I have a dark secret. Okay, it’s not actually that dark and as far as secrets go, it hasn’t been particularly well hidden, but still, here goes… This weekend, I am going to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion in concert. For the eighth time. I have an entire section of my closet dedicated to sparkly Celine concert dresses. My favorite nightgown is an ankle-length T-shirt with Celine’s face on it. “Queen Celine” is by far my most played Spotify playlist, albeit usually on the private setting. Yep, I’m a Celine Dion superfan, and I think it’s finally time to share my truth with the world.
I never, ever thought I would jump on the Celine Dion bandwagon. I complained constantly back when “My Heart Will Go On” was the only song on the radio, and my favorite musicians tend to be angry men like Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan. The turning point came a few years ago when my friend Kyle–already a huge Celine Dion fan–forced me to watch one of her concert DVDs on a lazy Saturday afternoon. “She’s totally ridiculous,” he said, “You’ll love her.” I begrudgingly agreed, on the condition that we could also play Battleship to combat the inevitable boredom. After a few songs, something weird happened: I didn’t even care about the state of my aircraft carrier; I was totally hypnotized by Celine’s stage presence, her charisma, her costumes, her facial expressions, and of course–that voice.
There’s a really big note in a song called, “I Surrender.” Like, it lasts so long that you can actually take a bathroom break when it starts and be back on the couch before it’s over (Kyle has tested this theory). This note is the perfect showcase for Celine’s instrument. Just when you think she couldn’t possibly have any more air in her lungs, her voice gets louder and clearer and soars to the next level. This was the note that made me a Celine Dion fan. About three-quarters of the way through it I turned to Kyle and said, “Wait, those are human vocal cords?” He nodded, but his smug grin said it all: he had just inducted a new member into the cult of Celine.
After that, Celine became our shared obsession. We’d drive around singing “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” at the top of our lungs. We friended other Celine fans on Facebook. We permanently changed our pronunciation of “love” to “luuuuurve.” And we started going to Las Vegas, where Celine has a long-running residency show, every chance we could. If you’ve never been to a Celine Dion concert, let me tell you something: it’s like entering another world. It’s a world of emotional ballads and dramatic gowns and sequins–so many sequins! It’s a two hour escape from reality, which is awesome because you know what? Sometimes reality sucks.
I discovered Celine the year my brother decided to join the Marines. I felt like my world was falling apart, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I’m a really emotional person, but sometimes I have a hard time expressing my emotions. Celine’s world is full of uninhibited, unapologetic, in-your-face emotion. A lot of people find it sappy and annoying, but at that moment in time, it was exactly what I needed. I went to my first Celine concert about a week after my brother left for bootcamp. When Celine sang a French song called “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (translation: “Don’t Leave Me”), I totally teared up. Looking around the auditorium, I could see that everyone else was wiping tears away too. Were we crying because of an emotional rendition of an intense song? Sure, but we were also crying for a thousand different reasons that were personal and meaningful. I was thinking of my brother and the vast sea of uncertainty my life had suddenly become. “Don’t leave me,” I kept thinking. “Please don’t leave me.”
I understand that it’s really uncool to like Celine Dion. There was even an entire book written on the subject, called A Journey To The End Of Taste (way harsh, right?). But honestly, that’s part of the appeal. I certainly have some hipster tendencies (I own a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, you guys), but I get really exhausted trying to keep up with the ever-changing categories of genuinely cool and ironically cool. There’s nothing elite or exclusive about liking Celine’s music–she’s sold more than 200 million albums–and Celine Dion herself is not exactly cool: she’s silly and clumsy and has been known to have random crying fits on “Larry King Live.” And that’s exactly what I love about her. Her lack of self-consciousness is awesome, and it’s refreshing to join a group of millions of other people who like her and her music not because it’s cool or self-referential, but because they just, you know, like it.
The last time we went to see Celine, Kyle and I were only a few rows back from the stage. At one point in the show she came down into the audience and walked right up to us. As our jaws hit the floor, she reached out and grabbed Kyle’s hand, smiling at both of us. Afterwards we slumped back into our seats and agreed that it was the best thing that had ever happened to us in our entire lives.
Who knows what will happen this weekend. But there’s one thing I do know, to borrow a quote from “Titanic”: I’ll never let go, Celine. I’ll never let go.