Susan Boyle—Instant Fame in the Age of the Internet

Talent contests are a part of entertainment history, and many a great talent got their first chance to be seen by the greater public by performing in a talent show. From local contests to big-time television broadcasts, there’s something incredibly entertaining about seeing a new talent competing and letting their talent shine through.

Some of the greatest talents in entertainment history were first “discovered” in major talent shows. Ella Fitzgerald was first “discovered” in a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem when she was 16 years old. Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson gave early performances in contests there as well.

Today, the Internet has upped the ante on this kind of competition, bringing new “discoveries” to the eyes and ears of the world instantly, through the power of email and Youtube.com. Today, it’s possible for a clip of a hugely popular performance to be seen by over 100 million people almost overnight. That’s exactly what happened in the case of the offbeat singing sensation, Susan Boyle.

A major audience first heard Susan Boyle’s extraordinary singing voice in April 2009, when she performed onstage in the televised talent contest, “Britain’s Got Talent.” Susan’s spectacular rendition of the classic song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables,” was thrilling and powerful – all the more so because it was sung with such confidence by a woman who appeared anything but. Ms. Boyle is a shy 47-year-old Scottish woman with a matronly figure, with an unglamorous appearance dramatically at odds with her glorious voice.

With her performance on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the heretofore-unknown Ms. Boyle was suddenly thrust upon the global music scene when clips of her audition performance went “viral.” Her performance was so dramatic; it became an instant phenomenon, and was quickly seen by over 100 million viewers. Though she didn’t ultimately win the contest, Boyle was signed to a record deal, and her first release, “I Dreamed a Dream” broke Amazon’s record for pre-release sales.

Susan Boyle. She’s the talented “ugly duckling” who redefined “overnight success,” for the Internet age.