I should say from the outset, I’m unreasonably fond of this record. “Unreasonably” not because it’s a bad song or ‘guilty pleasure’, but because it’s not a record I want to reason with. I like it as a trip into full-bore, bodice-tearing ballad melodrama, and it does this job rather well, probably better for being a movie soundtrack without a movie. I want to hear it every few months, I hear it, I’m done – like the thunderstorms of “Think Twice” are dissipating some sort of emotional ozone buildup.
So it’s not something I’ve ever played repeatedly or carefully considered until now. And the more I do consider it the more awkward a thing it is, a strange hybrid of at least three quite different takes on making a big ballad. You have the “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” angle – Celine building it up to knock it down, chunks of drums and power chords falling around her. I’m always fond of that. You have the more up-to-date approach – the ballad as skeleton for a vocal routine, which of course Dion has the technical chops to carry.
But before both of these you have a third ballad-form – one summoned up by “Think Twice”‘s brooding opening, a drift of soft-synth bewilderment cut through by a lonesome guitar lick, a warning of tears and lamentation to come. This is, frankly, Phil Collins territory – songs whose landscapes crackle with sullen potential before erupting into an almighty sulk. “Think Twice” promises something similar – a more wounded, less resentful “In The Air Tonight”.
Now, “In The Air Tonight” is a good song, and strange itself – a marriage of saloon bar bloke rocking and clipped post-punk aesthetics which sounds like not much else. But it’s a song that rests on a particular instant – its gorilla moment, the savage beating Collins gives his drums as his dam of resentment bursts. Does Celine have anything to match that? She’s a singer, of couse, not a drummer, but she’s trying to give us something which rivals that moment for soft-rock force – her gutbusting “NO NO NO NO” which stops the song dead before it bounces back swinging into its final chorus.
A couple of things stop it quite working, for me. First of all this being a megaballad they’ve thrown a stormfront of drums in too, and the two climaxes push each other out of the way a little. Also, Dion switches to a kind of ersatz soul register for her tub-thumping breakdown, reaching for a pseudo-Aretha moment after a song which has gone in quite different directions. Oh, and the lyrics fall down, too – suddenly she’s all about sacrificing everything for her man when before she’s been telling him to grow up and face what’s been happening.
But most of “Think Twice” is a job well done – Dion with a sharp, keening edge to her voice, picking her words with care as she treads delicately through the song. The arms-swaying chorus isn’t the record’s real draw – it’s the “this is getting seee-reeee-us” hook which gets into the brain first, and “are you thinking of you or us?” is a question that cuts to the emotional chase of the track. There’s no-one else for Celine to outwit or outsing, no other woman, just a lover who doesn’t want to be there. It’s a sorrowful, grown-up kind of a a subject, and for a couple of minutes the record is lonely and restrained enough to match it. A shame it partly fluffs its ending.