ARTIST OF THE MONTH: SHANIA TWAIN | COME ON OVER (1997)
There are very few albums that you can say definitively changed the face of a genre. Shania Twain’s "Come On Over" is one of them. In 1997, "Come On Over" was a massive success, selling over 15 million copies. The album featured twelve singles, most of which managed some form of radio play and a few now iconic music videos. And most importantly for the genre, "Come On Over" is one of the first examples of the country-pop genre to blow up on such a national scale. Twain takes the country music sensibilities of her previous album, "The Woman in Me," and interjects top 40 stylings and arrangements, giving the songs near-pop perfection.
The two songs most people would recognize off the album are its powerhouse singles: “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Both songs are fun, bright, punchy girl power anthems that have become girls' night songs and almost obligatory karaoke jams. The girl power movement flourished in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” is a beautiful jam in that vein. A bright pump-you-up song, “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” is about going out with the girls, having a good time, and just revelling and celebrating in utter femininity. Twain’s lower register is put on fantastic display here, as she belts, charms, and grins her way through the entire song.
“That Don’t Impress Me Much” is a brilliant take down of all the egomaniac men that every woman has had to deal with at some point. Twain’s dismissals are cheesy, but a beautiful kiss-off to puncture egos concisely: “Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt / that don’t impress me much.” The song is light-hearted and fun, as Twain dismisses all her potential suitors with a smile on her face and a laugh in her voice. Both songs also have equally iconic videos, from “Man’s” Robert Palmer riff to the leopard print bonanza of “Impress Me Much.” Though Twain’s biggest songs of the album are arguably these sassy ‘we don’t need men’ songs, "Come On Over" gives her plenty of a chance to show off her softer side. The album features multiple love songs, slower and more tender ballads that would fit on adult contemporary radio or play over the credits of a rom-com. One of them actually did play over the credits of a rom-com: “You’ve Got A Way,” featured in "Notting Hill." That song and others like “From This Moment On” and “You’re Still the One” show just how multifaceted Twain is as a performer and how she manages to sell the hell out of any song or mood.
Similarly, although Shania Twain does not have the voice of Mariah Carey, someone who has one of the best voices in popular music today, she has one of the better voices in pop music. Although she follows the traditional format of containing basically two sorts of songs on this album; slower, more introspective music and more urgent, upbeat pop, unlike many pop artists, she isn't noticeably worse at one any more than the other. In a way, this is typical of the album. Although it has some minor flaws, it doesn't have any major weaknesses. Still, it is so polished and filled with hooks that it's very easy to have in the background and enjoy without really paying much attention to the music or having your attention especially grabbed by it.
The outstanding production and pop songwriting accomplish everything a good pop album should do. Pop is far from my favourite style of music, but this is an album that can be returned to and listened to in its entirety without any real sense that the album is growing repetitive or boring, something that many artists and albums struggle with. While it's still surprising that this was as successful as it was, on listening to these songs, it should not be surprising that this was a worldwide hit. However, given the quality of her albums before and after this, it is surprising that Shania Twain made a record as consistently good and polished as this one. She and her record company also showed strong judgement in putting out some of the best, most catchy tracks from here as singles, which undoubtedly helped this album's success. While many songs would have made good singles, some inevitably stand out. It's not flawless by any means, but this is probably one of the best pop records of the last 20 years and one that it's worth listening to a few songs from, even if you dislike the genre.