We cherish the past, and we look forward to the future, but we live in the now…
Three decades into her storied career as the “top-selling female country artist of all-time,” Shania Twain confidently embraces the moment on her triumphant fifth full-length and first album since 2002, the aptly titled Shania NOW. Assuming the role of sole songwriter for the first time and overseeing production as a co-producer, this is the woman the world knows and loves at her brightest, boldest, and best. This is the singer who rose from poverty in Ontario, Canada to winning five GRAMMY Awards, selling 75 million albums worldwide, earning the title “Queen of Country Pop,” penning the best-selling memoir From This Moment, and achieving an unprecedented three Diamond-certified albums—1995’s 12x-platinum The Woman In Me, 1997’s 20x-platinum Come On Over (the best-selling studio album in Soundscan history by a female artist in any genre), and 2002’s 11x-platinum Up. This is the powerhouse voice behind “You’re Still The One,” “From This Moment On,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “Honey, I’m Home,” “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”, and “Come On Over,” to name a few. This is the fighter who returned from a quietly debilitating eight-year bout with Lyme Disease to headline a show-stopping two-year Las Vegas residency in 2012, launch 2015’s comeback “Rock This Country” tour, and receive a 2016 Billboard Women in Music “Icon Award.”
This is Shania NOW.
“I had to go through a lot in life to get to where I am,” she admits. “I can actually say that I’m home. Optimism is what you hear.”
That attitude drives the music. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Shania assembled what would become these 16 tracks. Splitting sessions between Switzerland, the U.S., England, and the Bahamas, she assumed the role of executive producer and co-produced every song with a handpicked dream team: Ron Aniello, Matthew Koma, Jacquire King, and Jake Gosling. Implementing acoustic instruments like mandolin, banjo, percussion, and guitar, the sonic palette carries what she refers to as “an organic thread” with “a bit of a retro sound,” often veering from roots-y to soulful.
Over this vibrant instrumentation, her songwriting takes center stage.
“I’m a songwriter first,” she exclaims. “That absolutely drives everything. It was a big step toward independence. I pushed myself, knowing it was going to scare me and knowing that I, alone, was responsible for however it turned out. I love collaborating, but I didn’t want any emotional, psychological, or musical influence. The minute you invite somebody into that space, you’re influenced. And then it wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t be pure. This may be the purest work I ever do.”
As a result, Shania holds nothing back. Over sunny countrified guitars and backed by gospel-style harmonies on the first single “Life’s About to Get Good,” the songstress directly addresses her 2008 divorce with a wink and her head up high admitting, “I wasn’t just broken; I was shattered,” before adding, “I’m ready to be loved, and loved the way I should, life’s about to get good.”
“The song started out being about letdown and disappointment,” she admits. “When I was writing it, I was at home looking out at the ocean, and I said to myself, ‘Here I am stuck in this past of negativity, but it’s so beautiful out. I’m not in the mood to write a feeling-sorry-for-myself song.’ Because with all that shit comes all the great things, too. That’s what the song ended up being about. You can’t have the good without the bad.”
That understanding courses through the tracklisting. The handclaps and wailing guitar of opener “Swinging With My Eyes Closed” cooks up idyllic images of summer juxtaposed with the fighting spirit she so naturally flaunts—“I follow like a season not afraid of what I’m feeling.”
“Whether it’s joy or pain, the first thing we do when we experience a feeling is close our eyes,” she continues. “If you watch newborn babies, their eyes aren’t open yet, but they’re waving their fists in front of them. They’re swinging with their eyes closed. This is who we are intrinsically. I’ve often gone through things with my fists forward like, ‘I don’t know if what’s coming is going to be good or bad, but dammit, I’m ready for it’.”
Then, there’s the lilting acoustic guitar and dobro of “Light of My Life,” which evokes the smoky sultry spark of late sixties and early seventies Laurel Canyon as she croons, “Today to you, I’m invisible. Tomorrow, you’ll still be out of reach. Someday, you and I will be possible. We’ll be alone making love on the beach.” Meanwhile, “Who’s Going to Be Your Girl” meditates on the grief of “realizing that you’re not the priority in someone’s life.”
Everything culminates on the epic finale “All In All” where she leaves one final word, “I’m still myself but I’ve changed. Things I always thought were strange aren’t that strange at all, all in all.”
With all the changes, she’s still the one on Shania NOW…
She smiles, “I’ve been gifted with the ability to relate to people through music. That’s my comfort zone. Some people only feel comfortable socializing at work, or in a bar. But when you have music to connect you, it’s a really cool experience. I want people to feel moved by the album. It’s really just an emotional exchange. I hope I can provoke that in a listener.”
– Rick Florino, June 2017