped the charts in eleven other countries including the notoriously difficult USA and went on to sell in excess of nine million copies worldwide and established Boyle as an international phenomenon. The album yielded hit singles with her brilliant cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Wild Horses' and the song that had started it for her - 'I Dreamed A Dream'. Taken to the hearts of audiences around the World she gave concerts in Britain and the USA, duetted with her idol Elaine Paige and performed in front of Pope Benedict XVI. In November 2010, one year after the release of her debut, her second album, the Christmas themed The Gift was issued to similar commercial success and once again topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Containing the track 'This Will Be The Year' which was written especially for her by Emeli Sandé, Boyle's third album Someone To Watch Over Me, released in November 2011, topped the UK and Australian charts and despite peaking at No 4 in the USA still sold in excess of three million copies worldwide.
Her fourth album in four years Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage followed in November 2012 and found Boyle duetting with Michael Crawford on 'Music Of The Night' and Donny Osmond on 'All I Ask Of You' and 'This Is The Moment'. Her fifth release was her second seasonal collection Home For Christmas which although her least successful album so far still comfortably entered the UK Top 10 and the US Top 20.
While she is generally thought of a singer of songs from musical theatre and popular standards, she has recorded many unlikely tracks (perhaps suggested by her long time producer Steve Mac) including the aforementioned 'Wild Horses', and 'You'll See' (Madonna), 'Perfect Day' (Lou Reed), 'Enjoy The Silence' (Depeche Mode) and 'Mad World' (Tears For Fears). Boyle continues to perform around the World and in addition to her own career she has lent her support (and her money) to numerous charitable and social causes and remains steadfastly committed to her Catholic faith.
Despite early fears that she might find it difficult to adjust to stardom and its demands, now that the initial media attention has died down she seems to have coped well and settled into her new life. Retaining her home in Blackburn and with the support of her family, friends and neighbours she balances her normal life with that of an international singing star. Right from her TV debut she demonstrated her obvious and significant talent and has subsequently established herself as an extremely popular performer and the most real of reality stars. Her success has also served as a positive example for women of a certain age, that it is possible, given the talent, the tenacity and a modicum of luck to achieve your heart's desire. Susan Boyle dreamed a dream and it came true beyond her wildest expectations.
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