It took pop singer Avril Lavigne two years and inspirational comedian Judson Laipply three to muscle their way to the top of the video website YouTube’s most-viewed list, but in only the last two weeks, a humble and unlikely church lady has nearly caught them.
As WND reported, Susan Boyle, a volunteer charity worker who lives alone with her cat and claims she’s never been kissed, walked on to the stage of “Britain’s Got Talent” and captured unexpected stardom by delivering an awe-inspiring song from an unlikely source.
Boyle’s homespun demeanor, double chin and gray hair elicited snickers and rolled eyes from the crowd, but when Boyle launched into “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables,” a song about a hard-luck woman whose years of misfortune have stolen both her youth and her dreams, Boyle brought the audience to tears and prompted a standing ovation.
“Without a doubt, that was the biggest surprise I have had in three years of this show,” said talent judge Piers Morgan. Addressing Boyle, he added, “When you stood there with that cheeky grin … everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now; that was stunning. … I am reeling from shock.”
The surprise has now sent its shockwaves through YouTube, where Lavigne and Laipply sit atop the most-viewed list with over 118 million hits, but where Boyle will likely soon surpass them.
United Press International reports the cumulative view total of videos posted about Boyle on YouTube, MySpace, and other venues has topped 100 million hits in two weeks. In comparison, Boyle’s video has dwarfed the attention received by other, major online news stories: three times as popular as Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impersonation and viewed five times as often as Barack Obama’s election victory speech, which has mustered a mere 18.5 million views.
Boyle’s sensational video can be seen below:
According to the Washington Post, Boyle is generating an Internet “buzz” that sweeps far wider than just YouTube. The paper reports her Wikipedia entry has attracted nearly 500,000 page views, and her Facebook fan page has topped more than a million members.
“There’s a lot of talk about things going ‘viral’ online,” Henry Jenkins, co-director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program, told the Post. “But ‘viral’ suggests that someone has created a virus and that people are unknowingly transmitting it, as if they had no choice but to carry the virus. But that’s not really what’s going on with Susan Boyle.”
“What we’re really seeing with Susan Boyle in a very powerful way is the power of ‘spreadability,’” Jenkins continued. “Consumers in their own online communities are making conscious choices to spread Susan Boyle around online.”
“It’s remarkable, I’m completely gobsmacked. I don’t even own a computer myself and all these people are watching,” Boyle told CNN. “It’s unbelievable.”
Boyle’s online popularity has continued to rise after Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper discovered a CD recording Boyle made for a charity compilation in 1999, singing the song “Cry Me a River.” At press time, over 10 million YouTube viewers had flocked to the site to hear the next song from Scotland’s unexpected superstar.
Boyle’s version of “Cry Me a River” can be heard below:
Simon Cowell, the British-accented and sometimes condescending talent judge of television’s mega-hit program “American Idol,” is also one of the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” who heard Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
”I’m thrilled to bits for her,” Cowell told TV Guide. “That’s why I love making these shows. You can’t plan for it.”
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