Normally when an artist releases an album filled with happy, happy songs, I would be making a wide berth from it in the CD store. But it’s Celine Dion’s One Heart we’re talking about here. This is her last album before she commits herself to a very long Las Vegas show stint – hey, who’s that cheering in joy? – and she’s determined to leave for Vegas on a happy and cheerful note.
One good thing about One Heart though – there are only a few joyless ballads here: In His Touch and the Daryl Hall co-penned Have You Ever Been in Love. There are other ballads but they are of the midtempo variety with an upbeat quality that don’t make me dream of slashing my wrists. Great examples are Je T’aime Encore – with some really nice guitar playing in the background, this is the closest to Celine Dion Goes Country – and I Know What Love Is with a very catchy chorus that is reminiscent of the shamelessly romantic pieces she has done in the past such as To Love You More.
I always thought Dion shines best when she is performing upbeat catchy tunes that combines the best of cheesy Eurodance and no-nonsense pop. Here, the catchy Cathy Dennis-penned Reveal is just gorgeous on the ears, with her clear voice booming from the radio in a track no serious dance-floor enthusiast will be caught dead dancing to. I love it because it’s so her. Coulda Woulda Shoulda is not a remake of that great Christina Milan track, but it’s a lovely track that could have been something out of a “Best of the 1980’s” thing. Faith has an amazing chorus that just won’t leave my head. I don’t think there is anybody who finds Celine Dion sexy, although I won’t think less of anybody who does, but Forget Me Not sees Dion going whisper-heavy and sexy like the best of any R&B female artistes out there right now. Although she’s no Ashanti, and that’s a good thing.
That’s the great thing about Ms Dion: she’s so oblivious to how uncool and unhip she is, to the point that she cheerfully tries her hand at everything a mere mortal aware of his or her limitations will blanch at. Hence we have Dion trying to be R&B. We have Dion singing ultra-cheesy dance tracks that someone else will shudder at doing. We have Dion cluelessly using street slang when she is in the company of hipper hip-hop and R&B stars because she really believes it’s the nice thing to do, not caring if it makes her look like vanilla ice cream pretending to be hip hop. There’s a joy in listening and watching her making shamelessly unpretentious pop music without caring much for artistic credibility. And of course, she always knows how to choose her producers well. One Heart is a musical feast of catchy choruses, unforgettable hooks, and well-produced pop music.
Although she goes too far in her cover of Roy Orbison’s I Drove All Night. Nobody touches that song after Cyndi Lauper did such an amazing job with it – and I’m saying this not just because Cyndi Lauper is a favorite of mine but also because Ms Dion’s muzak-on-crack version is atrocious. Ms Lauper’s version is a personal favorite because of her unique way of singing that imbues her song with glorious, cheerful, heady desperation. No one can sing a line like “I drove all night, woke you from your sleep, to make love to you” in such an abandoned forget-the-world, let’s-shag way like Cyndi Lauper, and her dramatic two-minute non-stop “Ni-iii-iiii-ght” wail is only the perfect climax to her song. Here, Ms Dion just wails “I drove all ni-e-eee-yai-iii-ight!” in her sanitized, happy made-by-Toshiba way that wrings all the rough edges of urgency and desperation that are needed to make the song work.
Despite that single misfire, however, almost everything about One Heart is top-notch catchy pop exuberance. It’s a safe, unoriginal kind of good, of course, but there’s a place for simple, uncomplicated pop music that brings instant if transient joy to the listener. In this instance, Celine Dion is the queen that rules that place.