Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Celine Dion Enters The World Of Inane Pop With Taking Chances, A Surprisingly Likable Album.

The Good: Decent vocals, Good overall sound
The Bad: Very poppy, Short
The Basics: Very average, Celine Dion takes a chance on making a very produced pop-rock album and Taking Chances works . . . for what it is.

Every now and then, my views as a reviewer come into conflict with my basic human emotions. The latest example of that phenomenon is happening right now as I listen to Celine Dion's album Taking Chances for the eighth time. For those who do not follow my reviews, the eighth listen is the magic spinning of a disc that allows me to feel like I have listened to the album enough to actually write about it. And as Celine Dion sings cover songs made famous by other divas and bands, I find myself not loathing the album. For sure, creatively this album is almost as barren as most of Dion's other works, but the more I listen to this, the more I like it.

On Taking Chances, Celine Dion avoids being the crooner or Las Vegas lounge singing act one might know her as. Here, she presents herself as a pure pop diva and while I am not fond of the genre for the most part, it is hard to listen to the album and not feel anything but respect for Celine Dion as a performer. Finally, her producers have tried a style for her where she is not boring, not presenting the same songs everyone since Sinatra has covered and she holds her own doing the works of others. As a result, most of the problems with Taking Chances are just the faults of the genre as opposed to specific problems with Celine Dion.

With sixteen songs occupying 65:34 on compact disc, Taking Chances is more of a songbook of pop-rock writers than it is a collection of standards, making it a departure for Celine Dion that is, at the very least, louder. Even so, Celine Dion does nothing here that she hasn't already done on other albums; she only sings, performing the lyrics of others on the disc. As a result, she is not responsible for writing or co-writing any of the tracks and she is not involved with the production in any way. As well, she does not play any instruments and Taking Chances embodies a pop-rock sound that is heavily produced and assembled as opposed to well-played instrumentally. The album's songs are almost all produced by different producers, yet the result is a surprisingly cohesive album that sounds like Celine Dion has all that it takes to be the next Cher.

The connection to Cher is easy to make considering that the second song on the album is "Alone" ("How do I get you alone . . .") which Cher popularized. That type of forthright and bold presentation of her songs is more how Celine Dion presents herself on Taking Chances. The Aldo Nova, Andre Bagge, and Peter Sjorstrom song "Shadow Of Love" sounds vaguely familiar from a big hair band and Celine Dion actually makes the rocking song her own. It might be the only example - she does "Alone" well, but Cher still takes the cake on that one! - but it is a good example of how Celine Dion seems committed to trying something new here.

As such, Celine Dion invests a lot of vocal energy in the songs on this album. She competes with thrashing guitars on "Shadow Of Love" and she overwhelms with her vocals on the single "Taking Chances." Indeed, even the crescendos and pounding drums on "Surprise Surprise" cannot overcome her vocal strength. In this way, the producers did something very right on the album. The producers resist the urge to drown out Dion's vocals and instead let her lead the instrumental accompaniment as opposed to letting the sweeping keyboards and guitars overwhelm her voice.

As well, Dion here actually exhibits more range than she has on any previous albums of hers (that I've heard). For example, on "Surprise Surprise," she goes into the lower registers of alto and below for the first half of the song. When the song is quieter and her voice is deeper, she carries the listener's interest before going into her comfortable soprano range when the song becomes a very traditional pop-rock song. Similarly, she takes on an almost country music twang for "This Time" and she has more of the force and vocal intensity of a cowgirl than a showgirl.

This is not to say that Taking Chances is devoid of anything familiar to those who love Celine Dion as a more traditional performer. "New Dawn" is very much a traditional Gospel song and Celine Dion presents it as she would have on any of her other albums. Similarly, "Right Next To The Right One" is a song about love lost that sounds like it could have come from virtually any of Celine Dion's other English-language albums. Similarly, "A Song For You" has a stark quality with Dion and a piano that is exactly what one might think of when they think of Celine Dion.

But overall, the album is very obvious and simple pop rock and it is not bad at that. The songs have very catchy light pop-rock beats and the few dance songs, like the up-tempo "Can't Fight The Feeling" work as pop songs. Of course, the vocals on that track are obscured by production elements - there is a mechanical quality to the voice on it - but that makes it work even better as a pop track as that is pretty common for pop songs.

Anyone who likes traditional sounding, overproduced pop-rock will find something to like on Taking Chances and considering that is what Celine Dion is going for here, it is worth noting that she succeeds. The best track is "Shadow Of Love," the low point is "New Dawn."

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
A New Day Has Come
One Heart
These Are Special Times
Miracle: A Celebration Of New Life


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

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

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