HEAR AND NOW: Boyle extends her 15 minutes

| 11/23/09 11:00pm

Susan Boyle, Scotland's frumpiest 48-year-old, became this year's biggest Internet sensation after she stepped onto the stage of "Britain's Got Talent." In her faded ankle-length frock and graying Orphan Annie fro, Boyle left even the sharp-tongued Simon Cowell speechless with her angelic rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."

Boyle's exaggerated popularity was due only in small part to her voice mostly it was her status as the underdog.

Boyle with her perpetually aw-shucks smile and optimistic personality made us feel good about ourselves. How capricious and anti-ageist we are.

Now, after having taken a break from the spotlight for a short time, Boyle has returned just in time for the holiday season with a new album, called, of course, "I Dreamed a Dream" (2009), which hits shelves today.

On the album cover, Boyle shows just what a pair of tweezers and a smidgen of makeup can do. The black-and-white close-up recalls the angelic sound of her voice, as Boyle positively glows, cupping her face as if unable to control her happiness.

Boyle's voice is undeniably suited for the carols you would imagine playing in your living room while you sit in front of the fireplace and your mom hangs up Christmas wreaths. "Silent Night," "Amazing Grace" and, of course, "I Dreamed a Dream" are sappy classics to be expected from Boyle. Her operatic voice wraps around the lyrics and her vibrato is enough to bring any man to tears.

More surprising is her success in covering unexpected songs like The Rolling Stones' "White Horses," which she transforms from an American rock-and-roll jam into a transcendent piano ballad with Sarah McLaughlin-esque touches.

Boyle demonstrates the range of her style in "Up the Mountain," a gospel which is uncannily descriptive of her own rise to fame.

Boyle's album is definitely a celebration of her voice.

The style of her singing and the production values are hardly original, but they escape redundancy because it's been so long since we've heard someone sing with so much vigor, joy and unbridled talent.

Boyle's album is already the all-time most pre-ordered album in the history of Amazon.

Not bad for the woman who everyone thought would always be the underdog.