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Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of…

by Carl Wilson

Series: 33 1/3 (52)

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The title essay is excellent, although already surprisingly dated - the ideas that Wilson lays out have become almost entirely mainstream these days, as the distinctions between cool and uncool breaks down. The commentary essays are a mixed bunch - some excellent analyses and a few less compelling bits and pieces. A great book though, and one you should read at 20 when you still think what you're into makes you cooler than everyone else. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
In one phrase: "Listen and let listen." This book is a great meditation about variety of tastes and tolerance for the taste of others. I find it great that music "experts" are reminded they should be more tolerant with "lay" people's tastes. After all, the pop music buffs were the first to emancipate themselves from the high-handed judgmentalism of classical music experts. You can't first claim that you have the right to love pop because you can't argue about tastes and then turn on people who love Céline Dion (or Italo pop, or Schlager, you name it) because that's bad taste. After all, these people do not want to listen to art, they want to have fun. It may be the case that people who like this music tend to be more socially conservative, less open to change, but (1) if at all true, this shouldn't make anybody pass a high-handed wholesale condemnation over this group; and (2) is it better to like punk and be all protest and destruction? Both takes are one-dimensional, and it seems that a balance of musical tastes and world views is better than the extremes.

And while you shouldn't make fun of the listeners, you should als be careful about judging the musicians: don't blame the entertainers for not being "artists," that's just not their goal. What's more, many musicians do serve both purposes, with different works: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Aerosmith all had their fair share of schmaltz in their careers. And that's also true for listeners. As Wilson points out, we all just want to have fun sometimes, we all have "guilty pleasures." Why the guilt? It's ok to not always over-analyze what you are hearing. We're multidimensional beings with different moods at different times of our lives, requiring different soundtracks. And some more ambitious works are just not fun or emotional enough sometimes to do the job.

That said, I think it's ok to say that some works do more than just entertain. And for these works, there is reason to talk about value, mastery, sophistication, art, meaning. Some works make you think, question, some are edifying, some can make you a better person, if you let them. While it's true that some of the worst Nazi henchmen listened to Beethoven, it's also true that many successful social programs for children employ the power of classical music, like El Sistema or YOSAL.

Wilson claims that we are entering a "post-taste" era. I'm not so sure. People will always find some way to discriminate, be it music, clothes, manners, movies, you name it. "Tastism" is here to stay, and it should be put in the same drawer as racism, sexism, ageism, and all the other ugly sides of humanity. This book reminds us that we need to fight these urges in ourselves, and call out when we see them in others. This edition of the book also includes some contributions by other writers, which are of very mixed quality. While I particularly liked the essays by Nick Hornby and Mary Gaitskill, I found that Novoselic's, Franco's and Powers' pieces were misplaced and not related at all to Wilson's book and just served the contributors to showcase themselves. ( )
  Frederic_Schneider | Jan 23, 2016 |
Five stars for the original book: it is a thoughtful and empathetic rumination on the nature of taste, a topic that I find enormously interesting. Reading it actually convinced me to listen to a Celine Dion album, something i really hadn't expected to happen. Three stars for the supplementary essays. The best of them walk the same line of criticism and autobiography that Wilson walks, including Daphne Brooks's wonderful essay on Diana Ross. But then there are also essays that seem like the very essence of filler, the worst of which is by James Franco, which alternates between grad school name-dropping and self-aggrandizement. The essays don't diminish the original text, but the original text also doesn't need any supplemental material: it's strong enough to stand on its own. ( )
  urthona73 | Feb 13, 2015 |
This book challenged my assumptions about how I think about what's good and what's bad. I will never hear Celine Dion the same way again. ( )
  vivaval | Dec 19, 2014 |
In "Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love," Wilson explores his hate-then-love relationship with the famous Canadian singer through the lens of being a music critic, being a 90s indie rocker and as an amateur sociologist seeking to understand her work and her fans.

Written as a charming journey of self-discovery, Wilson uses Celine Dion and her music to give us all an update on the highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow cultural debate (currently trending: irony-loving omnivores); he makes a solid case for Dion's music as a 90s artifact of unabashed, non-cranial form of art that cuts across all sorts of unexpected demographic and cultural lines. ( )
  jasonli | Sep 2, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 082642788X, Paperback)

Non-fans regard Céline Dion as ersatz and plastic, yet to those who love her, no one could be more real, with her impoverished childhood, her (creepy) manager-husband's struggle with cancer, her knack for howling out raw emotion. There's nothing cool about Céline Dion, and nothing clever. That's part of her appeal as an object of love or hatred — with most critics and committed music fans taking pleasure (or at least geeky solace) in their lofty contempt. This book documents Carl Wilson's brave and unprecedented year-long quest to find his inner Céline Dion fan, and explores how we define ourselves in the light of what we call good and bad, what we love and what we hate.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:02 -0400)

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