Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder to myself, how did I get myself into this predicament. Embarking on a 3+ year project (or shall I more accurately say ‘musical social experiment’) at the time of its inception felt like something so lofty and unattainable, meant that me starting such a feat at the time, seemed a little too ‘expected’ of me to do, because, ‘sure you can start it, but you’re never going to actually finish this blog series, so it’s never really going to be material, or even matter, whether or not you become heavily invested into listening to different types of music or not’. I started off this blog series (which has since turned into 3 blog series, but I digress) with a simple task in mind- for 1 whole year (see where it has taken me now!), I were to discuss impactful and influential artists that have contributed to music, society, culture, and to me personally, and discuss what I think makes them great. I hesitantly started off with the post about Michael W. Smith, then Switchfoot and Avril Lavigne, and then the rest was history, and now in 2022, what I initially thought the blog was going to be, actually turned out to be so much more- what I thought was just a mere 55 posts, has turned into a blog series that has forever changed my outlook to music, and reminded me that God Himself can use whatever and whomever (in terms of music) to bring people closer to Himself (myself included), even if it means through the way of pop, country, rock or even rap music.
I (and my brother, who at that particular time, had been ‘roped in’ to writing various blogs within the blog series, with me) expanded the blog from a year’s project (and around 55 blogs) into a series enveloping 100 influential artists, then further expanding the series to have another offshoot- ‘Influential Artists in the Next 5 – 10 Years’, highlighting artists who are currently impacting music, art and culture right now, and writing about artists whom I project to having a lasting impact on people in, you guessed it, 5 – 10 years. Little did I know, the series would’ve had another ‘spinoff’- and lo and behold, in 2022, around three years later, I’m about to embark on writing blogs, that are to be in said ‘spinoff’ blog series. Since finishing the 100 posts of the ’Top Influential Artists of All Time’ and the 50 posts of the ‘Top Influential Artists of the Next 5 – 10 Years’, alongside writing about honourable mentions (for both blog series) and ‘where are they now?’ posts; I sit right now, about to write something new, exciting, unique and challenging, and that is… ‘Top Iconic and Identity-Building Artists’- artists who are within a category of their own, artists that indeed transcend time periods, genres, and whether people even like the artist or not. It’s a section of 50 artists that I’m sure is not up for debate (considering that in previous blog series posts, there’d be much deliberation and debate about the lists, leading to posts about honourable mentions in the first place); as we explore artists and bands like ABBA, The Bee Gees, Queen, The Rolling Stones, The Judds, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Reba, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, to name a few.
It’s a series in and of itself, that’s going to be much more iconic, no pun intended, as we discover and delve into the artists that have indeed shaped, impacted and influenced music, history, and people’s lives, much more so than the 100 (and also the other 50), have ever done, added up together. Artists that will forever be remembered, and artists that have impacted far greater people that even you and I could ever think of. It’s a series that I was, to be honest, dreading to start and write about, because how can you write about someone like Michael Jackson (or ABBA or Queen), when everything that is ever to be written about them, has been written already? Nevertheless, these upcoming 50 blog posts are less ‘history’ and ‘analysis’ of songs and lyrics, and much more overarching: connecting things together on a personal level. It’s reminding us of how a song from the 1970s or 1980s can impact and make us feel things in 2022, and how an artist who is so much removed from society now, can still speak to the people of now, and relate to them on a greater level than we could even give them credit for. Much of the artists in this upcoming blog series of 50 posts, have either retired from music or have passed away, or they’re deep into their career, and can dictate whence, where, and how they are to create music next. It was only the artist Carman in the previous blog series, and singer-songwriters Chester Berrington (of Linkin Park) and Dolores O’Riordan (of The Cranberries), who passed away, and thus, I haven’t really had the ‘privilege’ of writing about people who’re no longer with us- the ratio of living to dead people on this new blog series is much more proportionate to each other…so that’ll be a challenge, to say the least, to write about someone like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury (of Queen), Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, or even Johnny Cash or Elvis ‘The King’. Still, it’s a privilege to impact music, culture, and society in a way that some of these artists in this upcoming blog series have done, so this series isn’t taken lightly, at all, and to write about someone who has indeed passed away (naturally because of old age, or even tragically in any other way) is something that may just need to be done and overcome, if only to discuss more holistically, the artists impact and influence to music and society, without creating a sense of stigma around discussion of said artists who are dead.
As we look to see what’s up ahead in this series, there’s a lot for people to look forward to- there’re rock artists (Queen, The Rolling Stones), founding fathers of Christian music (Keith Green, Rich Mullens), the King (Elvis Presley), artists who have revolutionised pop music as we know it (Michael Jackson, Elton John), country artists (Wyonna & The Judds, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Reba, Slim Dusty, Dolly Parton), even soft rock and adult contemporary artists (Chicago, Peter Gabriel, Cliff Richard, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Simon + Garfunkel) that have gifted the world, songs that have been part of the fabric of music, for the last ____ years. Songs and artists define a generation, and more than that, even transcend generations as we understand that some songs that are timeless (‘I Will Always Love You’, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’, ‘When You Believe’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, ‘River’, ‘I’m Still Standing’, ‘Piano Man’, ‘Creed’, ‘Your Love Broke Through’), speak to the depths of who we are as people, more so than others. And it is the artists who have written these songs that are timeless, of which we’re to dive into, this week, and in the weeks upcoming. Sometimes a song can do something that a sermon, a motivational talk, a movie, or a TV show can’t, and that’s the beauty of music, full stop. And so, without further ado, and without any more procrastination (as you can see, I’ve written around 1000 words already without really ‘writing’ about much), this opening blog (out of 50) is reserved for none other than ‘the voice’ themselves (in my own humble opinion), Celine Dion.
