Shania Twain Starter Kit

shania-twainThere were two solo artists who changed the course of country music history in the nineties. The first was Garth Brooks, who ushered in the boom years with his mega-selling albums No Fences and Ropin’ the Wind.  The second was Shania Twain, who permanently altered the female point of view in country music with her mega-selling albums The Woman in Me and Come On Over.

Twain’s debut album was decent enough, with some charming singles like “What Made You Say That” and the Gretchen Peters-penned “Dance With the One That Brought You” being among the highlights. But it was the combination of Twain’s pen and Mutt Lange’s production that made her a superstar.  Throughout her career, she’s been a champion of mutual monogamy and carefree independence. She didn’t protest for women to be treated with equality and respect so much as write from the assumption that no other option had ever existed.

In truth, all three of her self-written albums are essential listening, but if none of the 60 million albums that Twain has sold are in your personal collection, here are some tracks to help you get started:

Ten Essential Tracks

“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”
From the 1995 album The Woman in Me

For all the heat Twain gets for being too pop, it’s hard to imagine anything this country getting played on even country radio today, let alone pop radio.

“Any Man of Mine”
From the 1995 album The Woman in Me

There were two songs from this album that essentially powered it toward becoming the best-selling female country album up until that point.  I’ve always preferred this one over “I’m Outta Here!”

“No One Needs to Know”
From the 1995 album The Woman in Me

A charming record about falling in love but not letting anybody know about it yet. It was the fourth #1 single from the album.

“You’re Still the One”
From the 1997 album Come On Over

Her first big pop hit won her two country Grammys, and was her first of two songs to be nominated for overall Song of the Year.

“That Don’t Impress Me Much”
From the 1997 album Come On Over

Three men are summarily dismissed for putting their looks, their brains, and their car before showing love and affection to Shania Twain. Such men are unlikely to exist in the real world.

“Man! I  Feel Like a Woman!”
From the 1997 album Come On Over

Arguably the most iconic single from Come On Over, it won her another Grammy and was a worldwide hit to boot, helping the album reach international sales in excess of 35 million.

“You’ve Got a Way”
From the 1997 album Come On Over

Shania unplugs with a quiet, acoustic love song.

From the 2002 album Up!

The title track from her epic fourth album is best heard in its country mix, with irresistible banjo and fiddle combos accompanying her frantic performance.

“Forever and For Always”
From the 2002 album Up!

Quite possibly her most beautiful ballad showcased how much she’d grown as a vocalist in the five years between Come On Over and Up!

From the 2002 album Up!

This was the biggest pop hit from this album overseas, and it features a riveting video that skewers the banality of  her own celebrity as it questions society’s focus on materialism. That it was originally intended for her Christmas album is too cool for words.

Two Hidden Treasures

“Amneris’ Letter”
From the 1999 album Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida

Of all the places to find Twain’s finest vocal performance, its home is on the concept album for Aida. Just a piano and Twain singing her heart out.

From the 2002 album Up!

Sure, there are countless witty rave-ups and quite a few heartbreaking ballads that never made it to radio and remained album cuts. But I don’t think there’s a more enjoyable track among her lesser-known songs than this kiss-off anthem that has some “na na na’s” thrown in to boot.


  1. I adore every single one of these songs. I missed the “firsts” discussion a few days ago, but Shania was one of the first artists (if not the first) to introduce me to country music, and I’ll never be ashamed to admit that. “No One Needs to Know” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” are two of my favorites, and I also really love “You Win My Love”…I can still vividly recall that music video.

    Too many other great songs to name.

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Nah’ too. Nice pick. It’s hard to argue with this list.

    I will say that I don’t Shania Twain had nearly the impact that Garth Brooks did, but I’ve always enjoyed her music. I think she took the ‘let’s make it rock and roll and it will sell 10 times better’ concept that Garth already had in place and put a female spin on it. Whether or not that qualifies as impacting the industry is debatable. Razor X and I have been debating this very point over at The 9513 forums.

  3. I think she changed the point of view of females in country music, essentially ending the “victim song” tradition. That, even more than her music, is her real legacy on the country side of things.

  4. Really a good list here. The only song I see missing that would really be a hidden treasure is Dance With the One Who Brought You from her early days as a country singer.

  5. I always loved “You’re still the one”, and my mother, who’s not a country fan, loves “That don’t impress me much.”

  6. It is hard to argue with this list but I would probably swap a few with “Party for Two”, “The Woman In Me”, “Don’t Be Stupid”, “I’m Gonna Getcha Good” or “Love Gets Me Every Time”.

  7. @ Razor X,

    Loretta Lynn did not end the victim pose for female artists in country music – heck, Tammy Wynette was at her peak at the same time. She did release some records that were quasi-feminist statements at the time, but the victim trend continued long after Loretta had come and gone from country radio, right through the big hits of Rosanne Cash and Reba McEntire in the 1980s.

    It was really Twain replacing McEntire as the new standard for how much women could sell that shook everything up. It’s one of the brightest dividing lines in country music history.

  8. I don’t think any of those women sang “victim songs”, though a possible case can be made for “Whoever’s In New England” falling into that category.

  9. In addition to being beautiful Shania could be a regular Mother Theresa for all I know. I just can’t listen to her. Her voice sounds so whiny to me. I may be the only country music fan who owns 7 Lisa Brokop cds and nary a Twain. Saw Lisa at the Bluebird Cafe in January accompanied only by her guitar and she was great. A Canadian like Twain, she has never had a top 40 hit in the U.S. but I love her music.

  10. Ha. Whiney is good in country music.:)

    I like Shania music for what it is. While I think “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” is super country and awesome, I acknowledge that songs like “From This Moment” and “You’re Still the One” falls into light AC.

    I like Lisa Brocop too.

  11. My hidden treasures would include “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is Anymore”, “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”, & “Is There Life After Love.” For all the “She’s too Pop” furor that once raged around Shania, re-listening to “The Woman In Me” album is a revelation. It’s Country, no mistake about it. It’s way more Country than almost anything that Country Radio is playing today. Amazing how time changes one’s perspective.

  12. Love the article I too believe it was Twain that brought about the change for women in country.

    Shania introduced me to country music then my mind was wide open from there. I can honestly say that she has more great songs then not on each of her albums.

    My wedding dance was “Forever and for Always”, boy that is a long song to dance to in heels and a heavy dress, fast too!

    I am looking forward to what she can produce without Mutt. I am totally expecting her to come back in a big way, at least I hope.

  13. I too agree that she permanently changed country music for all female vocalists. I don’t think this was Shania’s intention or anything, I have just assumed it’s because the 90’s country music scene was already changing.

    If you look Reba’s 90’s music you can see that her being the victim songs were getting fewer and fewer as she went through the early 90’s. It doesn’t mean her 80’s songs like “Whoever’s In New England” were bad because many of her 80’s songs are better quality than her 90’s material. But her songs stories were changing.

    Martina McBride and Faith Hill were also on the scene pre-Shania, and you can see that their musical messages about women were different than the majority of female country songs that came before them. The reason for the change was probably because a new generation of women were entering the scene with different views than the women before them. So I don’t think Shania started the women-empowerment movement but I do think she finally made it mainstream for country music women.

  14. I don’t really think that’s true of Martina, particularly post-Shania. There’s the trio of “Whatever You Say”, “Where Would You Be” and “How Far”, but they’re exceptions in a decade-long string of message-oriented songs that have more to do with “Big Messages” (“Blessed”, “Concrete Angel”, “This One’s For The Girls”, “In My Daughter’s Eyes”, “God’s Will”, “Anyway”, “For These Times”, “Ride”, and so on).

  15. I think Reba’s victim songs really peaked during the early nineties, with “Does He Love You” being the worst, but also “It’s Your Call” and “You Lie.” I happen to like all of these songs. It’s just a type of song that went out of fashion.

