LONDON — In the contest, she finished second. But on the charts, she's number one.
Susan Boyle's debut record, "I Dreamed A Dream," entered the British album chart in the top spot Sunday. The 48-year-old Scottish songstress famously finished second on "Britain's Got Talent," but the variety show launched a career that has seen her win success on both sides of the Atlantic.
According to the Official Charts Company, which tracks music sales in Britain, the more than 410,000 copies of "I Dreamed a Dream" sold since its release Nov. 23 make it the fastest selling album so far this year, and are the largest first-week sales for a debut album in U.K. chart history.
Millions of people have seen an online clip of Boyle auditioning for the judges. Wearing a somewhat dowdy frock and with a halo of untidy hair, Boyle told judge and producer Simon Cowell that her dream was to be a professional singer. "I've never been given the chance before, but here's hoping it'll change," she said then.
She sang "I Dreamed a Dream," from Les Miserables, and her soaring vocals earned a smile and raised eyebrows from Cowell – and a standing ovation from the audience.
"In 'Britain's Got Talent' she opened her mouth and the world fell in love with her, which is why her album has been the fastest selling of any woman making her debut," Cowell said. "She's amazing."
Since the show – in which she eventually finished second to a dynamic dance troupe called "Diversity" – Boyle has become one of the more recognizable faces of British music, both at home and abroad.
Though she was taken aback at first by her fame, Boyle has since had a glamorous makeover, been photographed by an upscale fashion magazine, and been profiled for "NBC's People of the Year" special in the United States. In Britain, she's appeared as a special guest on a wildly popular talent show, "The X Factor."
"I accept now that my life will never be the same. And I don't want it to end," Boyle told Matt Lauer on the special, according to an NBC transcript.
Of her number one album, Boyle said only, "it's fantastic" in a statement released by her record company.
"Everyone expected this to be a big record, but not as big as this," said Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company. Of the more than 410,000 copies – both physical and digital – sold in Britain, he said the majority of buyers purchased the CD. In the United States, Amazon Music it was the largest pre-order in the company's history.
Boyle's cover of the Rolling Stones classic "Wild Horses" debuted in the ninth spot on Britain's singles chart.
Gennaro Castaldo, spokesman for the HMV music store company, said Boyle's record could challenge for the top spot at Christmas – a highly coveted position in Britain's showbiz world.
He said Boyle's frequent appearances in Britain's newspapers likely helped boost her sales, along with her reality television background. Shows like "Britain's Got Talent" and "The X Factor" – which produced last week's chart-topper, Leona Lewis – help viewers bond with artists, he said. Fans follow the artist's career from the start, "so when the album comes out, quite a few of them will go out and buy the album, too," Castaldo said.