Yes, you’ve heard me correctly, I’ve labelled this artist as being ‘the voice’. Now for me to right off the bat, call Celine, ‘the voice’ (out of all the females, at least), is going to ruffle up some feathers for sure. Yes, there’ll be some of the opinion that Celine is not ‘the voice’, but that title would assume to be reserved for someone like Whitney Houston, or even Mariah Carey, Adele, Beyoncé, Shania Twain, Madonna, Cher, or even Aretha Franklin. Regardless of opinion, one thing’s for sure- that Celine’s voice is sublime, emotive, powerful, and just plain epic. For me, Celine is the voice, closely followed by Whitney (and maybe someone like Aretha or Mariah coming in third). But that’s just my personal opinion. And the beauty of music and everyone’s likes, dislikes, and interpretations of it, is that someone else can come up with some other assertion (that Whitney has the voice or Mariah, or anyone else, for that matter), and their viewpoint would equally matter. Because music in and of itself is such a subjective artform, people’s preferences and tastes cloud each and every decision they make, and the like or dislike of a certain artist, can play into the opinion, of who has ‘the voice’, and who doesn’t. For me, I think I grew up listening to much more of Celine Dion’s music, than anyone else who has, by and large, been dubbed ‘the voice’ over the years. Sure, I heard some Whitney songs when I was younger, every now and again (‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘Greatest Love Of All’, ‘I Have Nothing’, ‘I Will Always Love You’), and I have been familiar with songs from Mariah Carey (‘Hero’, ‘Anytime You Need a Friend’, ‘Against the Odds (Take a Look at me Now)’), Cher (‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘Believe’), Beyoncé (‘Halo’, ‘Listen’, ‘If I Were a Boy’) and Aretha Franklin (‘Son of a Preacher Man’, ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, ‘Respect’), for quite some time. But as it has stood for me throughout my life up until now (and still stands to this day); there’s just something about Celine’s music that just somehow ‘clicked’ when it was on the radio throughout my childhood, teenage years, and then well into my twenties. Songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On’, ‘That’s The Way It Is’, ‘I’m Alive’, ‘A New Day Has Come’, ‘The Power of Love’, ‘If You Asked Me To’, ‘All By Myself’, ‘Because You Loved Me’, ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’, ‘The Prayer’, ‘Ashes’, ‘I Drove All Night’, ‘Loved Me Back to Life’, ‘Taking Chances’, ‘Don’t Save it All For Christmas Day’ and ‘When I Fall in Love’, have all charted radio and have had success, not just on the charts, but in people’s lives all these years. While I myself am still not across all of Celine’s discography thus far; she is nevertheless still the artist (out of her, Whitney, Cher, Aretha, even Beyoncé and Mariah) that I know the most of…and that’s saying something.
Celine’s most famous song of all, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (from the 1997 critically acclaimed movie Titanic), has been covered a gazillion of times, and is probably the song that everyone would know the most, out of every other song in Celine’s discography. To this day, I haven’t seen Titanic (though I still firmly believe that someday during my life, I’ll watch the movie from start to finish), and even I know this track. It’s synonymous with the 1990s; and is as iconic as Celine Dion herself. It’s covered (and covered well) by a plethora of artists, some more well-known than others- from people like Jackie Evancho, Caleb Hyles, Jonathan Young, Lucy Thomas, and Halocene, to Evynne Hollens, Mark Vincent, Neil Diamond, Genavieve Linkowski and Chase Holfelder. And though I’ve never seen the James Cameron classic movie of which this song is famously tied to; I’m still aware of the song’s reach, impact, and relevance, even 25 years on from whence the song was unveiled and released. I may not have seen the movie, but ‘My Heart Will Go On’ has great significance, not just in popular culture, and movies, but in Celine’s discography, and in all of music, period. Her song I reckon, is by far the most recognisable song out of every song in the 1990s (alongside songs like ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’, ‘The Prayer’, ‘When You Believe’, ‘Iris’, ‘Mmmbop’, ‘How Do I Live’ and ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’), while Celine herself, through this melody, is one of the most recognisable voices, music has ever seen and experienced till now. Yes, I know these assertions can seem as though they’re biased, and maybe they are. But what I can’t deny, is Celine’s impact and influence in music today (just as much as impacting for people back when the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was released in 1997).
