The Québécois balladeer’s first English-language album in six years opens with a shock. Recorded in the aftermath of her husband’s death in 2016, Courage is suffused with lyrics about loss and rebirth, themes you’d expect to be bolted to Titanic-sized ballads. But on opener Flying on My Own, those emotions are anchored to a gloriously camp electro-dance stomper, with Dion’s powerhouse voice ricocheting around a squelchy 2010-era beat. The tempo suits her, so it’s a shame that it’s followed by the plodding Lovers Never Die and Dion-by-numbers throat ravager Falling in Love Again. There are little pockets of experimentation elsewhere, most notably in the strange electronic embellishments that zip around the empowerment anthem Lying Down, and the closing Perfect Goodbye, which pairs restrained vocals with a suite of cascading pianos.
A talented interpreter, Dion comes unstuck when she can’t overcome the source material. On Baby she sounds exactly like the song’s co-writer, Sia, while any emotion in a suite of vintage soul ballads is crushed by Dion’s vocal athleticism. She’s on safer ground on the lilting Say Yes, a spacious, guitar-assisted highlight that communicates Courage’s key theme: catharsis.