The Got Talent formula is pretty straightforward — someone slightly odd comes on stage, seemingly destined to fail, but ends up wowing the audience and the judges. Jessica Grout is a 23-year-old white woman from Boston who speaks zero Arabic, but she impressed the judges of Arabs Got Talent in September by singing "Baeed Annak," a famous love song by Egypt's Umm Kulthum, in Arabic while playing an oud. In an interview with The Guardian published on Monday, Grout said that after discovering Lebanese singer Fairouz in college, she moved to Morocco after graduating to check out music scene, but apparently not to learn Arabic. "I have a natural ear for picking up accents, but not necessarily for languages," she said.
The audience laughed when one of the judges had to repeat "What's your name" in English, and they laughed at her American-tinged singing through the first few bars of the song. But then reality TV magic kicked in and the audience, along with the judges, were cheering for her, singing along, completely won over. They were just surprised that she was there at all.
“We have for so long imitated the West, and this the first time that a person who has no whatsoever link to the Arab world, an American girl who does not speak Arabic, sings Arabic songs," Najwa Karam, the judging panel's Lebanese equivalent of Paula Abdul, said at one point, according to a recent Morocco World News story. In the same post, Youssef Sourgo wrote that, "Music is an artistic form through which cultural differences blend to generate beautiful outcomes," later adding, "America couldn’t have wished for a better ambassador to the Arab world." Last week Grout made it to the finals with an operatic performance of "Ya Toyoor” by Syrian singer Asmahan.