There’s no denying it, Anne Murray and Celine Dion are two of the most famous and beloved Canadian icons. One walks like a football player and one insists on wearing her Dior suit ensemble backward. Murray sings smooth and simple, she’s like baby bear’s porridge… just right. Dion sings for her supper and yours… and your cousin Shirley’s in Flin Flon. She can move mountains!
Dion and Murray have released new albums just in time for the holiday season. Either or both will undoubtedly find their way under every Christmas tree in our true north, strong and free.
Dion’s is called Taking Chances. It’s an album of new songs and new voices. I call it her Zelig album if you will. Zelig was Woody Allen’s 1983 fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig. He becomes a celebrity due to his ability to look and act like whomever is around him.
Dion’s voice morphs into whatever the production of the song requires. If it’s pop, she channels Kelly Clarkson and all her American Idol girlfriends (who idolize Dion). If it’s Bollywood/salsa sexiness you crave, Dion transforms into bodacious Shakira, boogying with her hips and getting down with her mouth.
The woman has the most amazing pipes but she’s a diva whose only ambition in life is to please. Her emotions are pitch perfect. And that’s the problem. Dion’s songwriters throw her every tired cliché in the book. All of the songs will work great in the car ads for which they were probably written.
“Shadow of Love” is such a song. Dion is U2’s Bono. There’s a little rasp in her voice (’cause that’s rock and roll) as she sings like she’s really a cool indie rock chick. “I can run but I can’t hide/ It’s because/ I’m livin’ in the shadow of love.”
The one song that will fool your friends is “That’s Just the Woman in Me”. It’s pretty amazing. If this were Meryl Streep we’d hand her an Oscar, Tony and a Grammy or two (we wouldn’t want to make her have to choose). Actors are allowed to become someone else. Embody a character. True singers (save for Broadway performers) must stay true to themselves or we can’t believe them.
As much as I hate Dion’s Titanic song “My Heart Will Go On,” at least that is 100 percent Dionness. “That’s Just the Woman in Me” is all Janis Joplin. Dion is in there somewhere but you won’t be able to find her. Gone is all her heart-pounding histrionics and in its place a gravelly drunken hard-edged grace. If she lived in Haight-Ashbury and rolled her own, it would be a solidly orgasmic performance. But she lives in Vegas and rolls her own makizushi. “But if you don’t know by now that it’s me anyhow,” Dion wails. “Then baby you got it rough.”
The woman is fucking bonkers.
Remember when grandmas had home permanents and wore cat-eye glasses and fried your eggs in bacon fat? (Yes, kids, it’s true.) Sadly, that grandma is gone the way of the dodo. The new grand-ma look is 100 percent Anne Murray. My mom has the look. You know it: silver-streaked soft spiky hair, light powdery makeup and loose comfortable but dressy sweatpant ensembles. Love my mom. Love the look. Thanks Anne.
In a recent Globe and Mail profile Murray explicitly denied that she or any of her female golfing buddies are gay. Okay, whatever Anne.
Murray’s new album is called Duets, Friends and Legends. It’s an all-girl sleepover produced by music guru Phil Ramone (Johnny Cash, The Beastie Boys, Neil Diamond). All of Murray’s hits (including “Snowbird,” “You Needed Me” and “Danny’s Song”) are here, newly recorded with a support group of female performers including Shania Twain, Emmylou Harris, kd lang and, surprise, Celine Dion.
I never get the need for these silly duet albums. Why touch the perfection that is “Snowbird” and give it a generic elevator music rendering (with cutsie-poo Sarah Brightman no less)? It’s a dreadful remake. Of course there hasn’t been a good duet with a dead person for quite some time. So it’s lovely to have Murray’s nongay best bud Dusty Springfield join her on “I Just Fall in Love again.”
The album just doesn’t work. It’s a bland boring exercise with no magical moments whatsoever. It’s a pure old marketing ploy for the Christmas season. And tell me where does Murray get away singing with the nongay group The Indigo Girls and calling it a duet. Isn’t it a threesome? I’m just sayin’.