There aren’t many artists that could leave the industry and return in such fine form 15 years later but Shania Twain has broken the rules of the music industry before when she become the most successful country artist of all time with the release of international breakthrough album and 40+ million selling record, Come On Over in 1997 – and a record that broke down the barriers between country music and pop. 15 years on from the release of her last studio album, 2002’s Up, Twain has made a very welcomed return to the studio and today we have been graced with the fruits of her labor with the release of Now.
Now finds its footing in familiar Twain territory; quickly bringing us up to speed with the superstar who has gradually been making her return to music with a Vegas residency and the release of lead single Life’s About To Get Good which sits modestly toward the end of the brand new collection. The track was the first taste of new material for us to sink our teeth into and is an uplifting ditty containing an optimistic theme about turning your life around after hard times and looking toward the future with a positive mind. Its a theme that is heard often throughout Now and one that seems quite appropriate for a star who’s life has taken its fair share of twists and turns over the last decade.
Swingin’ With Our Eyes Closed cracks the lid on Now with a busy introduction to the first Twain record in 15 years; briefly hinting at similar country-rock that we heard on the later tracks within Come On Over or even earlier hits like Any Man Of Mine but quickly turns into a punchy, reggae-infused anthem that steadily sets itself apart as something very different for the superstar.
Familiarity washes over us with the stunning Because Of You. Here Twain lets her feelings run freely through personal lyrics like “I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t for you” in what sounds very much like an ode to her current beau and the getting through the struggles the star has encountered over the last several years following her split from ex-husband and producer Robert “Mutt” Lange. Its the perfect acoustic ballad to remind us of the beauty of Twain’s delivery of stripped back balladry.
There is the odd track within Now that feels a little dated – Light Of My Life sounds unintentionally 60’s with its cheesy chorus backing vocals and the beat of You Can’t Buy Love carries a strong resemblance to Alphabeat’s Fascination and again, a track that carries quite dated sounding backing vocals during its chorus – but the majority of Now boasts a very modern sounding feel to it.
The tapping of a piano key throughout the chorus’ of More Fun injects a gutsy mid-tempo number to the centre of the record with Twain’s breathy vocals taking centre stage and it’s a nostalgic trip through Home Now as a banjo starts us off and takes us through a brimming country-pop hit overflowing with the musicians signature violin-dressed melodies.
In terms of the highlight track of Now – you will need to own the deluxe version for that. We Got Something They Don’t is easily one of the best pop-oriented Shania Twain tracks produced. The verses are stripped back – relying on a simple thump for Twain to deliver her catchy lyrics, but as soon as the chorus kicks in, both gloves are off and we are introduced to a syrupy hook ripe with a complimenting horn section that creates mischief and produces a bustling, fun, youthful staple for the hitmakers latest offering.
Soldier is one of the records finest tearjerkers; a gorgeous orchestral backbone and subtle piano enriches this numbers flowing cinematic unveiling as Twain begs “has anyone seen my soldier, standing all alone, has anybody seen my soldier, just trying to get home” with heartache and conviction in her voice. This is definitely the From This Moment On or Forever And Always of Now. In fact, like Twain’s previous studio albums, her balladry shines the brightest on Now. Another standout number on the record is Where Do You Think You’re Going which sounds like it could have easily been plucked from a Lady Gaga ballad songbook; Twain’s voice at times sounding quite similar to Mother Monster during the tracks soaring chorus. The track would also not sound out of place in a Bond film with its chilling orchestral instrumentation that lays beneath the superstars pristine vocal. This one is a fine example of truly exquisite songwriting from the star who wrote all of the tracks on this new collection.
Despite taking a break from recording over the best part of 15 years, the time off hasn’t affected the superstars vocals at all. Now is soaked in the same gorgeous tones, up-tempo high notes and breathy ballads that made Twain a household name and the biggest country artist of all time. There is nostalgia in Twain’s voice and listeners can expect to be taken back to a time when the musician successfully merged country and pop music for the first time and broke down a barrier that became an easier stepping stone for acts like Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift who owe part of their success to Twain.
When an artist releases their first collection after such a lengthy time away from the scene there are a lot of expectations that come tied to its arrival, but thankfully with Now, Twain has made it feel like no time has passed at all. Each and every song on the record pulls Twain right back into our hearts with their nostalgic feel and modern production proving there is still a hell of a lot of petrol left in this country-pop tank.
Now is every bit the Shania Twain collection we hoped the Queen of country-pop would return with after such a long time absent. A perfect balance of toe-tapping hits and sweeping ballads from one of music’s greatest and a collection that we can’t wait to hear live when Twain hits the road to promote the record and her back-catalogue in 2018.