    Rosanne Cash had some doozies of her own – “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me”, “Second to No One”, and “Blue Moon With Heartache” immediately leap to mind. Again, all great songs.

    I just see it as Garth’s big success made all the guys wear hats and mimic that sound, while Shania’s big success ended the days where expectations for male and female artists were different. Some positive, some negative results for both post-Garth and post-Shania country music.

  16. There was definitely a recalibration of the music made by Martina, Faith and Reba post-Shania, though I agree with Dan that the substance of Martina’s music didn’t change. I think it was more the pop flavor of the production. (She really learned the wrong lessons from Shania’s success in a lot of ways.)

    For me, it’s impossible to imagine Reba singing something like “Strange” or “I’m a Survivor” pre-Shania. And Faith clearly shifted to a more pop style with her third album, which was the first to be released after Twain’s full impact had been made.

  17. I think Martina is a bit of a mixed bag. For every “Where Would You Be” she has other women empowering hits like “Life #9”, “Ashes”, or “Heart Trouble” which convey a more empowered woman who won’t stand for being a victim or at least not in a self-loathing way.

    I will admit that Faith was stretching it a bit as I was soley basing this off her “Take Me As I Am” hit off her duet album.

    On the Reba subject, she was kinda like Martina around that time in the 90’s since she did have those victim type songs but she had “Fancy”, “Is There Life After There”, and “Take It Back” along with some others.

    I’m glad you guys brought up that Martina (post-Shania years) has gone on to have more victim songs, as it’s a bit ironic.

  18. I think Reba’s victim songs really peaked during the early nineties, with “Does He Love You” being the worst, but also “It’s Your Call” and “You Lie.” I happen to like all of these songs. It’s just a type of song that went out of fashion.

    Rosanne Cash had some doozies of her own – “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me”, “Second to No One”, and “Blue Moon With Heartache” immediately leap to mind. Again, all great songs.

    I wouldn’t classify any of these songs as victim songs. If anything, “Does He Love You” and “It’s Your Call” are confrontation songs, while “You Lie” is a song about someone who is in denial about a relationship that is on its last legs. I would classify the Rosanne Cash songs as broken-heart songs, but not victim songs.

    Maybe we’re just not working with the same definition. To me, some of Martina’s songs like “Concrete Angel” are victim songs. Or Jason Michael Carroll’s “Alyssa Lies”. And then there are the doormat songs — one that immediately comes to mind is one from Dolly Parton’s first album for RCA called “The Only Way Out (Is To Walk Over Me)” where the protagonist literally throws herself at her husband’s feet and begs him not to leave her, telling me that he will have to step over her if he does choose to go.

    I also don’t see Shania as some great feminist icon. Her impact on the genre was to shift it (unfortunately)in more of a pop/rock direction, and in the way she used sex appeal in her videos. She had tremendous commercial success, and while most of her songs are fine for what they are, I don’t find the content of any of them to be particularly earth-shattering.

  19. Razor regardless of what you think, I do believe she will go down as on the best female country stars in history. No other woman has yet to entertain the crowds she has and in the way she has.

    She pushed the envelope and I find a lot of people have trouble accepting that!

  20. I think the primary affect of Shania Twain’s influence is in the crisp, nearly crackling sound of her recordings. I wouldn’t call it a change for the better but it was highly influential. Also her retooling (I call it “watering down”) of her music to make it more palatable to non-country audiences

    I don’t think there was anything terribly revolutionary about Shania’s lyrics – they pushed the envelope a little; however, the 1970s were full of very forward lyrics sung by artists as diverse as Loretta Lynn, Connie Cato, Jeannie Pruett, Linda (Hargrove) Bartholemew, Sunday Sharpe and Tammy Wynette. The 80s and 90s saw the likes of Lucinda Williams and Cherly Wheeler long before Shania’s arrival

    Yes, the victim songs lingered on (and the genre today is poorer for their relative absence) but the spread of music in the past was at least as great as it is today. And it was authentically country

  21. Paul, you expressed exactly what I wanted to say. As for the “retooling” or watering down, I always sharply discount the accomplishments of anyone who finds success that way. There’s nothing revolutionary or unique about making a more pop-sounding record so non-country fans will buy it. When someone can achieve Shania-level sales with something that is authentically country, then I will be impressed.

