Your Choice Way

Shania Twain - Come On Over Music Album Reviews

Shania Twain - Come On Over Music Album Reviews
Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit Shania Twain’s 1997 blockbuster, one the showed the world the power of a true pop-country crossover.

Seven notes of hot, crackling guitar. Let’s go, girls. Three words, beamed forth like a cosmic directive, spoken with the Mona Lisa’s suggestive sense of mischief. Mother isn’t calling, but her fun younger sister sure is.

Though it was the eighth single from Shania Twain’s Come On Over, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” is the first volley and thesis statement of the singer-songwriter’s third album. Celebrating girls’ nights out and their grooming rituals, the song embodied the liberated lady’s lifestyle with “the prerogative to have a little fun.” In the video, an inversion of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” Twain gradually ditches layers of her outfit amid a troop of synchrony-challenged beefcakes. The song revamped the spirit of Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit for the blossoming bosslady feminism of the late 1990s—girls just want to have fun, but women go out and get it for themselves.

Released in November of 1997, Come On Over arrived on the high tide of the pre-Napster Clinton economy, before the music industry could sense that the bottom was about to fall out. Everything about Come On Over radiated enthusiasm, from the invitation of its title to the six exclamation points sprinkled across its tracklist. With its hard-charging hooks, sassy kiss-offs, and radiant sparkle, it became one of the defining titles for the “I don’t like country, but…” crowd. With Robert “Mutt” Lange in her corner as producer, co-writer, and husband, Twain set a new standard for pop-country crossovers. She started a new chapter of the decades-old grousing over who gets to be country and make country music, kicking open opportunities for a new generation.

For a record that had dramatic consequences for Nashville, Come On Over had very little to do with the city itself. Twain was an early-thirties singer-songwriter who’d grown up poor in Canada; Lange was a hermetic South African-born producer whose pre-Shania credits were mostly big-ticket rock records: the Cars’ Heartbeat City, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Adrenalize, plus the AC/DC hat trick of Highway to Hell, Back in Black, and For Those About to Rock We Salute You.

By some measures, Twain developed her success from the hardscrabble hunger of her working-class upbringing, but by others, she was a genre-wrecking false prophet who could nonetheless pull off a great smoky eye. She had grown up in rural Ontario, developing her musical interest as a child and playing gigs around town—including last-call appearances at bars—at her parents’ behest. As a 21-year-old, she began to look after her four siblings following their parents’ death in a car crash, supporting the family by singing in a variety revue at a resort. Her aspirations were never limited to country music, as she told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997: “I wrote every kind of music...I wanted to sing rock’n’roll at 12 years old.” Still, she settled on a relative country comfort zone for her first album, 1993’s Shania Twain.

Lange brought his arena-tuned ear to 1995’s The Woman in Me, which eventually sold 20 million copies after a disappointing showing from Twain’s debut. The album’s boisterous singles toyed with new country combinations, establishing Twain as a pop-forward up-and-comer: the slick barroom swing of “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” the accelerating stomp of “Any Man of Mine,” the rock edge of “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!” She built steam in resisting touring for the record, and by 1997, she had Springsteen star-maker Jon Landau as another asset in her corner.

While drenched in crimson-velvet glamor, Come On Over feels like a complete manifestation of a small-town girl’s ambitions, where you’ve got a hold on yourself and a hot man available for treats and foot rubs, and you’re also somehow able to be incredibly sexy in bold red lipstick. It’s no small wonder that Come On Over sold 36 million copies by the end of the millennium, still holding the distinction of being the 12th best-selling record ever in the United States.

At 16 tracks, Come On Over is hardly lean. But the hits are so potent that the duds mostly fail to register. Lange’s fastidious attention to production makes Come On Over a power-couple masterwork: Beneath its high-gloss finish sits an engine of uncompromising bridges and choruses. It’s difficult to hit pause at any point in the album’s first four songs, and after a few minutes of breathing room, Twain lunges into the unstoppable three-song run of “You’re Still the One,” “Honey, I’m Home,” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” That Twain is but a so-so singer becomes immaterial as she coasts through her agreeable numbers—which are, as it turns out, very easy for a regular person to sing along to.

Come On Over is also assertive. It channels all the gusto of someone living their dreams in real time, matching a blockbuster sense of confidence with arena-size sounds and attendant energy. When Twain says “Let’s go girls,” the answer is unquestionably, “Yes ma’am.” Her band of bruisers hurtle along, with “I’m Holdin’ on to Love (To Save My Life)” picking up at a gallop from “Man!”’s opening salvo. Its underlying early-rock rhythm jumpstarts a sense of anticipation as Twain sings about the trials and triumph of true love.

From there, Twain and Lange make good on their then-indelible bond by transforming the phrase “gol’ darn gone and done it” into an implausibly great earworm on “Love Gets Me Every Time.” The record’s title track is loaded with pomp and hospitality, slowing to a parade’s pace as Twain encourages relaxation and cutting loose. Aligning Twain’s French-Canadian heritage with the day’s brief zydeco fascination, an accordion gives the Acadian-flavored track a curious edge. Declining an invitation so obviously ready to please, so unburdened of pretense—well, it would just be rude.

