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The Scot Heard Round the World

Unknown and Underestimated, Contestant Wows on TV and Web

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The rehabilitation of Isiah Thomas and Susan Boyle, the surprising songbird on British TV, occupy the mind of Tony Kornheiser.
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Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 16, 2009

LONDON, April 15 -- Before YouTube, Twitter and Simon Cowell, Susan Boyle's angelic voice might never have been heard outside of parties and church services in her tiny Scottish village.

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But now, thanks to a digital flash flood in the media age, the 47-year-old unemployed woman who claims to have never been kissed is suddenly a global sensation.

Last weekend, the frizzy-haired, squarely built Boyle walked onto the stage of "Britain's Got Talent" to barely suppressed snickers from the audience and skeptical eye rolls from Cowell, the unfailingly caustic judge on both "American Idol" and the British TV show.

The audience laughed mercilessly as Boyle did a saucy hip wiggle and said she'd like a chance to prove she could be as good as Elaine Paige, a legendary singer often called the first lady of British musical theater.

Those present were clearly prepared to howl.

Then Boyle opened her mouth. And within the first few bars of "I Dreamed a Dream," from the hit musical "Les Miserables," the audience was standing and applauding. The judges pronounced themselves shocked and impressed with Boyle's soaring vocals, and millions watching knew they had just seen a rare gem of a moment on live television.

"Without a doubt this is the biggest surprise in three years of this show," said one judge, Piers Morgan.

"Everyone was laughing at you -- no one is laughing now. Susan Boyle is not just a good singer, she's a fantastic singer. Someone whose stunning range, tone and delivery is worthy of comparison to anyone," Morgan said.

Somewhere out there in the couch-potato universe, American actress Demi Moore and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, were watching. And they, naturally, Twitter.

Within minutes Kutcher flagged the performance in a tweet, saying, "This just made my night." Moore told the couple's huge digital following that Boyle's voice "made me teary."

Between the huge television audience and the endorsement of the Hollywood Twitterati, Boyle went viral on YouTube. More than 9 million people have watched her on the site.

Bookmakers say she is now favored to win the popular TV talent contest and perform at a Royal Command Performance attended by members of the British royal family.


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