The icon returns with her first LP in 15 years
Over the course of four albums released between 1993 and 2002, Shania Twain dominated radio charts, destroyed sales records, and busted pre-conceived notions about where pop and country overlap on the Venn diagram of genre. She was a leopard print-clad icon — and a great one at that. She finally returns this week with the triumphant new LP Now, still draped in spots and on the upside of a decade that witnessed major changes to her voice (due to a condition called dysphonia, which she attributes to Lyme disease and stress) and a headline-grabbing divorce from now-ex-husband and longtime producer, Mutt Lange.
The singer has been adamant in the walk-up to this release that Now is not a divorce record. She’s mostly right: While “Poor Me” seemingly alludes to the discovery of Lange’s affair with her best friend, Twain doesn’t spend the album mourning the end of a marriage; instead, the album’s 12 tracks (16 on the deluxe edition) celebrate a woman who, at 52, is finally coming back into her own. Case in point: She wrote every song by herself before enlisting producers like Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen) and Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran) for some studio polish — the ultimate middle finger to every naysayer who credited Lange with her success.
Twain’s newfound hear-me-roar attitude is all over the album. On the heartwarming lead single, “Life’s About to Get Good,” she bids goodbye to old scars: “Life’s about joy/ Life’s about pain/ It’s all about the forgiving and the will to walk away.” On the reggae-inflected album opener “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed,” she sings about chasing her bliss and living for the good times. Elsewhere, the understated “Because Of You” finds Twain — now married to the former husband of the woman Lange was having an affair with — opening up about letting love back into her life. “The most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard,” she sings over just a steady beat and an acoustic pluck, “is you breathing at night.”
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 deeper, 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, too.
“I’m Alright”: A banner ode to keeping your chin up
“Roll Me On The River”: Twain wants to rock out about all the things that make her feel good. Don’t overthink it, just join her.