First Hit #1: December 5, 1998
At first glance, R. Kelly and Celine Dion don’t seem like obvious collaborators. Kelly is a renowned horndog, Dion is curiously asexual. But then when you listen to I’m Your Angel you remember that Kelly wrote I Believe I Can Fly, so he’s also an artist that can go directly into the generic uplift category, and that’s definitely where he goes with this song, which is one of those moments of mild inspiration that he can do whenever he wants a hit.
There’s really nothing special about the words of I’m Your Angel, it’s pretty much going for a generalized bit of uplift and is pretty unashamed of it. They even bring out a gospel choir late in the song, to really emphasize that this is supposed to be inspiring. What is interesting is how Dion and Kelly actually work for a duet. Their voices aren’t remotely similar, and that’s why it works. Both know the ins and outs of this kind of general uplift, and they know exactly how to sing an inspiring song. Except, since they have different ideas of how to approach an inspiring song, their voices are decidedly different, whether on the verses where they trade lines and emphasize the differences in their style, or on the chorus where Dion gives a base that Kelly dances around as he harmonizes. It’s an impressive show of how two performers can take distinctly different takes on the same material within the same song. Kelly and Dion work as a duet because they almost sound like they shouldn’t be on the same radio station, let alone the same track. It also gives the song a bit of that extra inspiration that both performers want, they are your angel, whether you like the style of Dion or Kelly. It is more universal, in a way.