  22. I don’t discount any of Shania Twain’s success. I fully acknowledge that she did make some powerful statements and even pioneered, if not the message, but the overall tone of the delivery of the strong-woman song as Kevin pointed out. I just don’t really agree that any of this has really affected the song selections of any of the women who’ve been mentioned in any major way. Martina was singing ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Life #9’ before Shania hit it big. Faith re-recorded Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of My Heart’, ‘Wild One’ and more of the same kind of themes. Reba was changing toward the modern woman in the early 90s too, particularly with ‘Is There Life Out There’, and even ‘Take It Back’, the wonderful ‘For Herself’ from the It’s Your Call album, among others. So they had all done those themes before – and certainly the generation before them had a few, albeit notably less, from a similar mindset – ‘Don’t Come Home a’Drinkin’ – before Shania’s success.

    I’d also give you that on the heels of her major success, that sort of message has become more and more the norm, especially the youth-driven market of today, but I’m still not sold it was Shania Twain’s success and not mostly the overall shift in society in the past 15-20 years since ‘victim songs’ still dominated.

    I like Jake’s assessment of Shania making it more mainstream, but not really introducing the concept. And maybe that alone can be called artistic impact, but I don’t call it that.

  23. Add:

    Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is Anymore
    You Win My Love
    Love Gets Me Every Time
    I’m Gonna Getcha Good

    and It Only Hurts When I Breathe is pretty good too.

  24. “And what way is that exactly?”

    They way Kenny does now she was doing stadiums before he was, and if you have been to both artist concerts you would know that Shania’s energy and the energy she brings out in the crowd is beyond Chesney.

    Before you say something about Kenny’s performaces,he has been on top for the past four years so no matter your toughts on him it is a fact, and Shania sold out just as many as he did!

  25. They way Kenny does now she was doing stadiums before he was, and if you have been to both artist concerts you would know that Shania’s energy and the energy she brings out in the crowd is beyond Chesney.

    I have seen Shania in concert, and while she put on a good show, it was nothing earth-shattering. As for Chesney, I’d rather be waterboarded than attend one of his concerts; regardless of how many stadiums he’s sold out.

    I don’t discount any of Shania Twain’s success. I fully acknowledge that she did make some powerful statements and even pioneered, if not the message, but the overall tone of the delivery of the strong-woman song as Kevin pointed out.

    What powerful statements did she make?

  26. I have her first album and really like it. It’s enjoyable early 90’s country. “Still Under The Weather” could be considered a hidden treasure from that one. However, The Woman In Me is still my favorite. “Any Man Of Mine” was my introduction to Shania, and I love all the other singles too, like “No One Needs To Know,” “The Woman In Me,” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under.” “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is Anymore,” is also a great track as mentioned by others.

    As for the singles from Come On Over and Up, I disliked most of them when they first came out, but now I find myself enjoying them, as well. Nostalgia? Maybe, but I sure like them better than what’s on radio now. “Forever And For Always” and “You’re Still The One” are a couple of my favorites from her crossover days.

  27. Maybe we need some kind of male empowerment. Because now the men on country seem content to celebrate their ignorant backward lifestyles. We have “Redneck Yacht Club,” “Boots On” “Country Boy” “Country Man” “Chicken Fried,” “She’s Country” and all sorts of similar junk. “Bonfire” too.

    Shania at least had an aura of success around her (even if she sometimes worked at “mundane” jobs). I can respect the image that Shania made for herself, but not the degraded “I’m a hick and I’m proud” image of many of today’s country men.

