In early 2009, a middle-aged woman from a former Scottish mining village brought an entire theatre to a standstill. A few months later, the footage aired on UK television, and she had a similar effect on the whole nation. Within days, the whole world was talking about her. Her name was Susan Boyle. She was 47 years old. And that, as she pointed out, was just one side of her.
Susan Boyle sailed through to the finals of Britain's Got Talent, and went on to record I Dreamed a Dream, the biggest-selling album of 2009, and the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history.
From there, she released five more hit albums, one a year until 2014. Impressively, she's one of only two acts on Simon Cowell's label to have been nominated for a Grammy (the other being Leona Lewis, who parted ways with Syco in 2014). She's also collaborated with people she once described as her idols, and performed for the British Royal Family, as well as the Pope.
Seven years after her BGT audition went viral the world over, Susan currently represents different things to different people. Some hold her up as a symbol of hope, that one day a chance will come along to help them reach their impossible dreams. To others, it's deeper than that, and she's a reminder that even at 47 years old, you never know where your life could end up taking you.
To me, she's an example of somebody who's earned massive success, but has been able to stay true to herself. Unrelenting, unapologetic and uncompromising, they might have given her a haircut and a new frock, but Susan Boyle in 2016 is every bit the same woman that stepped onto that stage in Glasgow back in 2009, nervously doing a wiggle for the BGT judges to show that she wasn't going to let anyone laugh at her. At least, not without her permission.
In an age where the majority of pop artists are scared to have an opinion, scared to look foolish, scared to act in a way that will draw attention to themselves, or away from their music, Susan Boyle feels like a beacon of authenticity. She can't help but be herself, and at an era in pop where so few are scared to let their masks slip even a little bit, that feels to me like a breath of fresh air.
In fact, in her own way, Susan is kind of punk rock.
She is, after all, a woman who will invite cameras to her home, and boastfully show off her Donny Osmond bedspread. A woman who took to the stage to dance with Nile Rodgers at last year's T In The Park, wearing a grey sweatshirt and a pair of comfortable jeans. A woman who still lives at the former council house in Blackburn, Scotland where she grew up, despite reportedly being worth millions.
Even all these years after her BGT audition supposedly 'shamed' us all for judging her at face value, people are still rolling their eyes and sniggering at Susan Boyle.
But does she care? The same chart-topper who spent her album royalties on a second, far bigger house in her home-town, with a doormat outside which reads 'The Posh House'? What do you think?
After all, an entire audience of people once laughed in Susan's face when she said her dream was to be as big as Elaine Paige, and less than a year later, she was singing I Know Him So Well with her, on her very own TV special.
And if that's not punk rock (even if it is punk rock with a piano ballad thrown in) then someone tell me what is.
So, happy birthday to you, Susan. May you continue to inspire, entertain and, most importantly, continue to school us all in dancing to the beat of our own drum, in the years to come.
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