On Sunday, Céline Dion will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Titanic in the only way that really matters (outside of Leonardo DiCaprio and I reenacting the “I’m flying!” scene): She will sing “My Heart Will Go On” at the Billboard Music Awards.
And really, we should all be grateful. We should be grateful to hear the song live and in color, that this is just the tip of the iceberg (#LOL) in terms of Titanic anniversary celebrations, and above all we should be grateful to Céline for even showing up. Because, reader, she does not need to.
In all seriousness, she really never even needs to release new music ever again. Céline Dion has given us enough. More than enough. And how dare we ever demand anything from her again.
Since her English-speaking debut back in 1990, Céline Dion has redefined hard work and hustle. After getting her professional start in 1981 as a wee baby teen, girlfriend branched away from her French-speaking roots and went on to dominate North American charts with her ballads, high notes, and knack for knowing which movie themes she should sing. Which, by the way, were songs for Beauty and the Beast, Sleepless in Seattle, Up Close & Personal, and Titanic — all staples of school dances and wedding receptions in the 1990s (as well as today, if we’re talking about the school dances and weddings actually worth going to).
In fact, even after the frenzy surrounding “My Heart Will Go On,” Céline Dion continued to sing and record, landing everything from a collaboration with photographer Anne Geddes to a Las Vegas residency. With age, she’s quite admirably given less and less of a shit about what people think, and has rebranded herself as a fashion icon so integral to our culture that her recent Met Gala appearance and video was a highlight of the night.
I mean, come on. This is ART:
So even if this was the only thing she had ever done, Céline Dion would still owe us absolutely nothing ever again. But for over three decades, she’s poured herself into music that’s helped brand her a Diva™ (a real one! Of the VH1 variety!) as well as elevate her to Streisand-like levels of success. Unlike many of her peers, she sings in both English and French — the latter of which made up the entirety of Encore un soir, the 2016 release she delivered less than a year after the death of her husband. Which is absolutely bananas, since René Angélil was and is the love of her life.
But I (and many of us) don’t know what a world without Céline even sounds like. I’m sure it existed — I think my parents could tell me stories — but it still feels too far away, almost surreal.
And that’s the thing. While she was never alone in what she did — women like Whitney Houston, Thelma Houston, Cher, and Tina Turner all helped set the stage — Céline Dion was better than almost anyone at capitalizing on pop’s ability to articulate feelings in sensational, over-the-top ways. And by consistently delivering jams like “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” or “The Colour of My Love,” she personified the notion of defining romance through bold declarations. Frankly, there was a reason she took the VH1 Divas Live stage back in 1998 alongside Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey: She, like them, made emotions feel important. [Note: VH1 and MTV News are both owned by Viacom.]
Which is to say that she has clearly transcended any need to hustle in the way we expect pop stars to in 2017. Céline isn’t Miley or Harry or Taylor — but she’s also not Streisand or even Bette Midler. Instead, she's in a realm of her own, showing up at the biggest parties of the year and making headlines for eating a motherfucking hot dog in a Versace gown. In fact, over the last year especially, the media has been celebrating the singer even less for her music than for her personality. I mean, even Adele bowed to her — while picking up her own Grammy.
And that’s truly a 2.0 level to be at. Now, since Céline Dion has proved everything musically she’ll really ever have to, all she needs to do is show up and be unapologetically herself. Which is as good as her music, if I’m being honest.
And she knows it, too.