Celine Dion – “Loved Me Back To Life”
After releasing and touring “Taking Chances” for nearly two years, Celine Dion went back to Las Vegas to play to delighted fans from across the globe who flew-in in their thousands to worship their favourite singing star. “Taking Chances” would therefore be her last studio material for some considerable time, and save another best of (“My Love: The Essential Collection”) the following year (2008), Celine would next bless us with a full album some six years later in 2013.
Music and the music business had taken another massive stride by then so a new Celine album would have to be fresh and current, whilst losing none of elements that fans and potential newcomers to her music demanded and expected in yet another new decade, the 2010’s. Just how would Celine deal with her first major release after so long and in her fourth decade, particularly after her so far as yet unparalleled success of the 1990’s? This is how she sounded and this is what was produced:
1. Loved Me Back To Life
Sia (Furler), who had become a huge star in the intervening years between Celine albums, was the first songwriter to craft the direction of the new Celine album and what would also be the first taster of this ‘adventurous’ project in its lead single. “Loved Me Back To Life” still retains power vocals, but set against a trippy, guitar laden electro-pop background, thanks to production from Sham & Motesart. “The wait is over” Celine informs us. The ‘wait’ or the expectation of that wait depends on whether you like this kind of song and whether you feel it’s the sort of thing Celine should be recording. “Loved Me Back To Life” reached No.3 on the US dance chart and No.14 on the UK singles chart, her highest since “A New Day Has Come“, eleven years earlier. The song generally mid-charted across the rest of the world, including her home country, where it proved the lowest opener for a lead single since the very beginning of her career.
2. Somebody Loves Somebody
Swedish songwriting and production team Play Production provide the second track and it’s pretty much the same fare, fast-paced, electro-pop with lots of drum machining. Sure, there has to be regeneration and evolution, but to take such drastic action as this seems out of touch with normality. There are times during this song even Celine sounds nervous and questioning of her own self and the path she is now proceeding down. Hmm.
Ne-Yo, who wrote tracks on the previous album, duets now with Celine on “Incredible”, and it’s yet more of the same, although clearly making a good singing combination, Celine’s vocal just does not suit this kind of track and she out-performs her ‘partner’ on many occasions, which doesn’t even merit the titled ‘duet’. It was released as the third single in early 2014 and again, mid-charted in every territory it was released. It failed to chart in the UK and only made No.25 on the US Adult Contemporary chart. Says it all really.
4. Water And A Flame
“Water And A Flame” was written and originally released by Australian singer Daniel Merriweather in 2009. The song was recorded with Adele and featured on his album “Love And War”. It wasn’t a hit, so maybe the thought was that if someone of Celine’s calibre could give her own interpretation of it, it would be much bigger. Wrong. By now this album is sounding very sameo-sameo as each song merges into one, it’s difficult to appreciate anything with the background instrumentation flooding all over the play and this is another track that fails to evoke any interest whatsoever. It was released as the fourth and final single in 2014 but did absolutely nothing to spark new interest in this venture.
Play Production are back with a second helping of “Somebody Loves Somebody”. It’s meant to be a ballad, but it’s not a Celine ballad. Marks must be given, however, for the retro, 60’s feel to this number. It appears ‘they’ now want Celine to be the new Duffy, the way to keep her hip and current is to emulate her peers after years of successful songs of the same ilk like “Mercy” or “Valerie”. There are epic moments and Celine keeps stretching ‘that voice’ but again, this sort of production is totally unbecoming of her and feels embarrassing at times. It was released as the second single in the run up to Christmas 2013 but only charted on the UK ‘airplay’ chart (whatever that is).
6. Save Your Soul
“Save Your Soul” perhaps isn’t so as bad as it starts out, but it is symptomatic of the downward trend of this album. Singer-songwriter-producer Danny Mercer adds his name to the new intake attempting to make Celine2013 sound funky and totally new. The chorus is the best part of this otherwise forgettable number and that’s only because I really like the backing singers “oooh oooh oh”‘s!
