The French-Canadian singer took the stage in a luminous, angelic gown with enormous shoulders, singing the iconic Titanic theme from inside of jellyfish-like cage of hanging crystals. After a flautist played the track’s distinctive, weepy opening riff, Dion commandeered the performance from start to finish. The huge climbs and lung-busting notes in “My Heart Will Go On” have stymied many karaoke singers, but Dion once again demonstrated her impressive vocal range and ending the song with beautiful melismatic run.
After finishing her performance, the singer – who weathered the deaths of both her husband and brother early last year – mouthed “thank you’s” and soaked in the crowd’s applause for close to a minute. “It’s going to be hard to top that moment,” Ludacris declared. Vanessa Hudgens, his co-host, admitted she was “crying.”
Dion’s classic was written by James Horner and Will Jennings. The single – which appeared on the Titanic soundtrack as well as Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love LP – debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1998. The Titanic album spent 16 weeks on top of the Billboard 200, and Let’s Talk About Love has sold more than ten million copies in the U.S., according to the RIAA.
Though “My Heart Will Go On” became a resounding success, that doesn’t mean it is – or was – universally beloved. In a recent Billboard oral history of the single, Dion acknowledged that her most well-known ballad has plenty of detractors, including at least one of the stars in Titanic. “They told me, ‘You know that Kate Winslet said every time she hears the song, she wants to throw up?'” Dion remembered. “And I answered, ‘Thank God she didn’t have to sing it!'”