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Going viral: does barbershop have a Susan Boyle in our wings?

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susan-boyleUnless you’ve been in a cave, by now you’ve seen the video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. Something like 80 million views and counting. Millions of dollars couldn’t buy a promotion at any price that will get the views that the dowdy, unemployed, never-been-kissed 47-year-old with the angelic voice has gotten this past week. It was the message people wanted right now, set up perfectly by the TV bosses, and the show’s ratings and Susan’s life will never be the same again.

Anybody would kill for a video to go viral like that, including the Barbershop Harmony Society. Do we have something in our back pockets that could go viral?

Drew Ellis brought up the Susan Boyle video and I was thinking about it over the weekend as well. What do we have or who do we have among us to that could go viral? The Susan Boyle phenomenon was the right thing at the right time, for reasons obvious and subliminal. For starters, everyone wants someone to cheer for, especially the underdog who has less beauty but more talent than most of us. Who hasn’t felt like the unappreciated diamond in the rough at some point in his or her life? The homely rock star storyline subliminally fills an emotional need in the international mood during these times of economic uncertainty: “Don’t believe your lying eyes, there are wonderful surprises from unexpected places.”

Of course, some of the viral aspects of the Susan Boyle video are not repeatable for the Society:

  • Everyone gets what Britain’s Got Talent is about, no explanation needed. (The only time no explanation isn”t needed for ‘barbershop’ is when you see four guys in straw hats, and then, as far as we’re concerned, an explanation is needed …)
  • If Susan Boyle wasn’t a household name when the link was passed around, Simon Cowell already was. The link I got was labled “Dowdy spinster makes Simon Cowell’s jaw drop!” He’s never dull and everybody knows it’s worth a click to see what rare performer actually impresses Simon. We don’t have name recognition on our side.
  • We don’t have the platform to make someone an international star. When you’re cheering for Susan, you’re cheering for the female version of Paul Potts (same show, similar story line, now making millions a year as a singer.) No pipe dreams here, she really could become a star.
  • Our minimum number of characters is four. Nobody in our hobby rises alone, which complicates story lines.

Not every viral video needs a story line. The “Will it Blend” videos sold tons of blenders using a pitch-perfect spokesman and a couple of packages of golf balls on “frappe” mode. Drew suggested something along the lines of a Vocal Spectrum or OC Times performing something while starting out in straw hats and then blowing the audience away with something unexpected? Straw hats and “Good Vibrations?” OC tearing off the bow ties and pushing the ladies’ buttons in a rendition of “Love Me”?

Those are ideas that take the “expected” stereotypes and turn them on their ear. But what else do y’all have? What’s something crazy and unusual enough that millions of non-barbershoppers would pass it around just because it was fun to watch, tugged your heart strings, whatever? Get crazy.