Worldwide commercial success
Falling into You (1996), Dion's fourth Anglophone album, presented the singer at the height of her popularity, and showed a further progression of her music. In an attempt to reach a wider audience, the album combined many elements, such as ornate orchestral frills, African chanting and outlandish musical effects.
Additionally, instruments like the violin, Spanish guitar, trombone, the cavaquinho and saxophone created a new sound. The singles encompassed a variety of musical styles.
The title track "Falling into You" and "River Deep, Mountain High" (a Tina Turner cover) made prominent use of percussion instruments; "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (a remake of Jim Steinman's song) and a remake of Eric Carmen's "All by Myself" kept their soft-rock atmosphere, but were combined with the classical sound of the piano; and the number-one single "Because You Loved Me", which was written by Diane Warren, was a maudlin ballad that served as the theme to the 1996 film Up Close & Personal.
Falling into You garnered career-best reviews for Dion. While Dan Leroy wrote that it was not very different from her previous work, and Stephen Holden of The New York Times and Natalie Nichols of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the album was formulaic, other critics, such as Chuck Eddy of Entertainment Weekly, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AMG and Daniel Durchholz, lavished the album as "compelling", "passionate", "stylish", "elegant" and "remarkably well-crafted".
Falling Into You became Dion's most critically and commercially successful album:
it topped the charts in many countries and became one of the best-selling albums of all time. It also won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Album, and the academy's highest honor Album of the Year.
Dion's status on the world stage was further solidified when she was asked to perform "The Power of the Dream" at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. In March 1996, Dion launched the Falling into You Tour in support of her new album, giving concerts around the world for over a year.
Dion followed Falling into You with Let's Talk About Love (1997), which was publicized as its sequel.
The recording process took place in London, New York City, and Los Angeles, and featured a host of special guests, such as Barbra Streisand on "Tell Him"; the Bee Gees on "Immortality"; and world-renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti on "I Hate You Then I Love You".
Other musicians included Carole King, Sir George Martin and Jamaican singer Diana King, who added a reggae tinge to "Treat Her Like a Lady". As the name suggests, the album had the same theme as Dion's preceding albums—"love".
However, emphasis was also placed on "brotherly love" with "Where Is the Love" and "Let's Talk About Love". The most successful single from the album became the classically influenced ballad "MyHeart Will Go On", which was composed by James Horner, and produced by Horner and Walter Afanasieff.
Serving as the love theme for the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic, the song topped the charts across the world, and became Dion's signature song. The singles "My Heart Will Go On" and "Think Twice" made her the only female artist in the UK to have two singles to sell more than a million copies. In support of her album, Dion embarked on the Let's Talk About Love Tour between 1998 and 1999.
Dion ended the 1990s with two more successful albums—the Christmas album These Are Special Times (1998), and the compilation album All the Way… A Decade of Song (1999).On These Are Special Times, Dion became more involved in the writing process.
The album was her most classically influenced yet, with orchestral arrangements found on virtually every track. "I'm Your Angel", a duet with R. Kelly, became Dion's fourth and final U.S. number one single, and another hit single across the world.
All the Way... A Decade of Song drew together her most successful hits coupled with seven new songs, including the lead off single "That's the Way It Is", a cover of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", and "All the Way", a duet with Frank Sinatra.
By the end of the 1990s, Celine Dion had sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, and had won a slew of industry awards.
Her status as one of the biggest divas of contemporary music was further solidified when she was asked to perform on VH1's Divas Live special in 1998, with superstars Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey.
That year she also received two of the highest honors from her home country: "Officer of the Order of Canada for Outstanding Contribution to the World of Contemporary Music" and "Officer of the National Order of Quebec".
A year later she was inducted into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame, and was honoured with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. She also won the Grammy Awards for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" and the most coveted "Record of the Year" for "My Heart Will Go On" (the song won four awards, but two were presented to the songwriters).
Compared to her debut, both the quality and sound of Dion's music had also changed significantly.
The soft-rock influences on her earlier releases were no longer prominent; they were replaced by more soul/adult contemporary styles.
However, the theme of "love" remained in all her releases, and this led to many critics dismissing her work as banal.
In a scathing review of Let's Talk About Love, Rob O'Connor wrote:
“ What never ceases to amaze me is how the trite-est, most cliché-ridden music often takes an assembly-line of lauded music industry professionals to perfect... Sinking ships are what I imagine as this tune ["My Heart Will Go On"] plows onward of four-plus minutes, and this album feels as if it were never to end. Is it no wonder why I have such fears of going to the dentist? ”
Dion was also criticized for some of her remakes and duets. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "All the Way" were described as disastrous and "creepy" by both Allison Stewart of The Chicago Tribune and Erlwine of Allmusic.
Even though she was still praised for her vocal abilities (Elysa Gardner of the L.A. Times called her voice a "technical marvel"), the much-favored vocal restraint heard on her early releases had also waned, and Steve Dollar, in reviewing These Are Special Times, wrote that Dion was a "vocal Olympian for whom there ain't no mountain—or scale—high enough."