A snaggle-toothed Welsh cellphone salesman is poised to make a splash at some U.S. record retailers next week -- even though his CD of opera solos isn't officially supposed to come out until September. In June, Paul Potts became the ugly-duckling winner of the British TV competition "Britain's Got Talent" with his rendition of the Puccini aria "Nessun Dorma." The victory made the 36-year-old an instant celebrity in the U.K., where his CD, "One Chance," made its debut last week at the top of the British album chart. But footage of his performance has also ricocheted around the Internet -- one clip has been viewed more than eight million times on YouTube, exceeding any other YouTube video uploaded in the last month.
The result: Some U.S. fans appear willing to shell out about $17 for an imported version of Mr. Potts's CD that will be available next week, even though the TV show he appeared on has not aired in the U.S., and his delivery has won him scorn among some opera buffs. "One Chance" has climbed into the top 10 CDs on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble's U.S. Web sites based on presales -- higher on Amazon, a spokesman says, than musicians such as Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen achieved when their albums were available only as imports.
The show Paul Potts appeared on was Britain's Got Talent, an obvious cousin of American Idol. But I've never seen Simon Cowell be so positive the few times I've seen Idol as he is with Paul Potts. OK, maybe Potts isn't "world class." But he's got to be the best singing cellphone salesman you've ever heard.
Listen to him talk about himself in the interviews before and after each performance. Look at the audience reaction to his voice. Something about seeing this guy do well touches me deeply. I can't really explain it, but watch his first appearance here, and perhaps you'll get a sense of what I mean. There's something redemptive going on.