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Image: Susan Boyle talks with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira
TODAY
Susan Boyle talks with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira during her performance on Rockefeller Plaza Monday. The Scottish singer is the first artist ever to perform throughout an entire half-hour on TODAY.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 12/1/2009 5:58:06 PM ET 2009-12-01T22:58:06

A huge crowd stood in the New York morning chill, cell phones and camcorders held before misty eyes to record a simple woman dressed in simple clothes singing familiar songs in a voice that penetrated deep into the spirit.

Susan Boyle, seven months removed from her now legendary debut on “Britain’s Got Talent,” is no longer the shy and dowdy woman who walked on the stage that fateful night to smirks and sneers — and left to a thunderous standing ovation.

“I’ve grown up a bit. I’ve become more of a lady. I don’t swivel my hips as much, you know?” Boyle told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday before unleashing her extraordinary pipes on the crowd waiting for her in Rockefeller Plaza.

Record-smashing CD
The 48-year-old Scottish woman who was taunted and beaten as a child now laughs easily a herself and remains humbled and awed by her own fame. Never before had an artist releasing a debut album been invited to sing for a full half-hour on TODAY. Until Boyle.

Boyle electrified not just Great Britain, but much of the world on April 11 when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

On Monday, the product of that triumph, her 12-song debut CD, went on sale. Even before it hit the stores, it was already the biggest advance CD seller in the history of Amazon.com. This year alone, Boyle has sold more advance copies than U2, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay and the Dixie Chicks.

“You’re one of the most talked-about, one of the most Googled, one of the most Internet-viewed women on the planet,” Lauer told Boyle, who is one of the selections for Lauer’s “People of the Year” special that will be shown Thanksgiving night, Nov. 26, at 9 p.m. (ET) on NBC.

Video: Boyle: I just needed to get away Boyle chuckled at the encomiums. “It feels very surreal, as if it’s not really happening,” she said.

Covering Jagger and Madonna
Eleven of the songs on the album are covers and one is original. They are not all show tunes, but they are all soulful, including a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” in a style much different than Mick Jagger could ever have imagined.

Boyle also sings a Madonna tune, “You’ll See,” that she said is her answer to the teachers who beat her regularly with a belt and the classmates who so cruelly taunted her when she was growing up.

“That was a statement I was trying to make, because I was bullied a lot at school: ‘You may have done that to me when I was younger, but you can’t do it to me anymore. I’m grown up now,’ ” Boyle explained softly.

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The youngest child of a family of nine, Boyle was deprived of oxygen at birth, causing mild brain damage and developmental problems. She spent most of her adult life caring for her parents until their deaths in a humble rented cottage in a remote area of Scotland.

Video: Susan Boyle sings ‘Wild Horses’ After her mother, Bridget died in 2007 — eight years after her father’s passing — Boyle lived depressed and alone with her cat, Pebbles. She didn’t even have the energy to go to the karaoke nights at the local pub that had given her an outlet for her singing and a source of joy.

But Boyle’s mother had always encouraged her to try out for “Britain’s Got Talent.” She finally did this past spring. The rest is history that’s still being written.

“My mother was a very lovely person, very unique and very caring,” she said during a break in her concert.

Rough start
Boyle did not win “Britain’s Got Talent,” but her fame was secure nonetheless. Overwhelmed by the attention and the pressure, she had a rough go of it initially.

Image: Matt Lauer interviews Susan Boyle
TODAY
Susan Boyle sits down with Matt Lauer for his “People of the Year” special. “I’ve grown up a bit. I don’t swivel my hips as much, you know?” she said.
“From no pressure to having all this pressure, I found it a bit suffocating,” she told an interviewer. “It was such a short space of time, it felt like a demolition ball really. It really came at me like a demolition ball.”

But Simon Cowell stood by Boyle while she had a brief stay in a psychiatric facility and pulled herself together. Today she remains the simple woman she was, but much more sure of who she is and the depths of her own talent.

“The things which mattered to me before ‘Britain's Got Talent,’ they still matter to me now: my faith, my friends, family. I'm not so cooped up now; I'm part of the world,” she once said.

Monday, on the Plaza, she met part of that world. There wasn’t a dry eye on the block.

Susan Boyle is one of the people who will be profiled on Matt Lauer’s “People of the Year” special Thanksgiving night, Nov. 26, at 9 p.m. (ET) on NBC.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Susan Boyle: ‘I’ve become more of a lady’

  1. Closed captioning of: Susan Boyle: ‘I’ve become more of a lady’

    >>> boyle was literally unknown.

    >> and now she's one of the most popular singers on the planet. so it goes without saying, susan's probably one of nbc 's people of the year. i had a chance to sit down with her for our thanksgiving night special to talk about her remarkable journey. you're giving me that mischievous look.

    >> i am? i'm being very mischievous.

    >> it is not just the glamorous makeover. this just isn't the same, shy, awkward woman who was greeted with rude snickers when she walked on to the stage of "britain's got talent." * i dreamed a dream in time gone by *

    >> reporter: when they are rendition of the song hit youtube, she became an instant phenomenon.

    >> three "yeses."

    >> now seven months later, you're one of most talked about, one of the most googled, one of the most internet viewed women on the planet.

    >> feels very surreal. you know. as if it's not really happening.

    >> how would you say your confidence level is today versus when we first saw you on that stage on april 11th ?

    >> i've grown up a bit. i've become more of a lady. stuff like that.

    >> reporter: her debut album featuring 11 cover tunes and one original was so hotly anticipated, it smashed worldwide records. easily becoming amazon.com's biggest cd pre-order, ever. you sold more in 2009 than bruce springsteen , dixie chicks , cold play . that list and susan boyle is on top of that.

    >> oh, heavens. that's quite awesome.

    >> reporter: madonna's song "you'll see" is part of what makes this album so personal for boyle . she says it's directed at the teachers who beat her as a child and the kids who taunted her so cruelly.

    >> i think the statement i was trying to make because i was bullied a lot in school.

    >> a little bit of, you may have done that --

    >> you may have done that to me when i was younger --

    >> but you can't do that to me anymore.

    >> because i'm grown up now.

    >> you know what i wasn't prepared for? that laugh. she's got one of the great laughs. it is infectious.

    >> she has a great sense of humor, too. i was reading how she is not going to sell the home that she's in that's somewhat run down. she's going to buy it. she rents it right now for her and her cat.

    >> nbc 's "peechlt year," thanksgiving night, 9:00, 8:00 central right here on nbc .

    >> we'll be right back after

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