Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Bored Now" . . . W.L.'s August Artist Of The Month Finally Arrives With Celine Dion!

The Good: Good vocals, Generally agreeable sound, Duration
The Bad: Most of the best was already radio hits, Monotonous, Generic light pop sound
The Basics: In a razor decision, I ultimately recommend against buying Celine Dion, even though one of the best songs on it is not available on any of Celine Dion's compilations.

A few years back, I sat down and wrote out a list of my Artists Of The Month in order to better plan my music listening for the years and reviews in my blog. My goal has been to pick a new (to me) artist each month and explore all (or as much as I can) of their library in the course of the month to better appreciate and understand what makes the enduring musical artists the greats they are considered. After a month of Pete Seeger's works, though, I decided to give my wife (who is not a fan of folk music) a break and go in a different direction. Unfortunately, this did not happen in the intended timeframe.

Now though, I have gotten my hands on the entire Celine Dion c.d. collection. Celine Dion is my August Artist Of The Month!

Of course, I am not entirely a neophyte to Celine Dion's music; I had a radio on in the mid-1990s and I have reviewed a few of her other works. Generally, I have enjoyed the music of Celine Dion in small quantities and now as I face her library, I am confirming what I long suspected; most of her best songs are the ones listeners already know from the radio and made it onto her compilation albums. At least, that is how I find her album Celine Dion.

To be fair to Celine Dion, I wanted to recommend it because one superlative song, "Water From The Moon" is not on any of her compilations. That said, this early Celine Dion album is more monotonous than extraordinary and cements in the listener's mind that Celine Dion has a great voice but is thematically and creatively constructed by a production team that is meticulously attempting to create an international superstar as opposed to creating enduring music.

To that end, there is very little of Celine Dion that is the work of the actual performer. I refer to her as a "performer" because Celine Dion has ridiculously little creative control over her eponymous album. Celine Dion wrote a grand total of zero of the songs (most are written by Diane Warren, who is known for writing hits for others) and she plays no instruments on this album. Indeed, Kenny G has more of an instrumental footprint on this album by virtue of playing sax on "Halfway To Heaven!" As well, Celine Dion has no production credits for the album and the album's songs are a hodgepodge of four different producers (with an equal number of executive producers for the album). The result is a light rock/pop album that has little of Celine Dion outside her voice.

As well, the album is a strange collection of monotony and lack of cohesion. With so many different musical visions assembled to create Celine Dion, the songs tend to blend together because they are almost all in the same style with Dion presenting her vocals with the same earnest, melodramatic vocals that define her style at this point in her career. And while Dion's vocals have a similar quality song to song, the album mixes vocally-dominated songs with ones where the instruments are produced to be overbearing. Take, for example, "If You Asked Me To." On that track, the percussion and soaring keyboards begin to drown out Celine Dion's vocals, compelling her to sing louder and with more emotive vocal force (she sounds like she's trying harder). Contrast this with the minimal instrumental accompaniment of "If You Could See Me Now" and "Nothing Broken But My Heart." While a good album ought to have instrumental diversity, on Celine Dion, the sound is more sloppy, like the album was put together by several people who weren't talking to one another about what they wanted out of the overall album.

Even so, it is hard to deny that Celine Dion has a great voice. No matter how produced the album gets, Dion's voice comes through. She has an impressive soprano voice that she lets soar and fall through an incredible range. She does lower for more emotive moments of songs like "If You Could See Me Now" and she goes higher for favorites like "Beauty And The Beast."

The thing is, because Dion's voice is accompanied by virtually identical keyboard, epic drum and grand guitars on almost every song, her voice begins to take on a repetitive quality song to song and as one listens to the album over and over again. Celine Dion, which has only thirteen tracks and takes up 60:58 minutes of music, is positively sleep-inducing as Dion might be technically flawless with her vocals, but the emotion of many of her lines is lost in the overproduced drum machines and generic basslines. Seriously, as I listened to this for the dozenth time, I somehow lost the border between "If You Could See Me Now" and "Halfway To Heaven."

That is how I ultimately opted to "not recommend" Celine Dion. I was leaning the other way for the very simple reason that one of the best songs on the album is not one found on the compilations of Dion's works. The song "Water From The Moon" (another Diane Warren product) is actually one of Dion's better songs. When she sings "I've looked everywhere I can / Just to find a clue / Oh to get to you / And make you want me / And I've run circles 'round the sun / Chasin' after you / Oh but it's no use" ("Water On The Moon") it is hard not to feel the tug on the heartstrings. The song is well-written pop and Dion presents it well.

But ultimately, the album is almost all about love and relationships and Celine Dion presents the songs with overproduced accompaniment that causes the songs to blend together. What talent Dion has is obscured by overproduction and a repetitive sound. If Dion follows in Alanis Morissette's tracks and re-releases the songs on Celine Dion as acoustic tracks (Morissette did that with Jagged Little Pill), that might be an interesting exercise. As it is, this album ultimately sounds more manufactured than musical and I suspect that is why so few fans truly flock to it. And those into light rock who want more of Celine Dion will find the compilation albums satisfy more, even if they don't have "Water On The Moon."

The best song is "Water On The Moon," the low point is the unmemorable "Show Some Emotion."

For other works by Celine Dion, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Let's Talk About Love
The Collector's Series, Volume 1
These Are Special Times


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment