Published On: Fri, Sep 29th, 2017

Album Review: Shania Twain – Now

There’s country, and there’s pop, and the Twain shall ever meet…


Now

The biggest-selling female country singer ever, with 85 million album sales behind her, has had a busy 15 years, what with marriage, divorce, motherhood, a voice weakened by illness, Las Vegas residencies, TV stardom and whatnot. To say that Shania Twain’s massive fanbase has eagerly anticipated her first new album since 2002’s Up! is understating the situation.

To an extent, the nature of the music on Now is easily predicted, given Twain’s immense success with country-pop crossover music. What’s she going to do – make a heavy metal album? No, as per her huge-selling 1997 album Come On Over, the basic recipe throughout the 12 songs here is light, summer-flavoured pop music with country elements added to the mix.

Soulful violins and slickly layered backing vocals abound, and the production – a super-clean, precision-engineered job courtesy of no fewer than four console-tweakers – is a thing of genuine beauty.

With all tracks penned by Twain herself, the first number, Swinging With My Eyes Closed, is quite brilliant, with vocal melodies that sink their teeth into your brain and refuse to let go. As a mid-tempo tune it occupies a neutral middle ground that allows Twain’s expert vocal (no sign of any flaws here, despite her earlier troubles) to shine.

Life’s About To Get Good is another enjoyable song, with uplifting chords. While the lyrics may be fluffy, they remain entertaining and that is core to Now – they don’t really bear chin-stroking analysis: hear the stuff once, tap your foot and forget it.

Who’s Gonna Be Your Girl and More Fun are other highly digestible, sing-into-the-hairbrush weekend tunes, although the latter is a touch unconvincing with its tale of a random night on the vino and lines like “We’re gonna hit the street”.

With all this understood, Now does have a darker, more contemplative side. Light Of My Life in particular is practically a torch song, with contemplative vocals in the Goldfrapp and Amy Winehouse mode, although the tension is relieved with a big old radio-friendly chorus.

Roll Me On The River is based on fairly heavy beats along the lines of pop-rockers Imagine Dragons, although at the same time it’s a bit plodding: perhaps big drums should have been avoided. See also Poor Me, a song that isn’t really country at all, despite the odd bit of slide guitar: it’s basically an urban radio tune with a strangely unsatisfying performance from Twain.

Still, they can’t all be bangers, and because Now covers a lot of ground, even the most ungenerous listener is bound to find something to nod along to on this album. I’m Alright is an appealing acoustic ballad in which Twain delivers a few athletic vocal gymnastics which will tick the boxes for younger listeners, while the older readers will no doubt prefer We Got Something

They Don’t, ungrammatically titled for folksy authenticity and the possessor of an amazing, Paul McCartney-esque bass part. The chorus, always the money-shot element of such songs, is an excellent earworm that you’ll be humming all day.

So far, so mixed, but three unusual songs remain. Home Now is a little irritating, with the two words of its title repeated so often that you will probably be hitting the skip button within 10 seconds.While, You Can’t Buy Love echoes the winning Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson combination of Back To Black.

Finally, there’s Has Anybody Seen My Soldier?, which is a maudlin piano ballad, possibly designed to hit that commercially lucrative patriotic spot among the fanbase… who knows?

You’ll probably have some fun with this album: sure, a couple of the songs could do with a little more flavouring, but there’s only one disappointing number and the rest is at the very least enjoyable.

It’s interesting, and perhaps commendable, that Twain hasn’t played it completely safe: she could have made an entire record of harmless pop music and no-one would have complained. Now isn’t far off from that territory, but it’s distant enough to be appreciated.

3/5
Standout tracks: Swinging With My Eyes Closed, We Got Something They Don’t, Life’s About To Get Good

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