I may never watch Titanic in my lifetime. Or I may. But I will have heard ‘My Heart Will Go On’, and that, I’m for certain, is the next best thing. The power, emotion, and heart, enthused and infused into this song alone, is shown to be Celine at her best, and even if it is for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and no other song, Celine will still be here, present in this list of iconic and identity-building artists, that I’m to discuss about over the next year or so. That’s how much I firmly believe, this song has travelled and impacted the globe, and has made Celine into the big star that she currently is. Written specifically for the movie, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was scored by James Horner– the composer of orchestral music sadly passed away in 2015 at age 61 from a plane crash, yet his body of work still remains: scoring many movies like Braveheart, Aliens, Apollo 13 and of course, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic. And while the song today has become a powerhouse hit synonymous with the 1990s and reminds us of the simplicities of that decade and takes us back to a place in our childhood, where we were when we first heard of Titanic the movie, or even where we were when we first heard of Celine Dion; Celine herself never really wanted to record the song, nor did she feel a tremendous connection to it- ‘…it didn’t appeal to me. I was probably very tired that day. I don’t know, very tired…[and my late husband] said, ‘Let’s hold on,’ He talks to the writer and says, ‘Let’s try to make a little demo,’ and I sang the song once and they built the orchestra around it. I never resang it for the recording, actually. So, the demo is the actual recording but after that I sang it three gazillion times…’ How thankful we can be now, knowing that Celine’s recording of the track was just a demo, and the fact that the song itself has transformed pop music as we know it. If it wasn’t for ‘My Heart Will Go On’, Celine would’ve had a still-successful career (at this point in 1997, she had recorded tracks like ‘Because You Loved Me’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘All By Myself’, ‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’, ‘The Power of Love’, ‘Think Twice’ and ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’), but I don’t know what the state of pop music would look like at this moment, if Celine’s recording of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ didn’t come to fruition. Nevertheless, Celine’s song is by far the standout, out of every other track in Celine’s discography (that can either be viewed and seen as a good or a bad thing, depending on if you believe the song itself should (or shouldn’t) garner as much praise now, as it was back then). It’s the song by Celine, period, and a song that continues to remind us of the simplicities of life, the nostalgia that comes from the 1990s, and the unconditional love between two people, something that we so desperately want and need in this current day and age, especially after a horror 2+ years we’ve had as well.
Immediately when someone thinks about Celine and her music, their mind automatically goes towards ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (whose mind doesn’t?), but that doesn’t mean that the rest of Celine’s discography is insignificant- not at all. Just because ‘My Heart Will Go On’ towers over every other song in Celine’s discography, doesn’t mean that any of Celine’s other radio singles aren’t as emotive, poignant, and heartfelt. It just means that everyone knows ‘My Heart Will Go On’ more, or the people who aren’t necessarily fans of Celine, would only know ‘My Heart Will Go On’. And yet as we take a bit of a deep dive into the depths of Celine’s discography, we see that Celine’s music is more than her biggest hit. ‘The Prayer’, quite possibly Celine’s second biggest hit behind ‘My Heart Will Go On’, is a duet between herself and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli; and is quite possibly one of my favourite songs of the 1990s (for me, ‘The Prayer’ is even more powerful, relevant, and impactful than Celine’s biggest hit, but I digress). The song itself is a prayer to…each other? God? Mother Nature? Whoever they are praying to, they are praying for grace, hope, guidance, and wisdom- hearing the song, I’m sure they’re praying to the Lord, even if they don’t even know it, but maybe that’s not what was initially intended for the song? Regardless of intent and motivation behind the track, this 1990s power ballad was originally recorded for the soundtrack of the cartoon movie Quest for Camelot, which in turn was loosely based upon the 1976 novel The King’s Damosel, with ‘The Prayer’ being nominated for ‘Best Original Song’ at the 1999 Academy Awards (but unfortunately lost out to Whitney Houston’s ‘When You Believe’- a song equally deserving that was originally recorded for the cartoon movie The Prince of Egypt). ‘All My Myself’, originally a song recorded by Eric Carmen way back in the 1970s, was famously covered by Celine for her 1996 album Falling into You, with the song itself being a song of lament, with the persona in the song wanting connection and camaraderie, but then acknowledging to themselves that though they don’t really want to be alone; still believe they’re destined to be alone in life. There’s a longing to escape the feeling of loneliness as shown in the chorus, as the persona cries out ‘…all by myself, don’t wanna be all by myself anymore…’ ‘Because You Loved Me’, another chart-topping song that was inspired by a movie, was written especially for the closing credits of the movie Up Close & Personal– though I myself haven’t seen this movie (apparently, it’s a 1990s classic starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer), the song itself can still be heard and enjoyed, even without any knowledge or background of the movie. In fact, ‘Because You Loved Me’ is just a good song, and reminds all of us, of the people in our lives who have sacrificed what they have, to get us where we are, and so this song is an ode to them of sorts. It’s a song of thanks and gratitude, acknowledging that ‘…I’m everything I am because you loved me…’ Just like ‘The Prayer’, ‘Because You Loved Me’ can easily be seen as a song to be sung to the Lord, declaring that we are who we are and where we are, because He first loved us, and while that was definitely not what was intended for the song originally, I love how a lot of Celine’s songs (especially ‘The Prayer’ and ‘Because You Loved Me’), can easily be seen through a spiritual lens. I mean, if God can use Balaam’s donkey to speak to him in the Old Testament, then surely, He can use a Celine Dion song to speak to us, right?
