Neal E. Boyd

My American Dream

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Like many winners of televised talent competitions, Neal E. Boyd fits into no particular marketing schematic of the 2000s. He's a small-town Missouri guy who has always struggled with his weight and always loved opera. He pursued his love, winning the 2000 Music Teachers National Association Vocal Collegiate Competition, which awarded him a solo spot on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 2001, but instead of being the beginning of a musical career it was the end, with Boyd choosing to leave music in favor of selling insurance. Years later, he auditioned for NBC's America's Got Talent, making it onto and eventually winning the 2008 season. My American Dream followed roughly a year later in the summer of 2009, and it's an effective showcase for his supple singing if not quite an artistic statement of purpose. Thankfully, Boyd avoids the ersatz Euro-schlock of Il Divo, never trying to have a pop production, instead being happily symphonic. That said, Boyd follows the opera crossover move of pairing familiar opera and classical pieces with familiar pop standards and show tunes. It's an expected songbook performed in an expected way, which arguably is a way to showcase Boyd's vocals, but he doesn't reinterpret these songs; he merely sings them with skill and some sensitivity. Knowing his back-story, the whole enterprise gains some charm -- that's often the way it is with reality shows -- but judged on face value, My American Dream is merely pleasant middlebrow opera-pop, nothing more, nothing less.

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