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Celine Dion Vs The Dan

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  • music review

Behind many interesting books, there is a male with a mid-life crisis, and so it proves with Carl Wilson's fine “Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste”.
LTAL is, ostensibly, about Celine Dion, and specifically her album of the same title, and is an exploration of the nature of taste, as Wilson works his way through schmaltz, parlour music, Pierre Bourdieu and lots of other usual suspects, trying to make up his mind about what he thinks of the mega-successful chanteuse.
But actually, the book is about Wilson getting close to being 40 years old and making a crust from writing about popular music, and having a failed marriage. In particular, the book is about one specific moment in Wilson's life with his wife-to-be, who is afterwards his wife-no-more, when she reveals her strengths, and his weaknesses. I won't say what the moment is, as it's worth the price of the book alone to read it.
But the moment was revealing for me because, as a former pop scribe, it answered one eternal question: why don't women like Steely Dan?
Most specifically, why doesn't my wife like Steely Dan? How can she listen to Neil Young, and Karen Carpenter, and J S Bach or Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill, and yet never wish to hear the cruel irony of “Pearl of the Quarter” or “Gaucho”?
And that's the answer. Pop scribes, sad bunch that we are, love cruel irony. And women don't. Lay on the emotion, and we back away, pretending to be cerebral with our Pierre Bourdieu books.
We keep thinking about listening, rather than just listening. And all pop music needs is to be listened to. Analysis murders pop.
However, who wants a bet that right now the Continuum 33 1/3 series – where writers like Wilson and others write about classic records – hasn't already commissioned a pop scribe to write about how much he doesn't like Mariah Carey?

www.continuumbooks.com

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