Country's recently dormant queen returns to her throne -- here's what you need to know
Shania Twain, the best-selling female country artist of all time, returns this week with Now, her first album in 15 years. While across her previous four LPs — which spanned from 1993 to 2002 in release dates — she’s sold more than 100 million albums, we know there’s always a chance (with any artist) that you’re coming to her career, well, now.
Not to worry! EW’s got your cheat sheet on digesting Shania Twain’s epic catalog.
Where to start: Come On Over
With just four albums to Twain’s career, it’s not totally inconceivable that you’d want to rip through each of them as you play catch up. But if you’re looking for the capitol-P Perfect encapsulation of the superstar’s pop- and country-infused musical identity, cue up her 1997 LP, Come On Over.
Home to classic cuts “You’re Still the One,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” the collection has always spurred debate from Music City traditionalists regarding where it falls on the genre divide. Twain refuses to answer to that here, instead liberally dusting her country melodies with super shiny pop production and her Top 40-style hooks with rustic swagger. It worked: Cycling through 12 (!) singles and selling over 40 million copies globally, the album spent 50 non-consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard country albums charts and earned Twain a place in the history books. No other female artist has ever topped that number.
The must-hit singles
Once, we ranked all 37 of Twain’s (then) singles — and while we found that the majority stand the test of time, you can narrow the list to just a handful for a full snapshot of her musical and lyrical identity:
“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” (1995)
Twain found her first country radio hit with the jangling, jealousy-soaked tune. Later releases skewed more pop — and enjoyed swaths of glossy production — but hearing where that voice, a wafting alto, over more understated instrumentation is a real treat.
“Man! I Feel Like A Woman” (1997)
Let’s go, girls! The opening track to Twain’s massive Come On Over LP was the invite heard ’round the world in 1997 as it lined a coquettish attitude with a healthy wink and dripped female empowerment. Twain has, on occasion, admitted that she makes music to sell music, but it’s cuts like these — where the singer’s sheer enjoyment is impossible to miss — that remind us it’s not all business.
“From This Moment On” (1997)
With all the feel-good, boot-stomping fare at our fingertips when it comes to Twain’s catalog, it’s easy to forget about all the emotional nuances the singer’s voice holds. “From This Moment On,” which features support from Bryan White, serves as a swift reminder. Twain has performed this tune on every tour since it was released… so if you’re planning to attend her final run of dates, study up.
“She’s Not Just A Pretty Face” (2003)
Few things have come easy for Twain. From a youth defined by tragedy — growing up in Ontario, Canada, a car accident killed both her mother and stepfather and forced the singer, at just 22, to support her siblings — to a more recent divorce from husband and longtime collaborator Mutt Lange (which was a result of Lange’s affair with her best friend), Twain has had to overcome, time and time again. The stress of her separation, combined with her suffering from Lyme disease, actually led to the singer being diagnosed with dysphonia, a condition that hampers vocal cord control. She had to undergo considerable therapy in order to begin performing again this decade. So while it’s easy to think of her and think of the stiletto-stomping minx who’ll tell any man he’s not up to snuff, the surviving-with-a-smile side she shows in cuts like this one are equally, if not more, important.
“I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” (2002)
There is exactly one singer who can deliver a line like “You’re a fine piece of real estate and I’m gonna get me some land!” and keep a listener from cringing. Throughout her entire career, Twain has always known how much wink to include in a lyric and she never nails that balance more completely than here. (FYI, she ends her assault on the object of her affection with another stunner: “Here’s how it’s gonna be,” she sings, all swagger. “I’m gonna love you and you’re gonna fall in love with me.” Amen.)
The must-see music video
Leopard print has never been the same. Strutting across the Mojave desert with wine-stained lips and matching hat box in hand, Twain burned with playful sensuality — and worked one of the most memorable ensembles of the ’90s.
It’s conceivable that Taylor Swift might not have been able to enjoy her epic, genre-crisscrossing career had Twain not succeeded with it first. The Canadian singer-songwriter never apologized for wanting to top all the charts — and she never cowed to critics who wondered, loudly, with each release if she’d strayed too far in either’s direction. Instead, she said yes to all of her influences — not to mention to plenty of eyebrow-raising duets (Hi, Lionel!) — and won, big time, making exactly the music she wanted to make.