Song: ‘That’s The Way It Is’
Artist: Celine Dion
US chart peak: 6
Release date: November 1, 1999
Writers: Max Martin, Kristian Lundin, Andreas Carlsson
Producers: Max Martin, Kristian Lundin
Quintessential Max moment: The beautifully signposted key change into the final chorus at 2:49
Video synopsis: Jennifer Aniston lookalike let loose in Habitat
For reasons too boring to go into here, the Backstreet Boys’ 1997 single ‘As Long As You Love Me’ was never officially made chart eligible in America (basically it was played on the radio a lot but was never made available on CD (lol) so couldn’t be counted towards the chart). Perhaps the song’s co-creators Martin, and fellow Cheiron Studios employee Kristian Lundin, were miffed at this oversight because two years later they basically recreated its breezy effortlessness on ‘That’s The Way It Is’, the lead single from Celine Dion’s greatest hits collection, ‘All The Way…A Decade Of Song’.
You can almost hear the record label bods listening to the mid-paced moments on the Backstreet Boys’ US debut album and demanding something similar from Martin, a reflection of how swiftly the sound he and his Swedish chums had created had come to dominate the pop landscape. In fact, Martin has often taken earlier song templates and refined or finessed them, which I realise sounds like a flimsy excuse for laziness, but actually if you can repeatedly replicate brilliance – and each new iteration comes up trumps – then that’s close to genius in a way, right? Right.
Released in the midst of Martin’s Backstreet Boys and Britney imperial phase, ‘That’s The Way It Is’ represented firsts for both Martin and Dion. For the former it was an early sign that he was able to move outside of the teen pop world and into the more ‘adult contemporary’ sphere. For the latter it was the first real example of her raising the tempo, while also settling into a more, shall we say, relaxed singing style. For the first two-thirds of the song she glides around the melody like, well, a pop singer, only unleashing the vocal histrionics when necessary, i.e. when that wonderful thud of a key change appears at the 2:49 mark.
Also the song carries a lovely sentiment that we can all relate to: if you’re worried you’re going to die alone, possibly surrounded by cats, then fear not because as long as you believe then at some point love will find you. You will still die, possibly surrounded by cats, but you will be with someone you love. And that’s the way it is.