Song: "I Dreamed a Dream"
Composer: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyricists: Alain Boublil (French); Herbert Kretzmer (English)
Musical: Les Misèrables
Premier: September 24, 1980, Paris
I am not a fan of music reality television. In particular, I truly despise Simon Cowell. As a vocal music teacher, I spend my entire working life building up students' nerve. Few things make the average person anxious quite like the idea of singing in public and convincing even the most outwardly confident teenager to take that risk requires endless encouragement over months and years. Then people like Simon undo all of that work in a matter of seconds. I know he would argue he's waking his contestants up to the realities of the industry. To hell with your industry, Simon. Music is far too important to allow egomaniacs like you to ruin it.
Susan Boyle's first appearance on Britain's Got Talent is one of the greatest moments in television history, musical or otherwise. If YouTube views is a measure of pop culture impact, 218 million is a damn impressive number. The story is well-known now. A frumpy, middle-aged Scottish woman takes the stage. Neither the audience nor the judges are remotely shy about expressing their skepticism. They even laugh at her choice of song. Then she starts to sing.
Astonishment quickly evolves into adoration. The looks on the judges faces tell a whole new story. They all know - even Simon knows - that in this moment, Susan Boyle is bigger than all of them. Their "judgement" is immaterial. The producers certainly appreciated the power of this triumph and have worked hard at recreating it with other contestants in the years since. But no one can top the original.
As a teacher, I live for the Susan Boyles of the world, those kids who walk into my classroom and unexpectedly knock my socks off. It happens - certainly not every day, but it happens. They remind me of the privilege that is my job.
Want to know something funny? The story of Ella Fitzgerald's first performance at the Apollo Theater is remarkably similar. Alas, I can't find a link to a video. But if you ever have the chance to see the excellent documentary The Savoy King, it tells the tale.