October 9, 2012
2004 | #18
Of all Shania Twain’s gifts as a singer-songwriter, her ability to tackle heartbreak may have been the most under-heralded. That side of Twain was well showcased on several standout tracks from The Woman In Me,
but of all the nineteen tracks on the Up! album, there was only one sad song in the bunch. But oh, what a beauty it was.
“It only hurts when I’m breathing
My heart only breaks when it’s beating
My dreams only die when I’m dreaming
So I hold my breath to forget”
That chorus is a straightforward, yet achingly effective portrayal of the emotional place in which one endeavors to move on after heartbreak, but the pain remains constant, never really going away - You don’t stop hurting until you stop breathing. The melancholy melody and Twain’s evocative almost-quiver of a performance only add to the record’s emotional heft. Such an ideal balance of emotional resonance with elegant simplicity is an example of Twain-Lange song structure at its top-notch best.
It’s a shame this single wasn’t a bigger hit. “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing” aptly demonstrates the fact that Twain’s talents went far beyond delivering catchy pop hooks. Shania Twain truly was a great songwriter, and “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing” is one of her best.
Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Listen: It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing
Next: Party for Two
Previous: When You Kiss Me