Boyle v Beatles: Compare and contrast
The fact that Susan Boyle has had two simultaneous chart-topping albums on both sides of the Atlantic this year is just that: a fact. As is the statistic that the Beatles also achieved this rare feat back in the late 1960s. Beyond that, the two events bear little comparison.
The Beatles were making new music and writing new songs that reflected the world they were living in. Susan Boyle is not. She's singing old numbers that have been selected for their marketability.
To compare these achievements artistically is like comparing the famous photograph of a girl in a short tennis dress scratching her bottom with Picasso's Guernica and concluding that they are somehow of equal stature because as posters they are both million-sellers.
Nor do her sales achievements mean that Susan Boyle now stands comparison with the likes of Frank Sinatra or Edith Piaf, two performers that, like SuBo, sung songs written by others. They interpreted their songs in such a way to make them their own, bringing them to life by giving them their soul.
Whereas, to my mind and ears, Susan Boyle is doing little more than a karaoke job: knocking out the songs to the best of her considerable ability, without adding an extra dimension that makes them "hers".
Maybe she will do so in due course as she develops her own singing personality and the confidence to argue for her vision with producers and managers. Whatever she does, though, the chances are she will achieve immortality through another art form.
Pop-culture figures such as Susan Boyle are becoming a staple raw material for artists such as Mark Lecky to appropriate and re-configure into an original artwork: maybe a video, or a collage or perhaps both framed within an installation, as was the case with his 2008 Turner Prize-wining exhibit.
He took part in a debate called The Trouble with Painting at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts last night, where the panel discussed the merits and faults of paint as a medium with which to make art. Mark was on the anti-paint side.
I couldn't go, but I asked Mark to join me in a BBC studio yesterday morning to have a warm-up bout with Jennifer Higgie, the co-editor of Frieze magazine and the holder of a master's degree in painting. Jennifer took a pro-painting stance.
Much ground was covered in a lively half hour discussion which took in subjects ranging from the slow-cooking movement to the way painting is currently taught in art colleges (badly, according to Jennifer). A condensed version of the conversation went out on the Today programme this morning.