Photo from celinedion.com
Photo from celinedion.com

Celine Dion's 'Courage' Defines Her New Beginnings

The Titanic singer is back in the spotlight, with a world tour that launched in Quebec City last month—and today with the release of Courage, her first English language album in six years.

In every sense, Courage is a redemptive album, a ‘hello, goodbye’ to René Angélil, her mentor, manager, husband—and deceased father to their two sons.

The epic, 70-plus minute album is nothing if not personal, laced together with songs written by a salon of top songsmiths, and every one of them mirroring the tumultuous turmoil that grief brought with the deaths of her husband, and brother, Daniel, in January of 2016.

As is her way, the funeral for Angélil was done in grandiose fashion, at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montréal, the very same place where, 22 years earlier, the two had been united, for better or for worse, until death do them part.

Ever the professional, she was back on stage several weeks later at the Colosseum in Las Vegas. Since forever it would seem, Dion has been tied to her fans and driven by an unstoppable work ethic.

Three months later, on May 22, she was onstage at the Billboard Music Awards, where she sang The Show Must Go On and was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Icon Award by her son, René-Charles.

That summer, she completed a 28-date tour of Europe and Québec before returning to Las Vegas for another series of performances. Of course, the tour was a spectacle, and every seat sold.

A year later she launched her couture collection of handbags, luggage and accessories, and released the Alan Menken, Tim Rice-penned How Does A Moment Last Forever theme song for Disney's remake of Beauty and the Beast. The year following, Dion took a break from her Vegas residency to tour Europe and the UK with 25 sold-out shows in 15 cities. She broke records across the UK as the highest-grossing artist at each UK venue, according to her publicity.

In May 2018, the song Ashes, from the soundtrack of the Deadpool 2 movie, was released along with the official video, directed by David Leitch, filmed in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace where the singer hosted her Las Vegas residency show. It was a No. 1 hit in Quebec, and on Billboard's Dance Club chart.

In all, Dion has grossed more than a billion US dollars on her shows.

In Canada, she has sold 8.32M albums since 1996, which is when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales data here.

In that time frame, she has sold more albums than anyone else, period. By comparison, that’s 3M more than runner-up Eminem who places 2nd for the most albums sold in Canada.

Her last English language album, 2013’s Loved Me Back to Life, sold 256K copies in Canada, and 2016’s Encore un Soir sold 142K copies.

Global sales are pegged at around 250M copies, according to Sony Music stats.

She has earned five Grammys, two Academy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 20 Juno Awards and 40 Félix Awards.  She remains one of the most sought-after recording artists, receiving the Diamond award at the 2004 World Music Awards recognizing her status as the best-selling female artist of all time. In 2016 the Billboard Music Awards presented her with the lifetime achievement Icon Award. In April, she was named L’Oréal Paris’ newest global spokesperson.

Is she goal-oriented? You bet. She’s her fiercest competitor, and her camp style has made her some kinda cool. On Courage, she has David Guetta, Sia, Sam Smith, and Eminem producer DJ Khalil contributing material. The pool is vast and includes Canadians Stephan Moccio, Liz Rodrigues, Craig McConnell, and Jessica Mitchell (below, the audio for The Chase, penned by Rodriguez, McConnell, and Mitchell).

There are no regrets in the songs she gathered. Like Anne Murray, Dion is not a songwriter and must look to others for songs to sing. She has collected her folio well, with material that mirrors her inner-soul that remains as strong as a lion, for want of a better description.

Two advance reviews, in The Guardian and The Independent, fault the album for its lack of brevity, and overt attempt at hipness. In point of fact, the 20 songs in the ‘deluxe’ edition include more than several songs that present her stripped of the usual Wagnerian production elements and singing in altered keys. As for the album's length, had it been too short, the criticism might have been better suited.

Today’s culture of songs over albums makes her new beginnings a resource-rich songbook for a culture seeking meaning in a world that is ever more confusing and seemingly lacking in cultural icons offering strength, hope and candour. In this respect, Courage masterfully paints a series of miniatures that speak from the heart. It is also a song-set that speaks to women, and the message is 'be strong' and be yourself. She's an inspiration that way.

Courage is a courageous step forward, and very much a kiss to her mentoring husband who lives forever in her heart.

Sales data courtesy of Nielsen SoundScan Canada and worldwide sales data courtesy of Sony Music Canada.

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