Among the last words you might think of to describe Celine Dion is “feminist.” Feminine, for sure, perhaps to an embarrassing degree for a lot of us. (Not that femininity is embarrassing, as much as our traditional ideas about femininity — that is, the bald expression of FEELINGS — make us squeamish.) She has always been all grand feeling, exposed nerve endings, belting at the top of your lungs and “diamonds are forever,” right? But I just finished this book about her, called Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, and it will change your life if you are a critic; it also hints at the possibility that Celine could be a feminist, especially when she’s working in her native language, Quebecoise French. I’ll just quote the book here, which you should totally read:
Céline’s albums since Let’s Talk About Love have gained some restraint, the singing and arrangements have become more up-to-date and “tasteful.” Her latest French release, D’Elles, goes very high-culture, even intellectual—it’s a concept album in which all the lyrics were provided by female journalists and novelists from Quebec and France. (One review was titled, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Think.”) At the 2007 Oscars, she was asked to sing a new piece by the renowned (and cosmopolitanly hip) Italian film composer Ennio Morricone, who was receiving a lifetime-achievement award. And her next album might go even further. Titled, warningly to fans, Taking Chances, it is rumored at the time of this writing to include songs by the rock band Evanescence, ex-Eurythmics musician Dave Stewart, the R&B artists Ne-Yo and R. Kelly (who’s built up cachet with the loony audacity of his musical soap opera, “Trapped in the Closet”), producer The-Dream (who made Rihanna’s massive hit “Umbrella”) and, most unlikely of all, that chart-topping studio avant-gardist, Timbaland. It is almost as if Céline has figured out how to be cool, American-style.
I don’t know if Celine will ever be 100-percent cool, or feminist — but we should all give her a chance. I love her song “Taking Chances” — how about you?