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Let's Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (33⅓ #52)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,430 Ratings  ·  364 Reviews
Non-fans regard Céline Dion as ersatz and plastic, yet to those who love her, no one could be more real, with her impoverished childhood, her (creepy) manager-husband’s struggle with cancer, her knack for howling out raw emotion. There’s nothing cool about Céline Dion, and nothing clever. That’s part of her appeal as an object of love or hatred — with most critics and comm ...more
ebook, 176 pages
Published November 23rd 2007 by Continuum
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Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Let’s Talk About Love, Carl Wilson does something brave and—alright, I’ll say it—noble. He takes Céline Dion seriously. Yeah, that’s right, Céline Dion: for many of us, the biggest block of cheese in the pop culture fromagerie. If this book doesn’t make you feel thoroughly ashamed of yourself for ever having put down Céline—and you know you have, you heartless snobs—then you’re beyond help and deserve to die under a huge pile of John Cage records.

Wilson’s bracing little pamphlet is part of th
Paul Bryant
This is a beautiful meditation on art, one of the best I’ve ever read. Why do people like this kind of stuff and not that kind of stuff? Why do they then go further and say “My kind of stuff [be it novels, movies or pop music] is actually better than your kind of stuff – because I, you see, have really good taste, and you, well, now, I’m never going to tell you to your face, you understand, but your taste is... not the best, shall I say. I mean, you think The Shawshank Redemption is the best mov ...more
Dec 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
Have you ever laughed at someone who claimed to actually enjoy Celine Dion's music? Have you ever felt like you were better than those people who love The Kite Runner or Mitch Albom's books? Have you ever forced all of your friends and family to watch a movie you loved because you were convinced that they needed to see it for their own good? My answers a few weeks ago would have been absolutely, of course, and who hasn't? but after reading this book, I would most likely nod sheepishly.

Wilson de
Paul Austin
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 33 1/3 series would seem to be pretty much bulletproof in terms of hipster cred. In the Aeroplane Over The Sea, OK Computer, Pink Moon, Rid of Me, Paul’s Boutique, Loveless, Meat is Murder… even if your own choices for an “essential/seminal albums” list are different, these titles all have a lot going for them. Older albums covered — Music From Big Pink, Forever Changes, Court and Spark, Dusty in Memphis — have for years been hailed by the new kids on the indie block as favorites. If Conor O ...more
Sep 14, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
I'm sorry, but no. Please please please leave this book on the shelf and instead seek out the 33-1/3 volume on ABBA Gold, one of my all-time favorite books. THAT is where you will find a whip-smart hipster critic using schmaltzy pop as the springboard for funny, impeccably argued, stunning intellectual flights of fancy about aesthetics, music, and society, all wrapped up with a bow of unapologetic love for all things pop culture (high and low).

What you will find here is the opposite -- an utter
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Holy Crap. Have I really just spent the last 3 days convincing my friends, loved ones and neighborhood shop keepers how misunderstood and really amazing Celine Dion is?.Thanks to this fantastic book, I have. I have touched those things and they felt so good! This may be my favorite book ever written about music, at least one of my favorites. Carl Wilson manages to drop Fanon and Kant all over the place and not be remotely pretentious! His writing style and perspective about taste and perception ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t like talking about my taste in music very much. Not in conversation, anyway. The same goes for books and video games. I always feel as though I’ve been given a brief moment in which to explain myself, to justify my own choices in a kind of secret language which ends up revealing far more about my personality than I might wish other people to know. And perhaps I do want to reveal something, from time to time, but for the most part I want to express an opinion peculiar to the person to who ...more
Sam Quixote
Celine Dion.

What’s your response? Like me, it’s probably: ick. Right?

Well, you’re not alone as nearly everyone seems to have this response to Dion mostly thanks to her obnoxious monster hit, My Heart Will Go On, from James Cameron’s Titanic that won an Oscar and sold bazillions of copies worldwide. But chances are you won’t have heard much of her music beyond that song, or know much about her as a person, and yet the response to Dion is still: ick. Why?

