Céline Dion has done the unthinkable — she has reached her artistic peak, 40 years into her career. With five Grammys, four number-one Billboard singles and two diamond albums, it would seem there is nothing left for Dion to do but rest on her laurels. However, the “Because You Loved Me” singer lets listeners know there is one thing she has not done — bare her soul. On her twelfth English-language studio album “Courage,” she does just this. The past three years for Dion have been tumultuous and transformative. In 2016 she lost both her brother Daniel Dion and her husband and longtime manager, René Angélil, to cancer just days apart. Dion takes her experiences and channels them into the album, crafting her most personal project to date.
On a Facebook Live, Dion said, “I think I went through a lot. And life had given me the tools… to find my inner strength, to find courage and to keep going.”
This strength is evident through every aspect of the album from the production to the lyrics. “Courage” is the most modern and cohesive album from her discography. Numerous producers, including production team The Stereotypes and Jimmy Nape, worked on the album. Despite working with various producers, "Courage" flows seamlessly.
The producers also lend a modern sound to the album. This is most evident with the two opening tracks — “Flying on my Own” and “Lovers Never Die.” The former is an energetic EDM and House influenced song featuring jaunty keys and a pulsating beat drop. “Lovers Never Die” sounds like a trap remix of a James Bond theme with its twinkling keys and dramatic strings. Dion tackles contemporary music trends on “Courage,” and she does so with ease.
Lyrically, the album finds the chanteuse at her most vulnerable. Dion utilizes many other artists as songwriters on “Courage.” Writers such as Skylar Grey, Sam Smith, Sia and Greg Kurstin perfectly capture where the singer is at in her life. Dion has always sung of love and heartbreak, but with “Courage,” the typical subject matter of her lyrics is replaced by intimate and personal songs touching on topics like loss, self-love and empowerment.
The two standout tracks on the album are “Falling in Love Again” and “How Did You Get Here.” “Falling in Love Again” is a tender piano ballad about rediscovering love after the loss of her husband. The opening lines — “When the sun went down on that day / I never thought that love would come back to me” — are some of the most honest in all of her career. There is no ambiguity to these lyrics. Dion is sharing a new side of herself, letting fans into the intimate details of her life.
“How Did You Get Here” is an uptempo doo-wop style song with bouncy piano chords and horns. Lyrically, the song finds Dion expressing her reservations about beginning a new relationship. What truly brings the song together is the gospel-influenced background vocals. They turn a generic throwback song into something with soul and sass.
The album cover of “Courage” shows Dion walking away from a blazing fire seemingly unscathed. This is an accurate representation not only of the album, but of where the singer is in life. She has encountered major changes in her life and career but does not let this hold her back. Instead, she puts her experiences into her art by working with new producers and being more vulnerable than ever before. Such artistic growth at this stage in her career truly takes “Courage.”