Imagine Celine Dion -- the queen of tear-jerking ballads -- decked out in weighty gold rapper chains, strutting across a stage belting out hip-hop tunes from the hood. Imagine, still, the Chanel-loving Caesars Palace singer working with golden boy rapper/producer Timbaland, the two of them souping up a new disc that marries his signature hip-hop sound with those big money-making ballads.

Strange but true, this unlikely pair have collaborated on Dion's upcoming album, which set hit stores this fall.

Will the public love Dion doing hip-hop? Apparently yes according to Timbaland.

After putting Nelly Furtado ("Promiscuous") and Justin Timberlake ("SexyBack") on the top of the pop heap for most of 2007, Timbaland has teamed up with the multi-million-album selling singer for her upcoming fall release. It's a strategic musical makeover -- one that blends Dion's power ballads with hip-hop, R&B and rock tunes penned by R. Kelly, Ne-Yo and other artists.

The question is will Dion's legions of ballad loving fans buy it -- or her new Timbaland-crafted sound?

"Celine's fans definitely aren't into hip-hop and R&B, so I don't know how they will receive this new album," says Justin Dumont, music director of Flow 93.5 FM in Toronto. "We could all be shocked. It's a really big stretch for her and it could completely backfire. But she and Timbaland are such incredible professionals. I couldn't imagine them releasing something that was bad."

"I can see Madonna working with Timbaland, which she is, and having something really great come out of it,," says David Corey, program director for Chum FM 104.5 in Toronto. "Celine doing hip-hop isn't something I'd think of given her career. Maybe it could be great. Maybe it's a case of Celine's people opting for the hottest producer, which Timbaland is at the moment."

Dion not new to makeovers

Dion certainly is not unfamiliar with the big payoff of a good makeover. In 1986, the 18-year-old fledgling francophone singer was ordered by her manager-turned-husband Ren� Ang�lil to take 18 months off and revamp her image into one more palatable for the U.S. market. Her physical transformation included cutting her hair, plucking her eyebrows and having her teeth capped to cover the incisors sometimes ridiculed by the Quebec press. She also studied English to polish her performance on the talk show circuit.

Her boot camp efforts paid off in 1990, when the teen star turned adult chanteuse released "Unison" on Epic Records. Her duet with Peabo Bryson of the theme from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," reached number one on the charts, scoring both a Grammy and an Academy Award. From that point on, the rise of Dion's career was meteoric, reaching an unprecedented high in 1997 when she recorded "Titanic's" chest-pounding theme song, "My Heart Will Go On."

For Dion, who has been making mega-millions most recently for her 600-show contract with Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Timbaland's edge combined with her extraordinary vocals could be the magic formula that puts the wife and mother back atop the music charts.

"Timbaland is a guy who's got a gift for writing catchy hooks and strong, catchy beats," says Corey. "The thing that makes him so interesting as an artist and a producer is that what he does is hip-hop, but not really. It's pop, but not really. It's hip-hop with a flair and that makes it appealing to listeners from either side of the fence."

Partnering with Timbaland a smart move

Choosing Timbaland to revive Dion's career was a smart move says Corey. "At any given moment there is always one hotter-than-hot producer and Timbaland is definitely that at the moment. Working with Justin Timberlake put him right up there and frankly when you've got Justin singing over Timbaland's great beat you just can't lose."

Born Timothy Z. Mosley, the Norfolk, Virginia native launched into his musical career in 1993. Better known at the time as disc jockey DJ Timmy Tim, Mosley's career soon took on a more successful shape after he became acquainted with Missy Elliott and MC Melvin (Magoo) Barcliff..

When Missy Elliott's girl group Sista was signed by DeVante Swing, Mosley went along for the ride, getting the new name Timbaland (after the popular hip-hop fashion boot) in the process.

Since then he has continued to work with Missy Elliott and has collaborated with a who's who of artists including as Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Ludacris, The Pussycat Dolls, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny's Child.

His unique blend of hip-hop and R&B rhythms earned major kudos in 1996 when R & B singer Ginuwine released his debut album, "Ginuwine...the Bachelor." Produced entirely by Timabland, its first single "Pony" gave the world a hint of what would later become the pounding, primal Timbaland sound.

Timbaland Tidbits :

  • Changed his name to Timbaland, after the hot, hip-hop fashion boots
  • Seven of Timbaland's singles received massive airplay in 2006, including Furtado's "Promiscuous," and Timberlake's "SexyBack" and "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around Interlude"
  • Calls himself a fan of Elton John and Fall Out Boy
  • Says his goal is to do universal, boundary-free music and take Top 40 tunes to the streets