As though life was content to continue proving, “I will shit on everything you love,” Applebee’s use of the unspokenly sacrosanct power ballad that is “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” is a new level of desecration–even when compared to Alan Ruck reviving Cameron Frye for the sake of a Domino’s commercial. As a means to promote “the long-awaited return of All-You-Can-Eat Riblets, a limited-time offer with an almost cult-like following, starting New Year’s Day, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018,” the company has enlisted the help of Celine for their promotion. To boot, “As an added option, Applebee’s lip-smacking, All-You-Can-Eat Riblets are joined this time by All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Tenders – choose whichever protein speaks to your heart!” Yes, Applebee’s is indirectly making reference to the matters of the heart evoked by “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Or rather, the matters of the heart that used to be evoked by it–before the song was prostituted to such unprecedented levels by an “advertising genius.”
Scant on narrative, the thirty-one second commercial features a white woman eating with a barely there older man wearing glasses (her daddy or her sugar daddy?–you be the judge…at how cheap a sugar daddy can be) in a booth at Applebee’s. She is swiftly presented with the now resuscitated menu item of all you can eat riblets. As though to add to her Bridget Jones/obsessed with food/part-time lonely spinster cachet (again, the man dining across from her feels more like a hologram), Celine Dion’s iconic song is cued as the server leaves her with her plate, starting at, “When I touch you like this,” just as she picks up one of the “riblets.” Not quite “All By Myself,” but that could very well be next at this rate thanks to DineEquity (formerly IHOP)–the gaping mouth of a food juggernaut that is the open trough of both IHOP and Applebee’s.
After a close shot of the steaming plate, the camera cuts to the product on the grill (like that’s what Applebee’s actually uses to cook its food). As the “meat” is brushed with sauce, Celine sings, perhaps unbeknownst to her until seeing the commercial, “It’s so hard to believe, but it’s all coming back to me.” What’s truly hard to believe, though, is the lengths of defilement marketing will go to in order to create something that will resonate with viewers. And, evidently, the only people still dining at Applebee’s to resonate with are what Bridget Jones would call “sad FM, easy listening for the over thirties” types, which is precisely why the company felt inclined to invoke the power of Celine. What sick world is this? Is Applebee’s blasphemy some sort of karmic blow just because she dined with Donald and Ivanka Trump back in the day? It still seems too harsh–who wasn’t victim of a photo op with the delusionoid at every turn pre-2016 election? Would that a time before this could literally all come back to me now. But no, all we have is this commercial, an insult to the very fabric of Celine’s poignant artistry as a vocalist. Because hey, these ribs aren’t going to sell themselves. Unless they were more cleverly billed toward women as “Adam’s Ribs–take back your power.”