Saturday, January 5, 2008

Is Disdain for Céline Dion Innate or Learned?

“Is disdain for Céline Dion innate or learned?” asks a recent book review in New York magazine. The book is Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson, an editor and critic for Canada’s Globe and Mail. In it, Wilson probes music critics’ collective revulsion to Céline, who reviewer and fellow traveler Sam Anderson describes as “an overemoting schmaltz-bot.”

After months of listening to Céline’s music, Wilson finds some redeeming qualities. However, his bigger takeaway is that music critics are perhaps overly driven by social concerns (hating Céline so as not to associate with her déclassé fan base) whereas her fans like the music for the music’s sake.

I bring this up for two reasons:

(1) The question of whether musical taste is innate or learned often gets answered as “It’s somewhere in between,” with an argument about the percentage split. However, Céline is an example of how a single split point would be a misleading average of two distant points. 

(2) The review is amusing. If you love Céline, you’ll hate it. If you hate Céline, you’ll love it. Or if (like me) you only know Céline by reputation, that reputation will acquire yet more color. (See also the sidebar that segments Céline’s worldwide image via Iraq, Quebec, China, Ghana, and Jamaica.) 

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