Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

First Hit #1: February 28, 1998

And now, as threatened a couple days ago, the end credits song for an overwrought melodrama about a giant boat. That might be unfair, I haven’t watched Titanic for over a decade – and the fact that I still remember it pretty well should suggest something positive – but even if the film is more nuanced than I remember it’s still the perfect end for an overwrought melodrama about a giant boat. It’s vaguely Celtic, it’s vaguely sad, and it’s definitely big. It’s appropriate to end a three hour film with a song that has a slowly building orchestra and the weight to compete with the giant shipwreck you’ve dedicated the final act to depicting. It’s not a subtle movie, this is not a subtle soundtrack companion, it knows exactly what emotions it wants you to experience and hammers them in there until you can’t help be sad about this tale of star crossed lovers. It’s big, it’s lavishly produced, it has both aged surprisingly well and is pretty old school, almost a callback to big-budget spectacles like those mounted by Cecil B. Demille. Am I talking about the song or the film? Well, they’re one and the same, the song basically condensing the three hours into a little over four minutes and one big-voiced woman from Quebec. Even structurally they are basically the same, starting quiet and intimate – Dion is almost whispering the opening verse – and then building until we get to the final act and its major showpiece of technical wizardry – both in terms of Dion finally unleashing the full force of her voice and the elaborate production that surrounds it.

It might be a bit of emotional button pushing, but it is expertly pushing those buttons, and while it might not work with me I know people in this world that are completely obsessed with the film. That’s why it made billions, it’s why this song was Dion’s biggest hit, it’s why a friend of mine actually still finds the time to regularly watch the film years later. Even if we can recognize the manipulation happening here, if you want it to happen, there are worse ways to do it.

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One Response to Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

  1. RBerman says:

    It’s simply a classy weepie ballad done well, in a classic style. It’s also yet another mid-90s #1 song about bereavement. For some reason I thought the lyrics were by Diane Warren. Nope; by it’s Will Jennings, scribe for Barry Manilow, Joe Cocker, and Steve Winwood. The slowly building arrangement falls in a long line from “I Will Always Love You” to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to “Unchained Melody” to “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” all the way back to the dawn of time. Michael Bolton should take notes.

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