Before she even released a record, Susan Boyle's 2009 was already the sort of story that inspires operas: Ten days after her 48th birthday, a homely woman from Scotland appears on the reality show Britain's Got Talent, upending the crowd's snickering cynicism with her rendition of a Les Miserables standard. Within days, millions view the YouTube clip. But Boyle finishes a mere second in the final competition, and her subsequent emotional breakdown is attributed to the stress brought on by sudden stardom (she's just the simple middle-aged daughter of a miner and shorthand typist, after all). Yet all the drama only helps escalate anticipation for her debut album, scheduled just in time to make the perfect Christmas gift; presale orders skyrocket. The fairytale's trajectory had direct brand-expanding precedent within the Simon Cowell empire. Whether Boyle can parlay it into a long-range career remains to be seen, but who knows -- maybe someday she'll belt out the opera of her own life.