Celine Dion's throne as the queen of schlock pop is still secure, even after a two-year performing hiatus, with A New Day Has Come, her first new studio album since 1997. Having taken time off to give birth to her first child, Dion is back to celebrate the joys of motherhood, and you won't catch me knocking that. Indeed, grappling with something other than her own emotions and her perennial theme, recovering from heartbreak (see her titanic ''Titanic'' hit ''My Heart Will Go On''), has been good for her music.
If she's still utterly incapable of fathoming R&B, as evinced by her pallid cover of the great Etta James hit ''At Last,'' I like the jaunty disco of ''Sorry for Love,'' and ''Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable)'' is certainly the most idiosyncratic -- as well as idiomatic -- song she's ever recorded. Atop its sinuous Latin-pop rhythm Dion trills about the inevitability of rain and taxes (what, did the standard cliché ''death and taxes'' seem like too much of a downer?). ''Have You Ever Been in Love'' builds in intensity to sound like a James Bond movie theme as delivered by Barbra Streisand -- which is to say, it's over-the-top fun. But Dion's method -- ''A New Day Has Come'' has been over-arranged by a clutter of producers with clashing styles -- works against her enthusiasm for the wonders of babies and innocence. C'mon, Celine -- moms need to provide stability as well as love.