Shania Twain's Now: What You Need To Know
When Shania Twain released her eponymous debut album in 1993, it's fair to say that its impact wasn't exactly Earth-shattering.The album failed to dent the mainstream charts in the U.S., the UK or even in her native Canada and, despite being a straight-up country record, her debut album peaked at No. 67 on the U.S. Country Chart, doing only a little better back home by reaching No. 28 in its Canadian equivalent. In fact, the only country in which Shania Twain reached the Top 40 in the mainstream charts – just barely - was Norway.
Clearly, the Norwegians had spotted something the rest of the world had missed. Just a decade later, Shania Twain had become the biggest-selling female country music artist of all time, the first female artist – in any genre – to achieve diamond-certified sales on three consecutive albums, and could boast worldwide sales figures in the region of 90 million units, putting her in similar territory to the likes of The Beach Boys and David Bowie. Her partnership with Def Leppard and AC/DC producer John 'Mutt' Lange – whom she married in 1993, and who produced the last three of her four albums – had proved to be an extremely successful one.
However, after the release of her fourth album, 2002's Up!, Twain took a well-deserved break from music after the birth son Eja, a break that unexpectedly turned into a 15-year hiatus. In 2008 it was revealed that her marriage to Lange was over after she discovered he had been having an affair with her best friend, and as if the breakup and subsequent divorce wasn't difficult enough to deal with, it would also later emerge that the singer had contracted lyme disease from a tick bite, an illness that nearly destroyed her vocal cords.
For years, Twain thought she would never be able to sing again, but after a long, hard road to rehabilitation the singer returned to the stage in 2012 for Shania: Still the One, a two-year residency at the Colosseum in Las Vegas. This week her comeback is complete as the singer finally returns with her first new album in a decade and a half. It's called Now, and here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Twain has said in recent months that even while she was unable to sing during some of those intervening years, songwriting had become a kind of therapy that helped her to deal with the issues in her personal life, so while recording didn't begin in earnest until last year, this is an album that has been in gestation for a very long time.
Talk of a new album was beginning to emerge as far back as 2013, but while her two-year Las Vegas residency did slow things down in that respect, by all accounts the string of concerts helped the singer regain her confidence after such a long absence and by 2016 Twain was back in the studio, posting a picture of herself recording last August with the caption: “On a roll...”
Who's producing it?
Understandably, given the circumstances, Shania wanted her new album to move away from everything she had done in the past and wanted to take control of the writing and producing duties herself as far as possible, so the singer made a long list of potential co-producers and gradually whittled it down to a handful of possibilities. Those who survived the cut include Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, James Bay), Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, The Libertines) and Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen), all of whom contribute production to the new album.
Any special guests?
Nope, it's just Shania going it alone here.
What does it sound like?
The first thing to say here is that 15 years is a very long time in pop music, so fans hoping for a new album full of tunes that wouldn't feel out of place on Come On Over might want to revise their expectations a little.
Having spent many years writing new material for the album, the track list weighs in at a reasonably hefty 16 songs, and there's plenty of stylistic range on offer here; 'Swingin' With My Eyes Closed' is a case in point, a song which manages to blend a reggae-infused verse with stomping chorus that perhaps represents the closest thing to the Shania of old on this new record.
Lead-off single 'Life's About To Get Good' is a shamelessly upbeat slice of radio-friendly pop that belies the darker tone present on much of the album; many of the songs address the breakdown of her marriage and on 'Poor Me' - a standout track, for our money - there's a self-awareness to her self-pity (“Poor me this, poor me that...”). Another highlight is the slow, powerful stomp of 'Roll Me To A River', a track that really reveals how much her voice has changed over the last 15 years; deeper, more muscular, but still identifiably Shania.
Does it deliver?
Now is likely to be a bit of a voyage of discovery for longtime fans, but don't worry – there's plenty here that fans of Shania's earlier records should enjoy and even if some of the new album is very different to what you might expect, some of the surprises in store here are sure to be good ones. You can find the video for 'Life's About To Get Good' below...