In Random Tracks, I’m reviewing a random hit song from any point in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 going from the chart’s beginning in 1958. If you like what I’m doing, comment and let me know what random Hot 100 hit song you want me to review.
Céline Dion- “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”
PEAK: #2 on October 26, 1996
SONG AT #1 THAT WEEK: Los Del Rio’s “Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix)”
When Jim Steinman had his pop chart peak in the ‘80s, it made sense as to where pop music was in that decade. Pop music in the ‘80s had gotten louder and bombastic that worked alongside Steinman’s grand maximalist style of production. But by the ‘90s, pop music had moved far away from that with Gen X influenced irony and cynicism making Steinman’s campy and melodramatic writing style seem out of place with the big trends of the decade.
Yet that didn’t stop Steinman from netting some big chart success in that decade. His reunion with Meat Loaf netted their biggest hit together with the 1993 #1 “I’d Do Anything For Love (I Won’t Do That)” with its parent album Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell being a major success. In 1995, dance singer Nicki French had a big international hit with her take on the Steinman created Bonnie Tyler 1983 #1 classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (French’s version of “Total Eclipse” peaked in the US at #2. It’s a 5.) The next year, Steinman was able to net one last major pop chart moment with a massive song recorded by the leading pop vocal diva of the era, one that almost managed to overtake the cultural phenomenon of 1996 that was the “Macarena.” And like all of Steinman’s other creations, we got another great song.
“It’s All Coming Back” originated in the late ‘80s from Pandora’s Box, a Steinman assembled girl group, who included the song on the concept album Original Sin. But the song wasn’t a hit at first. Despite its grand production and music video directed by veteran British director Ken Russell, the song was a flop peaking only at #51 in the UK with the Original Sin album going nowhere. Pandora’s Box would dissolve not long after.
Listening to Pandora Box’s version, it sounds pretty good but like a lot of original versions of more well-known versions it feels like something’s missing. For a while, the song lingered around with Steinman holding onto it for a better opportunity. Loaf said “It’s All Coming Back” was meant for Bat Out Of Hell II before it was swapped out for “I’d Do Anything For Love.” He also has said he wanted to record the song but Steinman felt it was better suited for a female artist. That female artist would come eventually when Steinman and his team were brought on to collaborate with Céline Dion on her newest album Falling Into You. Dion was already known for her howling power ballads and worked with such professionals like Diane Warren and David Foster on Falling Into You so it made too much sense that she would call on the Lord of Excess himself to come on to add some theatricality to her ballads.
“It’s All Coming Back” came from Steinman’s desire to write what he called “the most passionate, romantic love song” that he could come up with. Steinman was specifically inspired by the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights, “I was trying to write a song about dead things coming to life. I was trying to write a song about being enslaved and obsessed by love, not just enchanted and happy with it. It was about the dark side of love; about the ability to be resurrected by it.” That inspiration explains a lot about the song. It may sound like a passionate and romantic devotion to love but it’s actually much darker about a woman who gets herself out of a toxic relationship but when she touches him like this and he kisses her like that the rush of their love comes back making it hard to deny their power. Some of these lines are over the top like “It was more than all your laws allow” but it wouldn’t be a Steinman song otherwise.
Even if you could find something objectionable here, it’s hard to do so without getting swept up in its grandeur. Like with “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “It’s All Coming Back” is nothing but a fun musical rollercoaster that doesn’t drag with its long seven-and-a-half-minute run time. You’ll notice that the track for Céline Dion’s version is almost exactly the same as the Pandora’s Box version and yet from a mid-‘90s standpoint it doesn’t sound that dated. Some of Steinman’s typical players are on here including Roy Bittan on piano along with Rory Dodd and Bat Out of Hell producer Todd Rundgren among some of the people singing backup. (Rundgren’s highest-charting single, 1973’s “Hello It’s Me,” peaked at #5. It’s a 7.)
