A Look Back At Susan Boyle's Most Memorable Performances

Many of us remember the first time we watched Susan Boyle stride across our screens, standing confident yet slightly frazzled before a panel of weary judges and hundreds of skeptical audience members. Snickers resounded through the crowd, and the judges appeared unimpressed by her unassuming and unglamorous appearance, but as the music began and her voice rose melodiously through the venue, all doubts of her talent were laid to rest. "I saw people laughing and I knew they were laughing at me," she told The Sunday Times. "But I thought, well, they'll soon shut up when they hear me sing. And they did." 

Coming from the small Scottish village of Blackburn, West Lothian, Boyle's life prior to her ascent to fame in 2009 was quiet and humble. She spent her days caring for her elderly mother and volunteering at her local church as a member of the choir, all while harboring a dream to share her voice with a more expansive audience. She aspired to be a professional singer but never imagined she would attain her current level of worldwide fame. Susan Boyle has exceeded all her professional expectations, having performed before world and religious leaders and sold-out stadiums of doting fans. She serves as a prime example of how talent transcends age and societal beauty standards. 

I Dreamed a Dream for Britain's Got Talent in 2009

Since 2007, the beloved and well-recognized televised talent show "Britain's Got Talent" has provided a stage and opportunity for countless individuals and groups hoping for a chance to find fame. Simon Cowell created the "Got Talent" franchise, which kicked off in 2006 with "America's Got Talent" and eventually made its way across the Atlantic. Since then, Cowell has served as a judge for both the American and British versions of the show and is known as one of the panel's harshest members.

In 2023, Cowell sat down with "America's Got Talent" host Terry Crews to rewatch and give further commentary on some of the most memorable "Got Talent" auditions, and on the list of outstanding performances was Susan Boyle's audition for "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009 when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Misérables." In the clip, Simon Cowell recalls his premature notions about Susan Boyle and says, "Our expectations were quite low, but she is the perfect example of 'never judge a book by its cover.'"

Boyle shocked the judges and the audience with her powerful and beautiful voice. At the conclusion of the song, she received a standing ovation from the crowd and heartfelt praise from the judges, including Cowell, who happily informed her that she earned three "yeses" and that she was able to move on to the next round of the competition.

Memory for the 2009 Semi-Final round of Britain's Got Talent

Susan Boyle assured viewers that her stellar audition was not a fluke as she continued her successful "Britain's Got Talent" run in 2009 with another bombshell performance in the show's semi-final round. She chose the song "Memory" from the musical "Cats," which is a piece that requires immense skill and vocal control to sing well. Though she got off to a timid start, Boyle quickly found her footing and delivered a stunning performance that earned her the position of "fan favorite."

Boyle was praised warmly by the judges after her performance, with Piers Morgan saying, "I think you look absolutely beautiful tonight, and more importantly, I thought you sang beautifully as well." Amanda Holden chimed in as well, telling Boyle, "I'm just so relieved that it went so fantastically well for you ... you nailed that performance. I'm so proud of you." Simon Cowell, who had been vocal about his satisfaction with Boyle's singing on the show since her audition, added, "Susan, you are one special lady ... I'm very happy — very proud of you."

It was revealed at the end of the semi-final episode that Boyle had won the "public vote," in which viewers of the show call in to cast their votes. Her performance was viewed by millions across the world on television and eventually on YouTube, and her favor with fans of the show ultimately led her to the final round of the 2009 season.

I Know Him So Well duet with Elaine Paige in 2009

As Susan Boyle stood on stage for her "Britain's Got Talent" audition, Simon Cowell asked whose success she aspired to emulate. After a moment of thought, she answered, "Elaine Paige." Though members of the audience expressed a lack of knowledge of Paige, she is a genuinely accomplished singer and musical theatre actress who has performed as a lead in many hit musicals, such as "Cats," "Hair," and "Evita" both for London's West End and Broadway.

After receiving countless emails regarding Boyle's audition, Paige eventually sat down to watch it herself. She was so impressed by Boyle's talent and personality that she became interested in performing with her. In an interview published by The Guardian, she said, "It seems her performance has captured the hearts of everyone who saw it, me included ... it looks like I have competition! Perhaps we should record a duet?"

