Today, Carl Wilson, author of Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (which is itself an expansion of his 33 1/3 volume about Céline Dion’s biggest album), has published an article for Maclean’s titled “How Céline Dion became cool.” As Wilson discusses in his piece, coming off of things such as her performance of “My Heart Will Go On” at last month’s Billboard Music Awards, and the recent MTV News column “Céline Dion Is on Another Level of Cool” — and, I’ll add, her recent spate of appearances killing the red carpet — Dion is not only having what we might call a moment, she’s having in many ways a complete re-evaluation of her career and reputation.
Dion has never, ever been seen as “cool” — until now. Since the passing of her beloved manager and husband, René Angelil, she clearly no longer has any fucks to give. And why should she? Her music has never been considered even remotely hip, and she’s gotta have more money than the GDP of Canada, so why not just live her life and enjoy it? She works because she wants to, not because she has to. Which leaves more time for things like these amazing red carpet appearances. Amazing, her attendance last month at the famed Met Ball was the first time she’d ever gone! Her recent “love letter” to the LGBTQ community, commissioned by Billboard, reads less as a PR piece and more like heartfelt words from a woman who knows pain and prejudice (hey, multi-millionaire superstars hurt, too).
Without Barbra Streisand, there’s no Céline Dion, and without Céline Dion, there’s no Adele. Every generation has (and arguably, requires) its huge-lunged diva singing songs of love and pain. There’s a resonance to Dion’s songs; she’s not just singing generically. Sure, her widescreen 70mm mostly-soft pop isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that voice. Goddamn, that voice. And when she marries it with the right material — to wit, not just the Titanic theme, but Jim Steinman’s genius “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” — the results can be pretty magical. Personally, I wish she’d do more good uptempo material, like “Misled” and even the shuffling “That’s the Way It Is” (a true breath of fresh air in late ’99, as I was working at an AC station and dying for tempo). She may never make a great album, and I’m okay with that. I’m just glad she’s around, and glad she’s learned how to wink at herself, and that she’s doing it quite a bit right now.
And who knows? Maybe in five years she’ll head to Malibu and record with Rick Rubin. I wouldn’t be mad at that.
1. “Misled” (The Colour of My Love, 1993)
2. “The Show Must Go On” (featuring Lindsey Stirling) (single, 2016)
3. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (Falling Into You, 1996)
4. “That’s the Way It Is” (All the Way… A Decade of Song, 1999)
5. “Tell Him” (duet with Barbra Streisand) (Let’s Talk About Love, 1997)
6. “My Heart Will Go On” (Let’s Talk About Love, 1997)
7. “The Power of Love” (The Colour of My Love, 1993)
8. “A New Day Has Come” (A New Day Has Come, 2002)
9. “Love Can Move Mountains” (Celine Dion, 1992)
10. “At Seventeen” (Loved Me Back to Life, 2013)