Twain put her foot all the way down with “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” a killer cruiser that gleamed like a chrome bumper as it rode the Top 40 for 22 weeks. It arrives later in the record as a sharp dismissal of gasbags who can’t keep up with her needs. Cars, looks, attitude: None of it compares to a man who shows up where it counts. The song’s quicksilver guitar lead catches with the same immediacy as “Man!”’s primary declaration, the spicy edge of Twain’s rebukes cooled by the gliding guitar and smooth backing harmonies of the chorus.

Twain applies her all-in approach to every second of Come On Over. At their most capital-B Basic, the songs at least respect the tradition by going full-tilt gushing romantic. “From This Moment On” arrives as the first of Come On Over’s most saccharine ballads, which feel like appeals to recently surrendered bachelorettes seeking a perfect first-dance number for the reception. A duet with young Oklahoma crooner Bryan White, it is a breathy vow with a Disney-level cinematic sweep. “You’re Still the One” follows with a gauzy reaffirmation of the sentiment a few minutes later. Though they offer calm between gales, they keep the record’s passionate throughline running without sacrificing too much ground to the treacle.

Fiddles are the key element in transmitting Come On Over’s country core, one of the most hotly contested qualifiers of the record’s gatekeeping detractors. The players are all bona fide country pros: Larry Franklin (Asleep at the Wheel, Randy Travis), Rob Hajacos (George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks), Aubrey Haynie (Trisha Yearwood, Clint Black), and the bluegrass-inclined titan Stuart Duncan. But in the “Don’t Be Stupid” video, lines of hard-heeled steppers join Twain and a cadre of plainly dressed fiddlers on screen, shoving the song into Celtic associations (and hooking it to another intense late-’90s cultural obsession: Riverdance). Whether swinging forward in a surge or skirting around a jock-rock stomp, the fiddles are Come On Over’s Rosetta Stone, playing all sides into an appealing middle.

With the smeared edges of their production, Twain and Lange master the illusion of genre, as if they fashioned Come On Over into a plastic lenticular print. Tipped toward the honky-tonk hop of “Honey, I’m Home” or the unabashed twang of “Love Gets Me Every Time,” Come On Over can boot-scootin’ boogie with the best; the glimmering facets of “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “You’re Still the One” bear the blinding shimmer of full-strength pop. Twain could be anything to anybody, a principle that bolted past genre as “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” spawned thousands of drag homages.

Twain drew criticism in the press for perceived shallowness. Garth Brooks’ shadow loomed in almost every critique, having filled arenas by making a big deal about his status as an affable everyman who also appreciated the occasional spectacle of pyrotechnics. But where Brooks made an almost frightening display of his affection for over-the-top production, Twain was more relaxed, leveraging Lange’s super-producer abilities into melodies and hooks that just won’t quit. 

Her lyrics, while upbeat and assured, largely stayed away from any controversy. It’s clear from Twain’s interviews around her work that she never claimed to be a brilliant genius or the poet of a generation. She’s the first to insist that her songs are meant to be fun, and it is OK to enjoy them on those terms alone. Twain and Lange were funneling all of their energy into making a towering monument to their ability to produce a direct and powerful kind of neurological pleasure. The inexplicable appeal is by painstaking design.

Despite dazzlers like Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and anybody else who’s ever worn a Nudie Cohn suit, the country music industry has long sagged under a masculinity-fueled obsession with a particular sense of authenticity. In Christopher Cain’s 1992 drama Pure Country, celebrated Texas gentleman George Strait stars as an ascendant (and distressingly ponytailed) country singer named Dusty Chandler. Corrupted by the demands and excesses of his rising fame, Dusty skips his big gigs in favor of a temporary break on a stranger’s ranch. One overall message of Pure Country, favored by a subset of fans and artists across decades, is that real country music exists apart from pageantry. But the country music industry that allowed these artists to achieve icon status, regardless of their angle, was established as a way to market “hillbilly” music to a growing white middle class.

It’s disingenuous to insist on some sort of undefined ideological genre purity from Twain (or Brooks, for that matter), who was pursuing one of the values foundational to country music from its first shellacked 78s: selling stuff to white people. George Strait may not have allowed himself to be hoisted by his britches over arenas full of his adoring fans, as Garth Brooks did, but he still has his own line of Wrangler apparel. Hank probably hadn’t done it that way, either. Twain sang about how women’s perceived trifles are in fact serious business. That she draped them in contemporary charisma and adapted them to the media of the day makes them no less meaningful.

Come On Over’s many visual counterparts—arriving in Pop-Up Video’s peak era—shaped the public perception of country music while leaving an imprint on future stars still in their tender years. Twelve songs from the record were made singles, and while not all of them got videos, the campaign’s high femme aesthetics underscored Twain’s sizzle. The airplay across VH1, MTV, and CMT cemented her in hearts and minds with soft-focus semi-psychedelia, a tilted tophat, a pseudo-casual behind-the-scenes shoot, blue beachy dreams, and even a questionably en vogue bindi. Her head-to-toe cheetah look in “That Don’t Impress Me Much” sealed her as an icon of the decade (not to mention the lipstick, the matching luggage, the bangs). As she waits out a ride in the desert, she’s a damsel less in distress than disgust at her lack of acceptable suitors.

