What did I do over my Christmas vacation? Lots of stuff and nothing at all, but most importantly: I studied Céline Dion intently. I'm about 2/3 of the way through Carl Wilson's endlessly insightful entry in the 33 1/3 book series, Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. I haven't wished that I'd written a book so intensely since I read Larry Kramer's Faggots a few years ago (not that I have the experience, intelligence or skill to have written either, mind you). If the idea of examining the nature of taste vis a vis Céline and her album-with-that-Titanic-song-on-it sounds even remotely interesting to you, read this book and prepare to have your expectations blown and mind expanded.
One of Wilson's early points involves his prejudicial (i.e. pre-book) distaste for Céline, who's basically as objectively uncool as any pop culture figure of our time: "From the start, her music struck me as bland monotony raised to a pitch of obnoxious bombast--R&B with the sex and slyness surgically removed, French chanson severed from its wit and soul--and her repertoire as Oprah Winfrey-approved chicken soup for the consumerist soul, a neverending crescendo of personal affirmation deaf to social conflict and context. In celebrity terms, she was another dull Canadian goody-goody." This, I think, sums up her reputation well for those of us outside her circle of devotees, but on further examination, I'd say that her music's blandness is key to her appeal.
See, it's very easy for someone known as the Queen of Bland to knock you on your ass with her singular bizarreness. Last month, Céline released a 2-DVD set devoted to her just-wrapped stint in Las Vegas, the soul-robbingly successful, Cirque du Soleil-inspired A New Day... schmaltzfest. In addition to the show itself, there are feature-length (seriously!) documentaries on the making of the production, her fans and a real-time look at what goes on backstage as A New Day... unfurls. All are never less than fascinating, mostly because Céline Dion is a fucking spaz. There's almost a druggy effect due to her aforementioned goody-goody rep: watching this stuff, I felt high because I could not believe that boring old Céline was capable of being such a ball of weirdness. Her M.O.R. reputation is hilarious because she is, in fact, all over the road.
Anyway, you probably know how I do: below is an organized clips reel of my favorite moments of the two-DVD set. I'll never love Céline Dion's music (except "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" and "Think Twice"). I'll never be anything but reluctantly appreciative of her voice. But her persona speaks to me on such a basic level that it might as well come with nutritional information. This right here is chicken soup for my soul.