    Shania didn’t water country down. She strengthened it. Its a shame to see country today appealing to the lowest of the low. We need more pop influence in country, not less. We need less of the redneck stuff. Less Gretchen Wilson. That stuff is detestable compared with Shania.

  28. I love Shania because she makes what she does look easy and it is not. No matter what the critiques are she has sold millions of albums worldwide and is/was(?)the best selling female artist of all-time. That means the people like her music and I believe of course that Mutt Lange is just a genius regarding creating great hooks. I am interested to see where Shania goes post-Mutt, and am pulling for her. It must be hard to lose the professional partnership,(I don’t know anything about her personal life)…

    “We” (loosely speaking) are so interested in categorizations and containments–one thing I’ve seen is that a lot of people enjoy Shania’s music and she delivers it in a unique, personable, and entertaining way. I hope whatever she does next, in terms of music is always and forever from her heart from this moment on. ;)

    Personally, I’ve had many moments of being lifted by Shania especially during her Chicago concert in 2003. Whatever she’s doing works. ($300 million plus can’t be all that bad either…)Shania = success. Up! Up! Up!

  29. The one thing I really appreciate about Shania’s big three albums (“Woman in Me,” “Come on Over” and “Up!!”) is that they feel authentic. Regardless of whether the aesthetic is too pop or the lyrics simplistic, there’s an honesty to be found in all of them. I feel like I’m really hearing Shania Twain’s thoughts and feelings and experiences.

    Because of that, most of the arrangements work because they feel like the right fit for the song. I really enjoyed the “Up!!” album’s three different mixes, showing how she could take the same song and present it three different ways. I figure, Willie’s been re-recording and re-arranging his songs for decades now, and each time I find something new so there’s no reason Shania shouldn’t have presented three mixes of the same album.

    Yes, her music videos were intended to make her a sex symbol, which seems contrary to any feminist ideals. But as with anything else, I think context is important. Shania Twain essentially made it okay for women in country music to be sexy, to have fun…and not apologize for any of it. The rest of the music world had already embraced that notion, but country women were still expected to be somewhat chaste and forlorn. Tanya Tucker broke some ground against those rules in her rebellious youth, but it wasn’t until Shania Twain that other women began to follow that trail.

    Yes, this meant years of labels signing any girl they thought they could put in a music video and sell records, but it has also led to a sort of liberation of womanhood within the genre that we’re still seeing evolve.

  30. anybody who doesnt think shania twain changed country music is nuts! not only was she the first female(that i know of) to broaden her horizons and sell to the pop crowd too, but she DEFINENTLY made it okay to dress sexier too! she is without a doubt the madonna of country music! on vh1, they said that shania took country music out of the barnyard and put it in the stripclub and they were absolutely right.its always been “in” to wear hot pants and show cleavage and your stomach in pop, rock,and hip hop. country-not so much. that is, until shania changed things and after that, faith hill and everybody else started showing more skin! remember faith hills “breathe” video? well, you can thank shania for that! SHANIA TWAIN ABSOLUTELY CHANGED COUNTRY MUSIC! PERIOD. she is in a category all by herself and people that dont even like country music (like myself) LOVE shania! i think alot of country artists were jealous of the fact that shania was selling to the pop AND country crowds and nobody else was doing it at that time. shania singlehandedly made country music fun, young and hip and she made it okay for female country stars to be sexy so YES!!! she most definently changed things! and shes still the sexiest country singer EVER and the whole world knows it! shania rocks!

  31. ! not only was she the first female(that i know of) to broaden her horizons and sell to the pop crowd too…

    Not *entirely* sure if she was the first, but a certain legend called Dolly Parton would like to have a word with you…

  32. @ travis mcclain, i didnt even read your comment until after i posted mine, but you said almost EXACTLY what i said! i totally agree with you about shania-she appeals to everybody, shes versatile and not just in the little small town hillbilly country music bubble, she changed country music from being sad and twangy to being fun and hip and made it okay for country women to be sexpots too!

