Posts Tagged ‘Shania Twain’

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “You’ve Got a Way”

Friday, March 16th, 2012

1999 | #13

“You’ve Got a Way” is a beautiful showcase of the unique set of gifts Shania Twain brought to the table as a vocalist.

Her detractors often maligned her vocal abilities, dismissing her as a subpar talent, as she did lack the range and power possessed by several of her contemporaries (such as Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood).  Many failed to appreciate the fact that Twain had a strong talent for exuding sincerity in her performances, whichs adds more to a song’s impact than even the highest power notes.

Though having just conquered the world with a succession of hook-heavy pop crossover hits, Twain abruptly changed the rules with “You’ve Got a Way,” instead unplugging with a soft acoustic ballad.  Twain does all of the heavy lifting with her vocal delivery, and does so beautifully – with restraint, and a bit of an emotional quiver.  It’s a perfect fit for a lyric that is a simple, straightforward expression of love and appreciation.

I would recommend steering clear of the gaudy pop remix used in the film Notting Hill, as it interrupts the flow of emotion with unnecessary echo effects, an intrusive beat, and other distractions.  The original country version, however, ranks among Twain’s best work.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  A (country version); B- (remix)

Previous:  Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

Next:  Come On Over

Original country version:

Notting Hill mix:

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

Friday, March 16th, 2012

1999 | #4

Of all the crossover mega-hits from Shania Twain’s wildly successful Come On Over album, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” is arguably the most iconic.

The single was an across-the-board international multi-format smash that ensured Come On Over continued selling like hotcakes, and even helped Twain grab the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy from both the CMA and the ACM.

An insanely catchy, danceable girl power anthem, “Man!” reels the listener in quickly and easily.  The distinct, easily recorgnizable synth hook ensures that the song will stay stuck in your head for days after only a few listens.  It’s the kind of song that you just fall in love with, and then get tired of, only to go right back to loving it in a short while.  The hilarious, eye-popping music video – a gender-flipped parody of Robert Palmer’s classic clip “Addicted to Love,” is every bit as memorable.

But perhaps the biggest reason why the song has held up so well over time is that, of all Shania’s memorably up-tempo romps, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” is one that captures her infectious energy and priceless personality most effectively, right from the opening call of “Let’s go, girls!”  Only “Any Man of Mine” rivals it in that department.

There’s just no other song that defines her like this one does.  “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” is Shania Twain.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  A

Previous:  That Don’t Impress Me Much

Next:  You’ve Got a Way

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

1998 | Peak: #8

One of the defining aspects of Shania Twain’s music has been her propensity for inspiring women to feel as though they have a right to express themselves.

Her empowering attitude hasn’t been expressed through songs of revenge or violence, but rather, through straightforward, no-nonsense lyrics that simply cut to the point with humor and clever turns of phrase.

With some playfulness, “That Don’t Impress Me Much” follows in this no-nonsense tradition by making it clear that it takes more than a high IQ, good looks or a fancy car to truly impress this woman. Along with the straight talk, we also hear traces of amusement throughout the song, which is one of the signature endearing qualities of Twain’s music.

While the Brad Pitt reference threatens to date this somewhat quirky single, it is catchy, sing-able and one of Twain’s more country-sounding efforts.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Pop Version:

1999 |  Peak: #7 (U.S.); #3 (U.K.); #2 (Australia)

After scoring with two remixed hit ballads, Twain’s first uptempo pop crossover hit required a lot more work under the hood.  While the vocal track remained the same, the backing music is completely reinvented.

The synthesizer-drenched dance mix was dated even in 1999, though it gave the song a campy feel that matched the over-the-top video well.  It also made the song very appealing for international audiences.   It’s not as good as the original mix, but it does lay the groundwork for the ambitious Up! project, which uses synths a lot more effectively. – KJC

Grade: B

Next: Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

Previous: Honey, I’m Home

Country Mix:

Pop Mix:

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Honey, I’m Home”

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

1998 | Peak: #1

Come On Over was such a forward-sounding album that by the time the eleventh track played, it sounded like a dated throwback.

“Honey, I’m Home” is a paint-by-numbers rewrite of the groundbreaking “Any Man of Mine”, deliberately written to placate the fans who discovered her through that song.

That isn’t speculation, mind you.  Twain stated it outright when the album was released.

