Bring on World Idol Redux.
Lin Yu-chun, an unassuming kid with a bowl-cut, belted out Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You' – hitting every high note, and even getting a little Motown growl into the song. His pitch-perfect version won him first place – and $1 million – on Taiwanese talent show "Avenue to Stardom" a week ago, and his performance has already been viewed more than 1.3 million times online.
"This is absolutly UNBELIEVABLE!!!" enthused one person on Twitter, who can be forgiven for letting his excitement get the better of his spelling.
Teased, he found solace in singing
A chubby 24-year-old, Mr. Lin told The Associated Press that he always lacked confidence because of his weight, and to cope with the teasing growing up he locked himself in his room and sang along to songs by Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and most of all to Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You.'
"Being fat draws a lot of mockery in our society," he told the AP. "I now have more confidence in pursuing a singing career. You don't have to be a good-looking man or woman to succeed. Just be yourself and try your best."
From Boyle to Bedouin poetry
Lin could have learned as much from the rise of Susan Boyle. A middle-aged Scot with unruly hair and a spinster image, she endured bullying as a girl and as she grew up attracted taunts from local children. Audiences initially expected the dowdy Scott to "squawk like a duck," as The Washington Post put it. Instead, Ms. Boyle stunned listeners with her performance of 'I Dreamed a Dream' from the production Les Misérables – a performance that ultimately garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube.
While Lin is enjoying sudden worldwide fame, the hit Middle East reality TV poetry contest “Million’s Poet” is attracting millions of its own viewers. The show crowned Kuwaiti Nasser al Ajami its winner this week with a prize of $1.3 million, though third-place finisher Hissa Hilal got all the attention. The veiled Saudi housewife, whose headscarf and niqab left only a slit for her eyes, sparked controversy and received death threats for reciting poems denouncing Islamic extremists and “ad hoc fatwas.”
In a recent interview with the Monitor’s Cairo correspondent Kristen Chick, Ms. Hilal described the burden she felt to end the silence surrounding the issue of religious extremism in the Arab world. “Somebody should break the taboo, break the fear. After that society can start to talk about extremism.” Hilal is a mother of four who had to get her husband’s permission to compete.
'World Idol' redux?
Hilal, Boyle, and Lin deserve a chance to face off if another World Idol gets produced (the last, in 2003-2004, was criticized by Simon Cowell because it turned Idol winners into losers). And why not also give Russia's Eduard Khil – known as Mr. Trololo man – a chance at the fame. A 40-year-old clip from Soviet TV, which stars a chubby and ruddy-faced Mr. Khil decked out in a tacky Soviet polyester suit, garnered more than 2 million hits last month, bewildering the former radio star with sudden fame decades after the fact.
Lin Yu-chun, fortunately, is enjoying his fame in real time.
"And now to a video that made jaws drop all over the world. It features a young singer who may be Taiwan's answer to Susan Boyle," reports CBS News in this video report, featuring Lin hitting the especially high notes:
And here's a full version of Lin singing "I Will Always Love You."