Together, all these people play at their absolute best going back and forth with the tempos especially liking how it slows down going to the chorus with the drums going into a variation of the “Be My Baby” drum pattern. Everything here sounds big from the piano, the drums, the guitar, and the sound effects, are all played as a grand classical style power ballad epic. And as with all vocalists on Jim Steinman creations, Céline Dion brings her all to the song adjusting her voice to the changes in the song staying soft and intimate on the quiet parts to howling on the loud parts and holding her notes when needed. Through her performance, she commits herself to the song managing to sell all the melodrama of Steinman’s lyrics and production.
It also helps that the music video is great too. True to Steinman’s productions, the music video for “It’s All Coming Back” is an elaborate high-budget affair that matches with the theatricality of the song. Veteran music video director Nigel Dick shot “It’s All Coming Back” in the Czech Republic filming it as a horror love short. We start out with Dion’s partner leaving the mansion on a motorcycle during a stormy night before he falls off to his death after a lightning strike. After, we see Dion getting out of bed and walking around the mansion looking back at her relationship with her partner coming back in haunting flashbacks with silhouettes and when looking in the mirror and in various pictures laying around. With the wide shots, Gothic architecture setting, and frantic nature, it’s easy to see the video for “It’s All Coming Back” as a ‘90s version of the “Total Eclipse” video. It doesn’t have the total incoherence that made the “Total Eclipse” video so legendary but it’s still a great entertaining video regardless.
By the time “It’s All Coming Back” had its chart peak, it turned out to be good timing in capitalizing on the success of Falling Into You. The album had originally peaked on the album charts at #2 where it debuted thereafter the album’s release in March 1996, right when its first single, “Because You Loved Me” reached #1. While it didn’t get to the top initially, it kept selling and selling throughout 1996 and by October it finally reached the top staying there for three non-consecutive weeks that month. By the time 1996 was over, Falling Into You was named the #2 album of the year with only Jagged Little Pill selling more. Falling Into You would win the Grammy for Album of the Year soon after defeating Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Odelay, The Score, and the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack which is the kind of travesty that we come to expect with the Recording Academy but it showed that at that moment Céline Dion was the big industry darling. The album also spawned one more power ballad hit, a cover of the Eric Carmen classic “All By Myself.” (Dion’s version of “All By Myself” peaked at #4. It’s a 5. Eric Carmen’s 1975 original “All By Myself” peaked at #2. It’s also a 5.)
Céline Dion would continue her dominance for the rest of the ‘90s but for Jim Steinman, it wound up being the last major hit song he would produce in the US. Steinman still found work but it took him far away from the pop charts though overseas he still produced hits including Boyzone’s “No Matter What” a 1998 UK #1 hit. For the last 25 years of his life, Steinman focused largely on musicals to varying degrees of success. There were also reunions with Meat Loaf working with him on 2006’s Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose and 2016’s Braver Than We Are. Recently, Steinman helmed a musical adaptation of Bat Out Of Hell that premiered in England in 2017 and had a short off-Broadway run in 2019.
The Bat Out of Hell musical turned out to be the last gasp in a truly adventurous career for Steinman who died in April at the age of 74. In his lifetime, Jim Steinman made some truly great music showing pop music at its most indulgent and theatrical. For that, we are forever grateful.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s the similarly theatrical video for the version of “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” that Meat Loaf finally recorded for Bat Out of Hell III as a duet with the Norwegian singer Marion Raven:
And here’s Meat Loaf performing “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” on the 2006 season finale of American Idol with eventual runner-up Katharine McPhee in a truly awkward chemistry lacking duet:
(Katharine McPhee’s highest-charing single, her 2006 “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” cover, peaked at #12.)
BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s Ben Feldman doing a very impressive lip sync to “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” on a 2019 episode of Lip Sync Battle:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” being used in a 2020 ESPN ad advertising the NFL coming back after the COVID-19 pandemic showing various people lip-syncing and singing along to the song:
(DJ Khaled who appears in the ad will eventually appear in The Ones of the ‘10s)
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” being used in a recent Extra Gum commercial showing people coming together again after the pandemic: