Please, wild horses, drag Susan Boyle away
The reality TV winner has turned a classic Rolling Stones love song into a saccharine ballad
Someone has to stand up for rock 'n' roll against the sinister
forces of Simon Cowell - and it looks like it's going to have to be The First Post. Susan Boyle, the Scottish spinster who became an unlikely international star thanks to her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream on Britain's Got Talent, has chosen a far more improbable song for what will become the first single off her debut album.
The 48-year-old from West Lothian has dragged the Rolling Stones’ emotionally complex love song, Wild Horses, through the talent show wringer and turned it into a saccharine ballad.
On Thursday night, dressed in a floor-length black gown and bathed in white light, Boyle unveiled her cover on American television in a pre-recorded session that was shown to an audience of 25 million viewers during the final of America's Got Talent.
The huge majority of comments have been favourable. But the beginnings of a backlash can be detected in the critiques by professional pop writers and Rolling Stones fans who cannot believe that one of the most haunting rock 'n' roll love songs from the 1970s has been turned into such a dreary experience.
Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph writes: "There is a bleeding despair at the heart of that song that she can never touch, especially in a version as musically anodyne as this, where all the nuance is reduced to a plodding piano and identikit orchestration, the sound of a million middle of the road ballads."
Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times says: "Devotees of the original Rolling Stones version... might object to Boyle's stolid rhythmic sense, her utter lack of irony (irony is, after all, the essence of Mick Jagger), and her artistic choices, which transform Wild Horses from a complicated account of emotional confusion to a simple exclamation of longing."
NME accuses her of "slathering" Wild Horses with "the inevitable topcoat of Elaine Paige-style, quivery-lipped schmaltz" while online comments include this at the Guardian: "Susan has made Wild Horses sound like the theme tune to an 80s American soap opera."
It used to said that the song, from the Rolling Stones' multi-platinum selling 1971 album Sticky Fingers, was about Mick Jagger's break-up with Marianne Faithfull. But Jagger always denied it, preferring to call it "a sad love song". Keith Richards, the Stones' hard-living guitarist who also wrote the lyrics, came up with the title.
Boyle is not the first female singer to attempt to cover the song. Alicia Keys and Sheryl Crow have both released versions, as have the Sundays and their lead singer Harriet Wheeler. The latter appears to be the inspiration for a very cool 'bedroom musician' who currently has what she calls "a cover of the Sundays cover" airing on YouTube. With her acoustic guitar, perched on a chair, 'lilsingerchic' knocks Susan Boyle off the stage.
Elevator installation technicians might wish to know that the Boyle album will be released on November 23.
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