The American TV show called “America’s got Talent” is a knock off of the original British hit show “Britain’s got Talent”. While I’m not a huge Simon Cowell fan, he is a judge and producer on “Britain’s got Talent”, and he is much kinder on the British version of “Talent” than he is on “American Idol”. With BGT and Idol are both in production and live right now, Simon Cowell is flying back and forth from LA to London. BGT is on Sunday night’s in the UK, and Idol is on Tuesday and Wednesday here in the U.S.
That’s just some backgroun. I really don’t think Simon is the rude and arrogant prick that he pretends to be. Instead I think he’s smart about singing talent and knows what he’s talking about.
The real problem, however, is that America and the UK, however similar, are nothing alike when it comes to the arts. And I truly wish that American’s would educate themselves a bit and learn how to recognize true talent.
On BGT last year, it was Paul Potts who surprised the world when he sang “Nessun Dorma”. What the HELL is that? you might say. Let me move one. This year on BGT so far, it has been Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream”. What the HELL is that? you might say. I’ll got on once more. And my final example on BGT is Andrew Johnson, a 13 year old boy who sang Pie Jesu. Yeah, I know. What the HELL is that?
And therin lies the problem with Americans. I would venture to guess that 90% of us could not explain all three of the songs above.
First, Nessun Dorma is from an Opera (thereby accounting for the dismissal of 95% of America right there) called “Turandot” by a composer named Puccini. It is one of the most famous songs every recorded and has been recorded by literally hundred of singers. Second is “I dreamed a dream”. Some may recognize it, barely. But how many Americans know that it is from “Les Miserbles”, the 1980 muscial based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel about the French Revolution. Again, “I dreamed” is one of the most famous and recorded songs in the world, but not in America. And finally “Pie Jesu”; admittedly less well known. It is from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Requiem” and made famous by Sarah Brightman (did I just stump you American’s again).
So here we have three of the most famous songs every recorded and they don’t fall into the Pop, Rock, R&B, or Country genres so nobody here in America knows what the hell they are. And that’s why we get stuck with people like Rubben Studdard and Taylor Hicks who win “American Idol”.
In Britain it is know uncommon for songs from shows in the West End (comparable to our Broadway) to be hit songs on the radio as they are released. In other words when Les Miserables played in the West End in 1980, the song “I dreamed a dream” was a hit on the radio, the top 40, because the cast album was recorded and that song was released as a single. Even in America up to and incuding the 1960’s, pop music on the radio came from Broadway. That is how people like Barbra Streisand got her start. It was Broadway to the Tonight Show or Ed Sullivan, and then BOOM, catapulted into stardom.
Another thing happened that was quite telling. If any of you say the clip of Susan Boyle singing “I dreamed a dreamed” there were a few minutes when Simon Cowell was talking to her before she sang. He asked her who should wanted to be as famous as and she said “Well, Elaine Paige, of course”. I could hear the American collective eye brows raise and their head cocking to one side thinking “who the hell is Elaine Paige?”. In the UK and in many other part of the world, Elaine Paige is one of the most well-knows singers there is. She was the first at everything. The first Evita, the first Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, she was the first to star in a musical playing the life of Edith Piaf. She is truly one of the world’s great talents. And Susan Boyle want to be as famous as Elaine Page is. Unfortunatley, Susan probably doesn’t realize that America doesn’t know who Elaine Paige is. I dare you to find an album of hers in any music store, online or otherwise. I have two of her albums; but I bought them in 2000 when I went to London for a quick long weekend.
I guess my point is is that I envy Britain. Not only do they have talent that spans the great divides of culture and genre but they truly appreciate it; all of it. I someone where to audition on “American Idol” with Pie Jesu, or perform on a must win week a rendition of “I dreamed a dream”, they would be the laughing stock and would probably get voted off. My fellow American’s I think it is time to open your minds and hearts and ears and listen to real talent. The funny thing is that if you truly want to grade or compare talent, have a group of individual singers each try and sing “I dreamed a dream” and at the end, you’ll know which one is the winner, no questions asked.