CD Review

Susan Boyle: I Dreamed a Dream

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / November 24, 2009

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Along with Adam Lambert of “American Idol,’’ Susan Boyle was 2009’s most famous second-place finisher. Now that the people who couldn’t seem to get their heads around the idea that a middle-age woman who didn’t fit the current standards of beauty could actually have a pretty singing voice have recovered from feeding their YouTube jones, what does Boyle do? She offers up a perfectly innocuous album of church songs, pop covers, Broadway show tunes, and a seasonal number - “Silent Night’’ - that continue to prove that point but little else.

There are some lovely vocal performances here and some well-appointed and understated arrangements. But not one of Boyle’s versions transcends the original or adds much of an emotional shading, other than a consistent undercurrent of melancholy that makes the album feel increasingly drab.

Boyle manages to turn one of the cheeriest songs in pop music, the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,’’ into a eulogy with her rainy-day reading. The running theme seems to be pluck and determination, as Boyle tackles Madonna’s living-well-is-the-best-revenge anthem “You’ll See’’ and overcomes a lifetime of discouragement in Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain’’ (curiously shorn of the “MLK Song’’ parenthetical).

While it’s laudable that Boyle has overcome her personal tribulations and other people’s assumptions to realize her dream - and in several songs her palpable determination is heartwarming - the rewards here are fairly modest, perhaps befitting the woman producing them. She simply wanted to sing, and now she has, so good for her.