ARTIST OF THE MONTH: SHANIA TWAIN | NOW (2017)
It was 15 years since Shania Twain released an album, and the music world has patiently awaited new music from the country legend. "Now," Twain's project proves that some things are worth the wait as the album showcases her talent as both a songwriter and producer. For the first time in her career, Twain served as the sole songwriter on an album. An ambitious task, the singer wrote each of the 16 tracks as well as co-produced alongside Matthew Koma, Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen, Gavin DeGraw), and Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes) and Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones). Her fifth studio album, "Now," also marks the first time since her 1993 self-titled debut that Twain has released a project without the help of producer and ex-husband Mutt Lange.
Her first release following the divorce, "Now," touches upon the betrayal Twain felt nearly a decade ago when Lange left her for her best friend. "Now" is not a divorce album. Instead, it’s a versatile release that encompasses heartache and the happy beginnings of a new relationship and celebrates the struggles and successes of Twain’s life. Some of this joy can be heard on the bombastic album opener “Swingin’ with My Eyes Closed.” An ode to summer, the song’s hand-clapped rhythms, distinct reggae vibe and Twain’s familiar vocals keep the listener intrigued. “Home Now” follows suit and showcases Twain’s folk-rock side. Another triumphant song has Twain looking back on a time when she felt lost from a place of renewed hope. “Spoke my heart when I had the mind to / Lost my way trying to find truth / But I’m home now,” she sings in the opening verse. The atmospheric “Light of My Life” continues this positivity as she hints at her struggles following the divorce but chooses to look at the positives in the situation. “I’ve heard people say that if they could / Do it all over again, they never would / It’s better to have loved someone and lost / Then, to have never loved at all,” she croons.
Well known for her engaging live show, songs like the energetic “Roll Me On the River” will likely excel on tour with bold percussion and Twain’s sultry vocals, while the standout “You Can’t Buy Love” embraces a throwback and soulful feel that brings to mind, Amy Winehouse. Meanwhile, the horn-fused “We Got Something They Don’t” ups the ante with infectious beats, a steamy storyline and Twain’s recognizable country-rock sound. While Twain saw success early on in both the country and pop genres, her vulnerable songwriting best displays her staying power within the country genre. “Poor Me” is one song that demonstrates this brutal honesty. Later, in “I’m Alright,” Twain tries to convince herself she’s okay. “I’m alive; I think I’m gonna be okay,” she sings on the ballad with soaring pedal steel and string accompaniment. With newfound confidence, her first album in over a decade, and a tour approaching, Twain is more than okay.
After a decade away from the spotlight, Shania Twain proves herself relevant on "Now." A woman who suffered a significant loss came back more vital than ever with an album she wrote entirely by herself and with cutting-edge production that reminds the listener exactly why she is the best-selling female country artist of all time. Although, fans will certainly notice how different Twain’s vocals are post-dysphonia. Once an alto with a feathery-high register, she now sings with a more profound, flatter instrument. The album closer, “All in All,” makes the new limitations of her voice apparent, but more often than not, the changes are transfixing. Twain has been through a lot over the years, and the blunt, weathered qualities of her voice only make her anthems about survival more affecting and more potent, especially on tracks like the heartache-filled “Poor Me.” Those who would disparage her for not sounding like the “old Shania” are missing the point of this album — and with songs this good, they’re missing out.