That’s what Carl Wilson sets out to disco
John Moran
“Let's Talk About Love” is a studious, A-plus paper on the topic of “taste,” but it's also very dry, very quote-heavy, and very resistant (to use one of the author's, Carl Wilson's, own key words) to its own innate charms -- those charms being its personal touches: the book sparks to life in moments (like when Wilson flashes back to his ex-wife's performance of Buddy Holly's “Oh Boy” to express her feelings for her then-beau while in the throes of their infatuation; or when the author is besides ...more
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ATTENTION EVERYONE THIS IS NOT A JOKE: Please read this book. It is completely excellent in every way, and is possibly the best thing I have read since "Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs" and "Anna Karenina." (That was also not a joke.) Everything I believe about what it means to have musical opinions is talked about in here, with great intelligence, humor, and heart. DO IT! BUY IT! It makes an excellent holiday gift for hipster d-bags and also normal people.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: musical
I haven't read any of the other selections in the 33 1/3 series, but have picked them up occasionally while browsing at bookstores. And from what I have glanced through generally seem like close readings of various canonical (or at least critic-approved) albums, some taking a more serious and scholarly approach, others with a bit more whimsy, but they always seem brimming with much enthusiasm, passion and love. Which is why Carl Wilson's entry on Let's Talk About Love, Céline Dion's massive, "My ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are obsessed with pop culture and somehow have a heart to like Celine Dion
It can be but not really tailored made for the Celine Dion fan, but this book is really about the nature of taste in pop(ular) music and it's a fascinating read because of it. Basically Wilson hates this particular album, but he wants to know why. So with that in thought and with an open mind he goes into the world of Dion as well as the fans and of course fellow music lovers who hate her music.

The big moment for him was the Oscars where she won an award for the Titanic theme song. The author is
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-music
Not merely a great 33 1/3 book, but a great and delightfully original work of criticism, period.

How can we actually come to grips with this; the schmaltziest of albums from the most generally perceived tackiest of singers? Why do we hate music like this? What does that hatred say bout us? About our own insecurities of class, status and coolness?

Wilson is brilliantly self-aware, ably explaining not merely his own aversion to Dion's music but also why her global appeal (she has sold 100,000,000
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book. At times even a beautiful book, with none of the cynicism that the premise (a non-Celine Dion fan writing about Celine Dion) or series (known for in-depth looks at respected albums, with varying levels of quality and pretension) would suggest.

Wilson talks more around Celine than about her, using the topic as springboard for earnest, well-researched explorations of taste, subtlety, class, criticism, sentimentality and even some uncomfortable truths about his own life.

He's a won
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true marvel of this piece is Wilson's disarming self-awareness and willingness to evaluate his own limits as a critic and consumer. As someone obsessed with the appearance of "good taste" and the accumulation of cultural capital I found myself seriously questioning my own withering criticisms of mainstream culture and whether or not I was missing something fundamental by trying to hold taste as a private conceit whose purpose is simply to flash as some Flavin-inspired beacon (see?!) to all t ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ensayo
Serían tres estrellas y media, en realidad. Me dicen que iba a leerme (con ganas) un libro sobre el odio a la música de Celine Dion y demás y no me lo creo. No solo lo he disfrutado, sino que he apreciado mucho más las teorías de Pierre Bourdieu que ya me encantaban (como insinúa en 'Las reglas del arte') y he revisado sin prejuicios todos mis prejuicios sobre la música que los demás escuchan. Interesante para revisar nuestros gustos con un poco de autocrítica. Me voy a escuchar My heart will go ...more
Alanna Why
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up, I always wanted to be a rock writer. I devoured criticism from a young age, from the extremely overrated (Lester Bangs) to the grossly underappreciated (Ellen Willis). I thought some musicians were Right (The Ramones, T. Rex, The Replacements) and that entire genres were Wrong (country, emo, disco). I was 12 years old.

