Amateur vocalist Susan Boyle became an overnight sensation after appearing on the first round of 2009's popular U.K. reality show Britain's Got Talent. Boyle, who was born in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland in 1961, caught the judges (and the world) off guard with her masterful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Misérables, due in part to the unemployed and undeniably plain church volunteer's "salt of the earth" demeanor and country spinster back story. Boyle attempted a singing career in 1999, recording a handful of demos that showcased her rich and expressive voice, but chose to look after her aging mother instead of pursuing the dream full-time. Within hours of her appearance on Britain's Got Talent, Boyle was not only an Internet sensation, she was a world-wide phenomenon. Her debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, was released in 2009 and reached number one on both the U.S. and U.K. charts, setting a record in her homeland for first-week sales. I Dreamed a Dream was more than an instant success: it wound up as the second biggest seller of 2009 in the U.S. and topped charts throughout Europe. Boyle delivered a second album, the Christmas-themed The Gift, for the holiday season of 2010. Her third outing, 2011's Steve Mac-produced Someone to Watch Over Me, featured a diverse set of hits, including takes on classics like "Both Sides Now" and "Unchained Melody," as well as more modern material from the likes of Tears for Fears ("Mad World") and Depeche Mode ("Enjoy the Silence").
A year after Someone to Watch Over Me, Boyle returned with the concept album Standing Ovation: Greatest Songs from the Stage, which featured duets with Donny Osmond and Michael Crawford. This was her first album not to debut at the top of the U.K. charts; instead, it went in at number seven. In 2013, Boyle devoted herself to Christmas, making her acting debut in the feature film The Christmas Candle and recording the seasonal album Home for Christmas, which was released in October 2013; it went gold in the U.K. Almost exactly a year later, Boyle released her sixth album Hope. ~ James Christopher Monger