Schenaiia Twain wuchs in einer Kleinstadt in Ontario auf. Ihr Adoptivvater, ein Objibway-Indianer namens Jerry Twain und ihre Mutter Sharon lebten in prekären Verhältnissen und brachten sie und ihre vier Geschwister oft nur mit Mühe durch. Schon als Kind lernte Shania Gitarre spielen und sang. Zuhause lief die Musik von Willie Nelson und Dolly Parton, den Supremes, Carpenters oder Stevie Wonder ("diese ganzen verschiedenen Musikstile haben meinen Gesang und mein Songwriting geprägt", sagte sie später). Früh zeigte sich ihr Talent, und ihre Eltern fuhren sie zu allen Orten, an denen sie auftreten konnte: Altersheime, Gemeindezentren, Radiosender. Die Achtjährige wurde mitten in der Nacht aus dem Bett geholt, um in Clubs zu singen, weil dort nach Mitternacht der Alkoholausschank endete und Minderjährige Einlass bekamen.
1987, als sie 21 war, kamen beide Eltern bei einem Autounfall ums Leben. Sie übernahm die Verantwortung für ihre drei jüngeren Geschwister und zahlte die Miete mit dem Geld, das sie als Sängerin in einem Ferienort verdiente. Drei Jahre später nahm sie ein Demotape auf und richtete den Blick nach Nashville. 1993 erschien beim Majorlabel Mercury ihr Debütalbum, das drei Singles in die Top-100 brachte, sie zum Shooting-Star in der Szene machte und den Rock-Produzenten John "Mutt" Lange (AC/DC, Bryan Adams) entfachte. Er traf sie in Nashville. Ein halbes Jahr danach waren sie verheiratet.
1994 reisten die beiden um die Welt und schrieben dabei die Songs von Twains zweitem Album. Angetrieben von fünf Nr-1-Singles, darunter "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" und "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!", erreichte "The Woman in Me" international in die Top-10 der Albumcharts und hat sich weltweit rund 18 Millionen Mal verkauft.
Die Hitsträhne dauerte 1997 auf "Come On Over" an: Jeder Radiohörer kennt "Honey, I'm Home", "Love Gets Me Every Time" und die schwüle Pop-Ballade "You're Still the One" aus diesem Album. Der unverschämte Song "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" brachte Twain einen hoch dotierten Werbevertrag mit einem Kosmetikhersteller inklusive Dauer-Rotation im TV. Nach zwei Jahren durchgehender Tournee und einem Sabbatical erschien 2002 ihr viertes Studioalbum "Up!". Mittlerweile hatten sich die Presse und das Publikum an den Superlativ bei Shania Twain gewöhnt. Die hohen Erwartungen wurden nicht enttäuscht. Auch "Up!" ist eines dieser Power-Pakete mit grandiosen Melodien, großen Emotionen, dicken Ohrwürmern und XXL-(Country-)Pop. Das Album erschien in einem internationalen Mix und in einem Country-Mix.
Im Interview verriet Twain, dass sie sehr viel mehr Songs schreibe, als sie je auf ihren Alben unterbringen wolle. Wo andere Popdiven in eigenen Gefühlen und Dramen schwelgen, ließe sie ihre persönlichen Angelegenheiten ganz bewusst draußen. Die Geschichten der Songs, die sie veröffentlicht, sind universell, viele haben ein offenes Ende...
2008 ließ sie sich von Lange scheiden. Shania Twain zog sich in die Natur der Schweizer Berge zurück und schrieb ihre Memoiren. Seit 2012 tritt sie wieder auf. "Wenn du in der Lage bist, den Berg zu besteigen, den du dir ausgesucht hast, und es schaffst, etwas aus den schönen und schwierigen Erlebnissen auf deinem Weg zu lernen und dankbar davon zu erzählen, dann hast du es vollbracht", schreibt sie auf ihrer Webseite. Hinter ihrer immensen Schönheit liegt eine große Seele.
Shania Twain's eponymous debut album is a bland set of contemporary country that demonstrates her considerable vocal abilities but none of the spark that informs her breakthrough, The Woman in Me. Part of the problem is that none of the songs are well constructed and each leans toward soft rock instead of country or country-rock. By and large, the songs lack strong melodies, so they have to rely on Twain's vocal skills, and although she is impressive, she is too showy to make any of these mediocre songs stick. It's a promising debut, largely because it showcases her fine vocal skills, but it isn't engaging enough to be truly interesting outside of a historical context.