‘…I saw the film [Up Close & Personal] with the director, Jon Avnet, on a Friday. I thought, ‘What would I want to hear at the end of the movie?’ Jon played me a tape of a gospel singer to give me a sense of what he was looking for – something really soulful. I went into my office on Saturday, the following day, and the chorus came quickly. Michelle Pfeiffer’s character is thanking Robert Redford’s character for believing in her. The song became personal at the same time that it was telling the story of the film. Once I began, it became a way of thanking my dad for everything he did for me and the support he has always given me. He believed in me and my music from the time I was a little girl. When I was 15, he took me around to music publishers. Not only did he support my goals; he supported me financially while I was struggling in the beginning. I had to wait for months to see if my song would be chosen to use in the film or if they would select one of the other four submissions. Thank goodness I had just started therapy! It got me through it…’ [story behind ‘Because You Loved Me’, quote with Diane Warren, the song’s sole writer]
While songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On’, ‘Because You Loved Me’, ‘The Prayer’ and ‘All By Myself’ form the backbone of Celine’s career as a whole, Celine has also offered us plenty more radio hits, and songs that still continue to speak to the heart of individuals around the world, all the way from her English-debut album in 1990, to now, reminding us of how illustrious, colourful and unique, her career actually was (and still is). ‘Ashes’, Celine’s song written especially for the Marvel superhero movie Deadpool 2, should’ve earned Celine an Oscar nomination for ‘Best Original Song’ at the 2017 Academy Awards (but ultimately didn’t), with the song itself showcasing this theme of how beauty and something good, can rise up from something tragic, unforgiving and unfair; while Celine’s 1990 song ‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’, was released by Colombia Records in 1990 as the third single from her first English studio album Unison– the song itself premiered at the Eurovision Song Contest of 1989 in Switzerland, where Celine herself performed the song, alongside her 1988 winning song ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’. The most successful single from Celine’s first album, ‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’ was met with plenty of rave reviews, with the song’s message and theme being that of trying to battle with the loneliness the persona feels, and asking (to someone else, or even to the ether) ‘where does my heart beat now’, and ‘where do all the lonely hearts go’, suggesting that the persona themselves are going through a breakup, and thus the song is their way of trying to make sense of what is happening to them.
‘That’s the Way it Is’, a song recorded especially for Celine’s Best-Of compilation released in 1999, is a happy, joyful song, about keeping the faith and hoping and longing for good things to happen in your life, but realising that in your life, ‘…when you want it the most, there’s no easy way out, when you’re ready to go and your heart’s left in doubt, don’t give up on your faith, love comes to those who believe it, and that’s the way it is…’; while Celine’s cover version of the 1980s Jennifer Rush song ‘The Power of Love’, was recorded for her 3rd English album The Colour of My Love, which led to a plethora of accolades for the song (an ASCAP Pop Award, Grammy Award for Best Female Pop/Vocal Performance, AMA for Favourite Pop/Rock Single, 2 Billboard single nominations- for Hot 100 Single of the Year, and Hot Adult Contemporary Single of the Year, Juno Award for Single of the Year), and the fact that now, years later, ‘The Power of Love’ is much more synonymous with Celine, instead of with Jennifer Rush. ‘I’m Alive’, from Celine’s 2002 album A New Day Has Come, is a reminder to each of us that we are alive (a simple theme enough), as we understand that there are people in our lives that light the spark within us, and bring forth this ‘alive’ feeling, where we feel as though we can conquer things, almost impossible things, when before we may not have had the courage and bravery to, while ‘A New Day Has Come’, the title track from said 2002 album, was recorded twice for the album- the original version in 6/8 time, as well as the radio version sent to the airwaves, recorded at a 4/4 time signature. The song itself represents, according to Celine herself, ‘…represents the birth of my child. Nothing can ever come close to that. But it can mean different things for anyone who has to find strength again. I think it’s very positive…’, but the song can still mean a whole lot of different things. Namely, the start of something new, and a longing for a new birth and a revival in your life, about something that holds dear to you. It’s a song to start the new year with, a reminder that each year (and to put it more bluntly, each and every day) is an opportunity to start afresh and new, to use each day as a way to turn the page and to be excited of the new opportunities that the day presents to us all.
