Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Arrogance Of The Artist, Defining Volume One As Celine Dion's Collectible! (My August Artist Of The Month Revealed!)

The Good: Good voice, Some lyrics
The Bad: Music is bland, Most lyrics are uninspired, Vocals become bland and predictable
The Basics: Celine Dion presents her old rubbish, packaged as new for those not clever enough to read this review and avoid it!

For those who do not follow my reviews (there are a lot of them, so I get that it would be hard to be a "fan" of them and read them all), I have an exceptional respect for artists of all stripes: musical, literary and film. I have much less respect and tolerance for artists who have a superlative idea or ability and simply capitalize on that ability, never truly growing or developing. To wit, I loathe most of the work of writer/producer Brannon Braga (the mind behind Star Trek Enterprise) because in his career thus far he has had about three good ideas, written in Star Trek: The Next Generation that he has simply rehashed and rewritten to extend his career long past the point when he should have been unemployed. He's a one-trick pony. In the realm of music, one-trick ponies are even easier to spot; they are musical performers, not musical artists. Musical performers are people like Josh Groban and Hayley Westenra. They do not play instruments, they do not write their own music and they capitalize on their one superlative talent, in this case voice. Having picked up Celine Dion's The Collector's Series Volume One, I'm ready to add her to that same indistinct pile of performers.

With sixteen tracks spanning a decade of performing, The Collector's Series Volume One contains three songs instantly recognizable to Americans living in the 1990s ("Where Does My Heart Beat Now," "Tell Him," and "That's The Way It Is") and a fourth that is the Spanish version of one of Dion's better tracks ("All By Myself"). It clocks in at almost seventy-two minutes, giving the listener a lot to hear. I suppose that's great if one wants schmaltzy performances.

First off, let me say I'm missing the point of The Collector's Series Volume One. The point is utterly lost on me because looking over Dion's discography, the album that immediately preceded this was a compilation album called A Decade Of Song. This is a "Greatest Hits" album and Volume One overlaps with one track, "That's The Way It Is," which was created for "Greatest Hits." I'm sure if I review that album, I'll pick that Dion's career was over a decade long at that point, but as it pertains to this, I'm still at a loss for the purpose of this album. All of the songs are from the same decade as the preceding album.

Allow me to rephrase; in 1999, Celine Dion released a greatest hits album encompassing work from 1990 - 1999 with All The Way . . . A Decade Of Song (in essence a Greatest Hits 1990 - 1999). In 2000, less than a year after the release of All The Way . . . A Decade Of Song, Dion was back releasing a compilation of songs from 1990 - 1999. This begs the question, what is the point of releasing songs from the same decade if they are not the best songs from that decade? And I'm absolutely missing the point of a Volume One (which arrogantly assumes her career will continue long enough to create a Volume Two in the future) if it doesn't, oh, I don't know, begin with the beginning of her career! Shouldn't Volume One encompass 1981 - 1990 or 1981 - 1999?!

So, in short, this is an utterly pointless collection from an artist burned out who wants your money because she thinks that if you just bought All The Way . . . A Decade Of Song as the only example of works from 1990 - 1999, you need something else. Classier artists (read: "artists" not "performers") have done this but they've been kind enough to release the collections as two-disc sets like U2 (Greatest Hits 1980 - 1989 reviewed here!) and R.E.M. (In Time . . . The Best of R.E.M. 1989 - 2003) did years ago.

You've no idea how I wish I could leave it at that for my review and go on my merry way.

The Collector's Series Volume One is a collection of b-sides or lesser known tracks or tracks that did not make it in the U.S. presented as an alternative to a "Greatest Hits" or "Best of" album of Celine Dion's works. How "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" was left off the prior compilation is somewhat baffling as it was Dion's first top ten hit in the U.S. baffles me. But this compilation seems like such a waste not only in reference to other Dion albums or compilations but because it seems to do nothing extraordinary. What is the point of "All By Myself" in Spanish? Honestly, what does this do for the song? What does it do for the singer? What does it say that it hasn't already said?

It says "Celine Dion may be trilingual." It screams ego and self-indulgence. Rather than creating nothing truly new, it simply repackages the old. It's insulting. Volume One includes four entirely non-English tracks and "The Prayer" which is in English and Italian (it's a duet with Andrea Bocelli) and none of them are remarkable. The Spanish version of "All By Myself," "Amar Haciendo El Amor," and "Be The Man (On This Night)" are the only tracks "unique" to this album. I write "unique" because they are simply "Previously Unreleased In The U.S." according to the liner notes. With the internet and the ability to get c.d.s and singles from other countries easily, this negates and true value of this collection for real Celine Dion collectors. I mean, a real collector hunts everything, not just what is convenient. Albums previously released only in Canada or Europe are easily available in the U.S. these days through any number of retail outlets online, off-line, major and small.

So, for those unfamiliar with the works of Celine Dion, what is The Collector's Series Volume One? Celine Dion is a performer, singing the works of writers and lyricists and relying on orchestrations or productions assembled by others to make music. She does not write any of the music or lyrics on Volume One, she does not play a single instrument nor produce, engineer or even translate her own work. In short, she is a tool.

The tool her team is exploiting is Celine Dion's voice. She is a vocal artist with a pleasant enough alto range that she uses well enough on the various tracks on Volume One. Alas, (and alack!) she is never truly challenging that range, so the album blends together fairly consistently track to track. Her voice never pushes the envelope, does not challenge the listener, so if you've heard one or two tracks on the album, you've heard them all.

The music is equally unchallenging, fitting very standard pop ranges with nothing that challenges the listener. It's safe, pedestrian and produced. Backed by guitars, pianos or simply their produced facsimiles, Celine Dion's Volume One is a collection of musical mediocrity.

Even the lyrics, outside the yearning of "Where Does My Heart Beat Now," are uninspired or indecipherable to those without a number of foreign languages crammed in their heads. I write that with an appreciation of opera and operatics; a great opera can inspire or effect a listener even though they do not understand the lyrics. The foreign languages songs on Volume One fall within the same range, with the same emotional expression as every other track on the album, failing to create something unique and/or emotionally resonant that makes the listener say "wow!"

There are performers who do mostly other people's works who I still listen to. Tina Turner is my prominent example (All The Best is reviewed here!). Unfortunately for Celine Dion, The Collector's Series Volume One is not a collection of hits, great songs, or even unique and interesting interpretations of her own works. It's a set that does nothing new, pushes the artist in no new ways and simply exploits whatever fan base there might be that does not want to buy her other albums, track down three songs and/or is simply suckered into buying "collectibles." Don't be a sucker. Dion may be a tool used by a team of producers, engineers, lyricists and Industry people to sell albums, but you don't need to be. Let's face it, there's nothing sadder than a tool of a tool.

The only worthwhile song is "Where Does My Heart Beat Now," the worst of the rest of the insulting tracks is "Un Garcon Pas Comme Les Autres" which illustrates that foreign language singing does not make a statement if it sounds just like everything else.

For other Artist Of The Month reviews, please check out my reviews of:
The Singles Collection (Deluxe Boxed Set) - Britney Spears
Any Day Now - Joan Baez
50 Greatest Hits - Reba McEntire


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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