Five Surprising Facts About Celine Dion

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image1. She recorded the world’s first fag-hag hit single. “In French, Dion tackles more complex subjects and styles—her frequent collaborator Jean-Jacques Goldman, a songwriter and producer, is often referred to as ‘France’s Bruce Springsteen,’ not an association many American listeners would make with Celine Dion. She had a hit with another songwriter, Luc Plamondon, on a song called ‘Ziggy (Un garçon pas comme les autres),’ about a teenage girl’s painfully unrequited love for a gay man. In the end, all is forgiven and they go out dancing together in gay bars.”

3. There are awards that she’ll refuse. “When she first recorded in English in 1990, there was a backlash in her French-Canadian home province of Quebec, where the annual music-industry awards pointedly nominated her as the best anglophone artist. She angrily retorted that she was not an anglophone and that she boasts of her French heritage everywhere in the world. The industry backed down and the next year the name of the award was changed to ‘Best Artist Recording in a Language Other Than French.’ People said it could just be called ‘the Celine.’ Today, Dion is probably the province’s most successful export in any business, and venerated for it.”

4. She can sing in Japanese. “Dion’s label Sony pioneered a new and now much-imitated approach to global pop: Rather than simply expecting overseas consumers to swallow American culture whole, they decided artists had to be tailored specifically to appeal to customs in every market. One of the many results was to have Dion record a theme song for a Japanese soap opera, a frequent marketing technique for local artists. ‘To Love You More’ became the first No. 1 single by a foreign artist in Japan in a dozen years. The next time, they stepped it up: Celine sang a song in phonetic Japanese, for another Fuji-TV soap opera.”

5. She has a “lost album” (produced by Phil Spector). “All right, it’s not a complete record, but the 1960s ‘wall of sound’ music legend was originally one of the chief producers of 1996’s Falling Into You, Dion’s best-selling album. He was fired, ostensibly for taking too much time to finish. Insiders say that the day he pulled a gun in the studio also may have something to do with it (a habit Spector has been known to indulge with other artists, including Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, Dee Dee Ramone, and Stevie Wonder). Before his recent homicide trial, Spector promised he would someday release the ‘historic’ master tapes, which he owns, swearing they’d demonstrate Dion’s genius and what hacks her others producers are. Dion commented that it was a shame, because the songs Spector wrote were ‘unbelievable.’ So far, more than a decade later, the tracks remain unheard.”

Carl Wilson is reading in New York this week on Tuesday the 22nd at 7:30 p.m. at Word in Greenpoint, and again, as part of the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series on Wednesday the 23rd at 8 p.m. at 302 Broome Street. Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste is out now. And it’s fantastic.
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