‘Taking Chances’, from Celine’s 2007 album, is perhaps one of the most mainstream pop/rock releases that Celine has ever released (and maybe if recorded right now in 2022, would’ve been recorded by someone like Avril Lavigne or even Kelly Clarkson). The song itself speaks about taking chances in life, going all in, in a relationship, and believing that being vulnerable and sharing personal things to people you care about, is the best way to move forward in having BFFs or even life partners, because trust and love is built upon vulnerability and honesty- something that ‘Taking Chances’ reminds us of when we hear it. ‘I Drove All Night’, a cover of Roy Orbison’s posthumous 1989 release, is nothing like a lot of Celine Dion’s material (her original material leans more towards reflective ballads, while ‘I Drove All Night’ is an upbeat dance number), as the song itself speaks about driving, physically (and maybe even metaphorically), with the persona trying to find their lover (or their friend), longing for that connection on a deeper level that they desperately want. Celine also lends her voice to a duet of ‘Immortality’, originally a Bee Gees song and recorded firstly for the Saturday Night Fever stage musical, but later turned into a collaboration between Celine and the Aussie trio, for Celine’s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love. ‘Immortality’ itself speaks about trying to live on, after the loss of a loved one, and realising that maybe, just maybe, physical death is not the end of the story, that in some way, we’ll see our loved ones again, thus leading to the lyrical moment in the chorus of how ‘…we don’t say goodbye…’
Celine also showcases the duet and the official recording of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, featuring the vocals of Peabo Bryson, from the 1991 movie Beauty and the Beast, as well as earlier songs ‘If You Asked Me To’ (a cover of Patti LaBelle’s 1989 single about learning to love again after years of being closed off to it), ‘Think Twice’ (a song about a couple on the verge of breaking up, and the persona urging their significant other, to think twice before they do something that’ll change their relationship forever), ‘Love Can Move Mountains’ (a pseudo-gospel anthem about all the things that we know love can do and accomplish if we trust that God Himself, in all of His sovereign glory and splendour, is love, and is able to undertake and carry out things on a much more grander scale than we can ever imagine), and ‘When I Fall in Love’ (a cover of a 1952 song originally released in the film One Minute to Zero, that Celine features with singer-songwriter Clive Griffin, and recorded for the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle). Celine also performs duets for the songs ‘Tell Him’, and ‘I’m Your Angel’, collaborating with Barbra Streisand and R. Kelly respectively- ‘Tell Him’ is a song urging females to tell their crushes (or even their boyfriends) how much they mean to them, to go forth with boldness and courage and to confess their feelings, even if they are not reciprocated, while ‘I’m Your Angel’ is a track that shows the persona in said track, dedicating their time to someone who needs it, being their proverbial ‘angel’ whenever it is needed (as of now, ‘I’m Your Angel’ is pulled from various streaming services, because of R. Kelly’s conviction of being found guilty on all charges of racketeering and child sex trafficking- sentenced to 30 years in prison as a result).
While ‘The Prayer’ and ‘I’m Your Angel’ stand out thematically (and single-wise) on Celine’s Christmas album These Are Special Times, ‘Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day’ was also a well-known and powerful hit from the holiday album as well- originally I heard that track covered by vocal group Avalon for their 2000 album Joy, and upon hearing it all those years ago, thought it was an Avalon original. Upon knowing that it was a Celine Dion original, makes me enjoy and love the song all the more- the track itself speaks about not saving all our kindness and goodwill just for one day of the year (Christmas) and turning back into Ebenezer Scrooge for the other 364- instead, we have to exhibit grace, love, compassion and kindness to people regardless of the day, and regardless on if we even receive such things back in return. ‘One Heart’, the title track from her 2003 album (of the same name), was chosen in Europe as the second single to follow-on from ‘I Drove All Night’, with the song speaking about the power of love and what it can do in someone’s life (‘…love lights the way through the night…everybody needs something to hold onto…’), while in North America and Canada, the song ‘Have You Ever Been in Love’ was chosen to follow-along from ‘I Drove All Night’ as single #2 from One Heart– originally recorded and unveiled on Celine’s 2002 album A New Day Has Come, ‘Have You Ever Been in Love’ was included again on Celine’s 2003 album, and asks the question of people ‘have you ever been in love’ and then proceeds to answer it in the song, showing us instances and experiences in life where ‘love’ can be exhibited and portrayed.
‘My Love’, Celine’s song written and recorded originally for her 2007 album Taking Chances, was recorded again in a live setting, specifically for the compilation album My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection. It landed as a single in 2008; and appears in its live format on the compilation- the track itself is an ode from Celine to her very supportive fan base. It’s a song for the fans, and a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the support over the years. Celine once again stands out with the song ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ from the 1996 album Falling Into You, and to me, is the epitome of what a Celine Dion song should sound like- it’s one of my favourites from the 1990s decade, and a song that I’ve since attributed to Celine herself, even though she wasn’t the original singer of the track. It was first written in the 1980s, and originally recorded by girl group Pandora’s Box in 1989. Rock singer-songwriter Meat Loaf had wanted to record the song for years, but was barred from ever recording the track, because it was assumed for so long to be a ‘woman’s song’. After Pandora’s Box placed their own spin on it, Celine recorded her own version in 1996. Meat Loaf would then go on to record his own version as a duet in 2006, with Norwegian vocalist Marion Raven. The song itself is such a powerful, hauntingly compelling track, and while it’s message can seem a little dark (the song is actually about falling under someone’s toxic control, even though everything within them says that this alluring and manipulative person is not good for them…yet they can’t help it when they’re around this person), it nevertheless is a warning for people to not fall too hard and too fast for the people that seem a little too charming for their own good, because more often than not, it’s the ‘sweet’ and ‘kind’ people that often have more of an agenda, than the people that appear ‘rough’ around the edges.
