’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I’m Your Angel”
The one hundred twenty-sixth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I’m Your Angel” by R. Kelly and Celine Dion. This track is notable for being the first to top the Billboard Hot 100 after the magazine finally lifted its ban on airplay-only tracks. The change would help make the chart reflect the true popularity of songs, many of which don’t have the rightful place in music chart history because they were never released as singles.
This track was a somewhat peculiar duet, as the singers had starkly different styles, personas and fan bases, but both were certainly household names by late 1998. Prior to “I’m Your Angel,” R. Kelly had reached the No. 1 spot four years earlier with “Bump N’ Grind” (1994) while Dion had scored three chart-toppers, “The Power Of Love” (1994), “Because You Loved Me” (1996) and “My Heart Will Go On” (1998). Neither would have a No. 1 hit again, though each would score one more Top 10 — Dion in 1999 with “That’s The Way It Is” (Peak: 6), and Kelly in 2002 with “Ignition (Remix)” (peak: 2). As of this writing, Dion is worth $800 million, and Kelly is incarcerated for reasons you can read about elsewhere.
“I’m Your Angel” is a ballad that’s stylistically similar to R. Kelly’s No. 2 hit “I Believe I Can Fly.” It’s a nonspecific vow to be there for someone.
Let’s take a listen to “I’m Your Angel”:
This is a pleasant-sounding, well-sung song, although the lyrics are confusingly constructed. The first verse is telling us (or someone) to believe in ourselves so that we can climb mountains and cross rivers. Then we’re told that the singers will be near if we need them, “it makes no difference who you are.” Then we’re told that when we’re sad and lonely, the singers will be here for us, but also that “Grace will keep us safe and warm / And I know we will survive.” Huh? Who’s addressing whom here? Is the narrator living or dead? Are they helping me specifically or everyone? Do they also need help? Sure it’s just a song, but establishing a consistent narrative point of view is low-hanging fruit, and R. Kelly’s lyrics are lazy. The track sounds like a bland cash grab, and under more scrutiny it seems even more so.
Does it hold up? This recording’s only hope for longevity would be to become wedding fodder, but R. Kelly is not exactly someone whose voice you want to hear at your wedding. So, no.
Dopeness: 2 out of 5 Birkenstocks
R. Kelly & Celine Dion
“I’m Your Angel”
6 weeks at No. 1, starting Dec. 5, 1998
Preceded by: “Lately,” Divine
Followed by: “Have You Ever?” Brandy
’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?