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Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste

(33⅓ #52)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,026 ratings  ·  432 reviews
For his 2007 critically acclaimed 33 1/3 series title, Let's Talk About Love, Carl Wilson went on a quest to find his inner Céline Dion fan and explore how we define ourselves by what we call good and bad, what we love and what we hate.

At once among the most widely beloved and most reviled and lampooned pop stars of the past few decades, Céline Dion's critics call her
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Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published March 13th 2014 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published November 23rd 2007)
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Buck
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
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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 ...more
Chris
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
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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 ...more
A
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
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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
Shannon
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
Patrick
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 ...more
Megan
Jan 08, 2016 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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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
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Rachel
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.
Tim
Jan 16, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tedious tripe. I had my doubts about this book, initially because of the presence of halfwit Hornby. I should have trusted my doubts.

It's one of those texts that spends inordinate amounts of time and agonising to reach dazzlingly trite conclusions.

In this case, that just because you don't like Celine Dion it doesn't make her a bad person or her fans contemptible.

Give the boy a medal!
Jesse
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
Tosh
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
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Jeremy
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
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Alastair
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
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Yong Hoon
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Mathers
Yeah, Justin was right - this is a five star book if any of them are. Wilson covers an astonishing amount - why rockism is both stupid and natural, my problems with glibness (both in the sense that I do it too much and in the sense that I think it's a problem), sincerity, just a ton of stuff. This is a wonderful book, and the stuff Wilson comes up with near the end is the closest thing I've seen in print to a version of what I feel we should be trying to do with criticism. And he's Canadian!
Meg
I learned more from this 160 page book about aesthetics than I did in an entire class my senior year. AND I think I finally understood all those Kant readings from 1 page of this book. AKA, this book is freaking awesome.

Rereading it again in October '09 due to sheer awesomeness that I have to remember.
Utility
Being not only Canadian, but a Quebec-born French Canadian myself, I can certainly match, if not exceed, Carl Wilson's distaste for Céline Dion. Growing up in Quebec in the early 2000s, it was difficult to miss her ubiquitous media presence: first, there was, of course, the sheer unavoidability of her nasal intonations at the Carrefour d'Argenteuil shopping mall, outside of La Crémière ice cream, at the local Wal-Mart, on the patios of the pubs downtown, and really anywhere else you could set up ...more
SSShafiq
For a book I randomly picked up from Goodreads I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this and how much it made me think. Plus, I listed to Ashes on repeat, which I've decided is a great thing.

Despite the clever subtitle of the book , which made me think that this would an antagonist read, this book is rather “about the inherent sociability of taste, the way we in isolation of taste, the way we cant in isolation understand our own aesthetics and therefore our own humanity, but can only make them
...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
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Craig Dickson
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really good, an investigation into the meaning of taste and aesthetics where the author, an urbane and hip music critic examines his own prejudices by diving deep into Céline Dion's 1997 album 'Let's Talk About Love'.

This is a short (~150 pages) but wide ranging book that covers Dion's background and biography, the Quebecoise traditions she came from, and moves into a really powerful examination of the concept of cool (via Pierre Bourdieu). The book looks at what taste really is and how
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Gregory
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
When I read the Neil Young "Harvest" 33 1/3, I found myself listening to Neil Young constantly... that doesn't happen with this read, at least for me. I think this is the better book. This book made me think about how Carl Wilson thinks about Celine Dion, it gives you a lense into a person's view of music as opposed to just history/backstory about an album. This had the most feeling and personality of the 33 1/3's I have read so far.

FFO: Elliott Smith
Jack Tomascak
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really solid distillation of taste, given a nearly-universal framing. More accessible than your standard-order Bourdieu but not lacking in thoroughness... eager to tackle the essays from the expanded edition at some point!
Elise
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
Patron
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My reading record isn't accurate at all anymore, but quite frankly I'm not even sure I even give a damn. So, just to be clear: I'm not actually reading all these books in a day unless I state otherwise, alright? Even I'm not that crazy!

I'd classify myself in a variety of cultural, social and psychological categories, some of which would include the terms 'pop music enthusiast', 'sentimentality apologetic', and 'blatant queer'. Despite this, I generally act as cold as rock critics usually do
...more
Lee Plaxco
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The...the best book I've ever read about art theory? Life's weird.
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" ...more
Taylor
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
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My top 10 books on music and aesthetics 1 9 Jul 01, 2015 09:36AM  

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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.

Other books in the series

33⅓ (1 - 10 of 139 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
“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.” 15 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.” 8 likes
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