There’s no question that Susan Boyle’s story is inspiring, but the same adjective can’t quite apply to her debut, I Dreamed a Dream. This is almost a willful antonym of “inspiring” -- it is not stirring, rousing, or stimulating, it is sleepy, reserved, and placid, but is that a surprise? Boyle’s grand unveiling on Britain’s Got Talent was with a song from Les Miserables -- the very song that lends this album its title -- and if she could become an international sensation based on a show tune standard, there’s no reason for her to change her approach on her debut, since that’s the sound that made her a star. Plus, a large part of Boyle’s appeal is that she’s a middleaged woman singing middlebrow material, recalling a bygone era when there were singers that appealed to an adult audience by offering soft, stately versions of pop hits and standards. That time was the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and apart from a rather faithful version of Madonna’s “You’ll See,” I Dreamed a Dream could very well have been released all those years ago, as it mixes up the show tunes, gospel, and Christmas carols with covers of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World,” the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” and a version of “Daydream Believer” that is easily the most lugubrious on record. Boyle never digs into the intent of the lyrics, but she sings beautifully throughout, delivering more of the same of what she did in her moment in the sun on television. And, frankly, that’s all she needs to do: those won over by Boyle, either her voice or story, will surely be satisfied, and those expecting more were never likely to listen to I Dreamed a Dream in the first place.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine