WATCH: ‘New Susan Boyle’ Already Declared on New Season of British ‘X Factor’

Johnny Robinson from the British 'X Factor'

The narrative is beyond cliché: gawky middle-aged sod turns up to a talent show audition, with clearly delusional hopes of becoming a world superstar. (In our corporate celebrity age, we have been trained to believe that all stars should look the part, i.e. be young, photogenic, and fashionable.) The contestant reveals that he or she has never been kissed/fondled/shagged, which, sadly, comes as no surprise to anyone watching.

Contestant appears on stage to snickers from the audience and barely concealed disgust from the judges. But then, when music is cued, contestant sings with unexpected technical skill, and the once-dubious judges are beaming. When the panel voices its approval and sends the contestant to the next round, strings (or the strains of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) swell in the background, just like when the underdog Little League team triumphs in some bad family movie.

This was once trademarked The Paul Potts Story, before Susan Boyle and her saucy shimmy laid claim to it in April 2009, soon becoming a worldwide sensation.

And the re-telling of this narrative began over the weekend on the latest episode of the British X Factor, which saw 45-year-old erstwhile drag queen Johnny Robinson initially repel, but then beguile, the panel. His rendition of the Etta James standard “At Last” is shaky, but the sheer incongruity between his elfin-eared, track-suited appearance and the soulfulness of his vocals makes his performance seem much more impressive. Can’t you just hear the morning talk shows a-callin’ already?

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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