Fast forward to today, much less of a purist than I used to be and mercifully not As Punk. And yet, I still judge other people's taste - in everything, but especially i
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 4-stars
A warm and thoughtful analysis of cultural influences on Celine Dion, as well as the cultural influences that shape how we view her. I hate the subtitle to this edition, but everything else is pretty great.

The original edition of Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, was recommended in Nick Hornby's More Baths, Less Talking. I wanted to read it, but lbr, not for the answers it promised. Like, I fully expected the answer to "Why do people hate Celine Dion?" to be "Because humans a
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difícil de puntuar. ¿Lo dejamos en 2,5?

El caso es que 'Música de mierda' es por momentos un ensayo muy divertido en el que el bueno de Carl Wilson trata de encontrarle algo de sentido a ese (aparente) atentado estético que es el que alguien se decida a escuchar a Cèline Dion sin que haya violencia de por medio. Pero a medida que avanzan las páginas a uno le empieza a entrar la sensación de que se puede justificar cualquier cosa sobre el papel, aunque esas afirmaciones luego no se sostengan en el
Fun but not substantive enough. Wilson's cursory examinations of taste--that no one's preferences are formed in a vacuum but that we use taste to align ourselves with and distance ourselves from certain socioeconomic groupings--should be apparent without needing research results. More interesting is the information about the effect on dopamine levels when we encounter new music and the payoff when our brains resolve more difficult listening into what we identify as music. However, that was taken ...more
Jack Wolfe
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of the 33 1/3 books I've read, this one is far and away the best: smarter, funnier, more humane, and more challenging than the rest. Instead of asking, a la the tomes on "Bee Thousand," "Radio City," and "Daydream Nation," "what makes this cool album so cool?," Mr. Wilson does a 180 and asks what makes Celine Dion so damn lame. He approaches this query from many angles, looking at the singer's background, exploring the lives of her fans, and fabricating a fake review for the "10th anniversary" o ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este libro tiene un tono excelente, el autor es culto, inteligente, cita a los autores precisos, pero también vulnerable, pero vulnerable-vulnerable no cool-vulnerable.
Usando un disco de Céline Dion analizado desde muchas perspectivas, este texto es una constante interpelación al lector y sus gustos, también hay un permanente análisis de lo socialmente aceptable e inaceptable dependiendo de sus contextos. Por ejemplo se identifica al crítico que decide reivindicar productos culturales repudiados
Feb 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who's passionate about any form of cultural expression (books, movies, art, music, etc.)
Using Celine Dion as a case study, Wilson examines that old devil: taste. What's good taste? What's bad taste? What shapes our tastes? Why is taste important? Is taste important? This might sound boring removed from the context, but it's positively fascinating.

He talks about Celine Dion's history. He talks about the demographic of her fans. He talks about particular fans. Driven by his extreme dislike of Dion, he probes into why the hell does anyone like her music? There's plenty of respite for
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book on the internet somewhere and decided it looked intriguing enough to request from the library. I think it had more to do with the pleasing cover design than anything else. This ended up being a highly readable exploration of the history of popular music, the meaning of taste, and Celine Dion's particular place in the scheme of those things. Personally, I'm pretty much indifferent to Celine. I would skip over her songs on the radio, but I don't have any of the massive Celine-hate ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of music-art- culture, sufferers of winter boredom
This is a phenomenal little volume that packs a punch. If grad schools were worth $20,000 a year, they would demand not a dissertation, but a thesis like this to be produced by each student: a structured, concise scrutiny of an idea that's tossed around in philosophy ("Where does taste come from, and what do our opinions say about us?") and in everyday life ("I like all music except country, rap and Celine Dion"). The Canadian Mr. Wilson is a blast to read as he engages the reader in contemplati ...more
John Lee
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Definitely a very different book than the previous title I had read in the series. Wilson spends almost the entire book mediating on what makes Celine Dion a model for "bad taste", and goes into some light philosophy regarding taste and art. The conclusions he comes to were novel, at least to me, and the Democratic taste that he advocates certainly seems intriguing. I wish he had talked more about the album, but I understand it's only a springboard for the larger discussion. He's sometimes a bit ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most interesting from the 33 1/3 series. At the beginning of the book, Wilson hates Celine Dion. He uses the book to investigate why he and others hate Dion and why millions love her. What is taste and where does it come from? In addressing questions of aesthetics and taste, Wilson also touches on race and ethnicity in Canada, Canadian culture, Quebec culture, Elliott Smith, cultural capital, social capital, punk covers of Celine Dion, the las vegas show, marketing music in the age of ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music
I am a snob. This is not news, but reading Carl Wilson's book certainly verified that quality about myself. This book is fascinating as an academic study of taste and aesthetics, but also for placing Celine Dion in cultural and historical context, as well as Wilson's examination of his own biases and snobbery.

