**, CELINE DION, "Falling Into You", 550 Music/Epic

Traditionally, adult-contemporary artists have been to pop music what conservative Republicans are to politics--wary of new ideas and reluctant to embrace anything considered subversive or foreign. But like some of her political counterparts, Dion seems to be trying to broaden her palette in hopes of appealing to a wider audience.

On her new album, the Canadian crooner dabbles in more soulful and sophisticated textures. At times, her dilettantism pays off. "Make You Happy" is a beautifully arranged confection, laced with a sprightly hip-hop beat and layered with lush backing vocals. And on "Because You Loved Me ( From 'Up Close and Personal')", a gently insistent ballad evocative of Whitney Houston's recent hit theme song from "Waiting to Exhale," Dion uses her clear, powerful voice with unusual delicacy and discretion.

On other tracks, though, Dion falls back on her characteristic platform of polite, predictable schmaltz. "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" is little more than a showcase for the cloying bombast of songwriter Jim Steinman, and Dion's version of Ike & Tina Turner's Phil Spector-produced classic "River Deep--Mountain High" is as calculated and overblown as a campaign speech. In the annals of bold, exciting pop, Dion has yet to emerge as a real contender.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

* TimesLine 808-8463

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