That key change from @CelineDion gets us every time. #Titanic20Years
Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" is synonymous with Titanic. You can barely glance at a picture of young Leo DiCaprio without hearing the intro flute playing somewhere in the back of your mind, and that's fantastic! It's fantastic because "My Heart Will Go On," written by James Horner with lyrics by Will Jennings, is an absolute banger of the highest caliber. Some will want to tell you it's a gentle ballad about the concept of enduring love, but do not be deceived. This song slaps. I can't conceive of a musical moment more exciting, more enduring, more responsible for drunken karaoke-screaming in the middle of the night than the dope-ass key change at the end of "My Heart Will Go On." It's just remarkable.
To be fair, "My Heart Will Go On" does start out very gentle. You have the flutes — god, those beautiful, twinkling flutes — piping out a beautiful melody that makes you think of deep water and, I don't know, swirling motes of dust in the sunshine, I guess. They give way to Peak Celine Dion's stunning vibrato:
Every night in my dreams/ I see you/ I feel you/ That is how I know you go on
It's sweet, it's solid, and from a storytelling standpoint, you know it's time to get misty-eyed because Jack is dead and Rose is going to dream about him every night until she croaks. This is the kind of love they make movies about, that they literally made a movie about, and here it is laid out in plain text for you to listen to and cry about. By the time you get to the second verse, the story of love, loss, and longing is firmly grounded in the text and it lulls you into a false sense of security when it comes to this song's banger-ness. "How can this song possibly be on the banger index when I'm weeping?" you ask, through tears. But "My Heart Will Go On" isn't finished with you yet.
Fast forward to exactly three minutes and six seconds into the song. The second chorus has just ended, and if you're watching the official "My Heart Will Go On" music video, Jack and Rose have just kissed on the bow of the ship. It's at this point that the flutes (the flutes!) come back and if you're a quitter you'll think that the song is going to play out. You're wrong as hell. It's time for the key change.
Musically speaking, that bit with the flutes before the last chorus is more than just a bunch of pretty noises. The melody modulates at the end of those measures, paving the way for a jump from the E Major key of the initial verses and chorus to the A-Flat Major key of the song's final act. It sounds horribly technical to describe what happens at the end of "My Heart Will Go On" with a handful of letters, but it's incredible to think that the alphabet can result in such unadulterated ear-magic.
You're here/ There's nothing I fear/ And I know that my heart will/ Go on
Embrace the key change. Live in the key change. Walk with the key change, work out to it, have great sex to it, cook a pork chop, feed some ducks, text your crush! You can do anything when you're listening to the key change in "My Heart Will Go On." There's a moment of real magic that occurs when Celine hits those high notes and the orchestration swells underneath her, and it's the kind of magic you only get when everything in a song is perfectly placed and set in the correct emotional context. If it's not perfect it doesn't work, and you only have to listen to the song once to know in this case it totally works.
Both Titanic and "My Heart Will Go On" turn 20 years old in this year of 2017. That's 20 years since our hearts were first wrenched by the love between Jack and Rose, as well as the pairing of the movie's emotional impact with a key change of momentous musical merit. It's difficult to think of a movie released since that has launched such a powerhouse song. Moulin Rouge's "Come What May" evokes a similar feeling to a lesser degree, as does "Let It Go" from Frozen, but both of those movies are musicals whose songs come from direct character moments (they both have dope key changes though). It's possible that "My Heart Will Go On" and Titanic are a collective unicorn in the world of entertainment, and that's an achievement worth celebrating. Boot up a little Celine on Spotify tonight and bask in the glory of damn good pop music. Enjoy the key change. Embrace the banger.