Prime Cuts: Angel, You Raised Me Up, Wish You Were Here
Susan Boyle's rise to fame is a story of grace. Born in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, Boyle was unemployed and taking care of her aging mother full time. Though she has had a rich and expressive voice, no one thought she was anything more than the lady who volunteered at church. However, providence has it that she appeared in the English counterpart of "The Voice" or the "American Idol," and she wowed the crowd on "Britain's Got Talent" with her masterful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables." Her performance went viral when it was watched by over 10 million viewers and Boyle became an overnight sensation. Her audition YouTube video was watched by 2.6 million people within the first 72 hours. And by the end of that year with 120 million viewings, her clip was the most watched YouTube video of the year. Few would have thought that a middle-aged of slightly ample proportions could impress such a worldwide audience without a hint of slattern innuendoes.
As a result, Boyle was steamrolled with success. Her debut album, "I Dreamed a Dream" was released in 2009 and reached number one on both the U.S. and U.K. charts, setting a record in her homeland for first-week sales. "I Dreamed a Dream" was more than an instant success: it wound up as the second biggest seller of 2009 in the U.S. and topped charts throughout Europe. Ever since her crowning moment on "Britain's Got Talent," she has been churning out albums by the clock work each year. Every year around the last quarter, Boyle would drop an album and each project would be gregariously gallop up by her legion of fans.
"Hope" is her sixth endeavor since her 2009 debut. And like the preceding five records, the 10 tracks here are made up of well-known covers safely hand-picked so that they loosely fall under the thematic focus of "Hope." Thus, you will find her covering some nebulously "spiritual" songs that are meant to pacify the harshest critics of religion and please the strenuous devotees of the faith. In such a category, we have her take of Sarah McLaughlin's immortal "Angel." With her note perfect never taking much of a chance demeanor, Boyle nails this ballad in terms of precision. But in terms of creativity, Boyle leaves a lot to be desire. A tad better is her version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Giving it a more relaxed and conversational read, Boyle's version of "Wish You Were Here" has a down home immediacy that is quite refreshing.
Boyle goes back to church with her rendition of the hymn "Abide with Me." Sung as if she was in the middle of a vacant church, her cry for God's help shimmers with an earnestness as she sings: "Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide." And she is literally in church when she joins the choir Joel Osteen's church in giving a rousing Spirit-imbued version of Josh Groban's "You Raised Me Up." And she does tether into a countrified territory with "Will the Circle Get Broken" and a pseudo-Gospel with "O Happy Day." On the whole, Boyle does at least try in some small measure to broaden her style. But as a whole, if you are into music that is lush, precise and somehow predictable, you can't go wrong with "Hope."
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