7. Didn’t Know Love
Country songwriters Jessi Alexander and Tommy Lee James provide the next track, and hooray, it’s a proper Celine song! Yes. it’s a ballad, but it’s presented in all its simplicity, stripped and with heartfelt words coming from Celine’s voice box. Things are starting to look up. It is still ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ but this is how to do it. Don’t make Celine sound totally ridiculous, produce her sound as it has always been against a natural backdrop without trying too hard. I have hope yet for this album…
8. Thank You
And that hope goes through the roof with “Thank You”. It’s Ne-Yo written and produced again but this is the real deal. Full of atmosphere and tenderness and, more importantly, NOT overproduced! Celine sounds ever more relaxed and confident than when she began this new album. So for that reason, “Thank You” is by far the best track yet and in my opinion, therefore, should of been released commercially as a single in its own right. Thank you Ne-Yo and thank you Celine!
If you want star power, Celine next duets with Mr. Stevie Wonder himself on this re-recording of his 1985 hit! It’s a great partnership and you ‘wonder’ why the two haven’t recorded before. Celine keeps it cool and calm as she lets Stevie work his best parts of the song, while she comes in from behind to join him over each chorus. Perhaps another example of a lost opportunity with certain songs on this album, that is proving more listenable in the second half than the first.
“Thankful” keeps this trend going, a down-tempo number with gospel overtones and harmonies, reminiscent of “New Dawn” from the last album. Film composer and songwriter Andrew Hollander comes up trumps with this song that proves once and for all, Celine is best left when the smallest of production delivers the most outstanding results. Celine can level with Duffy or Amy (Winehouse) if she’s allowed to be Celine, not the other way around.
11. At Seventeen
No Celine album would be complete without a cover, and this album brings us Janis Ian’s 1975 single “At Seventeen”, which Celine delivers with total admiration for the original thanks primarily to Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds’ production. With just a guitar and some simple percussion, Celine’s version of this US chart topper is understated and sublime. Perfection and homage in equal quantities.
12. Always Be Your Girl
Hollander is back for a second track with this piano ballad, which also sees ‘Babyface’ return on production duties, and this feels like it should come from a film soundtrack, about midway, just when the female lead realises or knows she met her man and that she should “Always Be Your Girl”. It may take a little time, but it will happen. I know it will!
13. Unfinished Songs
If you thought the second half of this album couldn’t get much better, how about we end with a Diane Warren song?! You have to go back to 1999 for the last Warren-penned number on a Celine album (“I Want You To Need Me“), so this is not only long overdue but puts, what started out as a very disappointing album, things right. That ‘fresh and happening’ production we kicked off with is back courtesy of producers Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II and Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, but it’s capped and works against Diane’s concept idea for this track. “So you’re thinking it’s ending, but it’s only just begun” Celine opens with. Well it is the end and in so many ways, it’s a shame that things hadn’t begun this way.
As with so many Celine albums, her eleventh English language release took its name from the lead single, “Loved Me Back To Life”. It was released at the beginning of November 2013 and didn’t exactly set the music critic fraternity alight (your reviewer included!) with one noting “there’s nothing here that screams big hit”. Even though the title lead track performed reasonably well, particularly internationally, the album was met with indifferent opinion within her own fanbase. It entered the Canadian chart at No.1, which was hardly surprising, and peaked at No.2 in America and No.3 in the UK, with a top five placing in a further twelve countries globally. But high chart positions were only short lived. “Loved Me Back To Life” fell and disappeared before too long, with the absence of any major single release and (in my opinion) the wrong material used for promotion.
It did gain a Platinum disc in the UK for sales of 350,000 copies and four in her native Canada, one for each of the 80,000 unit levels surpassed. But with just 300,000 sold in the US, the album remains ungraded, the first Celine album to be so since before “Unison“, 23 years earlier. With just 1.5 million sold worldwide, “Loved Me Back To Life” also became Celine’s weakest performing album of her English language career, a worryingly low figure and perhaps a signal that the content of this album was not to everyone’s taste. It would be another six years before she released another full studio album of new material with events in her private life overshadowing much of the intervening period. Still, she attempted something different with “Loved Me Back To Life”, and it depends on whether you approve or otherwise of that decision…?
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