Posts Tagged ‘Robert John “Mutt” Lange’

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

1997 | Peak: #6

Because it was soon overshadowed by a pair of crossover ballads, “Don’t Be Stupid” is something of a Come On Over footnote in North America.

The song has a nice Celtic flavor to it, even if it showcases Twain at her silliest.  Who else would add “Max!” to the bridge’s “Relax!” the second time around?

So it isn’t one of the biggest or best country hits from the album, but it’s fairly entertaining in its original form.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: B

International Release:

2000 | Peak:  #5 (U.K.); #32 (Australia)

At the other end of the album cycle, “Don’t Be Stupid” served as the sixth and final single in Europe and Australia. By this point, Come On Over was one of the best selling albums of all-time in both the U.K. and Australia.  Rather than release it in its international album version – which was just the U.S. remix version anyway – the song was completely reinvented.

Basically, they turned it into “Cotton Eye Joe”, making the original version a little more stupid but a lot more lovable.

Grade: B+

Next: You’re Still the One

Previous: Love Gets Me Every Time

North American Version:

International Version:

 

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Love Gets Me Every Time”

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

1997 | Peak: #1

The top-selling country album of all time, Come On Over, scaled those heights due to unprecedented crossover into the worldwide pop market.

Funny that it launched with an undeniably country lead single, one that couldn’t even be effectively remixed like the rest of the album.

Using the southern phrase, “Gol’ darn gone and done it”, Twain laments that she couldn’t live the single life she’d planned because love always finds her.  It’s kind of a hillbilly “Just My Luck.”

It’s dippy, but it works.  Dippy Twain songs usually do, because she’s infectious and sincere.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: B+

Next: Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)

Previous: God Bless the Child

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “God Bless the Child”

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

1996 | #48

Gospel recordings were becoming all the rage in the nineties, particularly with female artists.

Sometimes it seemed like they just wanted a big showpiece for the CMA awards.  Dolly Parton and Pam Tillis had performed with enormous choirs behind them in 1991 and 1994, respectively.  These were, perhaps, the only times in CMA history that the demographics on stage accurately reflected greater metropolitan Nashville.

In 1996, Shania Twain debuted a revamped version of “God Bless the Child” on the show.  Originally a short a cappella number that closed her breakthrough album, Twain added several verses that touched on a wide range of social problems that impact children.

Twain’s less than powerhouse vocals work in the performance’s favor.   Her restraint keeps the song from becoming overblown.  And in turn, what could have been mawkish remains reasonably thought-provoking and pleasant to the ears.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: B+

Next: Love Gets Me Every Time

Previous: Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore)

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore)”

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

1996 | #28

In the years after the release of Shania’s runaway success of an album The Woman In Me, she largely focused her creative efforts on relentlessly positive upbeat pop-country material, rarely delivering sorrowful country ballads.

But in listening to the ballads included on The Woman In Me, it’s easy to wish that Shania had offered a few more such efforts in following years.  Country heartbreak was not a style that she did often, but it was definitely something that she could do well.

“Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore),” which served as the album’s opening track, heard right before the boot-stomping chords of “Any Man of Mine” took over, is doubtlessly one of the most beautiful lyrics Shania has written.  The song presents a female narrator looking back fondly on the feelings of passion and blissful happiness that she experienced in the early stages her marital relationship, as well as the warmth and comfort of companionship.

But then she finds herself mourning over the deteriorating state of her marriage, lamenting “He may still come home, but I live here alone.  The love that built these walls is gone.”  The only hint of a happy ending comes with the narrator looking hopefully toward the future, thinking “If we could only find that feeling once again… If we could only change the way the story ends.”

The narrator is disappointed, heartbroken, desperate, and yearning, and it all comes through in Shania’s vocal delivery.  “Home” is a fine example of a major trait that made Shania Twain such an outstanding vocalist.  She was rarely one to shoot for McBride-esque power notes, yet she possessed an outstanding ability to inject deep shades of emotion into the most understated performances.  Shania begins the song in a soft, aching delivery, but her tone soon rises to a desperate plea in a true emotional knockout of a performance.

“Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is” was the first single from The Woman In Me to miss the U.S. Top 20 (though it reached #7 in Twain’s native Canada), and it’s a shame that the song is not better remembered.  It would be an understatement to say that it is a hidden gem worth seeking out in Twain’s unique and distinctive catalog.

Don’t let Shania’s pop sensibilities fool you.  This here is classic country music.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  A

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “No One Needs to Know”

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

1996 | #1

Over jaunty acoustic guitar strums, Shania Twain reflectively sings, “Am I dreamin’ or stupid? I think I’ve been hit by Cupid, but no one needs to know right now.”