Words: Thom Owens
Sometimes, all it takes for a singer to break it big is to have the right collaborator and nowhere is that truth more evident than with Shania Twain. After years of independent local releases and demo records, she released an OK major-label debut on Mercury in 1993 -- a record that was perfectly fine but not all that memorable. Not long after that, her path crossed with Robert John "Mutt" Lange's, the producer behind some of the greatest albums in hard rock history, including AC/DC's Back in Black and Def Leppard's Hysteria. Based on that, Lange didn't seem like an ideal match for Twain, but they turned out to be expertly matched collaborators -- and romantic partners, too; they married as they were working on the material that became her second album, The Woman in Me. Together, they totally reworked Twain, turning her into a bold, brassy, sexy, sassy modern woman, singing songs that play like tongue-in-cheek empowerment anthems even when they're about heartbreak. She demands that "Any man of mine/better walk the line," tells a poor sap that "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!" and when she confronts her lover asking "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" it sounds like a threat, not a lament. All these songs are painted in big, broad strokes and Lange uses all the arena-filling tricks he's learned from Def Leppard, giving these steady rhythms and melodic hooks that are crushed only by the mammoth choruses which drill their way into permanent memory upon the first listen. That's not to say that The Woman in Me is nothing but heavy-handed pop/rockers dressed as country tunes -- they are good at ballads like the title song, but they're even more impressive on "No One Needs to Know," as swinging slice of neo- Bakersfield country so good you'd swear that Dwight Yoakam is singing harmony. And that speaks to the skill of Lange as a producer -- this is surely pop influenced, but he doesn't push it too far, for no matter how many rock tricks are in the production or how poppy the tunes are, they still feel like country songs, especially on "Any Man of Mine" and "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" anthems for the post-"Boot Scootin' Boogie" era, when country slowly, steadily became the sound of middle-American adult pop. Garth Brooks started the ball rolling, but this is where the movement gained momentum, and although this isn't pure country, it is country in how it sounds and feels, particularly in how it captures the stance and attitude of the modern women, thanks in no small part to Twain who plays this part to a hilt. And, like all the best Lange productions, it's so exquisitely crafted from the songs to the sound that it's not only an instant pleasure, it's a sustaining one.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Shania Twain's second record, The Woman in Me, became a blockbuster, appealing as much to a pop audience as it did to the country audience. Part of the reason for its success was how producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange -- best-known for his work with Def Leppard, the Cars, and AC/DC -- steered Twain toward the big choruses and instrumentation that always was a signature of his speciality, AOR radio. Come on Over, the sequel to The Woman in Me, continues that approach, breaking from contemporary country conventions in a number of ways. Not only does the music lean toward rock, but its 16 songs and, as the cover proudly claims, "Hour of Music," break from the country tradition of cheap, short albums of ten songs that last about a half-hour. Furthermore, all 16 songs and Lange-Twain originals and Shania's sleek, sexy photos suggest a New York fashion model, not a honky tonker. And there isn't any honky tonk here, which is just as well, since the fiddles are processed to sound like synthesizers and talk boxes never sound good on down-home, gritty rave-ups. No, Shania sticks to what she does best, which is countrified mainstream pop. Purists will complain that there's little country here, and there really isn't. However, what is here is professionally crafted country-pop -- even the filler (which there is, unfortunately, too much of) sounds good -- which is delivered with conviction, if not style, by Shania, and that is enough to make it a thoroughly successful follow-up to the most successful country album by a female in history.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
When Up! was released in November 2002, Shania Twain revealed in one of many promotional interviews that she writes far more songs than can fit on her records and that she hides any personal, introspective songs she pens, not even playing them for her husband and collaborator Robert John "Mutt" Lange. Now, this is certainly a psychological quirk worth exploring, but it also suggests why Twain's albums are such brilliant pieces of mainstream pop. Anything that doesn't fit the mold is discarded, so the album can hum along on its big, polished, multipurpose hooks and big, sweeping emotions. This is Super-Size pop, as outsized and grandiose as good pop should be. And, unlike the work of most pop divas, where the subject matter is firmly about the singer, none of the songs on Up! are remotely about Shania Twain, the person -- let's face it, she's never