Picks and Pans Review: The French Album

updated 05/29/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Céline Dion

The Canadian chanteuse reverts to her native tongue for an album of songs by French pop composer Jean-Jacques Goldman. For Dion devotees this makes a bookend to 1991's Dion chante Plamondon, on which she interpreted the songs of popular French songwriter Luc Plamondon. For those who know Dion primarily as the celebrated siren of soundtracks (Beauty and the Beast; Sleepless in Seattle), it's a collection of no import.

To American ears, the Europop material sounds stilted, like an overheated '80s TV theme (Knight Rider comes to mind). The affected blues of "Le Ballet," the swollen roundelay of "Les Dernieres Seront les Premieres" and the faux country stomp of "J'Irai Ou Tu Iras" are particularly turgid. Dion's vocal style wields a rare combination of power, range and dynamics that places her a good deal closer to Cher than Streisand on the diva spectrum. But on this album, Dion's emotionality is much more in evidence than her elegance.

The language barrier is sure going to cut down on her radio play. After all, the last major U.S. hit sung entirely in French came in 1963 when the Singing Nun warbled "Dominique." (550 Music)

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