  33. There were a lot of women who hit in both the country and pop market before Shania Twain.

    Just off of the top of my head: Patsy Cline, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gayle, Donna Fargo, Lynn Anderson, Juice Newton, LeAnn Rimes.

    What made Twain unique was the sheer scale of the crossover success – 35 million units sold internationally of Come On Over – and the lyrical perspective she brought to the table.

  34. Even though Shania did take a lot of heat for being too pop, the selections in this this really demonstrate that she just had a very diverse style. She could be very country when she wanted to. Songs like “I Ain’t No Quitter” and “No One Needs to Know” even border on neotraditionalism.

    And even when she did do pop-country, she did it a lot better than some of the artists who do it today.

  35. some of the people that you guys have brought up trying to compare to shania is a joke!reba mcintyre,dolly parton, martina mcbride, loretta lynn and patsy cline are all great (icons)but THEY DID NOT OPEN THE DOORS THAT SHANIA DID! there is a reason why come on over is the best selling album EVER by a female artist of ANY genre-because shania appealed to everybody! and she deserves ALL the credit for country women starting to evolve from boots and fringe into more formfitting sexy stuff. shania made country music sexy and fun and NOBODY did it better!

  36. No one’s saying Shania Twain didn’t cause an evolution in country music, or that she didn’t open doors. Heck, Kevin himself mentioned it in his opening paragraphs.

    You’re just not giving credit to all the OTHER doors opened by the women you mentioned. They changed the course of country music too, just in different ways that Shania did.

    To quote Kevin’s Dolly Parton entry for the “100 Greatest Women” feature:

    Parton was named CMA’s Female Vocalist in 1975 and 1976, but was frustrated by the small scale of her success. “Jolene” had been her biggest song up until that point, and the single had sold 60,000 copies. She looked over to the pop chart and saw that big hits over there sold in the hundreds of thousands. She saw no reason why she should be held back from that. She hooked up with an L.A. manager and booking company, and began recording more pop-flavored material.

    Sure, Dolly didn’t reach the scale Shania did, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t intentionally and successfully cross over to pop some 20 years before Shania did.

    I could quote more from the other entries in that feature, but somehow I think I’d be wasting my time.

  37. My personal preferences are “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is” and “Rainin’ On Our Love”. IMHO these are some of Shania’s most vunerable songs.

    I liked the sassy sexy side of Shania, but her vunerability amd emotional songs are her best.

  38. @ pete, im not trying to argue with you. it just seemed like some people were trying to say that a bunch of women did what shania did and they DID NOT! when i think of all of the women that were mentioned(dolly, martina, reba ect), i think of pure COUNTRY singers with nice voices but that didnt really do anything all that special or different. but then again, im not an expert on that stuff. like i mentioned before, i am DEFINENTLY not a country fan. for the most part, country appeals to whites, southerners, inbreds and people who live in trailers. it is absolutely hick music and they say it proudly! they dont mix with everybody else which is why they have their own awards shows and their own music channels but shania was different and thats why i love her!

  39. I love Twain.

    I found it interesting that she could do those soft, slow songs that match her voice; and still give powerful performances that were suitible for a woman like Trisha Yearwood’s powerful vocals (ie: “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You)” and “From This Moment On” (the non-duet version)).

    I think, like Yearwood, she knew what fit her vocally and artistically; and this is what made her such a great artist that appealed to fans and critics. For she could play both sides of music– the upbeat fun stuff and the slow soft ballads.

    She is just fantastic, especially if you dig into her 4 studio albums, there are a lot of hidden gems.

  40. @ leeann-im sorry i offended you but if the shoe fits…. a few years ago, a friend wanted me to go with her to country thunder. i said no way because i knew what it would be like. sure enough, she was showing me pictures and what did i see? a bunch of toothless hillbillys waving their confederate flags! it was just like i imagined it to be. on cmt, ive seen shows like “my big redneck wedding”(or something like that)and all the tons of country songs like “redneck woman” so just like i said-country people are PROUD to be hicks! i didnt say anything that wasnt true, did i?

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