Let's start off on the best foot, at the end of the album: a surprising, exhilarating cover of Nature Boy, a classic written by Eden Ahbez and immortalised by Nat King Cole, among others. A lone piano and a voice which, in all its simplicity, reveals the whole range of its richness. According to Céline Dion, it was during a telephone conversation about her pregnancy that the idea to sing this lullaby-like song came to her. Originally intended as a symphonic orchestral arrangement, the idea was rejected in favour of the first recording of the song with Jorge Calandrelli (Barbra Streisand and Tony Benett's pianist) on piano.
The singer capable of the most fantastical vocal acrobatics, which sometimes seem more like a circus act performance than aimed at pure listening pleasure, transfixes us here with the emotional resonance of her voice and her perfectly timed phrasing. As Céline Dion explained herself a few days ago during a press conference for the Parisian media at a luxury hotel on Avenue George V, since the birth of her son, she sings more from her heart than with her vocal chords. Technique and precision are put aside while she allows herself to be carried away by the moment, by her feelings, and for a few moments on the album exactitude gives way to ecstasy, such ecstasy!
Céline Dion is a talented singer. She has the same singing register as talented singers who were singing 40 years before her, but who never enjoyed her phenomenal success. This is how she manages to "steal" Etta James' song At Last, written by Gordon & Warren. The song is a soul soliloquy where Dion, accompanied by the delicate chords of a violin, sings about the joy of love found "at last". A lovely exercise which reveals the layer of blues hiding underneath the slightly prim and proper petticoats of the "international star", as her record label so enjoys
Gérald De Palmas, winner of the male singer of the year award at the French Victoires de la Musique, was also winner of another kind of jackpot a few months earlier when he received a call from René Angélil (manager, Pygmalion and husband to Céline) who invited him to Florida to work with Céline on recording his song Tomber. The English adaptation of his song, Ten Days, is destined to be a smash hit and as the Canadian couple have plans to release the song as a radio single, De Palmas will soon be sitting on a nice little packet of justly deserved royalties.
Pascal Obispo has no need of royalties, but l' Envie d’aimer, the song from his hit musicalles Dix Commandements, will be vibrating on Céline Dion's vocal chords as The Greatest Reward. Another worldwide smash hit in the making, and her version will probably be used when the musical hits America.
There's no doubt about it, Céline Dion has developed a taste and a good ear for songs and hits already out there. Unfortunately however, out of the 17 songs on her album, only four are cover versions, and there is nothing original at all about the 13 "original" songs. They were obviously chosen so that the numbed ears of middle of the range radio programmers would easily spot them as hits. Super Love is the thirty-three year old copying the poses and intonations of girly starlets such as Britney Spears. Aun Existe Amor is for the Hispanophones, a song designed especially for her by the “ready to wear” music writers Richard Cocciante et Luc Plamondon.
As for the rest, don't expect any surprises. The hit making machine is as well oiled as ever and its just as well its in good working order because, with the help of TV specials and press conferences which the media are falling over each other to get to, Céline and René, the star couple very much in public love, have announced and are promoting 600 concerts over a three year residency in Las Vegas in a custom built theatre. The crowds thronging to Nevada in 2003 will be pushed along by the planned release of another album in the same year, this time an album in French, under the supervision of a promising new author-composer-interpreter, Jean-Jaques Goldman and co-written by two no less promising young authors: De Palmas and Obispo…
So there you have it for the music. As for all the rest: baby René-Charles’ first gurgles, the second embryo awaiting the young mother somewhere in a cryogenic flask in New York or the unfaltering love between Rrrrrené and Céline which faces all kinds of accusations, please refer to your favourite celebrity magazine.
A New Day Has Come (Sony/Columbia 2002)