Posts Tagged ‘Diana Ross’

Retro Single Reviews: Shania Twain, 2004-2012

Monday, April 15th, 2013

After the enormous success of the Up! project, Shania Twain released a top-selling Greatest Hits album in 2004, which spawned three singles.  She then embarked on an extended hiatus before returning in 2011 with a new single and a reality series on The Oprah Winfrey Network.  In this set of retro single reviews, we'll take a look at Twain's six most recent single releases to date.

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“Party for Two” (with Billy Currington or Mark McGrath)
2004
Peak:  #7

The first single from Twain's Greatest Hits package was her last Top 10 country hit to date, but only the second Top 10 hit for her then-up-and-coming duet partner Billy Currington.  The premise is shamelessly silly, as are the spoken word intro and the “You'll be sexy in your socks” line, but Twain and Currington sell it with flair.  Twain delivers her verses with a flirty, playful performance, while Currington renders his with the same laid-back smolder that would become his calling card at country radio.

In the tradition of the Up! album, “Party for Two” was released in both a country and pop mix, with Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath appearing as Twain's duet partner on the latter.  Unfortunately, McGrath's performance lacks the character needed to sell a song of this ilk, and the gaudy pop arrangement has aged poorly in comparison to the country mix, demonstrating that Twain was often at her best when keeping a toe in country waters.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade (Currington version):  B+

Listen:  Party for Two (with Billy Currington)

Grade (McGrath version): B-

Listen:  Party for Two (with Mark McMcGrath)

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“Don't!”
2005
Peak:  #24

The soft, dobro-driven arrangement is the perfect fit for this angst-filled ballad.  Twain performs the song in an emotive almost-whisper of a delivery, while the evocative melody conveys regret and desperation with a tinge of hope.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  A-

Listen:  Don't!

Shania_Twain_I_Aint_No_Quitter

“I Ain't No Quitter”
2005
Peak:  #45

The third and final single from Twain's Greatest Hits fizzled due to lack of promotion.  Quite possibly Twain's countriest single since “No One Needs to Know,” “I Ain't No Quitter” lacks the lyrical cleverness of Twain's best work, but she elevates the song through her fun, laid-back performance.  Likewise, the bouncy, fiddle and steel drenched arrangement is a delight.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  B

Listen:  I Ain't No Quitter

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“Shoes”
2005
Peak:  #29

A rare instance in which Twain worked with a team of co-writers in addition to her then-husband, “Shoes” was written for inclusion on a Desperate Housewives companion album, but the boot-stomping fiddle-laden arrangement would have not have sounded out of place on The Woman In Me.

The lyric draws on a series of humorous double-entendres comparing men to footwear. (“Some make you feel ten feet tall, some make you feel so small, and some you want to leave out in the hall or make you feel like kickin' the wall”)  The concept is pure novelty, but Twain pulls it off brilliantly with a catchy everywoman-sing-along chorus and an in-on-the-joke vocal performance.

Written by Shania Twain, Robert Johnn “Mutt” Lange, Tammy Hyler, Joie Scott, and Kim Tribble

Grade:  B+

Listen:  Shoes

Shania Twain Today is Your Day

“Today Is Your Day”
2011
Peak:  #36

In the wake of Twain and Lange's divorce, “Today Is Your Day” was the first Twain single since the days of her debut album not to be produced by Lange.  Unfortunately, David Foster's production lacks the freshness and restraint of Lange's work, with a clutter of instruments distracting from Twain's performance instead of spotlighting it.

Twain's vocal exudes sincerity, vulnerability, and age-earned wisdom, but struggles to overcome the fact that the lyrics amount to little more than a string of inspirational clichés.  Add some unnecessary vocal processing on top of that, and Twain's comeback single falls greatly short of the event that it should have been.

Written by Shania Twain

Grade:  C+

Listen:  Today Is Your Day

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“Endless Love” (with Lionel Richie)
2012
Peak:  #12 (U.S. Adult Contemporary)

A remake of Richie's classic 1981 hit duet with Diana Ross, from his country duets project Tuskegee.  It starts out on a pleasant note, but gradually devolves into an overwrought shouting match that seems to go on forever as Richie and Twain attempt to force emotion into the song.

Written by Lionel Richie

Grade:  B-

Listen:  Endless Love (with Lionel Richie)

Previous:  It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing

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Single Review: Lionel Richie featuring Shania Twain, “Endless Love”

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Lionel Richie’s new country duets project, set for a March 27 release, sounds like the kind of thing that could either go very right (Jennifer Nettles, “Hello”) or very wrong (Rascal Flatts “Dancing On the Ceiling,” anyone?).  We get a taste of the new project with this re-working of Richie’s classic pop duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,” sung this time as a duet with Shania Twain.

First, the bad news:  It’s too long.  The first three minutes sound lovely, but the song reaches an overdramatic climax that goes on longer than it should.  Also, the pop-flavored backbeat sounds a bit gaudy – You get over it after a few listens, but the single would be better without it.  Still, the biggest problem is swelling production that attempts to lend drama to the performance, but instead beats the listener over the head with needless distraction.  The production problems are mostly confined to the final minute of the song, but they still lessen the song’s impact instead of adding to it.

Now the good news:  Though filling the shoes of Diana Ross is certainly no easy task, Twain acquits herself more than adequately.  Richie for his part still sounds great, but ultimately the star is Twain.  Twain’s performance is colored with a deep sense of longing, recalling the finest love ballads of her own hitmaking heyday, such as “Forever and For Always,” with the two voices melding together beautifully on the harmonies.

The song had so much going in its favor.  It’s extremely irritating that it’s bogged down by production that gets so stupidly loud and over-the-top.  It would have been better if the production had stayed completely out of the way, and given the two vocalists more room to sell the song with their fanstastic performances.  Overall, this is still an enjoyable duet, but considering they spend the latter part of the song just shouting to be heard, it does fall a degree short of reaching its full potential.

Written by Lionel Richie

Grade:  B-

Listen:  Endless Love

Iconic Songs of the Last Decade

Friday, March 6th, 2009

I was listening to The Band’s album Music From Big Pink earlier this week, and something struck me about the song “The Weight.” Trust me, you know the song. It goes a little like this: “I pulled into Nazareth / Was feelin’ about half past dead / I just need some place / where I can lay my head.”  Ring a bell yet? No? Try this:

In the song, The Band, originally consisting of Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Levon Helm, draws from a familiar cast of characters and American mythology to tell a universal story set in the town of Nazareth, PA. First released in 1968, “The Weight” only reached #63 on the U.S. charts, but has since achieved iconic status. It has become an American standard in a way few songs have accomplished. Indeed, Rolling Stone lists it as the 41st greatest song of all time. 

Further cementing its iconic status, check out a very small sample of the artists  – across genres, of all ages – who have covered the song:

  • Van Morrison
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Black Crowes
  • Little Feat
  • Grateful Dead
  • Travis
  • Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Gillian Welch
  • The Staple Singers
  • Joan Osborne
  • John Denver
  • Deana Carter
  • Weezer
  • Lee Ann Womack
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed
  • Diana Ross, the Temptations and the Supremes
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • The Marshall Tucker Band
  • Panic at the Disco
  • Aaron Pritchett

Songs with enduring power like “The Weight” are few and far between, and seem to be even more so nowadays. So tonight’s discussion asks:

What songs of the past decade have enduring power? What songs will we be listening to and hear covers of in the next 50 years?

(more…)

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