After the end of her season on "Britain's Got Talent," Boyle starred in an hour-long ITV1 special entitled "I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story," at which point she was able to perform with Paige. Boyle was overjoyed to have the chance to meet her idol, and the pair sang "I Know Him So Well" from the musical "Chess." "I never thought I would see myself standing on the same stage with such an icon from West End theatre, let alone singing with her as an equal," Boyle told The Telegraph soon after the performance.

A Perfect Day for the The Royal Variety Performance in 2010

The Royal Variety Performance is an event held annually in the United Kingdom to raise funds for the Royal Variety Charity, which is a nonprofit program aimed at assisting people who have been a part of the entertainment industry but are currently suffering from poverty, sickness, or are unable to work due to their advanced age. Groups and individuals from all over the United Kingdom clamor for a spot on the lineup for this event, as it's a chance to perform before the senior members of the British royal family. Since the premiere of "Britain's Got Talent," one of the event's acts has been allocated to the most recent winner of the show. Though Boyle was the runner-up during her season, her cultural impact and widespread fame secured her not just any spot on the list for the 2010 Royal Variety Performance but the opening act.

Susan Boyle started the night off fabulously with a heartfelt and flawless rendition of "A Perfect Day" by Lou Reed and was accompanied by the voices of a children's choir who joined her on the stage in white robes. She captured the eyes of the audience with her glamorous, black, formal-length gown and voluminous coiffure with side-swept bangs.

Her performance was followed by Adele, who sang "Rolling in the Deep" from her album "21." 

O Holy Night for Larry King Live in 2010

At the time of her interview with Larry King in December of 2010, Susan Boyle's albums "I Dreamed A Dream" and "The Gift" garnered worldwide success. During the interview, while recounting Boyle's accolades for his viewers, King stated, "Her new album, 'The Gift,' entered both the U.K. and U.S. charts at number one — the first musician in more than 40 years to have two albums number one in both the United States and the U.K. The last act to achieve that milestone ... The Beetles."

When asked by King how she felt about her outstanding accomplishments, Boyle responded humbly, "I think it's really amazing. It feels a bit unreal at the moment."

During her time on "Larry King Live," Boyle performed "O Holy Night," which was one of the many classic Christmas songs featured on her album, "The Gift." Much like her act for the Royal Variety Performance, Boyle was joined by the angelic voices of a children's choir, with each of its members dressed in white robes. The iconic multicolored "Larry King Live" backdrop and delicate arrangements of white string lights created an ethereal scene to complement, but not overshadow, all of the singers on stage. Boyle delivered an impressive performance of the well-loved song and displayed incredible skill as she executed even the most challenging notes.

You'll See guest performance for the Britain's Got Talent Final in 2012

Three years after her groundbreaking audition, Susan Boyle was invited back to the "Britain's Got Talent" stage as a guest act to perform Madonna's "You'll See" for the final round of the show's 2012 season. Boyle took the opportunity to remind viewers of the show how she earned her fame as she delivered an iconic performance complete with impeccable vocals and a beautiful string accompaniment. She wore a stunning V-neck gown embellished with rhinestones at the waist to catch the deep blues and purples of the stage lights and a sea of fog at her feet. Boyle's appearance was just as enchanting as her voice, and the crowd was captivated by the expert execution of the performance.

Boyle commanded the song from the very beginning, firmly gripping the attention of her listeners with powerful lyrics and strong delivery. She appeared distinctly more comfortable on stage compared to her first few performances for "Britain's Got Talent," which only goes to show how much experience and confidence she had gained after her initial run as a contestant. 

Boyle was also no stranger to the song. She previously recorded a cover of "You'll See" for her first album, "I Dreamed a Dream," which was the fastest-selling album in the U.K. in 2010.

Mull of Kintyre at Windsor Castle for the queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012

"I just want that chance to perform for the queen," said Susan Boyle in the introductory video leading up to her semi-final performance for "Britain's Got Talent." She was able to check that item off of her bucket list in 2012 when she performed "Mull of Kintyre" by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine for Queen Elizabeth II at her Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which is an equine pageant held in honor of the 60th anniversary of her ascent to the throne.

