Fans get what they expect from Dion

Published December 1, 1999

Quebec-born vocalist Celine Dion has become a huge worldwide commercial smash throughout this decade. Therefore, it made perfect sense when one of the most market-savvy acts on the planet released a Christmas album last year. After all, most albums have one big push of sales upon their original release, while Christmas albums have a ready-made seasonal market that lasts for years. Dion has become a megastar in the English language markets because she can deliver an over-the-top power ballad unlike any other pop rock diva. Her solo albums are chock full of them; Show Some Emotion and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now are examples from bookends of her career. The ever-growing movie soundtrack market, too, has been a great career boost for this singer. Beauty and The Beast and Because You Loved Me were both big hits, and the end credit piece My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic soundtrack was even more of a smash.[pullquote]So, Dion’s release of a Christmas album in These are Special Times is pure marketing genius. Be they originals like Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day, The Magic of Christmas Day, or the title track, secular holiday favourites like Blue Christmas and Felice Navidad, or classic hymns like O Holy Night and Ave Maria, the listener gets just what they expect.That means Dion’s incredible multi-octave range applied to power ballads that start pretty and end with a crescendo with no dramatic or stylistic stone left unturned. More commercial savvy is seen by the inclusion of another of the sales strategies of the ’90s ? the multi-format duet. Dion here collaborates with opera wunderkind Andrea Bocelli (The Prayer) and omnipresent R&B artist R. Kelly (I’m Your Angel). The result is an album in These are Special Times that will appeal to many age and style preference groups in a market that will stay strong on a seasonal basis for many years. If this musical style was the extent of Dion’s talents, she would still be successful and notable. However, she and her collaborating musical team have consistently shown a far greater range of musical styles on her French language albums through the years. In that sense, the only negative thing that one can say about Dion’s These are Special Times is that it has the same uniformity of style that marks every Dion solo release in English. By contrast, albums recorded in her native tongue, such as D’eux and S’il Suffisait D’Aimer, are musically far richer. Lyrically, the storylines on these albums are typical Dion ? searching for or rejoicing in love. The music is at times jazzy, at times soulful, and at times plain old rock, and Dion shows more than enough vocal technique and moxy to handle them all effectively. Sure, there are power ballads, but they are simply part of a rich overall blend. Now that Celine Dion’s career has been completely solidified in the English market, it sure would be nice to see an album recorded in English which possesses the musical depth and breadth of these French-language albums. It would probably be incredibly successful commercially. Even if it were not, Dion is guaranteed an album of long-term Christmas season sales in These are Special Times to please many listeners and more than pay the bills. Wilfred Langmaid is Anglican chaplain of the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, and music critic for the Fredericton Gleaner.


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