Simon Cowell may consider his life’s work complete, but I was a tad disappointed that this year’s BGT was won by a dancing dog act. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge dog lover, and Pudsey is adorable and talented, but with so many deserving acts that placed below the dapper canine and his trainer… it was just a bit disappointing, if predictable.
So I thought I would write a little post about a few of my favorites from this season, because I really think this was one of the best “batches” yet. I think I’ll work my way backwards and end this post with who my personal top three would have been. Hopefully that will keep you reading to the end.
First, I’ll mention one semi-finalist who didn’t make it to the finals: Hope Murphy. This 16-year-old girl was pretty quiet, but she was classy and really had a great voice. In her semi-final, she covered Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” and even though she messed up some of the lyrics at the beginning, it was an impressive moment. Because she literally left out a whole phrase in verse one, and because her accompaniment was minimal, it’s impressive that she was able to get back on track. Watch her performance here. I would have definitely preferred to see her in the finals over one of the boy bands or dancing acts who did make the cut.
Next, there were two similar contestants who both happened to fit the “clean-cut heartthrob/crooner with a guitar” image: Sam Kelly and Ryan O’Shaughnessy. I enjoyed both of these guys. I thought they were sweet, likable and had actual talent. Sam’s voice is somewhat squeaky/emotional for my taste, but all three of his performances were good, and my favorite was probably his cover of “Bless the Broken Road” in the final. Even though this song is a standard in America, neither Rascal Flatts nor the song is well known in Britain, so it was refreshing to see them getting some exposure “across the pond.” Sure enough, I went over to a video of Rascal Flatts doing the song and saw British viewers saying, “Sam Kelly brought me here!” So this is a very good thing. Watch his performance here. (Be warned though—looks like he’s been raiding Ernie Haase’s closet recently. The shirt is fine, but the pants…)
However, I preferred Ryan, both because he has a cleaner voice and because he’s a songwriter too! The Irish 19-year-old had the guts to perform exclusively original material throughout the show. There’s a bit of a sad story surrounding the song he auditioned with, “No Name,” a heartfelt expression of love for a certain girl he’d fallen for. The judges pressed him to reveal her name, but he shyly refused. Later she came forward and revealed herself, but then the story didn’t have a happy ending because she told Ryan she had another boyfriend and couldn’t go steady with him. I felt bad for him because he just seems like the nicest guy, and he wrote the sweetest songs for her. Everyone agrees it’s her loss. Here is his audition. When he puts out an album, I’ll check it out for sure. A very warm, folksy sound.
Now for my top three. In third place, I would have put child singer Molly Rainford. She’s only 11 years old, but she has an amazingly pure, mature, well-rounded voice. It’s an old-fashioned pop voice, not opera in a Jackie Evancho vein, but very impressive in its own way. And she’s an absolute dear as well. Sadly, I can’t help feeling it will be bad for her if she does become a star, since the industry always seems to take the innocent girls who enter into it and spit out ruined, sexualized young women on the end. We’ll pray that’s not Molly’s fate. Meanwhile, enjoy her innocence and sweet voice while we have it. Here is her breath-taking semi-final performance of “It Must Have Been Love.” (I had never heard the song before, and then I discovered her arrangement was COMPLETELY different from the original. Her arrangement is light-years better.)
In second place, I would put the Welsh boys’ choir Only Boys Aloud. Now these lads did take 3rd, so that wasn’t so far from where they deserved to be, just a little behind IMO. This 133-voice choir is easily one of my FAVORITE acts ever to take the stage on this show. They gave me goosebumps, they gave Britain goosebumps, they were classy and inspirational to the max. There’s nothing like over a hundred fresh-faced teenage boys singing Welsh hymns fit to burst. It’s everything I love about male singing and male bonding rolled into one. Hats off to their director and the men who have mentored them. Watch their brilliant audition here, which also provides the group’s inspiring backstory. Here are the lyrics with English translation to the hymn they were singing, “Calon Lan (Pure Heart)”.
Finally, some of you may have heard of the act I would have placed first. They came so close, but they had to be content with second: Charlotte and Jonathan. The two teenagers (16 and 17 respectively) came on the show together to sing pop/opera duets, Charlotte being the pop half and Jonathan being the opera half. Their friendship is a really special thing, because Charlotte has encouraged Jonathan in his struggle for self-confidence as he battles obesity. His gift is truly remarkable, so remarkable that when the pair first auditioned, Charlotte was somewhat lost in his shadow, and Simon even wondered if Jonathan should “dump her.” But Jonathan determined to stick by her, and it paid off, because I saw Charlotte grow vocally as she sought to prove herself through the remainder of the competition. She could definitely have a future in musical theater. Meanwhile, I just hope Jonathan has the emotional strength to deal with his newfound stardom. Break out the tissues, prepare to be blown away, and watch a couple of their performances—their semi-final here (this was where Simon officially ate his words from the audition) and their final here.
What do you think?