Friday, November 12, 2010

Ah, That Feels Better: Susan Boyle's Cathartic "Perfect Day"


Few music videos can be said to offer a genuinely cathartic experience. Yet in my opinion the video that's been artfully created for Susan Boyle's cover of Lou Reed's song "Perfect Day" does just that.

Put it down, if you will, to the inspired combination of Reed's lyrics, Boyle's choir-backed delivery, a stirring mass of strings, and the beauty of Scotland's Trossachs National Park. Oh, and there are some small details that help as well, such as the contrast between some breathtaking aerial shots of the rugged landscape and Boyle's subtly expressive hand gestures. And then there's her knowing smile (three minutes into the song) when she lets the unseen provider of her perfect day know that "You just keep me hanging on."

No, things are definitely not as rosy as the song's title suggests. And we're given an indication of this right from the get-go by some seriously ominous strings that wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings.

Yet by the end of the song Boyle has taken herself to higher ground – in more ways than one. No, there's no railing against anyone or anything for being spurned or led on, just Boyle's ethereal and mantra-like reminder to the one who has opted to leave her in the wilderness that they'll be reaping what they've sown.

One critic has complained that Boyle has turned “Perfect Day” into a Catholic church hymn. Actually, I think it transcends such limitations to become catholic in the deepest and broadest sense of the word. The song, after all, touches on and speaks to very human (and thus, in my book, spiritual) truths. Accordingly, it does not deny the complexity and ambiguity of human life. I mean, Boyle may now be alone in the wilderness, but she's still singing wistfully of that "perfect day" that brought her there. Perhaps the acknowledgment of such ambiguity in our lives is the most cathartic experience of all.

Anyway, decide for yourself on the merits of the latest from Susan Boyle by listening to and watching the music video for "Perfect Day."





"Perfect Day" is available on Susan Boyle's recently released album The Gift.


Recommended Off-site Link:
Lou Reed Makes Susan Boyle's Perfect Day – Sean Michaels (The Guardian, November 9, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Time and the River


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Michael. It's Al from Cleveland, Ohio. Hope you are well. Anyway, I thought the lyrics were somewhat repetitive and banal . . . sorry . . . the was much beauty in the video. I don't mean to be disrespectful or insulting. It's just that the lyrics did not do much for me.

Anonymous said...

Lovely video. Susan's face and hands are very expressive. It's nice to see her moving around as she sings.

Mareczku said...

I really like the video. Susan Boyle has a beautiful voice. The song is nice but didn't evoke any strong emotions in me.

kuwaiting for godot said...

I was first introduced to this song in the 80's, and I found it to be a provocatively earnest song amidst Lou Reed's otherwise ironic and world-weary repertiore. I'm kind of amazed that Reed ("Take a Walk on the Wild Side") actually worked with Susan Boyle and came up with the concept for this video. I love the fact that this son of Andy Warhol and punk spirit is willing to take seriously Susan Boyle. This song's transformation means a lot more if you were familiar with it in its original context.

kuwaiting for godot said...

The song's transformation is more stunning if you are familiar with Lou Reed's original version. It was an odd and provocatively earnest song in his otherwise ironic and world-weary repertoire. I find it amazing that Reed, who was a cultural "son" of Andy Warhol and the New York underground art scene of the day (he wrote "Take a Walk on the Wild Side"), actually collaborated on this video, which does indeed seem to take the song to a spiritual level. Thanks for posting it.