Celine Dion’s ‘Courage’ Has Her Believing in Life After Love
The singer’s first English-language album in six years is the sound of a woman overcoming personal loss and getting her groove back
Celine Dion didn’t really have much need for a “comeback.” She is one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, has been hailed as one of the greatest, most versatile voices in history and for years reigned supreme over Las Vegas as its highest-paid act. Not a single wedding or karaoke bar in the world has gotten through an evening without at least one of her songs tearing down the roof, brimming with nostalgia and that signature French-Canadian accented warble.
Dion’s last English-language album, Loved Me Back to Life, was released in 2013. One month later, her husband and manager René Angélil was diagnosed with throat cancer. Two and a half years later, he died, leaving Dion without him for the first time in her career.
Even if Dion didn’t need a comeback, in the years since she re-entered the public eye following Angélil’s passing, she’s been a woman getting her groove back. She found freedom in daring fashion experimentations and relentlessly showcases how naturally, flamboyantly hilarious she is. With Courage, another foray into modern pop from a woman who could effectively sing you Twitter timelines for two hours straight and still make moms everywhere burst into tears, Dion makes you hope she’ll never need to make an actual comeback for as long as we have her.
As with Loved Me Back to Life, Dion has assembled a surprising team of producers and writers to help keep her sound fresh. Sia, Greg Kurstin, Maureen McDonald and Sam Smith are some of the obvious choices. But as we’ve seen from her public persona of late, Dion is full of surprises: EDM superstar David Guetta and Eminem collaborator DJ Khalil are among the crew that help give this album an EDM-pop edge.
Courage aptly opens with single “Flying on My Own,” the first taste of how unique this LP is for the singer. Starting off like any empowering power ballad, the song escalates into a fully wash of clubby drum fills and synths that sound primed for the the laser filled Vegas nightclubs just a stone’s throw away from her for so many years.
Across the LP, the dance-pop moments thrive best when there’s a touch of campiness, which is where Dion’s excellent performance skills shine. The gothic touch of “Lovers Never Die” allows her to sassily brood while “Imperfections” has her showcasing several Top 40 pop trends at once: snap beat, clipped vocal phrasing. On “How Did You Get Here,” she has a Motown soul moment, flexing the heartier end of her range over choir-like harmonies.
As with anything Dion does, the throaty ballads where she flexes her multi-octave mezzo-soprano are the true gems. “The Chase” feels like classic power-ballad Dion while “I Will Be Stronger” is a shining slice of tear-jerking inspiration from the queen of tear-jerking inspiration.
Consider Courage to be Dion’s version of Cher’s Believe: an album that arrived at exactly the right time and proved to a new generation that she’s worth revisiting and recognizing as a diva very capable of keeping up with the times.