A Wonderful Life
by Lara Fabian, pop (2004)
Columbia, ASIN B0002D6JXC

She's not going to shed any comparisons to Celine Dion with her second English album, but Lara Fabian sounds so good in the process. People often ask me why I love Celine Dion even when I normally can't stand other artists that make a living out of singing pap ballads. I'll ask them in return how many pap artists they know will sing, in her career, a Jim Steinman song, a Max Martin song, and duet with R Kelly like it's the most natural thing in the world. Who else will cover I Drove All Night and turn a song about instantaneous, spontaneous sex into something that sounds like a totally asexual commercial theme song for Hitachi? Celine Dion is the most enjoyably irony-free chanteuse around - she sounds really good when she's good. She simultaneously embodies Wal-Mart cheese with pap like Because You Love Me, cool New Age divahood with adventurously melodramatic anthems like A New Day Has Come, and rock-opera divahood with It's All Coming Back To Me Now. Celine Dion is the only person who won't blink twice if asked to duet with Meatloaf, I'm sure, and I love her for that.

Now, on to Lara Fabian. For now, she's wonderfully free of the Vegas-tainted Diane-Warren inflicted slough that currently coats Dion like a shroud. A Wonderful Life is eeriely comparable to Dion's best album to date, Falling Into You, and the self-titled album that came before it. The opening track No Big Deal is delightfully dichotomous in that it can easily be a typical pop midtempo ballad, until the chorus kicks in, that is, and then the song turns into something straight out of a Jem and the Holograms repertoire. It's tacky, it's so delicious ear-candy, and I love every minute of the song.

Likewise, the other tracks on this CD are equally fabulous in that they embrace cheese and class with equal gusto. Wonderful Life, Silence, and I Am are Songs With Messages delivered with generous side helping of corn and cheese - and they sound so good, thanks to infectiously catchy choruses that are too easy to sing along to.

Fans of the earlier seasons of the cartoon series Robo-tech may remember that scene where the Lim Minmei performed We Will Win as Rick Hunter leads the SDF-1 to war with the Zentraedi. It's a ridiculously over-the-top scene that I just have to love for the drama of it. The songs from A Wonderful Life could easily be in Minmei's tracklist for that concert. They are melodramatic, filled with one-dimensional catchiness, boosted by Fabian's genuinely powerful vocal chords, and the result is music that Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits will pull hairs over to get their hands on.

While Celine Dion is currently the sole empress of that world where tackiness, cheese, and musical oddball quirks exist in sympatico, Lara Fabian proves with A Wonderful Life that she too can deliver too-catchy, so-listenable radio-friendly pop tunes with generous camp elements like the best of them. She's getting there. Dion has better watch keep a close eye on the crown she wears on her narrow trapezoid head.

Rating: 92

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