Music

Celine Dion Is Cool Again And We Are Here For It

The Celine Dionaissance is here.

This month Celine Dion attended her first ever Met Ball. I barely cared about anyone else there, because Celine was freaking out about what a joy it was to attend. She’s singing in the halls, she’s telling reporters about how she’s got her passport in her pocket in case she needed ID to get in, she’s eating a hotdog in her fancy dress on the way home.

The Met Gala is a big deal. This is, after all, an event so exclusive that even Kim Kardashian once barred from attending. The guestlist doesn’t exceed 600 people, and tickets cost as much as $50,000 a pop.

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But it wasn’t the only big pubic appearance Celine’s lined up lately. A few weeks ago, the Billboard Awards started teasing a “big” Celine Dion performance they have planned for their May 21 ceremony. I was hoping that she was going to perform with Drake, which would have made all my dream-couple fantasies come true, but the ‘big news’ was that she was going to perform ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – ya know, the Titanic song, released some 20 years ago?

So why is any of this making news? Why do we still care about Celine Dion? And where did this Celine Dionaissance come from?

Canada’s Sweetheart

To understand Celine’s ‘comeback’, you have to understand that for some people she never really went away. In her native Canada, Dion is a national treasure.

Celine Dion grew up in Quebec, the French-speaking province of Canada, as the youngest child of fourteen. FOURTEEN. Celine freely admits she had an impoverished, but happy, upbringing. Her big break came when producer René Angelil mortgaged his home to fund her first record.

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René would go on to be her manager, and eventually husband. Their wedding was televised on national television in Canada, and they remained married until Angelil’s death in 2016.

Dion hasn’t forgotten her roots — while she got her start performing in French, Celine still sings in both French and English. She was the winning entrant for Switzerland in the 1988 Eurovision Song Competition, performing in French, and her 1995 album D’eux is the best selling French-language album of all time.

But what is it about Celine that made her such a big star? What made René believe in her, the world love her, and what held their attention?

I am asking because I’m not sure, and also because I’m trying to work out how to segue into what is increasingly becoming one woman’s love letter to the lady who sang the Titanic theme.   

Rene And The Believability of Celine

There’s something to be said of the link between Eurovision, Celine, love songs, and her value as a performer.

I remember watching Eurovision for the first time and asking my Dad why Australia doesn’t have something as fun and camp. He said it was because we’re too cynical, and he was probably right. But that’s one of the reasons it’s no surprise to me that Celine got her start on Eurovision — she’s so insanely camp and totally unironic.

By 1999, Celine was at the height of her career, but put it all on hold to be with her husband after his cancer diagnoses. She returned to the world stage in 2002 with Sin City residency A New Day, which ran from 2003-2007 and became the most successful Las Vegas residency show of all time, grossing $385 million.

celina a new day

I realise some of this success is good business — supply and demand, keep them guessing, wanting.

But I also sincerely believe her audience care about her, and believe her pain. They feel her music so keenly, because Celine herself seems to feel so deeply herself. The joy she sings of in ‘A New Day Has Come’, a song about the birth of her son, is touching, because you know she put her career on hold for her family.

So when she furrows her brow and sings about life and love, you wanna reach out and weep into her opened palm, and say “adopt me, Celine”.

When René died last year, she stood vigil by his coffin and greeted mourners as they viewed the body and offered condolences. Stoic, she stood in black with a netted veil hiding her face. It was like something from a movie and yet so totally Celine it was heartbreaking. 

Current Day Celine

This year I sat in a caravan with two of my oldest friends and watched the live recording of A New Day on DVD, for maybe the tenth time.

The show is amazing. Celine has four or five costume changes. There are around 50 dancers whose moves are all the creation of Mia Michaels, the contemporary choreographer made famous by the mid-2000s seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. Which is, what, the most perfectly corny pairing of all time, right? 

There’s a bride who seemingly floats across the stage while Celine belts out My Heart Will Go On with the conviction of a woman who just saw Titanic for the first time, instead of a performer who has sung it at least seven times a week in the last five years alone. She ad-libs with the performers in the dorkiest way possible but without a hint of shame.

Imagine her Met Ball camera-mugging but in a white pant-suit surrounded by dancers prancing to I Drove All Night. She does a tonne of high kicks, and has this weird power stance she settles into when she sings her upbeat songs – like an 80’s metal guitarist soloing, but it’s just… her, singing?

“Celine finishes every show by entering the crowd to give a single red rose to a lucky audience member who immediately breaks down”

But arguably the best part is the crowd. They are enraptured. The camera pans to adoring faces gazing upon their idol. Women weep, men grin lovingly at their partners. Celine finishes every show by entering the crowd to give a single red rose to a lucky audience member who immediately breaks down. It’s completely ridiculous, and goofy, and delightful.

Completely delightful is how you could describe her presence of late, too. There’s the time she did a meet and greet with a couple, and the bloke proposed to his fiancé in front of her, to her total, genuine surprise.  She was on Jimmy Fallon doing impressions, in response to Ariana Grande’s insanely precise impression of Dion herself.

There’s her entire Instagram account – including her heading to the Big Apple in a ‘René Did It First’ t-shirt.

Celine loves love. She loves her children. She loves performing. I don’t think unbridled joy and goofiness will ever not be relevant. Celine Dion tells us she loves her life, and I believe her, I always will.

My heart – it’ll bloody well go on, Celine.

Rebecca Varcoe is a writer and events producer from Melbourne. She makes print humour journal Funny Ha Ha and writes about all kinds of things for a few places online.