21
May 13

CELINE DION – “Think Twice”

FT + Popular46 comments • 6,692 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. 1
    Kat but logged out innit on 21 May 2013 #

    ICE SCULPTURE DUNGAREES

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 21 May 2013 #

    Perhaps to her fans ‘Celine Dion’ may conjure up images of sophisticated passion and elegance- rather like an exotic name on a perfume bottle. However, this song stinks in my opinion. I’m not averse to a power ballad but to my ears she bellows this with little sense of emotional truth or connection.
    The video is like a parody – he’s making ice sculptures (because he’s frozen inside and can’t express his lurve?) 3 for me

  3. 3
    Steve Mannion on 21 May 2013 #

    That super slowburn chart ascent in full:

    53-42-52-30-28-22-20-9-8-5-6-4-2-2-2-{1}

    Which I think is still the record for consecutive weeks to get to the top but happy to be corrected.

  4. 4
    Simon on 21 May 2013 #

    Can I be the first to mention the masterful book: “Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste”, ostensibly just one of the huge 33 1/3 series of writers essaying on favourite albums, but actually a deep exploration of the notions of taste and good and bad art. A wonderful read.

  5. 5
    thefatgit on 21 May 2013 #

    Pete Sinfield and Andy Hill, return to the top with Celine Dion. Like Bucks Fizz, a former Eurovision entrant. Oohh! Connections, connections! Everything is connected.

    It’s late and past my bedtime, so I’ll comment more tomorrow.

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 21 May 2013 #

    Yes, can’t say fairer than that, really. The very polished, if understated, production suits the song, mostly, too, letting Celine do her thing. A pity that the track does indeed, if not fall apart, become, towards the end, rather more narrowly conventional than it has been. But I have a soft spot for this, and a few of her other tracks from the period immediately afterwards (“Pour que tu m’aimes encore”, “Falling Into You”, “Because You Loved Me”, anyway.)

    Given how long her record company had been attempting to launch-start her career, this seems like a fairly unusual, and unpredictable, and not immediately grabbing, gentle, and in places, subtle, track to make the big commercial breakthrough. Gosh. Perhaps a minor outbreak of good taste on the part of the record-buying public.* Well, to some extent.

    *At any rate, my incomplete and very imperfect recollection of her oeuvre suggests that she saved her more obsessive lyrics – “Je m’inventerai reine, pour que tu me retienne: je me changerais en d’or, pour que tu m’aimes m’encore” for her Francophone audience.).

    There is something slightly odd, reedy, almost shrill or metallic about her voice that is rather unusual, especially when combined with her technical mastery.

  7. 7
    JLucas on 22 May 2013 #

    Oh God I unreservedly love this.

    I agree, the backing vocals are the making of it. They have a slightly greek chorus effect, in that it’s obviously not Celine (unless her voice has been heavily treated).

    A similar effect can be found in Tina Arena’s amazing ‘Chains’, which we sadly won’t be discussing here.

    Interestingly, despite being her long-awaited breakthrough in the UK, Think Twice bombed in America – where she’d already scored huge hits with Where Does My Heart Beat Now and If You Asked Me To.

  8. 8
    mapman132 on 22 May 2013 #

    From my American perspective, the most interesting thing about this record is its complete lack of impact here in the US, reaching just #95 (it apparently did better in Canada: #13, still a weak showing for a huge overseas hit by a homegrown star). It wasn’t that Dion hadn’t broken through here: her version of “The Power of Love” was #1 for four weeks and there were several top tens before that. Equally bemusing was its extremely slow climb to the top followed by the seven weeks once it got there.

    At the time, I listened weekly to a radio show called UK Chart Attack to keep up with UK hits that sometimes eventually made it over here, and sometimes didn’t. But this song was never played on that show, because of course, it was by a North American artist. So it pretty much remained a mystery to me until the Youtube era. Now I have to say, it’s still kind of mystery to me – it’s not a bad song by any means, it’s just kind of “there” (unlike a certain epic sounding Celene hit a couple years down the road). Anyway, just a 4 or 5 for me.