faced a situation like "Waiter! Bring Me Water!," where she's afraid her guy is going to be stolen away by their hot waitress. No, these songs have been crafted as universal anthems, so listeners can hear themselves within these tales. Just as cleverly, the songs are open-ended and mutable -- always melodic, but never stuck in any particular style, so they can be subjected to any kind of mix and sound just as good. (Indeed, Up! was initially released in no less than three different mixes -- the "Red" pop mix, the "Green" country mix, and the "Blue" international mix; sometimes the differences in mixes were so slight, it sounded like nothing was changed, but each mix revealed how sturdy and melodic the structure of each of the 19 songs was, and how they were designed to sound good in any setting.) True, the sheer length of the album could be seen as off-putting at first, since these 19 tracks don't necessarily flow as a whole. Then again, part of the genius of Up! is that it's designed as a collection of tracks, so the album is durable enough to withstand years on the charts, producing singles with different textures and moods every few months. Time revealed Come on Over as a stellar pop album, and the same principle works for Up!. Upon the first listen, singles seem indistinct, and it seems like too much to consume at once, but once you know the lay of the land, the hooks become indelible and the gargantuan glossiness of the production is irresistible. In other words, it's a more than worthy follow-up to the great mainstream pop album of the late '90s, and proof that when it comes to shiny, multipurpose pop, nobody does it better than Shania Twain.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Complete Limelight Sessions by Shania Twain is put together from early demo songs that were remastered and polished up a bit for this 2001 album. The 17 tracks on this offering were recorded during 1989 and into 1990. This was before Mercury Records had signed Twain to a contract, when she was still pretty much an unknown, working hard to provide a suitable living for herself and her orphaned siblings. The songs on this album are a little different than the country tunes fans are used to from Twain. These are more dance or pop/rock, but still the daring and heart of the young star shine through. There are a number of bootlegs out there that carry these songs, but they don't match the better quality of this recording -- not that the quality of this one is way up there. "It's Alright," "Send It With Love," and "For the Love" are a few of the highlights from The Complete Limelight Sessions. All in all, this is a decent collection of Shania Twain's early work, and her most loyal fans will find it worth having in spite of more than a few flaws. It also comes with the bonus of a few rare photos of Twain from those early days.
Words: Charlotte Dillon
Just like the albums her husband/producer Mutt Lange produced for Def Leppard, Shania Twain's albums are designed to generate hit singles for two or three years, which means that each of her blockbuster records -- 1995's The Woman in Me, 1997's Come On Over, 2002's Up! -- already seem like greatest-hits records, since they're filled with huge hits. This makes assembling an actual greatest-hits album a little difficult, since not only is the material overly familiar, but there are so many hits that they're difficult to fit on a single-disc collection. Impressively, 2004's Greatest Hits -- the first compilation Shania has released in her career -- doesn't skimp in either the hits or its actual length. Weighing in at a whopping 21 tracks, it has every big hit from her career, bypassing just a handful of tracks (including anything from her eponymous 1993 debut, plus "God Bless the Child" from 1996 and "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" from 2004), none of which are greatly missed. The collection runs in reverse chronological order, beginning with the ballad "Forever and Always" from Up! then running through hits like "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," "That Don' Impress Me Much," "You're Still the One," "Any Man of Mine" -- all in their most familiar radio mixes, which means pop mixes alternate with country mixes according to the song -- before ending with four new tracks (the gleefully goofy "Party for Two" is featured in two versions, a pop version with Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath and a country version with Billy Currington). Taken as a whole, this is a pretty impressive and consistent body of work -- sure, her hits can be slick, glossy, and silly, but they're infectious, irresistibly catchy, impeccably crafted, and most importantly, still tremendous fun after hundreds of plays. This isn't straight country, but it never pretends that it is. Instead, Twain and Lange poached the catchiest elements from arena rock and adult contemporary pop, peppered it with '90s pop culture references -- anything from bad hair days to Brad Pitt -- and developed a glorious, supersized sound that defined mainstream pop and country for nearly a decade. And, as this wonderful collection proves, Shania's hits not only defined their time, but transcend them, as this Greatest Hits is as fun as pop music can get.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine