Cash cow Celine Dion wouldn't be Celine Dion if she didn't fully exploit her dwindling fanbase of tragic gays and Oprah viewers and in 1998 was at the epoch of her 90s bloom when she released her very special stop-gap album Th£$£ Ar£ $p£cial Tim£$. FYW: that's not chrismas lights on her tree, nooo, that's actually dollar signs blinding you with artistic integrity and heartfelt creativity. Celine makes me feel ashamed to not be a millionaire when there are only millions of lazy Africans out there also not recording studio albums to make me feel slightly less crap about this.
In a nutshell:
It's only track one, O Holy Night, and already Celine Dion is a quivering wreck; bless, Don't Save It All For Christmas Day has more syrup than a Michelle McManus pancake; jazz-baby's have Christmases too (Blue Christmas); shiny guitar shimmers compliment the aroma of Another Christmas Day; getting her strum on on The Magic of Christmas Day (God Bless Everyone - Even The Gays), she gets political; Ave Maria is crisp, sincere and showy; Oh Come On Ye Faithful is a bit too pompous for my liking; you know what you are getting with The Christmas Song (Celine's lush settings are expensive and that's what counts); The Prayer is painted with dreamy violin strokes; Brahm's Lullaby is distinctively cute and serious about being serious; album highlight Christmas Eve is a fantastic wall-of-sound moment I shall be going back to time and time again; the tinkly title track is soft, shimmery and dewy; one of my favourites for a diva to devour, Merry Xmas (War Is Over) is stunning; R-Kelly duet I'm Your Angel was a big, big hit and surrounded by genuine Xmas songs really benefits what I had always felt was a bit of a dud; Feliz Navidad is what would happen if Gloria Estefan got drunk in the studio more often; and Les Cloches Du Hameau is a French joke I can only imagine.
Above: Giver Celine tries to remember the address for Africa.
Celine is so dramatic it's beyond po-faced. True, she could let her extensions down more often, and only the marvelous Christmas Eve truly captures the festive essense of aspirational joy and excitement, but all songs here are impeccably orchestrated and it's never chore to hear her warbly timbre set fire to itself at explosive moments and whimper with carefully studied sadness (have you seen her middle-brow furrow?). Celine won't save Africa with this album, but I bet she got a lot of nice shoes from it.