  9. 9
    ciaran on 22 May 2013 #

    “Ah Ted you’ve a lovely voice, very like Celine Dion”

    Just worth pointing out that one of the related posts showing up is Robin Becks First Time.Though a better record than that TT reeks of mid 80s power ballad to me through borrowing that annoying everything I do style guitar sound.

    The 7 weeks it was ‘popular’ were unbearable at the time though, which felt prolonged by the number one after this.Think Twice would seem like the ideal soundtrack to play in retrospectives of the england fans visit to landsdowne road for a friendly when this was number 1.

    Listening to it after soooooo lonnnng (sorry!) its not as bad as I thought it would be. still though being so late in the night I suspect I may find more faults if I gave it a second go.a 5 would be about fair.the mark you normally would give these ballads Tom.

    On chelolek’s advice above I played ‘becuse you loved me’ too.a better more restrained up-to-the-minute record than TT.I’m not a fan its all coming back to now.That just screams over-produced.

  10. 10
    Billy Hicks on 22 May 2013 #

    And here we have the end of an era. After ‘Mr Vain’ paving the way with its lack of 7-inch release two years earlier, this is the first number 1 single not to be available on vinyl in *any* form – CD and cassette singles were all that were released here. There have, of course, been a few on the trusty black plastic since, but our 716th chart topper breaks the run dating back to Al Martino 43 years earlier.

    This one, unlike a certain bloody bit of ear-noise to come in three years time, is very pleasant and inoffensive. Younger me remembers it but heard ‘Look back before you leave’ as, bizarrely, ‘Anautomonuny’ leading me to ask my mum what this mysterious word she was singing about was. She replied saying it was the study of human beings or something. Took me years to find out what this one was actually called.

    It kept ‘Set You Free’ off the top, though, which is extremely annoying and is one of two of my favourite songs ever to peak at #2 this year…

  11. 11
    Pearly Spencer on 22 May 2013 #

    On the Wikipedia page for this, we’re told “this was the first UK number 1 single not to be available on vinyl in any form”. Is that true? Good fact if so.

  12. 12
    Chelovek na lune on 22 May 2013 #

    #9 Yes, I agree about “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”. The 9-and-a-half-minute original, that was a minor hit in 1989 for Jim Steinman’s project group Pandora’s Box was very much superior. Not that its production was understatted, but the whole package – all 4 tracks on the CD single (a heavy metal version of Verdi’s Requiem IIRC, a long, mostly moodily atmospheric spoken word track called “I’ve Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately”, and then, and only then, the lead track…and then, something I’ve forgotten, all in a little 3″ CD single, wrapped up in a leather case. Celine’s version paled in comparison, in every regard.

  13. 13
    James BC on 22 May 2013 #

    #7 I wish more singers would get proper backing singers in instead of doing all the tracks themselves. Sometimes it works (Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill) but for me, those are exceptions. Plus it obviously makes the songs harder to perform live.

  14. 14
    Mark G on 22 May 2013 #

    Sometimes? I’d say it works most of the time, and it’s done most of the time.

    From the beatles’ “It can’t got no worse” to Adam’s “da didley qua qua”, I can’t think of too many examples where they’d have been better off getting The King’s Singers or the Ladybirds in…

  15. 15
    Tom on 22 May 2013 #

    This was a big era for gospel backing singers on indie tracks, IIRC.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 22 May 2013 #

    Celine Dion is complicated. What I mean is, with most Superstars (and she is one without a doubt), there’s a narrative arc underpinned by a succession of albums and singles, tours, successes, failures, interviews, awards ceremonies and such, which is easy to follow. With Celine, there’s two arcs. There’s the francophone Celine, which I suspect is where her best work resides, then there is the English language body of work, which probably sells to a wider demographic, but doesn’t seem to be as confident or in this case, convincing. Which is a shame, because “Think Twice” was tailored to suit Celine. Unfortunately, to these ears it just scans as a Michael Bolton song sung by a woman. All that’s missing is some sax instead of Aldo Nova’s guitar solo and you have something the bemulleted one would tuck away as album filler. I’m sure Sinfield and Hill didn’t imagine that when they wrote it for her.

