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Potty over Potts? The reason why Paul Potts has become the people’s Pavarotti

Posted by E on October 23, 2007

Potty over Potts – the reason why Paul Potts is becoming the people’s Pavarotti

His tenor range is astounding, and even though his technique could use some polishing up, Paul Potts has found his niche, percariously sandwiched between Pavarotti and Bocelli.
The reason – with his hobbit-like pudgy figure, his crooked front teeth and his misty-eyed sadness, he personifies everyman. His talent is not propelled by surgically-altered, photoshop-ed good looks; his stories of low self-esteem and being bullied in school ring true to all of us who have been there. As a true underdog, he is one of us; he represents the millions of average looking people who go about their mundane days, secretly harbouring talents that they do not believe would ever take them anywhere.

The difference between Paul Potts and your local butcher, or that guy who sold you the paper this morning, only came out of the flip of a coin. Dejected after several previous failed attempts at breaking into the opera world, now a cell phone salesman working 3 jobs, Paul decided he would flip a coin to decide whether he should audition for Britain Got Talent. The coin landed on heads, and Paul’s future changed forever.

How broken can this man’s self-confidence have been, to have to rely on the flip of a coin to make this decision for him? As he stood on that stage in his cheap $70 polyester suit singing his heart out, in that one moment in time doing what he was born to do, he must have had no idea that he would capture the attention and affection of millions of people throughout the world. According to interviews done after he won Britain’s Got Talent, Potts confessed that the audition was to be his last performance, after which he would hang up his musical hat and quit opera. So many hard knocks, the lack of money to pursue further lessons, coupled with his health problems and bike accident from the previous year, had led him to that climactic moment of Should I quit now, or just flip a coin and go to that audition?

This week I bought his new CD – One Chance. It is beautiful. His Nessun Dorma made me cry, and only Pavarotti’s version has ever done that. Though not nearly as powerful as Luciano, I do think his voice is better than Bocelli’s, and with enough work I truly believe he could rival Mario Lanza.

It’s worth the money if you can get your hands on it. So few opera and classical CDs these days are worth the glossy covers they’re printed on. Certainly, this CD is far superior to the drivel produced by pretty boys Il Divo and Josh Groban.

Paul Potts is a miracle of the average, a foot-soldier in the wars to come – the impending wars against the pretty, the skinny, the superficial. He is our banner in the revolution toward meaning. His heart-felt singing brings back images of earlier times, sunny Italian days where a young Caruso serenaded his friends and relatives over vino and olives on the vibrant crooked streets of Napoli. Potts’ voice makes us cry and laugh together; it greets us like old friends and invites us over for a pint and a ditty.

His triumph is not only that of the everyman, it is the confirmation that any one of us can follow a dream – it is a dream that nobody thinks you can achieve, that you keep hidden inside, afraid that others will laugh at you or tease you for being so foolish or too lofty in your goals. And so the dream just burns you up inside, eats at your willpower like a tapeworm, and while you go about your everyday, for many years, getting up to go to work and spending all your days answering to other people, ignoring that which you are really meant to do – and through all this, your dream remains caged inside your heart like a bird.

But one day, the bird demands to break free or to die. Because all of us eventually come to that crossroads, where we have to make the choice – do we continue being fearful, or do we allow ourselves to leap into the unknown, risking the shame of fall in order to honour the soaring of our spirits. So many people keep themselves too numb so they do not have to face this choice. Someday, they say, someday I will do this or that. But does that someday ever come for them?

 There will come a day when you will be faced with a choice. Do I risk everything to be the person I’ve always known myself to be, and allow it to emerge beyond the jeers, laughter or catcalls that may follow? Can I be honest enough with myself to stand still in front of a mirror, look myself in the eye and know something nobody else does – that I am far greater than this, this person everybody else believes I am? Will today be the day when that bird will fly out of the cage of my heart into the essence of my being?

We are so hungry for something, a sign of something beyond this talentless void that is modern culture, that when someone like Potts comes along, a fragile, chipped-toothed man with the soul of a pearl, the world recognizes and embraces him as a prodigal brother and son. In his success, as in the vibrant echo of his voice, our essence also soars unfettered.


8 Responses to “Potty over Potts? The reason why Paul Potts has become the people’s Pavarotti”

  1. Jane said

    I hope that Paul will get to read your review at some point. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

  2. a reader said

    I knew Paul quite well, in those early days. We would often play together, at a popular dirt pile behind one of the houses in our neighborhood. As boys will, we played “trucks” endlessly…turning any stick, stone, or happily gathered model car into a construction entity. Those were the days. Marbles, also, were popular.

    I remember Paul as a shabby sort of lad. He always appeared disheveled, as though he had just recently climbed from bed wearing the same clothes he had slept in the night before. Also, he often had a runny nose, which he wiped frequently on the arm of his shirt. He was a chubby boy and not fleet of foot. Paul is telling the truth when he says that he was “bullied.” The reality, though, is that most of us were bullied in one way or another. Paul was rather timid, and his shyness made him an easy target. I was bullied because of my short stature. I was called names, pushed down, and generally made fun of. Even the bullies were bullied. I guess putting other people down is just a way to make one feel better about self. Too bad, isn’t it?

    One incident, I recall, that stands out: Paul was being called “fat boy” and “momma’s boy” and such by a few rogues. They shoved him a bit, and I pitched in on Paul’s side and told them to leave him alone. It was then that Paul turned to me, with that sort of cock-sided face he gets, and he said, “Don’t worry, Tommy, these blokes will be day-laborers all their lives, but I’m going to be famous!” At that, the others started laughing so hard that they forgot about their barrage of names…and, to tell the truth, I almost joined in with them. There was something, though, about that look on his face and the far-off glint in his eyes that made me think he could be right. And you know what? He was right. The bullies are working day-jobs and Paul is tucked in tight.

  3. Chris Nickens said

    Wonderful take on the Potts phenomenon. He has proven with his talent that he is much more than just a lucky “everyman.” He is the real deal, with an emotion and power in his voice that touches people on the deepest possible level. What is even more amazing than the story of his discovery is that he has remained unknown all this time! Moreover, opera snobs who complain about him are missing the forest for the trees. He will turn more people on to the joys of that passionate music than the Three Tenors and Il Divo combined. I am a devout Potthead and happy to tell the world about it–and about him! Thanks again for your insightful piece.


  4. Pam Maccabee said

    Beautifully written, Elisa. Glad you took the time to share your thoughts and feelings.

  5. Marty said

    wonderfully written, Elisa – you have perfectly described the essence of Paul – his contributions to all of us transcend even his amazing voice – what a gift! he gives us all hope in these troubled times as well as the joy of hearing him sing

  6. Linda Robertson said

    I loved this article and I too hope Paul reads it. I also appreciated the Readers Comment into Paul’s early years. Yes, I can only imagine how many of those bullies are remembering those days, looking at their own lives now, and knowing sometimes good does win out. I also hope they are teaching their children to treat people better than they did.

  7. introvert said

    For me, this has to be the best-ever comment about Paul that has come to my notice.
    Elisa’s inspired and evocative description of Paul actually makes me cry and laugh with joy.
    Now there’s somebody else with a gift – great work, Elisa.

  8. itsmeitis said

    To A Reader:

    Which part of the UK did you come from? british people do not talk about dirt piles or momma’s boy. It would be Mummy’s Boy in the UK. I can only conceive that your little ‘story’ here nd on another website is simply a made up story. I think that Paul was more of the kind of person to hide away in the corner rather than confront anyone.

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