It isn’t a bad record, by any means.   I’d make the case that it’s actually funnier and a bit catchier than “Any Man of Mine.”  But like any sequel, no amount of improvement can recreate the impact of the original.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: B

Next: That Don’t Impress Me Much

Previous: When

 

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

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “When”

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

1998 | Peak:  #14 (Canada); #18 (U.K.)

The closest thing in Twain’s catalog to a lost hit, “When” was released as the follow up to “You’re Still the One” in the United Kingdom.  Twain even shot a video for the song, which consists mostly of her playing in traffic while dressed like an angel.

“When” has a different tone than most of Come On Over.  As the only song that deals with heartbreak, it’s thematically different from the rest of the set.   The lyrics are just tongue-in-cheek enough to keep her away from self-pity territory, and the melody of the chorus pushes her to one of her best vocal performances.

Because it came before the very big pop hits in the U.K. and after all of them in Canada, “When” has the added bonus of being a Come On Over hit that didn’t suffer from overexposure, making it sound fresher than its counterparts today.

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: B+

Next: Honey, I’m Home

Previous: From This Moment On (with Bryan White)

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “From This Moment On” (with Bryan White)

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

1998 | Peak: #6

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Bryan White was Shania Twain’s first choice for duet partner, and the A-list pairing kept “From This Moment On” on the charts long before it was officially released as a single.

Interestingly, it’s a better showcase for White in its duet form, who turns in some signature licks and makes Twain seem a bit bland in comparison.  However, it also gives the song a bit of a mid-eighties Peter Cetera vibe, which hasn’t held up well over time.

Grade:  B

Pop Version:

1998 |  Peak:  #4 (U.S.); #9 (U.K.); #2 (Australia)

Twain revamped the single for release in the pop market, replacing White’s lines with her own voice and turning it into a potent solo number.  The addition of a Spanish-flavored guitar that borrowed heavily from “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”  gave the ballad added oomph, transforming it into a wedding staple across the world.

Grade: A-

Next: When

Previous: You’re Still the One

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “You’re Still the One”

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

1998 | #1

As the story goes, “You’re Still the One” was inspired by media speculation that Shania Twain’s marriage to Robert John “Mutt” Lange would not last.  Twain and Lange decided to respond to the criticism in song.  The result was a song that would become a monster crossover hit, a staple for weddings and anniversaries for years to come, an instant standard of nineties country and pop music, and one of the songs that would go on to define Twain’s unique and outstanding career.

The song was remixed into a massive international pop hit, and was a major factor in powering the Come On Over album to such staggering sales numbers.  Still, the song is best heard in its original country form for one simple reason:  Any song celebrating an enduring relationship deserves steel guitar backing.

Like many a classic country song, “You’re Still the One” utilizes simple and straightforward lyrics to tap into varying emotions.  “You’re Still the One” is a song of joy, triumph, satisfaction, and most of all, a celebration of endless love.  Though it’s likely a song of personal nature to Twain, it’s constructed in a way that allows any couple to hear the song as their own story set to music.

It’s Twain’s performance, however, that lifts the song into the heavens.  Twain was never known for being a powerhouse vocalist like contemporaries such as Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, and Faith Hill (and was even dismissed as a sub-par vocalist by some detractors).  But “You’re Still the One” demonstrates the fact that Twain brought her own unique set of gifts as a vocalist.  She invests deep shades of emotions into her lower register throughout her hushed delivery of the opening verses.  Two choruses and one steel guitar solo later, she lets her voice rise as if releasing every ounce of the deep love and triumph that was previously conveyed understatedly.  Such a layered dynamic rendering is a fine example of Twain’s formidable, yet often overlooked skills as a vocal interpreter, as well as a testament to everything she got right as a songwriter and vocalist.

Sadly, Twain and Lange’s marriage eventually did dissolve a decade later.  Regardless, the song’s deep impact is untempered.  “You’re Still the One” remains an anthem for any couple who has ‘beaten the odds together,’ with my own parents being one such couple.  Songs become hits, and songs fade into obscurity, but this one has been around for thirteen years, and still shows no signs of ever being forgotten.

Written by Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Grade:  A

Next:  From This Moment On

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

The video below features the International version of the song.  Click here to hear the country radio version.

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

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