Shania Twain doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable about airing her emotional struggles following a betrayal and divorce on Now, her first studio album in 15 years. “I’m not apologetic about my experiences nor about the way I express them,” says the 52-year-old Canadian country-pop–leaning singer-songwriter. “I think it’s more important to share than it is keeping certain things in.”
Her rags-to-riches story—going from a poverty-stricken childhood in Timmins, Ontario, to global sales of 75 million albums—is well known. Some of the songs on Now are clearly about the end of her 14-year marriage to producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who cheated on her with her best friend. It must be noted that, in a karmic twist one might expect to see on a soap opera, Twain, who has a 16-year-old son, Eja, with Lange, has been married for the past six years to Frédéric Thiébaud, the ex-husband of that so-called friend.
With Twain as the sole songwriter on Now (her last three albums were co-written with Lange), “Poor Me”, “I’m Alright”, and the first single, “Life’s About to Get Good”, in particular, are a roller coaster of emotions, pointedly dealing with the despair of being betrayed, the recovery of one’s self-esteem, and, finally, the willingness to move on and find love again. “Well, I figured if not now, then never,” Twain says of writing about the affair and the breakup. “Also, I feel like it’s a way of working through things. It’s self-expression and cleaning things out—and it’s been a while.”
“It’s my most personal album I’ve ever written,” says Twain. “I’ve enjoyed it for the therapy; I’ve enjoyed it for the self-expression.”
Twain wrote Now with the perspective of someone who has come out of a dark tunnel and is now imparting what she’s learned. “I know there’s a lot of people that have experienced similar things and relate. So relate,” she commands, calling her lyrical process “positive sharing … It’s my most personal album I’ve ever written,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed it for the therapy; I’ve enjoyed it for the self-expression.”
Stylistically, Twain—who co-produced the album with Ron Aniello, Matthew Koma, Jacquire King, and Jake Gosling—has always pushed boundaries in country music and now is, essentially, a pop musician. “I experimented around,” she says, notably on “Light of My Life,” which has a Sade-meets-’60s/’70s-era-Laurel Canyon vibe; the lilting piano-pop of “More Fun”, on which her voice is barely recognizable; and the reggae-based album opener, “Swinging With My Eyes Closed.”
Twain started writing songs when she was 10 years old, signed with Mercury Nashville in the early 1990s, and released a self-titled country album in 1993 that did okay before she met Lange, a producer who had worked with Def Leppard, AC/DC, and Bryan Adams.
Together, they broke country music stereotypes with their pop approach to her playful sound and glamorous image on her 1995 breakthrough, The Woman in Me, which eventually went 12-times platinum. The follow-up was even bigger: 1997’s 20-times platinum Come On Over became the bestselling studio album in Soundscan history by a female artist in any genre. But after 2002’s Up!—the 11-times platinum album that had three different versions: country, pop/rock, and world—Twain retreated from the spotlight and the perpetual recording-touring-recording cycle. She raised a son, battled Lyme disease, lost her voice, and separated from and then divorced Lange.
She periodically recorded one-offs, including with Lionel Richie and Anne Murray, but no full-length original studio release was on the horizon. In 2011, she put out her autobiography, From This Moment On, and TV series, Why Not? with Shania Twain, then did a two-year residency at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace until 2014. Her voice and confidence were back. In 2015, Twain hit the road for the 72-date North American Rock This Country Tour. She said it was her final tour. But she’s entitled to change her mind—and already has. “I really was ready to stop because I didn’t know what my voice could take,” she says. “But once I did the tour, I surprised myself. So, with the new music, I’m definitely ready to go and gear up again.”
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