’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Because You Loved Me”
The ninety-sixth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion. The track appeared during the critically panned film Up Close & Personal as well as on Dion’s studio album Falling Into You, her best-selling CD ever, even besting the mega-hit soundtrack to Titanic later in the decade. Written by prolific icon Diane Warren, “Because You Loved Me” gave Warren her biggest hit at the time, and Dion the biggest hit of her career to this day, as of this writing. It came in at No. 3 for the year, Dion’s best showing ever on a Billboard Hot 100 year-end tally. So it was very popular.
As the first song to claim the throne after the record-breaking run of “One Sweet Day,” “Because You Loved Me” was, in late March, the first single to ascend to No. 1 in 1996. The year would turn out to be one in which Hip-Hop/R&B and female-driven Rock (think Lilith Fair) became more mainstream than ever before. As Dion sat perched at the top, in fact, below her in the Top 10 were hits by Brandy, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Alanis Morissette and Joan Osborne. Dion’s brand of Adult Contemporary bucked whatever ephemeral trend blew through the ’90s, and this year was no exception.
Dion has a tremendous gift for elevating whatever she chooses to record, as is evident by the sizable number of songs she’s improved through her covers. She delivers “Because You Loved Me” as well as anyone possibly could, but its success was, to us, a bit curious.
Take a few minutes to listen to “Because You Loved Me”:
We adore Celine Dion and Diane Warren and are in awe of their respective talents. But we never liked this song or understood why it was so popular, and still don’t. We can remember, in fact, becoming so sick of hearing this ditty that we jumped for the dial or remote every time we heard it start. Not sure why; there’s nothing especially awful about this track, but neither is there anything especially interesting. Compare it to the follow-up single, “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” which is a masterfully written, exquisitely produced atomic bomb of gorgeous, brilliant Pop/Rock melodrama. Measured against that track, “Because You Love Me” is limp. (“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” peaked at No. 2 and spent five weeks there. No fair!)
Was it dope? When Dion debuted in the U.S. in 1990, she was seen as a Pop artist because Pop leaned very Adult Contemporary at the time. A few years later, she would become known more squarely as an Adult Contemporary artist, not necessarily because her style changed, but because the public’s taste did. But even as an Adult Contemporary artist, she managed to make inroads in the Pop sphere not unlike how, say, an awkward foreign exchange student might sometimes sit at the cool kids’ table because they’re unfamiliar with or unfazed by social protocol. But that kid also was on the Honor Roll; in Dion’s case, her honor roll was the list of Grammy nominees: Falling Into You won Album of the Year in 1997 (for music released in 1996), beating Beck, The Fugees, Smashing Pumpkins at the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.
Does it hold up? Not surprisingly, Dion does include this song in her current concert set list, but outside that context, and perhaps Sirius XM’s Love station, and perhaps a wedding or anniversary party, this track rings as a somewhat dated, bland slice of cheese from the ’90s. The production flairs are dusty, and the track has no edge, sex appeal, lasting influence or discernible impact.
Dopeness: 2 out of 5 Birkenstocks
“Because You Loved Me”
6 weeks at No. 1, starting March 23, 1996
Preceded by: “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Followed by: “Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey
’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?