‘…”It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” is my attempt to write the most passionate, romantic song I could ever write. I was writing it while under the influence of Wuthering Heights, which is one of my favorite books. This song is an erotic motorcycle. It’s like Heathcliff digging up Cathy’s corpse and dancing with it in the cold moonlight. You can’t get more extreme, operatic or passionate than that. I was trying to write a song about dead things coming to life. I was trying to write a song about being enslaved and obsessed by love, not just enchanted and happy with it. It was about the dark side of love and about the extraordinary ability to be resurrected by it once dead. It’s about obsession, and that can be scary because you’re not in control and you don’t know where it’s going to stop. It says that, at any point in somebody’s life, when they loved somebody strongly enough and that person returns, a certain touch, a certain physical gesture can turn them from being defiant and disgusted with this person to being subservient again. And it’s not just a pleasurable feeling that comes back, it’s the complete terror and loss of control that comes back. And I think that’s ultimately a great weapon…’ [story behind ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’, quote with Jim Steinman, writer of the song]
More recently, Celine unveiled her ‘comeback’ album in 2013 with her album (and also the title track from the album) Loved Me Back to Life. The song ‘Loved Me Back to Life’ was written by Sia Furler (cousin of ex-Newsboys frontman Peter Furler), and was recorded by Celine as a powerful pop anthem, that reminded each of us of the power of love, when it comes to literally resuscitating someone back to life. While from a metaphysical standpoint, you can’t necessarily ‘love’ someone back to life, what can be done is in fact love them so much that you pray over them, you ask the living God to help them in whatever way that you think they do need help…and then the Lord will say ‘yes’, ‘no’ or even ‘wait’. ‘Loved Me Back to Life’ the song is a song of gratitude, sung by the person who feels as though they are ‘loved’ back to life, as though their new lease on life is due to the ‘love’ and the prayers of people in their life who love them so much, willing enough to show that love through praying, and committing to it, too. Celine also delivers a few other standout singles from the 2013 album, even though the title track, in hindsight, was one of the only huge standout hits from the early 2010s era- ‘Incredible’, featuring singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, is considered the second single released by Celine for this 2013 album, in most countries in the world, while NBC chose this song to be the official song for the 2014 Winter Olympics, thus, catapulting this song to the world stage a year after it was released on the album as track #4- the song itself speaks about how we ought to show people that we are incredible, not necessarily because of our own ego problems or because we want to flex, but because we know we are confident in our abilities, and thus, to be anything else less than great and incredible can seem as though we’re selling ourselves short. ‘Overjoyed’ is a straight-out cover of a Stevie Wonder classic (this time, Stevie joins Celine for a duet on this song) from his very own 1985 album In Circle Square, while ‘Breakaway’ is a song about yearning and longing to ‘breakaway’- either physically or even mentally, from an abusive and toxic relationship, and wondering about identity after the breakup, and if identity is so wrapped up in this person, that breaking away from them breaks away from your identity too. ‘At Seventeen’ is a cover of the Janis Ian song originally recorded in the 1970s, as Celine makes the song her own and reminds listeners of the poignancy in these lyrics, of how what can often seem as ‘the truth’ when you’re at seventeen, may turn into anything but, when you’re much older and realise that you don’t know as much as you thought you did, back in school; whilst ‘Water and a Flame’, the proposed original title of Celine’s 2013 album, is a track that was famously recorded by Adele back in the late 2000s, a track that highlights the realisation of something that people often realise post-breakup, only for this song to present what a lot of people have been feeling whenever their relationships become failed, which is this- that no matter how you try to justify it, sometimes the fact that relationships fail, is just the pure, simple reality, that you and your partner are water and a flame, that how you interact on a basic level, is like how water interacts with flames- it fuels the fire and burns it even higher. Sometimes people are just not a great fit for each other, and a song like ‘Water and a Flame’, somehow accurately depicts an unfortunate reality for people heading for the brink of divorce.
Celine once again had another ‘comeback’ album with 2019’s Courage– this time it felt more personal- in 2016, her husband Rene Angelil passed away because of throat cancer. Taking time away from the spotlight to grieve, Celine’s most recent English album is one of comfort and hope, poignancy and emotion, encouragement, and lament, as songs like ‘Flying on My Own’, ‘Imperfections’, ‘Lying Down’, the title track, ‘I Will Be Stronger’, ‘Falling in Love Again’ and ‘Say Yes’, form the backbone of Celine’s album Courage, both sonically and thematically. After such a tragedy as a loved one passing away (especially if that loved one is a spouse), it’s only naturally assumed that the project immediately after such a difficult time, is certain to be much more sombre, and that is certainly true of Courage. Not in a bad or even a good way, just in a way that reminds us all, that death affects people in ways that we may not be able to comprehend. Celine lost her other half, and as much as I am to commend her in unveiling Courage, merely three years after her husband’s death, it still feels as though the album isn’t as focused or even as inspired as a lot of her albums in the 1990s and the 2000s…and that’s understandable. Losing someone you love, after years of being with that person, is sure to take a toll on your craft, and Courage, as good as it is, considering the circumstances leading up to the release, doesn’t hold a candle to some of her previous releases. Individually, songs like ‘Imperfections’ and the title track are great as standalone tracks, but if you were to rate this album against albums like Falling Into You, Let’s Talk About Love, The Colour of My Love and Celine Dion of the past, then her 2019 efforts, as inspired as it is, unfortunately falls short. Nevertheless, in spite of this minor ‘hiccup’, Celine’s efforts on Courage still have to be applauded and commended. It’s her first English album post-Rene. It’s raw, emotionally charged, real and honest, and for that, it’s authentic and hard-hitting. But gone are the powerful vocals that we’ve heard in songs like ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ or even ‘All by Myself’… and I miss that.
