Love It Or Hate It, 20 Years Later, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” Remains An Undeniable Part Of Pop Culture

Jennifer Still

It’s simultaneously easy to believe it’s been 20 years since the release of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and ridiculously hard given the song’s continued presence in pop culture and our iTunes libraries (don’t be ashamed — we’ve all been there). The track, alternately known as “Love Song From Titanic,” served as the theme song to James Cameron’s three-hour blockbuster film and shot to number one in more than two dozen countries upon its release. It also cemented Dion’s status as a powerhouse pop diva, a journey admittedly already well underway leading up to the song’s release.

Still, while most hit songs are eventually relegated to the annals of nostalgia and easy listening radio stations — Dion’s own “Because You Loved Me,” which appeared on the Up Close & Personal soundtrack back in 1996, is a perfect example of this — ”My Heart Will Go On” remains Dion’s most well-known recording and one which has, for lack of a better term, gone on in popularity nearly two decades later, making babies cry and inducing fuzzy feelings around the world.

That “My Heart Will Go On” has left such a mark on the pop world and in the hearts of hopeless romantics does somewhat defy comprehension. Written by composer James Horner and lyricist Will Jennings, it is one of the best-selling singles of all time — it received more than 60 million audio and video streams in 2016 alone — but not particularly one of the most rewarding. The chorus alone, composed of lyrics like “you’re here, there’s nothing I fear/and I know that my heart will go on” is saccharine and simplistic, almost eyeroll-inducing in its sheer corniness. As love songs go, there’s nothing particularly special about it, but Dion’s impressive vocals coupled with its inclusion in one of the biggest movies of all time has created a powerhouse ballad cataclysm that we seem to have no chance of ever escaping from.

It’s worth noting that haters are far from alone in their disdain for the song. Pretty much everyone involved with “My Heart Will Go On” in particular and Titanic at large wanted nothing to do with it when it was written. James Cameron initially refused to include the track over the movie’s closing credits and Celine Dion didn’t even want to record it but was convinced to do so by her late husband and manager Rene Angelil. Don’t forget that Kate Winslet has even claimed that the song still makes her want to throw up. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but you also can’t blame them.

Of course, as is the case with most artistic endeavors, you can’t please everyone, and 60 million people — the amount that bought copies of either the Titanic soundtrack or Dion’s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love, which also featured “My Heart Will Go On” — can’t be entirely wrong. Neither can the committees and judges behind the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, or Grammy Awards, all of which bestowed statues on Dion and the song back in the late ’90s. Dion herself has even come ‘round to the track’s eternal popularity, including it as the centerpiece of her live shows at The Colosseum at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, where she’ll remain in residence until 2019. So badly do the fans still want to hear the ballad that she was even asked to sing it at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards back in May.

Regardless of its groan- (and in Winslet’s case, vomit-) inducing romance, “My Heart Will Go On” will go down in history as one of the most well-known pop songs ever recorded, and that alone is a pretty impressive feat. It also remains a popular choice for talent show competitors and YouTube cover artists as well as rife meme material. Many fans protest the song’s malignment as one of the worst songs of the ’90s — Rolling Stone places it in seventh place, calling it better than the likes of Hanson’s “MmmBop” but worse than Baha Men’s “Who Let The Dogs Out?” — and defend its merits as a masterpiece of pop music, which, if you’re going by numbers alone, you may have to begrudgingly go along with.

While there’s certainly no accounting for taste, there’s also no denying that “My Heart Will Go On” played a pretty significant role in ’90s pop culture and remains one of the most popular love songs ever released. It’s basically ingrained in the psyches of anyone who was alive in that decade and, love it or hate it — yeah, yeah, you hate it, I know — you probably know all the lyrics and have even sung along once or twice. Don’t worry, I certainly won’t tell.

Jennifer Still

Written by

Writer, editor, professional smartass.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade