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May 13

CELINE DION – “Think Twice”

FT + Popular46 comments • 4,192 views

#716, 4th February 1995

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.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    anto on 22 May 2013 #

    I haven’t heard this one in ages although I’ve not exactly been seeking it out. It’s strange how many of the number ones from this period I can’t remember if they’re from the late winter/spring of 1995 or the exact same time the previous year. The review seems to have found a surprising amount to say about it. Always good to see the phrase “guilty pleasure” being treated with a degree of contempt.

  2. 27
    Mark G on 22 May 2013 #

    #25, the most noteable thing about it for me was the TOTP performance, there was a really interesting Pelican at the back of the shot (at a marina, I guess), it did a big yawn and flap-stretch about halfway through…

  3. 28
    MikeMCSG on 22 May 2013 #

    #3 Was this the last slow burner until the singing soldier ten years on ?

  4. 29
    Lazarus on 22 May 2013 #

    That ‘serious/you or us’ rhyme was worthy of ‘Up the Junction’ or maybe even Adrian Gurvitz’ ‘Classic’ – a whole new level of ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ which no doubt has been mentioned elsewhere.

    I agree that 7 weeks at number one was far too long, especially after the record’s long climb to the top. It started to feel like another ‘Power of Love’ (J Rush) – which of course Celine had a US hit (number one?) with in 1994 and which was a smaller hit here.

    #23 – I have a vague memory of this getting a sort of proto-X Factor treatment: a daytime TV show featuring a sort of outdoor karaoke contest in which every one of the contestants (all female, I think) had to sing ‘Think Twice.’ I didn’t dream it, did I?

  5. 30
    pootle on 23 May 2013 #

    I loathed this beyond words at the time and her voice still doesn’t interest me, but it’s a decent enough song. A tepid 5.

    (I don’t want to undermark it because I’m kind of tone-deaf on divas. The only one I can see anything in is Mariah, and that’s probably because she made pop-disco songs too).

  6. 31
    speedwell54 on 23 May 2013 #

    Re Steve Mannion at 3.

    65-49-51-45-44-47-46-44-43-47-49-42-36-15-2-1

    This is the climb for Jennifer Rush and coincidentally The Power of Love. So a tie. This is from my own notes at the time which I never thought I would use in this way, so a little pinch of salt.

    Just now looking up Rush on FT from 2009, I notice your own “16 weeker” comment, so hold the salt. The consecutive bit might be my downfall though.
    JR’s total run of 32 weeks just beats CD’s 31. The tie breaker maybe.

    ~It’s ok 6.

  7. 32
    swanstep on 23 May 2013 #

    I seem to remember that Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know was a very slow climber in the UK….It used to be very easy to check such things with ChartStats, but how does anyone do that now? I can’t get the Official Charts Company website to provide anything other than gross weeks in the chart and weeks at #1. Does anyone have a solution (beyond going Guy Fawkes on the Official Charts Company)?

  8. 33
    Steve Mannion on 23 May 2013 #

    Polyhex is the place for chart run checks
    http://www.polyhex.com/music/chartruns/chartruns.php

    Had forgotten Rush actually tied with Dion. More of this chat on the Dead Or Alive entry too: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/09/dead-or-alive-you-spin-me-round-like-a-record/

  9. 34
    weej on 23 May 2013 #

    I was going to say that, like Pootle @ #30 I hated this at the time, but on further reflection it wouldn’t be true – it was simply incomprehensible to me – no hook I could get into, not sounding like aural wallpaper either, and yet there seemed to be this growing buzz about it as it rose up the charts.

    A couple of decades later I can get into the brooding spirit of it much more, and even found myself enjoying it until the guitar solo spoiled the atmosphere a bit at the end. Six seems about right.

  10. 35
    weej on 23 May 2013 #

    …and would it be rude for me to add a ‘Number Two Watch’ as nobody else seems to be doing it these days? Four singles, of varying style and quality, were kept off the top spot by Celine.

    N-Trance – Set You Free
    Annie Lennox – No More “I Love You”s (Two weeks)
    MN8 – I’ve Got A Little Something For You
    Alex Party – Don’t Give Me Your Life (Two Weeks)

  11. 36

    Enamelled and bevelled and armoured and masked: I think her voice is quite easy to become obsessed with, actually — it gives little away but not nothing, and what you get is in a handful of easy-to-miss shades and glints. (Easy-to-miss = you start listening closely, to crack the code and extend your reading…. )

    The way I can’t help reading the arrangement: when the guitar comes in, and then the chorus, it’s like the children in the marriage chiming in — “are you thinking about YOU or US” where the “us” is in fact plural, he’s walking out on a whole family. So that actually her verbal/expressive rhetoric isn’t much more self-centred — there’s no interplay between her and the little ones* either, except the minimal fact of her not fooling around and risking everything. Which is interesting, again (and a perfectly good topic for a song, a juicy character in a drama), but not especially winning or likeable per se.

    *They don’t really come across as “little ones”, maybe. It’s a semi-grown family, more formal than loving.

  12. 37
    Mark G on 23 May 2013 #

    Polyhex ! Brilliant! Thanks!

  13. 38
    swanstep on 23 May 2013 #

    OK, thanks to Polyhex, I can report that Gaga’s Telephone reached #1 in its 17th week: 30-41-62-74R(2)-67-55-48-49-42-39-39-34-37-31-12-{1}.
    I’ve no idea whether that’s a record, but it’s a tad longer than Think Twice’s upward trajectory. Think Twice’s trajectory is a much more beautiful arc tho’.

