Someone asked for my view on Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. Here goes:
Paul Potts: Once Chance
album released Monday 16 July
review by Norman Lebrecht (Evening Standard)
Nothing deceives like the evidence of our eyes. A month ago, Paul Potts, a mobile phone salesman from Port Talbot with wonky teeth and a waistline problem, convinced 13.5 million TV viewers and countless more on YouTube that Britain’s Got Talent and he was it.
Premium phones lines glowed red when he sang Nessun Dorma and Simon Cowell, the pop-picker at the heart of the enterprise, thrust him into Air Studios for a debut album that is released on Monday, preceding a national tour in the New Year.
What appealed to viewers, the quality that plucked our heartstrings, was that Paul was such an obvious loser. Bullied at school, unskilled at work, a virgin at 30 who met his wife in an internet chatroom, he reached for a dream and scratched it with a fingernail. His performance of Nessun Dorma aroused more football memories than operatic, but who cared? This was the ordinary man’s David Beckham moment and none could begrudge him that glory.
Remove the visuals, however, and the music leaves the ordinary man viciously exposed. Nessun Dorma, the CD’s opening track, is not just clumsily phrased and vocally strained but utterly charmless. Paul comes over like a Venetian gondolier who won’t take no for an answer. Several notes are on the edge of sour and the aftertaste is rank.
The rest of the album is made up of package-tourist ballads and motorway favourites like Frank Sinatra’s My Way, rendered in tourist Mediterranean. Paul’s range of expression so limited that sincerity is reduced to a binary alternative of sigh or shout. Time to Say Goodbye is the second track and I wish he had made it the last. The rest is dreary to the point of somnolence. Haste was plainly of the essence. An extra week with a vocal coach might have helped him inject more colour into the tributary Caruso song or more feeling into Stanley Myers’ Cavatina. This is amateur night in a very small town.
A magnifying glass applied to the booklet’s back page reveals the LSO as the accompanying orchestra. I guess they won’t be advertising that in their next Barbican season. All the echo chambers at Air and all the remastering skills of Cowell’s team, cannot disguise the sad truth that this is a singer with nothing to say, nothing to add beyond his ordinariness. Sad, really. It was all a visual illusion.