The 5 stars are for the original text of the 33 1/3 edition, as the essays in this newer edition did little for me (with the exception Daphne Brooks' contribution on Diana Ross/black schma
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could have read this book before I wrote a bunch of snarky music reviews for college newspapers, webzines and other publications. I could have saved a lot of time. I also might have gotten more sleep in my 20s, instead of wasting hours in bars and run-down apartments arguing about the merits of musician A vs. band B.
This book is a brilliant treatise on the nature of art and particularly art criticism. But really it is an extended argument against music criticism, and a defense of allow
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-quit
I wanted to like this more, it's exhaustively researched and the writing is strong. But I am 10,000% done with dudes writing about female artists with their "OMG, can you believe this dumb lady is actually good at something?!" awe and wonder.

Fine if you don't like Dion's music, but she's an international phenomenon. Who, not for nothing, seems to have way more interesting personal politics than any of the indie rock white boys Wilson cites as being the pinnacle of artistic achievement. I'd rath
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My top 10 books on music and aesthetics 1 7 Jul 01, 2015 09:36AM  
  • The Pixies' Doolittle
  • Live at the Apollo
  • Master of Reality
  • In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
  • Exile on Main St.
  • Pet Sounds
  • Unknown Pleasures
  • It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  • Paul's Boutique
  • Swordfishtrombones
  • Meat is Murder
  • Low
  • Loveless
  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Bee Thousand
  • Grace
  • How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music
  • Trout Mask Replica
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Carl Wilson is Slate's music critic.
More about Carl Wilson...

Other Books in the Series

33⅓ (1 - 10 of 118 books)
  • Dusty in Memphis
  • Forever Changes
  • Harvest
  • The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • Meat is Murder
  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Abba Gold
  • Electric Ladyland
  • Unknown Pleasures
  • Sign o' the Times

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“And the places she turns up in Jamaica are all the more curious. I remember being at sound-system dances and hearing everyone from Bob Marley Kenny Rogers (yes, Kenny Rogers) to Sade to Yellowman to Beenie Man being blasted at top volume while the crowd danced and drank up a storm. But once the selector (DJ in American parlance) began to play a Celine Dion song, the crowd went buck wild and some people started firing shots in the air.... I also remember always hearing Celine Dion blasting at high volume whenever I passed through volatile and dangerous neighborhoods, so much that it became a cue to me to walk, run or drive faster if I was ever in a neighborhood I didn't know and heard Celine Dion mawking over the airwaves.” 14 likes
“Bourdieu's interpretation was that tastes were serving as strategic tools. While working-class tastes seemed mainly a default (serving at best to express group belongingness and solidarity), for everyone else taste was not only a product of economic and educational background but, as it developed through life, a force mobilized as part of their quest for social status (or what Bourdieu called symbolic power). What we have agreed to call tastes, he said, is an array of symbolic associations we use to set ourselves apart from those whose social ranking is beneath us, and to take aim at the status we think we deserve. Taste is a means of distinguishing ourselves from others, the pursuit of distinction. And its end product is to perpetuate and reproduce the class structure.” 6 likes
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