While Q Magazine once described Céline Dion as a vocalist who”grinds out every note as if bearing some kind of grudge against the very notion of economy.,” The Calgary Herald’s Nick Lewis hopefully points out she’s won twice as many Oscars as Martin Scorsese. Hey, Marty never’s been a Eurovision contestant, either.
“Even though it’s in this post-modern, over-the-top way that can seem kind of synthetic, Céline Dion represents old fashioned values,” says Carl Wilson, author of Let’s Talk About Love, a book that examines why we love to hate Canada’s most popular musician.
“She represents loyalty and family and romance, and a lot of people around the world relate to that, and see her as articulating those emotions in a way that they feel they are not able.”
Wilson was no Dion fan when he took on the task of writing about one of Canada’s favourite singers, but says he now has a newfound respect for her and her craft.
“Part of what my book works through is the instant reaction of, ‘I would never listen to her,’” he says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘It’s not my thing,’ but it’s another to say, ‘I could never bring myself to.’ Then it sounds almost defensive or threatened. It takes on a ‘What does it mean if I do listen to her?’ aspect that could say something about you that you don’t want said.
“At that point it’s less about the music and what the music says about you.
“The implication is that people who listen to her are stupid or declassé, everything about it is that this person is a loser on some level.”
But where and why does this snobbery arise? Unlikely musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Timbaland have taken in her four-year Vegas gig, A New Day, and Prince reportedly went to see it a number of times. So why do self-professed “informed” people dislike her?
“A lot of it has to do with social position,” Wilson says. “She’s less likely to find sympathetic ears among university-educated, urban people, people who are most represented in Canadian media. And she’s more likely to find sympathetic ears among people who don’t necessarily have a stake in staying on the cutting edge, on seeming hip.”