I must admit that I, like Michael , enjoyed seeing Susan Boyle win over the audience and the judges last week. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, and I just think she has a wonderful voice. But it’s when a story receives such universal and unrestrained praise that another side of me also enjoys a big dose of curmudgeonly criticism. That’s exactly what our new associate editor David Goldman administers in his latest Spengler column at the Asia Times :

The West still has no idea what kind of trouble it’s in.

Singer Susan Boyle, our latest instant celebrity, reminds me of any number of singers I conducted in amateur renditions of the easier Schubert or Haydn masses, or the sort of matron who sings “Katti-Shaw” or “Buttercup” in the local Gilbert and Sullivan production. Musical talent springs up like grass, and engaging voices are a dollar a dozen. That Boyle has come to embody the triumph of ordinary people over obscurity, complete with invitations to appear on Oprah and Larry King, is disheartening. The popular audience in the West likes to validate its own mediocrity, and crowns stars-for-a-day.

“In a time of economic strife and stress, she came out of nowhere to make us smile and maybe even shed a congratulatory tear or two for someone who had finally fulfilled a life-long dream. Hey, we all have our dreams, right?” gushed Steve Rosen at the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 17, in a variation of a theme that has appeared in numberless versions in the media.

Meanwhile, in China, 60 million children are learning Western classical music under the gimlet gaze of strict teachers. East Asian singers, particularly Koreans, are working their way up the ranks of provincial opera companies, and every one of them sings better than Boyle. Who do you think is going to run the world 20 years from now? As the Italians say, we’re bolliti, “boiled”. Now we can spell it with a “y”. I hate to always be the one to say this, but the hope is fatuous. No, you can’t.

Articles by Ryan Sayre Patrico

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