  17. 17
    Cumbrian on 22 May 2013 #

    I know nothing much at all of CD’s francophone output; whilst obviously a pretty good singer (understatement? Maybe) not much of her English stuff has ever inspired me to look out her French songs. I guess there will be recommendations in this thread.

    I thought Misled was a good single when I heard it back in the mid 90s and now appears (to the uneducated casual listener) to be a bit of an outlier in her discography; there’s not many cute pop songs knocking around and a lot of sturm und drang via way of Jim Steinman. I could have stood to hear more of this sort of thing from her, I think. TT on the other hand, now, suffers a bit for me from the fact that this is very squarely in the sort of thing that CD does – though I think this is probably more due to the numbers that followed it. I find it difficult to listen to this without thinking that it’s just “Celine doing Celine”. It’s perfectly fine, better than a bunny to come along, but it’s not inspiring me to seek out more of her material because it’s giving me what I know she can do, which to an extent, I can take or leave dependent on mood.

    #16. Re: Superstars. Awesome mental picture of Celine in singlet racing around a cinder track on a bike and hopefully avoiding coming a cropper like Kevin Keegan.

  18. 18
    swanstep on 22 May 2013 #

    Celine’s fine here (at least to my ears) but the backing track is quite hateable I find. I dunno, Nashville seems to have a better, stronger genre handle on how to do balladosaurus instrumentation so that everything just kind of glistens but doesn’t oppress (I have in mind some Trisha Yearwood stuff that I was digging around this time, e.g., this and this.) So, has ‘Think Twice’ become one of those Idol/X-factor standards that everyone attempts sooner or later? Anyhow:
    5

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 22 May 2013 #

    Cumbrian, hadn’t Keegan just signed for SV Hamburg when that happened?
    I seem to remember he caught hell for it.

  20. 20
    Cumbrian on 22 May 2013 #

    I think Keegan was still at Liverpool when he fell off his bike but I am willing to be proved incorrect by those with better Google-fu than me.

  21. 21
    Tom on 22 May 2013 #

    #18 it’s not really a standard – there’s something a bit diffuse about it (which is probably why I like it) – oddly it was at No.1 for far longer than the record most associated with “Celine Dion” + “ballad” though.

    More distressingly I’ve never found a really good hands-in-the-air house version of this.

  22. 22
    thefatgit on 22 May 2013 #

    Quick check shows Keegan’s cycling accident was in 1976, while still at Liverpool. Probably inspired “Head Over Heels” a few years later.

  23. 23
    Auntie Beryl on 22 May 2013 #

    #21 I can’t think of a single cover of it. Quite unusual for a ballad hit of this magnitude – and it hasn’t (to the best of my knowledge) been regularly tackled by reality show contestants either.

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 22 May 2013 #

    #15 From the “number 41s file” a few years earlier (possibly, in fact inaugurating the gospel/indie crossover) : “Frama lama lam and fi fi fi, I’m gonna getten high til the day I die”. Lyrics never were Primal Scream’s strong point, though.

    #17 Much of the 1995 album “D’eux” was pretty decent, I recall. (A quick
    online search suggests a critical consensus on that, too, for what that’s worth)

  25. 25
    D.C. Harrison on 22 May 2013 #

    I’m struggling to think of anything positive about this song or the singer. Erm… well, the video give me some chuckles at the time, being as naff as it was.

    And the Celine Dion in the South Park spin-off “Terence and Philip in: ‘Not Without My Anus'” was pretty funny, giving as she did some solace to the habitually lonely Ugly Bob (albeit with Bob having the aid of a paper bag over the head).

    This being #1 on my birthday, I can recall I got my first stereo, along with a CD of “Divine Madness”, which I played to death for months before I saved up for a Lightning Seeds compilation.

  26. 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.

  27. 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…

  28. 28
    MikeMCSG on 22 May 2013 #

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

  29. 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?

  30. 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).

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