Has Britain got too much talent? Or have I got too much time on my hands?
In my last post, I researched whether the Britain’s Got Talent turnabout on Susan Boyle, from ridicule to reverence, was faked. I was open to whatever truth turned up and I am sticking with my conclusion that, while edited for theatrical effect, the judges’ and audience’s emotions were real.
But enough is enough.
In the two episodes since the world fell in love with Susan, two coincidences occurred so serendipitously, so presciently on Simon’s part, that I can never go back to the innocence that propelled me to spend all that time on Susan — unless the Amazing Randi puts Simon to his paranormal test and awards him the million dollars ($1,143, 957.49 as of March 31, 2009).
First there was 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, pleasing the audience just fine with Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ for all of 15 seconds, when Simon stopped the show with a wave of his hand and pronounced, “You’ve got this really wrong.”
He asked Shaheen what else he could sing. The shaken boy offered ‘Who’s Loving You’ by Michael Jackson. The crew cued up the music and Shaheen unleashed a voice so powerful that it astonished everyone but the master himself, who responded with an I-told-you-so smirk.
I was a smidge doubtful about Simon’s exquisite sensitivity — though I was open to interpretations like that of YouTube commenter Ravore, who posted that since the first song was originally sung by a woman, Simon simply realized that it wasn’t the best choice for a young boy.
“Perhaps Simon saw this kid’s potential? That song he was first singing in no way made it blatantly obvious that this kid has a beautiful voice. Simon, being the person that he is, brought that out of him.”
It could happen … Simon’s ear could be that sharp. He could just be hoping that the boy had brought along a song that showed off the full range that he intuited was in there somewhere. Later in the week, Shaheen impressed me with his composure and warmth on Larry King and I forgot all about The Moment That Changed Everything.
I didn’t go looking for more British talent. I thought I’d seen it all.
The very next week, however, by an accident of fate or the Videos Being Watched Now section on YouTube, I came across Hollie Steel, alleged 10-year-old ballerina. Said Hollie in her pre-performance interview, “I’d love to dance in front of the queen because I’ve never met her before.” Added her beaming dad, “Whenever I see Hollie dance, I’m extremely proud of her. No doubt about it.”
Despite the buildup, Hollie turned out not to be much of a dancer. But fifteen seconds into the ballet, Simon raised his hand as if to stop her … and … barely a second later … Hollie dropped the ballerina coverup and switched to singing in a powerful, trained soprano voice! What a turnaround! What a surprise! What a … rehearsed fakeout? And the same exact one as the week before?
Unable to stop myself. I examined more acts from this season. Fabia, a hefty 35-year-old housewife/disco dancer, stripped down to pasties (covered with massive jiggling union jacks for TV) and won yeses from all three judges.
Mike, a 62-year-old knife-wielding gymnast, sent judge Amanda running off screaming as he appeared to stab himself in the head after judge Piers buzzed him out of the competition.
Forklift driver turned drag queen Dan, 46, was allowed to keep braying ‘Without You’ until he hit an unbearable high note, which Amanda said was the only on-key aspect of the whole performance.
Now I understand the show better. It’s not a talent contest as much as a circus with referees. Heightening a moment here and there isn’t cheating, it’s giving us more of what we came for.