‘Let’s Talk About Love,’ by Carl Wilson

Interesting book. Amazon description:

For his 2007 critically acclaimed 33 1/3 series title, Let’s Talk About Love, Carl Wilson went on a quest to find his inner Céline Dion fan and explore how we define ourselves by what we call good and bad, what we love and what we hate.

At once among the most widely beloved and most reviled and lampooned pop stars of the past few decades, Céline Dion’s critics call her mawkish and overblown while millions of fans around the world adore her “huge pipes” and even bigger feelings. How can anyone say which side is right?

This new, expanded edition goes even further, calling on thirteen prominent writers and musicians to respond to themes ranging from sentiment and kitsch to cultural capital and musical snobbery. The original text is followed by lively arguments and stories from Nick Hornby, Krist Novoselic, Ann Powers, Mary Gaitskill, James Franco, Sheila Heti and others.

A review of the original edition:

The Céline phenomenon, in Wilson’s telling, runs surprisingly deep. It was forged in the weird pop-cultural fires of seventies Quebec, a provincial bubble in which news anchors and earnest troubadours were venerated as mainstream heroes, while variety-pop stars were shunned. Céline emerged as a white-trash child star frequently mocked in the press for her “bushy hair and snaggle teeth.” She was also possessed, of course, with that Voice, an inhumanly powerful blast that annihilated the competition at cheesy global talent contests (the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin) and made her manager cry, mortgage his house, and eventually marry her. Wilson is very good on the uncanny disjunction at the heart of Dion’s talent—that goofy, gawky frame, whipping its arms around like a t’ai chi instructor on a badly scratched DVD, unleashing crescendo after sublime crescendo. “She is at once doing tricks with her voice and is herself overwhelmed by its natural force,” Wilson writes. He also argues that Céline’s music is essentially aspirational, like rap: “Her voice itself is nouveau riche”—it’s “a luxury item, and Céline wants to share its abundance with her audience.” One of the book’s fun surprises is the odd way in which this abundance has distributed itself across the globe. Her French work is allegedly nuanced, understated, and literary; she’s beloved by the cabdrivers of Ghana and the ruffians of Jamaica; and she unknowingly endorses questionable products in the market stalls of Afghanistan (“Titanic Making Love Ecstasy Perfume Body Spray”). Even in the U.S., Céline has won the admiration of an improbably large roster of music-industry visionaries, from Rick Rubin to Phil Spector to Timbaland to Prince (who reportedly saw her Vegas show three times).

via New York Magazine Book Review.

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