Definitely no longer country, Shania isn't really mainstream anymore either

ALBUM REVIEW: Now, by Shania Twain

Out and About Nashville
By Joseph Brant
September 30, 2017

I’ve listened to the brand new album from Shania Twain, Now, just one time. These are the highlights:

"Who’s Gonna Be Your Girl"
"I’m Alright"
"All In All"
"Life’s About To Get Good"
"Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed"

There are some serious duds, mostly due to their easy, predictable lyrics:

"More Fun"
"You Can’t Buy Love"

The rest are forgettable.

I don’t hate “Poor Me,” but it, along with “I’m Alright,” is a little too maudlin, depressing. Which leads me to theme: I don’t know what this album is about or what it’s trying to say, and to whom. This would’ve been the perfect time for a concept album, similarly to what Miranda Lambert did with her latest. The lyrics for a few of the songs indicate that Shania was interested in excavating the demise of her relationship with Mutt Lange to some degree; “Life’s About to Get Good” and “I’m Alright,” in particular.

The production is way over the top. At times her voice is front and center, and loud, despite instruments playing at maximum volume already. How this music will play live, I can’t imagine. Clearly her vocal was run through a battalion of equipment before it landed on the album.

Two songs especially disappoint because the production suggested good things that the lyrics didn’t deliver. At the opening of both “Home Now” and “We Got Something They Don’t” I thought to myself Okay, here we go! This one sounds like it’s gonna be gooood but it didn’t happen.

And friends, this ain’t country… in the least. At times I heard sounds similar to 1970s Elton John, 80s rock (surprise surprise, though with an entirely new set of producers it kinda is a surprise). The hook of “Home Now” reminds me of an album track from Culture Club. My instinct, and again I’ve only heard this album once, is that this doesn’t fit into the current music marketplace anywhere.

It presents the question: what should we expect from Shania Twain? After a 15 year hiatus, a well-documented divorce and remarriage, Lyme disease and its related vocal struggles, I expected a little more introspection, everything inside “Life’s About to Get Good” but stretched out to span an entire album. Definitely some fun songs, but “You Can’t Buy Fun” doesn’t come close. There is no “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” here, though “Life’s About to Get Good” was aiming for that same energy.

Despite her presence everywhere online, on TV, during the run-up to this release, I think that because there is no single or specific genre attached to the album hurts its chances of success. After 15 years, this is a comeback album so if it doesn’t revolutionize anything then you gotta give the fans something familiar but elevated. That it doesn’t fit in the current (meaning: R&B-infused) mainstream means there is no place for these songs to land.

At radio, which promotion team would take this on?

As for streaming, we’ll know soon enough if listeners respond well enough to build a story.

Shania was, for better or worse, a country trailblazer. By now, “Any Man of Mine” and “Man I Feel Like A Woman” are 90s country classics. “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” remains her most underrated contribution to country as a genre. A shuffle, with fiddles and drums blowing out of the speakers, all cranked up to 11?!  It far surpasses any of the bigger hits as it regards Country Music (except for perhaps “No One Needs to Know”).

This album reminds of the crossover attempts by Lee Ann Womack and Faith Hill. Each  wanted to engage a bigger audience but didn’t really know how to do it. Or perhaps their industry handlers didn’t know how to do it. The best hook on the album comes from “Life’s About to Get Good,” but where can we genuinely expect to hear it other than the grocery store? I’d say the mall but who goes to the mall anymore.