  14. 39
    Tom on 23 May 2013 #

    Presumably some of Telephone is Beyonce (not Gaga) fans buying it before it was officially a single release, then the public catching on? Interesting though!

  15. 40
    Steve Mannion on 23 May 2013 #

    The ‘Telephone’ run is not quite consecutive though – it re-enters at #74 having dropped from #62 to outside the top 75 for a week. Also it’s not clear at what point it stops being an album track as Tom says.

    Not a great reason for disqualification though – plus it could well have dropped only to #76 just for those seven days before bouncing back up. I’d rather polyhex included listings from positions 1-100 (which ChartStats had provided for from around the early 80s onwards iirc) but Top 75 is still the official thing I guess.

  16. 41
    weej on 23 May 2013 #

    I think the joy of the run is seeing / hearing the song’s rise through the Radio 1 top 40 / TOTP – this rules out Rush and Gaga, whose records spent a great deal of time outside the top 40.

  17. 42
    flahr on 23 May 2013 #

    #41 – as i am reading this thread through RSS in reverse order there was a moment of “wuh?” as i thought you were suggesting “The Trees” had spent half a year in the top 40…!

    “the trees” > “think twice”, incidentally, by which i mean it’s a lot funnier. not that “think twice” isn’t funny, with the female chris de burgh giving it all she can until a frankly ridiculous climax. she’s so soft focussed in the video she looks vaguely computer generated, and that’s saying nothing of the rejected dexy’s midnight runner she’s going out with.

  18. 43
    Patrick Mexico on 23 May 2013 #

    What is this, 4th February 1985? The ICE sculptures and ICE metaphors! And Biblical power-ballad drums. I’m no expert on this genre – to my cynical, arch, Elastica-fan ears (both at 9 then and 27 now) this would always sound ever so contrived, but there’s a certain epic, Ferrero Rocher/Merchant Ivory cutglass feel. She can really belt it.. obscure football bunny reference. Not a fan of “epic” choruses rewriting Everything I Own though. 5. Next please! I want to talk about Menswe@r!

  19. 44
    Kat but logged out innit on 24 May 2013 #

    I have decided I am going to attempt this at the next karaoke session.

  20. 45
    Patrick Mexico on 25 May 2013 #

    Re #4: From this era, the 33 1/3 take on Dion is the book I want to read the most. As well as Louise Wener’s various novels and hopefully more detailed “classic album” analysis in a (probably) blood-from-a-stone, salvage operation vein on Cast’s All Change, Northern Uproar’s eponymous debut and (though it’s from a slightly different part of Britpop) Menswe@r’s Nuisance. (Oh, this new-fangled em@il/t’Internet, how quaint.) That really would be a ripping yarn. Oh, Noelrock, what you do to us… (there’s plenty of fun to be had with the scene that flagellates itself on Popular but ssh!)

    This has as much to do with Celine Dion as the EDL have to do with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but it’s worth noting next week sees the first England – Republic of Ireland football friendly since Think Twice’s run, where at Lansdowne Road, a bunch of angry far-righters ruined it for everyone else by attacking an entire people for the extremist actions of a few (“we couldn’t give a toss about the IRA, did you not do geography at school?” asked one Éire fan) (“an England fan approached me to say he was not a hooligan, that the Irish had started it. As he walked away, he rather ruined his argument by kicking a police dog”).. “English patriots” (then nearing the 50th anniversary of VE Day) giving, er, Nazi salutes… glad to see those days have gone… oh.

    After the unbelievable joy of April 4, 1994 (Burnley 5, Barnet 0), Wembley, promotion and the World Cup (!), just my luck 1994-95 was football’s “season of sleaze” with the above thuggery, match-fixing scandals, Cantona’s kung-fu kick – but that had nothing on what happened at the end. Let’s just say – we don’t like to talk about it in them thar East Lancashire hills. We will, though, soon have more trouble on Popular with a part-Geordie duo destroying everything in their past somehow with a style and technique about as exciting as creosoting the fence..

    Saying that, there’s at least three cracking proper tunes for proper lads with real emotions coming up soon. Due to being in the last throes of childhood before my adolescent train wreck, and spending every day of a month on the banks of the River Wharfe in THAT bone-dry, wonderful summer, this is where my mark inflation might hit boiling point itself, but one of the things we’re great at as a nation is not getting violent, but getting excited and passionately giddy at the slightest sign of something half-decent (especially if they involve Danny Boyle. Obviously, like Danny Boyle taking his cat to the vet’s).. and it’s so fitting for this very British year on Popular.

  21. 46
    Erithian on 4 Jun 2013 #

    I was going to say there was one really notable thing about this record. Plainly, learning that it was the first number one not available on vinyl and that it took 16 weeks to get to the top, there’s more than one really notable thing. But here’s the one I was going to mention.

    That Channel 4 all-time top 100 best sellers programme in 2002, celebrating 50 years of the UK singles chart, featured talking-head contributions from a variety of acts. When it came to this song, placed at number 45 on the all-time list, with sales just short of 1.25 million, there was one thing linking all the celebs who were asked about it – New Order, Status Quo, Suggs … all of them looked blank and couldn’t remember it! “Think Twice? – Nah, sorry.” If it’s possible to have a “Baby Jump” among records that spent seven weeks at number one, this appears to have achieved that status.

    As for the song itself, sorry but for all that’s being thrown at it, I just don’t find it engaging. The central “seeeeeerious / you or us” couplet doesn’t do anything for me either, and by the end it seems like much ado about nothing.

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