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Susan Boyle falters, clutches stomach, and sings on

In her second performance on "Britain's Got Talent," YouTube sensation Susan Boyle begins with flat notes, but progresses to next week's final.

After exposing so much reality, who could be surprised that she began with a false note?

Susan Boyle, the singer who entered the world's consciousness and was given a very large apartment there, all because of YouTube, stepped onstage for her second performance in "Britain's Got Talent" to expectations that exceeded anything she could possibly deliver.

Her hair was darker (though still pleasantly wild), her eyebrows still brooding, and her dress a little more expensive.

Her voice, though, faltered under the lights of a billion eyeballs.

The first notes of "Memory" from the musical "Cats" weren't ones that Andrew Lloyd Webber had put there.

But a stoicism built from the bricks of a thousand days of damp, dark Scottish existence and a life experience of being bullied, teased, and tormented for her supposed disabilities, was her lifeboat.

She clutched her stomach twice, almost as if her diaphragm was a malfunctioning bagpipe bag.

She gave it a couple of squeezes and any twitchy bats that might have happened to have taken temporary residence in the bag fluttered away, leaving her voice to regain its strength.

Was it as good a performance as her "I Dreamed A Dream" from the first show? No. Her life didn't depend on this one. Neither did we. In fact, uncertain notes crept back in near the end like recurring doubts.

It didn't matter. Because now the world has embraced her being far more than her singing.

The judges all gave her a standing ovation, as if they had caught the wrong flight and had been sent back in time to a party convention in Brezhnev's USSR. The voters made her their first choice for a place in next week's final, because not doing so would have denied all their honest instincts.

The rest of us sat there and began to realize that by embracing her so absolutely, by bathing in her story so totally, we may already be losing her. In tiny steps, she's becoming a professional. And we will look upon her differently, like a child who suddenly gets her own money, buys her own dresses and may, oh God, get her tongue pierced.

The first cut was the deepest. Now we can enjoy, we can admire, we can relive.

But it may never be the same again.