Have you heard the one about the dowdy looking, middle-aged British singer who, with virtually no airplay and armed only with a great voice, rides not only to the top of the charts, but could possibly experience one of the highest sales weeks of the year?
If not, you will. As you may know, Susan Boyle
’s “I Dreamed a Dream” set a record for pre-orders at Amazon.com, but Hits Daily Double
reports that following one day after its release Nov. 23, Boyle’s collection is selling at three times the estimated pre-release tally. The tip sheet predicts that “I Dreamed a Dream” could sell more than 500,000 copies in its opening frame.
In May, Eminem
's "Relapse" sold more than 600,000.
Let’s look at this a little further. Boyle’s competing this week against new releases from Rihanna
’s “Rated R” and Adam Lambert
’s “For Your Entertainment,” among many other titles.
Music industry pundits would have you believe that every advantage should go to Rihanna and Lambert: they get more radio play and, most importantly, they’re younger—young enough to be Boyle’s children. Even though Boyle is on a major label, Columbia (only because Simon Cowell
’s label goes through Columbia), no major label would normally come near someone like Boyle because major labels have utterly convinced themselves that artists over 40 don’t sell records, despite the RIAA stats that show that people 35 and up buy more albums than those 35 and under (this is a stat that held true even before rampant piracy started).
Rihanna, rightly or wrongly, has seen her stardom zoom into the stratosphere on the back of a tragic event. Lambert’s popularity has been propelled, in part, by his outsized personality and willingness to discuss his sex life...and simulate fellatio on national TV. I don't think we have to worry about Boyle doing that.
Another factor seemingly going against Boyle is although she was a fixture on U.K. television via being a contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent,” her main exposure in the U.S. has come through YouTube. You can count her U.S. television appearances on two hands. She hasn’t graced the cover of any major magazines yet.
Here’s what Boyle has that few artists today have: she has heart. And she wore her heart on her sleeve from the moment she walked out onto that ‘Britain’s Got Talent” stage and, amid snickers and rolled eyes because she didn’t fit the perfect picture (read: young, thin and conventionally pretty), she sang her heart out. She laid herself bare to ridicule because she had a dream and somewhere, somehow, her need to be heard outweighed her fear. Regardless of whether you appreciate her voice, you have to admire her pluck: every message in society tells someone like Boyle that dreams are for younger, prettier people and she said no they aren’t. And if they her dream can come true, maybe yours can too.
That’s why people are buying “I Dreamed a Dream.” There’s no telling what kind of career Boyle will have, but there’s a lesson to be learned simply from what’s happening this week, if only the industry will listen.