’90s No. 1s Revisited: “The Power Of Love”
The seventy-seventh No. 1 song of the 1990s was “The Power Of Love” by Celine Dion. This was Dion’s first chart-topper in the United States, following a string of hits dating back to 1990, when “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” peaked at No. 4. She reached the Top 10 twice more, in 1991 with Peabo Bryson on “Beauty And The Beast” (peak: 9) and in 1992 with “If You Asked Me To” (peak: No. 4), both from her underrated eponymous album. She had been particularly successful on the Adult Contemporary chart, where the three aforementioned songs all reached the Top 3, and where she’d scored six additional hits prior to “The Power Of Love” (including “Water From The Moon,” the best song of 1993, a Top 10 hit in her native Canada that got to No. 11 on the AC chart in the U.S., but failed to make it onto the Hot 100). After “Power,” Dion would go on to dominate the AC chart throughout the ’90s and into the ’00s with occasional crossover hits on the Hot 100, including three more No. 1 singles. Her popularity in Top 40 circles waned in the latter half of the ’00s, with her most recent Hot 100 appearance being 2008’s “The Prayer,” a duet with Josh Groban that peaked at No. 70.
Dion is one of the finest singers in the history of recorded music, but her mainstream success in the ’90s was curious to those of us who lived through it. She’s our generation’s Barbra Streisand — an earnest, starry-eyed, romantic, demure and somewhat dorky diva with not a trace of cynicism, irreverence or raunchiness. Despite (or perhaps due to) being very out of sync with the decade’s Gen X attitudes, Dion belted her way to incredible success, becoming a staple on film soundtracks, VH1 and AC radio. And with “Power Of Love,” her most over-the-top exercise in melodrama to date, she seemed to embrace more than ever that her target audience was your mom.
“The Power Of Love,” like several of Dion’s hits, is a remake that’s taken to a different dimension thanks to her original brand of energy and distinguished tone. Prior to Dion’s treatment, Air Supply took it to No. 68 in August 1985, Jennifer Rush to No. 57 in April 1986, and Laura Branigan to No. 27 in January 1988. Dion’s version is objectively superior, as has been the case with pretty much every song she’s adopted as her own.
Let’s revisit “The Power Of Love”:
Dion has countless vocal and artistic gifts, and this track was a perfect vehicle to share those with a broad audience. The song is pretty, with a hooky chorus, and this track is well-produced and, of course, expertly performed by Dion. It’s emotional and builds to an explosive climax, and is generally speaking a stunning piece of recorded music. It’s not for everyone, and not for all occasions, but it’s about as good as stuff like this gets.
Was it dope? Dion has never exactly been a “dope” artist, and in fact her short hair and somewhat Harper’s Bazaar look in this video actually distinguished her, starkly, from doper contemporaries with whom she’d previously been compared, like Mariah Carey. After “Power” she would occasionally appeal to a younger demographic, like with her duet with R. Kelly, “I’m Your Angel,” and of course the love theme from Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On.” But “Power” was an AC track to its roots.
Does it hold up? The song is fundamentally evergreen, and Dion’s video has more than 50 million views on YouTube as of this writing. So it does hold up for some audiences. For people who’d say it doesn’t hold up, this was probably never their cup of tea to begin with.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?