‘…[courage] means that everybody is going through things in life. I would say when something bad happens to you in life, you have to find a way to overcome these obstacles and find a way to find inner strength. To say, that’s part of life, this is not something that you choose. This is something that is imposed on you by life. It’s up to you to go through these obstacles, and you have the options, if you’re going to need help or not, or how you’re going to go through this. We all do have good moments and bad moments. And we all lose people…Losing the father of my children, my husband, my manager, the person that I love the most in the world and the person that I can rely upon without questioning anything since I was 12 years old — losing that person was a big deal for me. It reflected on a lot of people that I’ve been surrounded by for 20 years. We are still missing him tremendously, believe it or not. It takes courage because I’m a single mom and I don’t want my kids, my entourage, and the people that I love to feel that because I have lost the man of my life that I’m going to lose the essence of what I love, my passion. I really believe that through all the years with René, who gave me so much, who taught me so much, who gave me so much luggage, that when he left for his new chapter, his new life, he gave me the rest of his luggage. I feel him through the eyes of my kids and inside of me. I felt very, very, very strong, probably stronger than ever before…I’m happy [when younger generations discover my music]. I see it. Don’t get me wrong, you cannot please everybody, but I don’t care. I’ve done everything that’s needed to be done to have an international career because this is what I wanted. I don’t need to prove to my family, my friends, the industry or myself anymore. I did that. They gave me a spot and I took it. I never wanted to have a hit, I wanted to have a career…’
While people in a general sense, know Celine Dion through her English-recorded albums (she’s recorded 12 English albums ever since her 1990 English album debut Unison that birthed the standout single ‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’), it’s also a well-known fact that Celine herself is an accomplished French singer-songwriter as well. She started her French album career in 1981, and as of 2022, has amassed 15 French-language albums (on top of her 12 English ones) …leading to a whopping 27 albums combined. If that isn’t a tell-tale sign of an artist who is iconic, then I don’t know what is. Even though I haven’t understood any of her French-language songs, I still feel moved whenever I hear them as they come up randomly on Spotify, and maybe it’s an indication that God speaks through music, regardless of the language, or maybe it’s just because it’s got a good beat and nothing else. Regardless of why I enjoy the music that I don’t understand, I theorise, that I just do, and maybe the Lord has to sort that one out for me, and I ought to just get out of the way (as I tend to overthink too much), and to just enjoy the music, just because. Celine’s French material is like that, for me. I have no clue what they’re saying, and yet I feel that in some songs, it’s as if the Lord is speaking through it all. Dunno what in the world is being said, but maybe the Holy Spirit can move beyond the barriers of physical language? I hope so.
And so…in a nutshell, that’s Celine’s discography. English and French albums. And while I don’t fully expect Celine’s powerhouse of a vocal, to be back to her best (which was in the 1990s and the 2000s, in my honest humble opinion), I do hope that she creates a follow-up album to Courage, because her skill at music is far too great, for her to ‘slow down’ now. Nevertheless, whatever she does next is immaterial- we have a glorious 30+ years of music to glean from- English and French, as we’re reminded that there’s only one Celine Dion (maybe artists like Amy Grant, Lady Gaga, Delta Goodrem and Adele can come close). And that is a good thing, because it reminds us that people that special, only come once in a while, and so when they do come and create music and release their gift into the world, it’s only fitting for us listeners to just bask in the gloriousness which is Celine’s music, and to just go along for the ride and enjoy such powerful music while we still can. Because the state of pop music today (I don’t mean ten years ago in 2012, I mean now in 2022), is a far cry from where it was 20 years ago. I barely recognise the musical landscape of where we are now in terms of inspired and powerful music, and maybe it’s just the cynic and the ‘old fuddi-duddiness’ in me coming out, and me just showing my age a little; but since I started on this journey of exploring musical artists from different time periods and across different genres, I’ve come to appreciate music from the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, more so than any decade. Celine Dion and her music, and her impactful music, fits in the period of the 90s and the 00s, and for me, is a reminder of when music was less autotuned, and less electronic, less complicated, and more lyric-based, compared to what is on the radio right now. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between what I hear now, and what I remember good music to be, and if that makes me a little old-fashioned in my own musical tastes, then I guess…fair enough?
From an objective standpoint, Celine is regarded by almost everyone unanimously, as one of pop music’s most impactful and influential voices. That consensus is reached across the board. Whether everyone has Celine as the voice, is another story. But that is besides the point- the point is that almost everyone can agree; that Celine’s music is timeless, and her songs are life-changing. And that everyone knows the general story of Titanic and the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’, even if they haven’t seen the movie, or even if they don’t necessarily want to see the movie, but somehow know of the story through some kind of ‘osmosis’. Celine’s music is almost as well known as Titanic, and she’s often been given the title of ‘Queen of Power Ballads’ by the media, while it’s also been said, that alongside Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, Celine’s music and stylistic vocals have shaped future generations of female vocalists; and have influenced how they have sung over the years.
