You don’t need to be Inspector Clouseau to discern that much water has passed under the bridge since former Timmins resident Shania Twain changed the face of Country Music in the mid 90’s by collaborating with ace producer/husband Robert `Mutt’ Lange on the release of three albums’ 1993’s `Woman In Me’, 1997’s `Come On Over’ and 2002’s `Up’ which collectively sold over 100 million records.
In the 15 years since `Up’ topped the Billboard Country Music charts, Twain divorced Lange (due to some extra curricular liaisons between Lange and her BFF Marie Anne Thiebauld), married her husband Frederic and then endured an eight-year bout with throat dysphonia after contracting Lyme Disease.
During the same spell, the music industry as Twain once knew it has taken a total backflip. Record sales have been replaced by downloads and streaming. Once the Queen of Country Music crossover, Twain herself has been replaced by the likes of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert which is to be expected when you have been out of the limelight for such a long period of time.
But to Shania’s credit, she had to initiate some form of a comeback. You don’t chalk up three industry-changing records with all the plaudits that go along with it and all the suffering and grief she endured during her divorce from Lange certainly gave her the material to record a new studio record.
And during that comeback, which featured a record-breaking 2015 residency in Las Vegas and a supposed final World Tour, Twain hinted at releasing a new studio release. Now, with another 53-date tour of North America pending (with some pretty exorbitant ticket prices), the pride of Timmins Ontario has finally delivered her long-awaited opus.
A quick check of the song titles makes it pretty clear that the main focus of her creativity is focused on Twain’s bounce back from her divorce from Lange. Tracks like “I’m All Right, “Because Of You”, “Light Of My Life” and her debut single “Life’s About To Get Good” are self-explanatory, her vocal pipes are still strong and as Twain wrote all 16 songs, the lyrical running theme is to be expected.
Yes, she has four separate co-producers; Matthew Koma, Ron Aniells (Bruce Springsteen, Gavin DeGraw), Jack Gosling (Ed Sheeran) and Jacquine King (Kings Of Leon) instead of Lange and that is the problem if you want to compare Now with her previous mega hits. Anyone familiar with Lange’s work with AC/DC (Highway To Hell, Back In Black), Bryan Adam’s “Waking Up The Neighbours” and all of the significant Def Leppard releases know that Lange has a trademark production sound which can’t be replicated.
Twain was just a struggling artist, peddling her first, self-titled release when she met Lange at the 1993 Nashville Country Music Fan Fare. Their liaison not only produced a marriage but also created a new country/rock hybrid sound which Nashville initially didn’t know what to do with. Their first collaboration “Woman In Me” strongly melded Lange’s rock music background with Twain’s country influences which created a brand new music hybrid “Urban Country” which also received U.S support from Garth Brooks.
But because the Twain/Lange sound was so distinctive it would be impossible to replicate once their relationship dissolved. And so, Shania Twain’s recording career was in limbo unless she was prepared to head off in a completely different direction.
Did Shania need to record this record? Career-wise probably not. Her successful Las Vegas residency and subsequent tour proved she has the catalogue to perform a set list of great hits without any new material. But, as a creative artist, she no doubt felt she had a point to proved in writing an entire album on her own terms.
Songs like “You Can’t Buy Love”, “Rollin On The River”, “We Got Something They Don’t” and “Soldier” succeed on their own merits and although there are no powerful statements like “You’re Still The One””, “Man, I Feel Like A Woman” and “Come On Over” evident on this opus, `Now’ is the positive end result of a 15-year old struggle.
Certainly, her fan base is still there, her forthcoming position as a judge on CTV’s new musical competition series, The Launch, joining the likes of Fergie and One Direction’s Ryan Tedder guarantees Twain plenty of exposure and the gate receipts from her forthcoming tour insures they won’t be staging any telethons for her in the near future.