In grade 8, my best friend was playing the theme song to Titanic on the piano when an older student—a conspicuously enthusiastic Dylan fan—asked her to stop. The moment has been forever burned into my mind as the formation of a dichotomy in musical tastes. And that memory made my most recent read very satisfying.
Carl Wilson's book Let's Talk About Love is part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series—books about music and the world of music. As part of a collection that includes books about Trout Mask Replica and Doolittle, Let's Talk About Love is an unlikely member. It's the album that brought us the Titanic song. That indelible pan flute opening, that incredibly forceful beating of her heart in Céline's Oscar night performance, and the thousands of times you heard it in 1997—all these things make the song, and the album it came from, a worthy candidate of scorn and ridicule.
But it's a most appropriate album to start an incredible exploration of taste, cultural consumption and capital, and music criticism. Wilson talks with fans of Céline, goes to Vegas to see her at Caesar's Palace (and weeps) and revisits the famous Larry King interview with fresh eyes (Wilson goes as far as to say that Céline's outburst is as warranted and sane as Kanye's accusations against Bush in the wake of Katrina).
Wilson's research also travels around the world, looking at Céline's global popularity. From a music critic, Wilson's deep investigations in the sociology of culture and cool are especially pointed. The book is a masterpiece.
Full disclosure: When I was a teenage girl, I may have listened to some Céline songs on repeat—for hours. Still, even when taking my bias into consideration, Let's Talk About Love deserves a place among the great essays by Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. Worry not, at no point does Wilson endorse the album or any of Dion's music, but he lends reasons to appreciate her achievements and her humanity.
And it's a small victory for my best friend. If I could go back in time, I would hand the Dylan fan this book, so Lauren could finish playing on and onnnnn.