Where To Start With... - November 15, 2019

Where To Start With... Celine Dion
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Where To Start With... Celine Dion

Along with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, Canadian vocal powerhouse Celine Dion is one of a trio of singers who are often credited not only with reviving the popularity of the power ballad in the 1990s, but in shaping the way many modern singers perform.

Dion herself has been cited as a major influence by countless artists from Adele to Frank Ocean, and with career album sales reported to be somewhere in the region of 200 million units, she's also one of the most commercially successful - those numbers put her in the same territory as the likes of Queen, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones.

Born the youngest of 14 children in the suburbs of Montreal, in Canada's French-speaking Quebec region, Dion's career enjoyed an early start when, aged 12, she recorded a song co-written with her mother and her older brother Jacques. Another of her brothers, Michel, speculatively sent a copy to a local music manager, René Angélil, who was so impressed by what he heard that he reportedly remortgaged his house to fund her debut album La voix du bon Dieu, recorded in her native French and released in 1981 while Dion was still just 13.

Angélil's gamble paid off, with the album heading straight to the top of the charts in Quebec. Throughout her teens, Dion released a further seven French-language albums under Angélil's management, many of which topped the charts in Quebec. However, at age 18, Dion attended a Michael Jackson concert and told her manager that she, too, wanted to become a global superstar. Dion began taking dance lessons and English lessons in Montreal, and in 1990 released her first English-language album Unison.

From there, her career trajectory began it upward curve, bolstered in no small part by the Grammy-winning single 'Beauty and the Beast', recorded as the centrepiece of the soundtrack to the animated Disney film of the same name and subsequently included on her second, self-titled English-language album. Then things really began to take off.

Her next two English albums The Colour of Love and Falling Into You transformed Dion into an international phenomenon, shifting upwards of 50 million copies between them and making the singer one of the decade's biggest stars. If some of her more recent albums have drawn less attention, you wouldn't know it from the sales figures. Of all the English-language she's released since, only a 1998 Christmas album has failed to break into the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic. More recently, Dion has been credited as the key driver behind the recent and increasingly lucrative trend of Las Vegas concert residencies that has seen the likes of Britney Spears, Rod Stewart and Shania Twain follow in her footsteps. Her four-year run at Caesar's Palace between 2003 and 2007 still ranks as the highest-grossing concert residency in history.

Her most recent album recorded in English, 2013's Loved Me Back To Life, included contributions from the likes of Sia, Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder, and only narrowly missed out topping the charts on topping the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 2, while reaching No. 3 in the UK.

Then in 2016, tragedy struck. Two years earlier, Dion has to cancel a tour of Asia due to the fact that Angélil, who she married in 1994, was recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. Unfortunately, the cancer returned, and, in January 2016, Angélil passed away. Just two days later, Dion's brother Daniel died too, also from cancer. But barely a month after that, Dion was back performing at her Las Vegas residency and in August that year released her 15th French-language album Encore un Soir. Three years on, the singer returns this week with her first English-language album since Loved Me Back to Life.

Courage arrives in stores today and contains 16 new tracks, written with a small army of writing and production talent that includes Sia Furler, David Guetta, Skylar Grey, James Napier, Sam Smith and Greg Kurstin, among many, many others. As you might guess from the names on that list, there are moments on the album that veer towards the dancefloor, but as usual with Celine Dion, the album's real high points are the big, show-stopping power ballads that she excels at.

You can find the video for the title track below - beneath that we've picked out five key tracks from her long and incredibly successful career to get you in the mood...

 

 

'Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi'

Celine had already topped the album charts in Quebec twice before her first real taste of international success arrived in the form of her 1988 appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest, when she was selected to perform the Swiss entry in the annual competition, which it ended up winning. Written by Swiss duo Nella Martinetti and Atilla Şereftuğ, the song was by no means a hit on the scale of some of her later work, but it did perform well in Switzerland and topped the Belgian charts for three weeks. More importantly, though, it introduced the wider world to her powerful vocals and represents the first step on her path to global superstardom.

 

'Where Does My Heart Beat Now'

While Eurovision certainly opened a few doors for the singer, her next album Incognito was only a hit in her native Canada, where it became the third of her French-language albums to reach the summit of the Quebec charts. By now, however, Celine was becoming more fluent in English and it was with the album's follow-up Unison, her first English-language album, that things began to really take off. While the first couple of singles made minor inroads internationally, the third song released from the album 'Where Does My Heart Beat Now' reached No. 4 on the Billboard 100 and climbed into the Top 40 in a handful of European countries. It was also her first single to chart in the UK, peaking at No. 72.

 

'Think Twice'

If Unison and its self-titled English-language follow-up were the albums that unlocked the door to international success, 1993's The Colour of My Love was the one that kicked it down altogether. Dion scored huge hits with a cover of Jennifer Rush 's 'The Power Of Love' and others on the album such as 'Misled' and 'Think Twice', the latter becoming the singer's first ever No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. The song is still in the Top 50 biggest-selling singles ever in the UK, while the album from which it came topped the charts in the US, the UK and her native Canada, among a handful of other countries, eventually selling somewhere north of 20 million copies.

 

'It's All Coming Back To Me Now'

The impact of The Colour of My Love was such that even though Dion's next album, D'eaux, saw her return to singing in French, the album still reached No. 7 in the UK and sold over 10 million copies worldwide, but its English follow-up Falling Into You proved to be an even bigger hit, shifting over 32 million copies worldwide. For context, that puts in in the same territory as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's, Adele's 21 and The Eagles' Hotel California. Several of the albums tracks became hits, including a powerful rendition of Eric Carmen's 'All By Myself' and Phil Spector classic 'River Deep, Mountain High', but perhaps the biggest hit of all was 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now'. Written by Jim Steinman, best known as the man behind Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell, the song is an all-guns-blazing power ballad – complete with thunderclaps – that showcases the sheer power of Dion's vocals.

 


'Ashes'

Dion's hot-streak on the album sales front continued largely uninterrupted through the rest of the 90s and the 2000s, and we could have picked any number of songs from that era to end on here - not least the towering 'My Heart Will Go On', famously featured on the soundtrack to James Cameron's 90s blockbuster Titanic - but instead we've chosen something a little more recent. Recorded for the soundtrack of foul-mouthed superhero sequel Deadpool 2, 'Ashes' sees Dion doing what she does best with a huge showstopper of a tune. But we'd be lying if we said that we included on our list for any other reason besides Ryan Reynolds' hilarious cameo in the video, which you can find below...

 

Courage
Courage Celine Dion

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