Boyle kicked off the event with her rendition of McCartney's love song to the Kintyre Peninsula of Scotland, and as she performed, a procession of the queen's finest horses and ponies were paraded across the historic grounds of Windsor Castle.

Boyle made no secret of her deep-seated admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth II, and in an interview with Daily Record following the performance, she said, "To say it was an honor was an understatement. Another dream ticked off my wish list. I have such respect for our monarch, she is the backbone to this country and to be a part of celebrating 60 years as our queen, it's a moment that I'll never forget." Boyle's dreams were exceeded after the performance when she was given the opportunity to actually meet the queen.

This Is the Moment duet with Donny Osmond for Dancing With the Stars in 2012

Over the course of her successful career, Susan Boyle has been featured as a guest singer for multiple televised competitions, including an episode of "Dancing With the Stars" in 2012 when she performed a duet with singer, actor, host, and "Dancing With the Stars" alumni, Donny Osmond, of whom Boyle admits to being a longtime fan. Osmond returned the compliment of Boyle's admiration during a backstage interview before their performance. "I'll never forget the first time I saw you sing on 'Britain's Got Talent.'" he told Boyle, who appeared very shy at his side. "And I had the same reaction that Simon and everybody else had. I watched you come out on stage and think, 'Okay, this is going to be a nice little song,' and you open your mouth, and it was the voice of an angel ... I started crying ... and I watched it probably 20 times."

The pair sang "This Is the Moment" from the musical "Jekyll & Hyde." Boyle appeared timid on stage during the first few moments of the song with Osmond, but with encouragement from her duet partner, Boyle soon regained her confidence and delivered a delightful performance. The pair's song was accompanied by a dance performed by Kym Johnson and Tristan MacManus.

Wild Horses for America's Got Talent: The Champions in 2019

After enjoying a decade of fame and success, Susan Boyle decided to revisit the world of televised talent shows with a renewed desire to win. Though she was incredibly gracious about coming in second place to the dance group "Diversity" during her initial run on "Britain's Got Talent," she still desired that first-place spot. She auditioned for "America's Got Talent: The Champions," a spin-off of "America's Got Talent" meant to showcase former competitors of the show who performed well in the past.

Boyle sang "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones and once again proved to the panel of judges, including Simon Cowell, who had witnessed her initial audition in 2009, that her singing ability, performance skills, and personal presentation had only improved over the years. After she sang, Cowell complimented Boyle, saying, "I can't think of any other contestant who has defined this show better than you, I'm being honest with you. You're the one. You've made a huge difference to a lot of people's lives, and I'm absolutely thrilled that you're here."

Her performance was so outstanding that she received the golden buzzer and was propelled directly to the semi-final round of the competition. Unfortunately, Boyle did not achieve her goal of winning the show, but she did leave a lasting impression. Boyle included a cover of "Wild Horses" on her first album, "I Dreamed a Dream" in 2010.

I Dreamed a Dream guest performance for the Britain's Got Talent Final in 2023

Susan Boyle's career came full circle after 14 years when she returned to the "Britain's Got Talent" stage once again to perform the song that started it all. For the show's final round in 2023, Boyle joined Lucie Jones from the West End cast of "Les Misérables" to sing a duet of "I Dreamed a Dream," a song near and dear to Boyle's heart.

The singer's passionate performance impacted listeners even more after she admitted to suffering from a minor stroke in 2022. The medical complication caused her to lose her ability to speak temporarily, and she worked tirelessly to recover enough to perform on stage again. After the performance, Boyle shared a Facebook post to express her honor for being invited to sing for the 2023 final alongside the "Les Misérables" cast. She also acknowledged her diligent effort to be able to make the performance happen. She wrote, "For the past year I have worked so hard to get my speech and singing back, with the sole aim of being able to sing on stage again & tonight my hard work & perseverance paid off, singing the song that started it all ..." 

Simon Cowell added after her performance, "Susan, we owe you so much, and I knew you weren't well, but if anyone was going to come back, you were going to come back because we wouldn't be the same without you."