Tuesday, December 1, 2009

celine has nothing to prove...

Let's all try to remember that Celine was discovered as a musical prodigy in her early teenage years. All she's ever known is the recording industry and singing has been entire life for as long as she can remember. After almost 30 years in the industry she has nothing to prove to nay sayers. Celine has a huge fan base that will always support her and she knows from them that her music has a positive influence on people's lives. In a recent article (I have to site by memory because I could not find the hard copy) I am reminded of a quote in response to the criticism of her music. She said something along the lines that her music wasn't necessarily for everyone but she has had many fans come up to her simply to say that her music has helped them get through a death, a divorce, an illness- a tough time in their lives. This is all that Celine needs to hear. Celine Dion is an extremely gifted person who is fortunate enough to support charities all over the world. You don't have to like Celine's music and maybe you think she's crazy and cannot appreciate her public persona but nothing Celine has ever done or said (that I've seen) has come off as inauthentic or veiled with hidden intentions.

How are we able to hate a performer who only does good in our world? Furthermore what does this say about our culture and our views on gender? Celine Dion is everything that embodies the stereotypical female- emotional, caring, considerate, maternal etc. (remember back to our list)...are these bad qualities for women to have in today's society? Would Celine Dion be criticized differently prior to feminist theory?


  1. I hate to be the first one to broach this topic but here goes...

    Although I in no way want to disparage Celine Dion and her apparent benevolence, that part of herself has nothing to do with her music. In fact, no part of herself has anything to do with her music. In view of Carl Wilson's book, the aim is to judge the music by itself. In exploring a literary work, would one ascribe any importance to the author's commitment to charity work? No. Thus, although credit can be paid to Dion as a person, the same cannot be said for her music.

    As we discussed in class, what Wilson continually points to is that tension that exists between persons who maintain differing tastes. To be completely honest, I do believe that there is a difference between good taste and bad taste, or, at least, between high brow art and low brow art. Yes, I have devoured the Harry Potter series and even delved into the Twilight series. However, I recognize, that these works' artistic merit pales in comparison to classical works. I think this points to what Professor Fisher was referring to in respect to intellectual engagement. I do believe there is a difference between those things that entertain, those things that intellectually engage, and those things that do both.

    My aim is not to devalue Celine Dion and her accomplishments. I will say, however, that as far as music goes, her work is over-produced, one-dimensional, unoriginal, etc. I feel this way about many artists. However, I still derive occasional, unengaged enjoyment in listening to them. I think its important that artistic value is ascribed to those things which truly warrant it.

  2. Ah . . . Good points, Megan. Once again, though, we seem to be turning back to New Criticism, which is fine. I just think that we should ask why we are doing this. Is it because we want to be able to disparage Celine's work while absolving ourselves of any guilt associated with disparaging her--the performer/artist? Moreover, what do we do with the legions of critics--from bell hooks to Judith Butler, from Stuart Hall to Laura Mulvey--who have essentially argued that we shouldn't, for a variety of reasons, separate the artist from the performance?

    In Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson famously slammed Phillis Wheatley's work--and her race more generally--by claiming that her poetry doesn't rise to the level of criticism. Is our criticism of Celine functioning in the same way? Yes? No? Why or why not?

  3. I would have to disagree with points mentioned here. I know we're trying to move back to separating the artist from the work, but almost every artist who produces art (whether or not you like it), especially in the musical community, says they put themselves into the music. It's there way of making it genuine. I understand that separating the two makes it a whole lot easier to be a critic, but that is the wrong way to go when considering actual taste. How you do separate the artist from his work if he put himself into the work?

    Looking at Celine Dion specifically, you cannot blame her for the unoriginality of the work she produces. As mentioned in class and in the book, Celine Dion sings the songs she is asked to sing, 'a set of pipes.' If you don't like the composition and unoriginality of any of her songs, then say the composer is unoriginal and one dimensional, not Celine. She is a singer, not a composer and song writer. Why can't we give her credit for that? Why can't we give credit for the artistic ability she has and puts into the music. If you separate her out, you're left with the composer/writer, not the singer. And where does that leave Celine Dion?

  4. I think the conflict here is that, while I'm sure Celine Dion has a resume full of charity work and benefits, and while she came from a difficult childhood and all of that, I don't feel that any of those personal experiences are put into her music to make it better. If Celine Dion is just singing "what she is asked," then I really CAN separate her from the music she sings, because the music isn't really hers.

    You can give her credit for vocal ability (though if you've heard her version "Oh Holy Night" you may say otherwise...), but I think I have trouble respecting her work for the very reason I mentioned above: I feel nothing when I listen to it, no emotional reality translated from performer to listener. There are hundreds and hundreds of singers who don't write their own songs, but if we're scrutinizing her particular works for their unoriginal composition, what does it say about a singer who works through composers and lyricists who many critics would label as generic?

  5. Personally, I think that a good way to objectively critique Celine, and all artists, is to not put them into a bad/good binary. As Janetta pointed out, even if we find her music unoriginal, can't we give her credit for her vocal ability? I think it's not "wishy-washy" to say that you appreciate certain aspects of an artist and/or their work, and don't appreciate others. As several of the theorists we have looked at over the semester might argue (ie Derrida in The Pharmakon), contradictions/paradoxes are possible, and perhaps growing more comfortable with them will lead us as a society to being more informed, objective, and fair critics.