While that first stanza reasonably acknowledges that something might be amiss, Twain matter-of-factly plows ahead to reveal all the plans that she’s been making regarding the future with the special someone that she’s found, which includes the intimate details of wedding plans, kids and even pets.

The only hitch is that she’s the only one who needs to know right now; the man whose compliance is necessary in order for the plans to materialize doesn’t even need to know now. And if such a presumptuous situation isn’t amusing enough to ponder already, the added layer of the secret fantasies being real enough to keep her from being lonely at night is surely enough to seal the deal.

Written by Twain and her former producer/husband, “Mutt” Lange, this is not a song manufactured by committee, but rather, an example of a pair of songwriters who created a delightfully quirky song that, incidentally, still sounds both refreshing and even organic today thanks to a compelling scenario and a crisp acoustic production.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade:  A

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “You Win My Love”

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

1996 | Peak: #1

What can you say about a #1 country single with the word chassis in the first verse?

This is the only song from her last three studio albums that Twain didn’t have a hand in writing.  That’s not a total surprise, as the “my love is like a car” metaphor is very “Mutt” Lange.  It could’ve been recorded by Def Leppard or Bryan Adams just as easily.

But Twain’s sheer enthusiasm elevates it, and while it was easily the most pop-flavored hit from The Woman in Me, it might be a little too country for even Brad Paisley in 2011.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade: B+

Listen: You Win My Love

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “(If You’re Not in it For Love) I’m Outta Here!”

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

1995 | Peak: #1

Of historical note for two reasons.

First, it established Twain’s affection for the exclamation point, a punctuation mark that she would take to ludicrous extremes in the years to come.

Second, and far more importantly, it firmly established her point of view on relationships.  She’s really just looking for two things: respect and monogamy.

The bare midriffs and the playful videos were just the window dressing.  What Twain was really selling was a distinctively feminist point of view, permanently shifting the perspective that all female country artists would sing and write from in the years to come.

A more careful historian would tally up the number of female victim songs, pre- and post-1995, but really, just check out the catalog of Reba McEntire for a simple case study.

Thanks to this record, victim queens are outta here.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: A

Listen: (If You’re Not in it For Love) I’m Outta Here!

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Any Man of Mine”

Friday, July 29th, 2011

1995 | Peak:  #1

By now, “Any Man of Mine” has become such a familiar Shania classic that it’s easy to take for granted what a bold artistic move it was at the time.

Though feminist viewpoints previously had surfaced in country music at times through the likes of Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells, they were the exception rather than the rule in 1995.  In the early to mid-nineties, it was more common for female artists like Reba to be topping the charts with sad songs that often cast the woman as the victim.

Then here comes Shania with a rousing, fiddle-burning, boot-stomper in which she firmly proclaims that a man should strive to be worthy of his woman’s affections, and that a woman accepts nothing less.  Her point was delivered through clever, witty lyrics that ranged from “Any man of mine’ll say ‘It fits just right’ when last year’s dress is just a little too tight” to “When I’m cookin’ dinner and I burn it black, he better say ‘Mmm, I like it like that.’”

Releasing a song like “Any Man of Mine” had to take some guts.  Shania had already seen her first album flop, and had just previously scored her first significant hit with “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under.”  One could easily understand if she wanted to keep up her newfound momentum, and groom her relationship with country radio by releasing some safe, middle-of-the-road bit of nineties schmaltz.

But she didn’t.  She stayed true to herself, and made a genuine artistic statement of her own.  And what do you know?  It worked!  With “Any Man of Mine,” Shania kicked, turned, and stomp-stomped all the way to the top of the charts, with “Any Man of Mine” becoming her first U.S. number-one hit.  Since then, the tune has deservedly gone on to become one of Shania’s most enduring, best-loved hits.

It’s just so unmistakably Shania.  No wonder this song is so fondly remembered by her fans.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade:  A

Listen:  Any Man of Mine

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

1995 | Peak: #11

It’s fun to imagine the looks on the radio DJs’ faces when they got this one in the mail. That pretty, weird-named lady whose records they’d brushed aside before,  now looking all bizarro-sexy in a red “executive jumpsuit” thing on the cover, and with that song title.

It was a smart introduction to the Shania-Mutt Lange machine, in retrospect. “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” has all the sugary hooks and goofy feminist pluck that would come to define the singer and producer’s joint legacy, but it still sounds more or less like a “normal” country song, an easy little addition to the mid-nineties radio format. Who’d have guessed that as soon the pair got their foot in the door, they’d take over the whole building?

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: A

Listen: Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?

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