English Montreal Hates Celine Dion
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In her entire career, Céline Dion has has produced one and only one acceptable recording: 1992’s Je danse dans ma tête, 4 minutes 14 seconds of unintentional pop pleasure which has finally been properly recognized and covered by Orange Orange.
The rest of her music should be banned like hip hop in Iran (Iranian hip hop actually is the bomb and shouldn’t be banned, but sadly is… You know what I meant…)
I remember clearly sitting on my bed in the late 80’s, looking for pictures of cute girls in one of sisters Québec celebrity magazines and finding instead this article about this very ordinary looking Jesus Freak who was confidently informing us that she was going to be as big a Micheal Jackson. I laughed.
Look who’s laughing now.
I have tremendous respect for Céline Dion and her manager/husband René Angelil for an impeccable commercial carreer. I especially appreciate how she has been as loyal to her fans. She goes on Oprah and talks to America as if she’s in her living room talking to her sisters. Even as she became one of the biggest selling artists in the United States she kept on appearing on local Québec TV, hosting l’ADISQ, Québec’s music awards and participating in Québec’s cultural scene.
Others, like Roch Voisine (who actually was a bigger star than Céline for a while) tried to follow her footsteps down the middle of the road, but failed because he did not understand the need to consolidate what he had built. He used the Québec market as a stepping stone to France, and French success as a springboard to the English-speaking market. Focused on the Holy Grail of the best selling English album, he ignored his first public for years and years. When he came back, defeated, for a consolation prize French career, his fans had moved on.
Céline has one career. She is an international star who sings in French and English. Céline brought all her fans along with her to the top.
Except English Montreal, apparently.
Brendan Kelly, a reporter covering the French-language showbiz beat at the Montreal Gazette posted a couple of lines a few weeks ago about Céline Dion’s pregnancy. The story triggered a deluge of, in Kelly’s onw words, “not just negative, but bitterly negative” comments.
The comments are apparently not only about Céline’s crimes against music, which would certainly be justified, but about her being Franco, about the old story of her infamous “I am not an anglophone, I am a Québécoise” quote and about how she really is a separatist mole…
“I’m actually not sure but it underlies once again that Céline is something of a lightining rod for feelings of discontent amoungst anglo Montrealers”, speculated Kelly. “Like I said, weird.”
Yesterday Kelly expanded his theory on his blog: “Could it be that this anger is a kind of odd manifestation of the discontent felt by some in the anglo community as francophones here gain more and more power (politically, socially, in business)? Céline rose to the top at the same time that we anglos were slipping far from our previous dominance and, to add salt to the wound, Céline was becoming the most famous franco Québecoise in the universe by singing in English, the language on the downswing chez nous.”
I would say that Brendan is correct.
I would add that Céline’s success also shatters two important Angryphone myths:
Myth one: Francophones need the benevolent unilingual Anglos to take them by the hand and guide and and protect them in the wider English-speaking world.
Myth two: Once you have made it in the real (i.e. English-speaking) world, you do not go back.
Céline’s success brought home the fact that the English-speaking world is only a part of Céline’s world. Céline Dion, Québec, the French language and the world go on beyond English.