In honor of the 2017 American Music Awards, Billboard is counting down the best performances from the awards show’s history. Here is No. 10.
The world was still reeling from the terrorist attacks that had taken the lives of 130 people across six different target locations throughout Paris. But these attacks hit closer to home for the American music industry as 89 lives were lost in a mass shooting at Le Bataclan during a show by American rockers Eagles of Death Metal.
So, it was only fitting for Celine Dion, the foremost French-language chanteuse in America, to take on the responsibility of honoring the lives lost with a musical tribute at the 2015 American Music Awards. The Quebecois native — who made her name as a teen star in the French-speaking world — sang Edith Piaf’s “Hymne à L’Amour” in French.
Just as the Eiffel Tower went dark to mourn Paris, so too did the stage of the AMAs 10 days after the Nov. 13 tragedy. The minimalist stage was characterized by black outfits and low lighting as images of Parisian landmarks were projected on a big screen.
Dion’s powerhouse voice deviated from Piaf’s precise vibrato while easing into the soaring vocal runs demanded of the song. Shots of tear-streaked faces in the crowd were interwoven into the emotionally charged production, aided by an orchestra. There were parts where the veteran songstress went off-key, but that contributed to the emotional intensity of the moment.
However, the superstar’s presence didn’t distract from the gravity of the moment — at one point, Dion turned back at the screen to take in the images of Paris along with the audience. Then she closed out the performance with a sustained note filled with the kind of intensity that was only appropriate for the evening.
Watch the full performance below.
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The 2017 American Music Awards will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.