Album Review: Shania Twain “Now”

15 years.

It’s been a decade an a half since Shania Twain last released a full-length album. Nearly everything has happened in the time elapsed between then and Now. For one, the music industry collapsed shortly after her third consecutive diamond album, Up!. For another, artists like Taylor Swift have tried and failed to replicate Twain’s genre straddling between country and pop.

Personally, Twain’s life changed drastically. She had a child, who is now in double digits. Her husband and musically collaborator Mutt Lange cheated on and left her for her best friend. Finally, she lost her voice to dysphoria and never thought she’d sing again. But here we are, Now.

It’s important to understand the severity of Twain’s vocal condition before judging her vocal performance on Now. She calls her now-required 90 minutes of warm-ups “demeaning and humiliating”. However, she remains determined to continue her career, and to keep singing and touring.

Life’s About To Get Good

With all that said, Shania does an admirable job unifying her musical avenues. Both Come On Over and Up! released in multiple mixes/arrangements to satisfy the diverse musical palettes of her fans. Now marks Shania’s first album to not be issued with multiple mixes since finding mainstream success. It adds another layer to the challenges she faces with this album. All in all, she overcomes and triumphs.

Lead single “Life’s About To Get Good” sets the tone for the album. It’s fun, resilient, and optimistic, exactly the attitude you want to hear from Shania. While she’s insisted that the album isn’t strictly about her divorce, the subject obviously comes up a few times. First, there was The Chainsmokers-sound-a-like “Poor Me” which was released as a buzz single. The better of the divorce tracks though, is “I’m Alright”. With it’s mid-tempo, descending melody, it’s haunting, moving, and affecting.

Swingin’

Her country roots still shine bright throughout, especially on the rock-infused opening cut, and latest single “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed”. While it feels like it should have received an earlier release (the song opens with “Summer’s here”), it is everything a Shania song should be: pop, but country (with a touch of island-groove), it paints a picture, and it’s got a big hook. It’s a welcomed refresher from the Chainsmokers’-esque “Poor Me”. The polarizing track permeated the summer airwaves and created a now-unjust fear of what Now contained.

Both “Who’s Gonna Be Your Girl” and “Home Now” followed a similar format to “Swingin'”, but recalls earlier Shania-country tracks, with a mindful pop-leaning arrangement of course.

The standard album closes with the somber “Soldier”. The ballad is directed at a soldier that’s been gone too long. Upon listening, it can be interpreted as a call  to a partner or to a literal member of the armed forces. Topically it’s safe to call this Shania’s most country song on the album.

All in all, Shania Twain defies the odds. Between relationship changes, vocal challenges, and a decade and a half away from an ever-changing industry, Shania Twain remains a force. Now is a testament to her status as a cornerstone of crossover country-pop.

Grade:

90/97

 

Listen to Shania Twain’s Now

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