Celine, Whitney, and Mariah, in the 1990s and the 2000s, all single-handedly changed the ‘power ballad’ genre for the better, re-shaping what is now known as the ‘adult-contemporary’ music genre, a genre that, as of 2022, is somehow dying, in favour of more electronic music (that for me personally, is not my style…unfortunately!). Randy Jackson, ex-American Idol judge, once stated in 2012, while tributing Whitney in the wake of her passing, that Whitney, Mariah and Celine are in a class of their own- ‘…we lost Etta James this year. When you lose one of the world’s greatest ever, [between Whitney], Mariah [Carey] and Celine [Dion], I think they are the voices of this generation that you see now. This is where all the Christina’s and all these people came up on [as well as] Jennifer Hudson, who saluted [Whitney]. Those three girls became the voice of the modern era. They sold more records than anyone. It’s just sad…’; while there’s been plenty of artists who have cited Celine as a major influence in their singing craft, from Britney Spears, Rihanna, Adele, Delta Goodrem, Josh Groban, Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Kelly Clarkson; to Ava Max, Perrie Edwards (of Little Mix), Loren Allred (who famously sung the hit song ‘Never Enough’), Sam Smith, and Ariana Grande; to name a few. Celine has also been a reference point for other artists in other musical genres too, with country singer Martina McBride earning the title of being the ‘Celine Dion of Country Music’. Celine has also held the Guinness World Record for the most June Awards won for ‘Album of the Year’ (tied with artists Arcade Fire & Michael Bublé), while also being the ‘…3rd most decorated artist in Juno Award history, winning 20 out of the 75 total nominations ever, becoming the most nominated artist in the awards history as well…’
Celine’s music (and Celine herself) is very much a brand in and of itself, so much so, that in 2021, a French-Canadian movie Aline was co-written, directed by, and starring Valerie Lemercier, and based upon the life of Celine Dion herself (though the character names in the movie are changed, it’s certainly about Celine, that even ‘blind Freddy’ can figure it out. While the Dion family came out to speak against the movie, claiming that there were a lot of historical inaccuracies about the movie, I am of the opinion and view, that even if such a movie as this, is loosely inspired by someone’s life, the fact of the matter remains- that this movie is bringing awareness to one of history’s most important and influential pop icons in history…period, and if a movie like Aline can bring in newer listeners of Celine’s music, and more people who can appreciate good music for what it is (good music!), then maybe, Aline and the purpose of that movie is fulfilled, despite not a unanimous liking of the movie itself? Regardless, Celine’s life and music is certainly one for the history books, and just like artists (and bands) in the past where their lives were choreographed for the screen (Bohemian Rhapsody [Freddie Mercury], Rocketman [Elton John], Respect [Aretha Franklin], I Can Only Imagine [MercyMe frontman Bart Millard], Get On Up [James Brown], Ray [Ray Charles], Walk the Line [Johnny Cash] and I’m Not There [Bob Dylan] to name a few), Celine’s ‘loosely-inspired’ biopic movie ought to be one to at least watch once. Maybe, this movie will at least allow us to be more appreciative of Celine’s music (especially her French music material), or maybe, it’ll allow us into a window of her personal life, and maybe empathise with her in her own grief that she’s been feeling over the last few years. Regardless of intent, Celine will be talked about because of this movie, negatively or positively. Here’s hoping that all of Celine’s work over the years will overshadow controversies about the movie that have arisen this past year or so…but I’m not sure if I’m going to hold my breath for that, or not.
There’ll never be another Celine Dion. No matter how hard artists try over the years, there’s only one voice. Celine’s music has been impactful in my own life throughout my teenage years, as I enjoyed songs from the 1990s and really appreciated tracks like ‘The Prayer’, ‘Because You Loved Me’ and ‘My Heart Will Go On’, and realised that even in these songs, the Lord was (and still is) present, reminding me of the themes and messages He wanted to instill in me all these years. An artist doesn’t have to be explicitly ‘Christian’ for me to enjoy them, and they most certainly don’t have to be ‘Christian’ for the Lord to use them and allow their music to transform people’s hearts from the inside out. If someone says that they have benefited from Celine’s music, and have been changed by her songs over the years…then who am I to even judge or refute that? Celine’s music is ‘magical’ enough for me to state in my own life, her music’s been influential; so for someone else to say that their lives were changed by Celine and her music (in all the best ways possible), I intend to believe them…even though they’re not ‘Christian’, because from what I’ve understood and learnt (and even unlearnt) over the last few years or so, God can use whoever, whomever and whatever, to bring people closer to Himself, and to teach people things about Himself (and ourselves) in the process. And for that I am thankful, and for that I can boldly say, that Celine is most definitely one such artist (out of 50) that are impactful and influential, but more than that, is iconic in every sense of the word. Kudos to Celine for have such a storied, colourful, and inspiring career thus far. May there be many more years to come- maybe a sequel (influence-wise) to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in the future? One can only hope and pray!
Does Celine Dion make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Iconic and Identity-Building Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘My Heart Will Go On’, ‘The Prayer’, ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ and ‘Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day’, that has impacted you on your journey through life with Christ thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!