Saturday, August 27, 2011

A New Day Has Come, Celine Dion's Music Has Only Minimally Changed.

The Good: Vocals, Some decent instrumental accompaniment, Duration
The Bad: Often overproduced, Some very campy lyrics.
The Basics: A good, but largely unremarkable Celine Dion album, A New Day Has Come mixes up the familiar formula of Dion's ballads with mixed results.

My wife is largely the reason Celine Dion is my August Artist Of The Month. You see, she's a fan and I thought I'd do something nice for her considering I often have my music on around the house and she was not so wild about my last Artist Of The Month, Pete Seeger. Yes, I try to keep the peace here. However, the more I listen to the works of Celine Dion, the less impressed I am. With A New Day Has Come, though, I find myself having a whole new bagful of gripes as opposed to finding Dion stagnating.

To be sure, Celine Dion is creatively stagnating on A New Day Has Come, but this is largely because she has almost no creative control over her albums. She sings songs and she seems to sing whatever is put in front of her. Thematically, A New Day Has Come is a bit more diverse than her earlier works given that she sings more about change and loss than just easy, committed love. But while vocally Celine Dion provides little new here, those producing her try to reinvent her with more of a pop edge than the light pop ballads that made her famous. The problem is, lacking the dominant ballads, there is no real hook on this album and it wanders from dance track to gospel song to ballad to radio-friendly sugarpop.

With sixteen tracks - the title track is repeated on the album - with a duration of 67:57, A New Day Has Come presents a Celine Dion willing to do a little bit more than her usual sing high and slowly routine. Here, she sings fast ("Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable)") and in a soulful manner ("Prayer") which breaks up her otherwise monotonous delivery of other people's lines. No, this is not the album where Celine Dion suddenly breaks out as a great creative talent. Instead, here she presents the words and music of other people like Aldo Nova, R.J. Lange, and Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. Celine Dion does not write or co-write any of the songs, nor does she play any musical instruments to accompany her vocals. Instead, the album has Celine Dion as a the singer only that she is. On the plus side for fans, here she presents her own vocals and is not as dependent upon duets. While she is backed extensively on "I Surrender," she is largely solo on A New Day Has Come.

This album has Celine Dion presenting her flawless soprano voice either competing against production elements - heavy bass and strings - or overwhelming the instrumental accompaniment. Arguably the best surprise on the album is Dion's rendition of the classic song "At Last." She sings it with surprising clarity and with an unsurprising management of the register the song demands. Celine Dion has great range and when she moves into the higher soprano ranges and plunges into a slightly more alto register, she does so effortlessly in ways that are auditorily amazing. "At Last" embodies that perfectly.

Unfortunately, on songs like "Sorry For Love," Celine Dion is presenting the lines she sings in front of infectious and obvious dance beats and her slow delivery seems narcoleptic in front of the pounding sounds. Here lies the problem with letting others determine the creative direction of an artist, the sound is more sloppy than creative or even interesting. "Sorry For Love" has cheesy echoes, obvious synths and mindnumbing beats that distract from the natural talents of Celine Dion and her voice. This track, along with the few other dance tracks on the album, sound like Celine Dion is attempting to mimic Madonna by reinventing her sound.

Ironically, the result is an album that coasts entirely on the hype and reputation of Celine Dion. Hearing this album years after the hype what stands out most is the lack of a hook. The dance tracks don't have a catchy refrain and the ballads are thematically less intense than Dion's usual love songs. Yes, there is irony here as I often kvetch about Dion's lack of thematic diversity, but on A New Day Has Come, Celine Dion's producers gut her thematic branching out by mirroring it in a stylistic branching out that works far less well for the performer. The results are songs that sound unlike Celine Dion songs, but generally fail to captivate the audience the way her usual tracks would.

Also disappointing is the way Celine Dion uses A New Day Has Come on the album twice. The fifth track is the "radio remix" of the song that does not make its appearance until track fifteen. The two versions are not incredibly different by any means and the remix seems more like filler than anything else. For sure, the standard version is a soft, slow ballad, while the remix is an upbeat pop number, but the truth is, Celine Dion could have made it a radio hit as the ballad instead of the pop track.

When Celine Dion is not branching out with songs about change or the loss of love, her songs are remarkably droll. Take, for example, "Ten Days" which is repetitive ("pray" is repeated in inordinate number of times) and "The Greatest Reward," which is a troublingly obvious love song. After all, haven't we already heard rhymes like "You trusted me to grow / I gave my heart / To show / There's nothing else / I cherish more / I stand by you / For sure" ("The Greatest Reward"). Paired with songs with words rhymed with themselves (how hard would it have been to find a rhyme for "be" in "Sorry For Love" without rhyming it with "be?!") it seems like those who are managing and producing Celine Dion's albums are creatively barren.

What saves the album from absolute destruction is Celine Dion's voice and the attempt to experiment - even when they experiments are unsuccessful. There is an effort being made to make Celine Dion have even more appeal (one wonders why when by this point she had one of the top three high-grossing albums of all time for a female artist) and that pushes Celine Dion - and her listeners - away from the entirely familiar. Unfortunately, much of it is just not worth more than a single listen.

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


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

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

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