Shania Twain Is the Taylor Swift We Need Right Now
Pop needs someone who doesn’t deal exclusively in squads and performative relationships with Marvel actors.
Image via Twitter
It has been an alarming 14 years since Shania Twain gave us any new music. When Twain released an album last, it was the decidedly optimistic album Up!. But the music world was in a topsy turvy, Twilight Zone place then: Nu-metal and pop punk reigned rock charts; somehow we let Nickelback happen; Avril Lavigne and the rise of the next gen pop solo female performers like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Norah Jones would roll through. There was the glimmer of hope though, with Beyonce releasing her Jay Z collab "Crazy In Love." Recently, Rolling Stone Country reported that the Timmins, ON native would be releasing new music soon, which is thrilling news for anyone who is a) Canadian and b) a fan of Twain and c) tired of having Taylor Swift dominate our charts. Swift is our Twain except a hyper-millennial version with Instagram and a propensity for large-scale news cycle worthy drama. While Swift is not likely to go away anytime soon (or possibly ever) there is value in shifting focus to what Twain can offer us and look at the positive aspects of her resurgence into the pop world.
Twain's personal and professional life in the last 14 years have been eventful: she's lived in Switzerland, divorced her producer husband, Mutt Lange, and even attended a Drake Summer Sixteen show in Tennessee. She was also recently awarded the Artist Lifetime Achievement Award at Country Music Television's "Artist's of the Year" Special, which brought her back into focus. (Despite being punished with a salute by Meghan Trainor at that award show). Most importantly, what Twain offered us her first time 'round the pop music track in the 90s was a powerfully clear female voice in country that demolished the charts. She is, first off, one of the most successful crossover acts to come out of Canada—up there with Celine Dion and Alanis Morrissette, or as they should be called, The Holy Canadian Trinity—and fused her twangy country spirit on The Woman In Me and Come On Over into Up!. Giving us classics like "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" and "Any Man of Mine" and on Come On Over she gave us anthemic and iconic songs "Man! I Feel Like A Woman" and "That Don't Impress Me Much."
Twain's sonic shifts have been easy to track. Hers are not likely dealt in what personality to perform or what is readily consumable, which is how Swift gets by. Swift's move to pop seemed linear but for whom and what? Art is a living and breathing entity and the creators of that art generally have to adapt. 1989 would be Swift's equivalent to Up! This past week, Swift celebrated the ten year anniversary of her self-titled debut reminding us of a time in our lives ago where she was a full-on country act—she literally has a song on her self-titled album called "Tim McGraw." And while it hit the nostalgia button, it's a reminder that her current pop adaptation—possibly like her bout with country—is a shrewd marketing construct, one that targets a specific kind of audience *cough* millennial *cough* who will tweet or share a post with a hashtag like #squadgoals.
Unlike Swift, Twain has a consistent sense of authenticity. This comes with age and experience; wisdom is something Swift is readily learning, as she beefs with our future (or current?) overlords, Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West. Twain is readily into exploring other genres without turning it into a social or news trend like Swift is apt to do, often Instagramming photos of Jack Antonoff from Bleachers, which reads as "look at who my friends are" and not what she is expressing creatively. In the Rolling Stone Country report, Twain said she is currently working with a few producers, such as Jake Gosling, who in the past has worked with Ed Sheeran and One Direction. While Gosling certainly has pop sensibilities, pop has never been divorceable from Twain— it feels like a genuine collaboration and one that will build on what's she offered before while also root her in the present. A natural step, rather than the usual pop star of yore clamors for the attention of youth and works with Max Martin equation.
Swift adapted to her rising popularity and went more pop. But sometimes we'll come to tire of that person. We're tired of Taylor Swift. Twain is veering off into her own direction, which is exactly what we need from her.
Sarah is "That Don't Impress Me Much" personified. Follow her on Twitter.