Celine Dion’s experimentation on ‘Courage’ is poorly executed

Celine Dion

Courage

Columbia Records · November 15, 2019


Courage is a cultivation of pain yet independence in the wake of tragedy, with Celine Dion’s iconic made-for-ballad vocals, tracked to a variety of tacky instrumentals and synths. As the Canadian singer’s first album since her husband’s death in 2016, the songs explore the grief of losing a loved one and her newfound – albeit sad – independence. Unfortunately, many of the songs indicate a departure from her unique sound in favor of imitating the current genre of mediocre, radio-pop hits.

The album opens with “Flying On My Own”, which is the weakest song on the album. With a chorus made of pulsing synth chords and the same lyric repeated over and over, the message of Dion’s declared independence gets lost in the track’s heavy electronic production. The overproduction isn’t a surprise given David Guetta is a producer of the album, alongside other contemporary pop-hit-makers like Sia, Sam Smith, and Steve Aoki. However, starting with the worst track means the album only improves from there. A few of her later tracks exhibit her world-renowned vocals and frame her thoughtful message in a more tasteful way.

“Falling In Love Again” is the first example of this, where Dion sacrifices the club-like sounds of her first track for a more restrained sound. The understated background instrumentals that leave the emphasis on her smooth voice and hopeful lyrics feel much more like her style.

Immediately following is the album’s far-and-away most exciting moment–the song “Lying Down”. A ballad with many layers of vocals and over-the-stop orchestral string accompaniment, this track’s music is by far the most expressive on the album, with its intensity heightening as the song progresses. Though some may interpret these qualities as corny, they give the song Dion’s quintessential melodrama, reminiscent of hits like “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and “The Power of Love” from the singer’s peak in fame and recognition.

Most of the album’s remaining tracks are pleasant sounding and undoubtedly showcase Dion’s strong voice, but are hard to discern from one another. There are a few exceptions where some tracks start to approach her 90s sound rather than a generic pop ballad, like “Change My Mind”, and more notably, “Nobody’s Watching”. The latter’s chord progression and syncopated beat make it stand apart from the other tracks. It could almost be mistaken for something from one of her older albums, aside from the opening lyric where she weighs in on PC culture, decrying it with “I’ve had it up to here, up to my neck / With everything politically correct”.

Overall, the album doesn’t provide anything new to the artist’s massive body of work, but after fifteen French albums and eleven English ones, introducing a new sound to her discography was a difficult task, if not an impossible one. The album tried something new by experimenting with current pop styles, and despite the risk, Dion’s impressive vocals and personality shined through. However, the album fell flat either due to poor execution or a mismatch of musical style for Dion’s stature, which made this album a disappointment.

Listen to Courage:

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