Monday, May 19, 2003

I’ve fallen in love with Shania Twain all over again. After taking a couple of months off, I returned to Up! last week, and to my shock and awe, found myself loving it even more than before. Now, I recently spent some time with her 1995 breakthrough The Woman In Me, and I like it, some of it. Most of its singles are great; most of the rest isn’t. But I’ll cut Shania some slack – that was the first album she co-wrote with husband (and producer) “Mutt” Lange. Maybe they were still figuring things out. 1998’s Come On Over was an advance (how can you even think of denying the genius that is “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”?). Up!, then, is their quantum leap. As you already know, the album comes in three colors/flavors/versions, red for pop/rock, green for country, and blue for ethno-world fusion dance-pop. Each has its strengths, but the key here isn’t instrumentation, it’s these indestructible tunes. Shania’s not exactly Proust, no, but she generally plays to her strengths (mostly, upbeat Oprah-isms like the title track, and the ABBA-cribbing “C’est La Vie”). And musically, as many before me have pointed out, this is one giant hookfest that must have Max Martin shaking and drooling uncontrollably.

What first attracted me to Shania’s music was/is its sheer weirdness, the way she so shamelessly mixed fiddles and steel guitars with drums taken from Queen records (listen to “Any Man of Mine” and tell me the drums on that track aren’t a direct rip from “We Will Rock You”). She’s of country but not limited by it, and her refusal to play by the Nashville rules is precisely what’s enabled her to become a globe-conquering colossus. Think about it: the last country star to cross over in a worldwide sense was Dolly Parton. And you certainly can’t tell me that Dolly doesn’t have the same kind of barrier-busting nonchalance as Shania – not to mention that during her commercial prime, circa ’78-’83, Dolly had a similar sense for pop hooks wrapped in Nashville production. [This, of course, means that circa 2022, Shania will begin releasing bluegrass records.]

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