04.16.09

How Susan Boyle Won My Heart

Piers Morgan, judge of Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent, on the extraordinary moment when he first saw new music sensation and YouTube phenom Susan Boyle. Plus, his response to a certain proposition from her.

Admit it, when you first started watching the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle standing on the stage of the U.K. TV show  Britain’s Got Talent, a smile came over your face. Not, I suspect, a smile of expectant pleasure that you were about to hear the second Elaine Paige, who Susan declared was her hero. But a smile of expectant horror and amusement at what I think most of us assumed would be about to happen—that, let’s face it, Susan’s singing might be rather more akin to that of a noise made when a lobster is being slowly boiled alive.

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As one of the three judges on that show (I also judge America’s Got Talent), I can remember the moment like it was yesterday.

We were at a big theater in Glasgow, Scotland, back in January.

It had been a long, hard day at the audition coalface, with very little talent on display.

Then Susan bounced on stage, full of tartan bonhomie, and the reaction was instantaneous: 3,000 people laughed their heads off, me and my co-judges, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden, stifled a chuckle, and the clear message from our collective expressions was "This is going to be a car-crash performance of epic proportions."

Susan, if you’re reading this, then here’s the deal: You promise to sing for me, and share half the profits of the album sales heading your way, and I’m all yours.

And then Susan Boyle began to sing.

And within just a few seconds, the joke was suddenly on us.

I can honestly say it was one of the most extraordinary moments in my perhaps equally unlikely career as a talent-show judge.

Because Susan is not just a good singer, she’s a fantastic singer. Someone whose stunning range, tone, and delivery is worthy of comparison to anyone—the great Elaine Paige included.

Her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables was almost perfect. Yet she has never sung professionally; in fact, she has barely sung out of her tiny village in a remote part of Scotland.

Susan is about as amateur as they come. And at 48 years old, she knew this was probably her last chance at making the big time.

Boy, did she take that chance!

As I watched this astonishing scene unfurl again when the show aired in Britain on Saturday night, I texted Simon in Hollywood: "My god, Susan was even better than I remembered—she’s unbelievable." He agreed, and I could almost feel his beady little eyes going ‘KERCHING!’ down the line from his new Beverly Hills mansion.

For, unless I am a brainless aardvark—which might, sadly, be true—then this lady is going to sell a lot of records once the series is over.

And she deserves to. Because Susan represents the purest essence of what a great TV talent show should be all about.

Like the opera singer Paul Potts before her, her appearance and demeanor never suggested for one moment that she could possibly have such a huge talent.

And, again like Paul Potts, her natural shyness and modesty, and clear emotional joy at winning over an initially skeptical audience, has moved millions of people around the world.

A staggering 16 million have viewed the YouTube clip already, and that figure will probably double by the end of the week. I’ve had calls and emails from Australia, China, Russia, and all parts of Europe.

Everyone, it seems, has been taken by this extraordinary lady, who gave us such an unexpected treat that day in Glasgow.

And talking of treats, I picked up the British newspapers the day after the show aired to discover one of my own. Susan, a spinster who has never been kissed, has named me as the man she wants to end this unfortunate situation with.

"Piers is gorgeous," she cooed, "I remember when he first came on America’s Got Talent and I thinking, ‘He looks really nice, I wonder who he is? I was too embarrassed to tell him how I felt when I was at my audition, but I had my hair curled especially for the show. Up until now I have never met the right man but maybe that will change now I have met Piers. He’s a very handsome man. It is quite hard to choose between Piers and Simon because they’re both lovely but I think it would definitely be Piers.”

When I was asked for a response, I replied simply, and truthfully, with one word: "GULP!"

And my girlfriend, Celia, replied with three words: "Is she blind?"

But I am genuinely flattered by Susan’s comments. There aren’t many women who say they fancy me more than Simon Cowell, but she may just have started a bandwagon here!

Susan, if you’re reading this, then here’s the deal: You promise to sing for me, and share half the profits of the phenomenal album sales heading your way, and I’m all yours….

One thing’s for sure: I’ll never laugh at you again.

Piers Morgan worked as a gossip columnist for the Sun before going on to edit the News of the World and then the Daily Mirror, where he stayed until 2004 when he was sacked following his decision to publish photos of British soldiers apparently abusing Iraqi prisoners of war. Since then, he shot to fame as a judge on the top-rated show America's Got Talent and was the first winner of Celebrity Apprentice. His new book, God Bless America: Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit has just been published. You can find more on Piers Morgan and Susan Boyle at Piers’ Web site: www.officialpiersmorgan.com.