Still, ascribing Come On Over as some sort of major feminist manifesto is an overstatement—for all of its finessed charms, it is the result of major-label music-industry machinery humming along at full operating capacity. Indeed, Come On Over curdles as it drops into its sloughable back quarter. It begins with “Black Eyes, Blue Tears,” which presents escaping domestic violence as a matter of self-worth and features Twain delivering a wispy, “Find your self-esteem and be forever free to dream.” The track worsens with the footnote that it was inspired by the O.J. Simpson trial.

As the Chicks were revving toward righteous murder plots and mattress dancin’, Shania’s politics were more muted and, at times, contradictory. “I think we’re kind of spoiled in a lot of ways, with the advantages we have. Feminists may not feel that way, but I do. It’s pretty darn fun to be a woman,” she once said. And, true, “If You Want to Touch Her, Ask!” is too clumsy to earn much credit as a victory for bodily autonomy, but Twain wrote it as a sincere response to her own experience with handsy men. Within the major keys and kicky romps, she still conveyed direct realities about life as a woman in the middle of the road.

“Honey, I’m Home” is a particularly forceful number, cribbing the booming authority and jagged guitar of “Any Man of Mine” for one of Come On Over’s more rollicking country-rock entries. While Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” addressed workplace woes with chipper sweetness, Twain was content to declare that work sucks, actually, and so does all of the other bullshit that comes with it. “Honey, I’m home and I’ve had a hard day,” she crows, detailing her grievances and escalating into a loud haze of heys. It’s one for when “Take This Job and Shove It” and “Oney” are a little too heavy-handed, scorching with the sincere frustration of everyday existence.

Between the lines of its super-charged numbers, Come On Over inadvertently outlines the ways that heterosexuality, like capitalism, is a scam. Get past the various creeps, no-counts, and ain’t-shits that Twain warns you about, and you still might end up with a guy who’s suspicious of your phone calls or gets weird about your mail (“Don’t Be Stupid”). And then, some years later, he still might cheat and leave you for your best friend anyway, which is what precipitated Twain’s divorce from Lange that was finalized in 2010.

But all that is what turns “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” into an antidote against everything. Like the saucier niece of Helen Reddy’s unwitting second-wave anthem “I Am Woman,” Twain’s stunner strikes at a universal ache for self-determination and emancipation from a society that still says you can’t. “I want to be free to feel the way I feel,” she sings. Twain had taken her potshots at feminist politics, but that single line is the gist of a lot of it.

She drops three sharp, yelped exhalations before belting the titular battle cry. It’s impossible to recreate quietly. One thing about feeling like a woman is that, in addition to all of the nail polish and good gossip and such, it involves a lot of feeling like the whole world is screaming at you all of the time. The constant message is one of being too much and not enough, a criticism repeatedly lobbed at Twain and Come On Over. There’s no right formula, and the goalposts never stay put, if they’re even acknowledged at all. It’s exhausting. I want to be free to feel the way I feel. Screaming right back—it feels pretty good, when you can swing it.

Though Twain maintained her status as a country favorite, she continued to push further into pop aspirations. Come On Over got a remixed “International” edition with pulsing club beats and other flourishes, further juicing her popularity in Europe. Perhaps overestimating his capacity for mystique, Brooks expanded his efforts to keep up with pop-music maneuvers through his Chris Gaines alter ego in 1999. Though Brooks had his only Top 40 hit with Gaines’ “Lost in You,” Twain played better to her charming strengths with more evenly applied Lange-loaded hits. Her next record, 2002’s Up!, arrived in three different color-coded editions: one pop-inclined (red), one country (green), and an “international” reprisal, a blue iteration remixed by the English-Indian duo Simon and Diamond Duggal.

Sometime in the early or mid-2000s, Twain contracted Lyme disease, which sidelined her singing career. She retreated without explanation after wrapping the Up! tour in the summer of 2004, and eight years passed before her grand return, a two-year residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas beginning in late 2012. As Shania excused herself from public life, a teenage Taylor Swift began her ascent as a wholesome young successor, releasing her self-titled debut thirteen years after Twain’s.

Though Swift pursued Twain’s pop-forward model most aggressively, the pervasive influence of Come On Over stretched well into the 2000s and far beyond any fussed-over boundaries of pop and country music. Harry Styles, Haim, Miley Cyrus, and Sheer Mag have all kissed the ring with covers. Twain’s celebrity—and the girl-power awe it inspired—was a series-long joke on Broad City that culminated in her appearing in a 2017 episode. Halsey borrowed the cheetah look for “You should be sad,” and Post Malone was belting along with her 2019 American Music Awards performance.

Despite Twain’s accomplishments, the country music industry still struggles to recognize women’s talent in the moment on their terms, or cede any power to those who might. Women have continued to face what seems like endless sandbagging and howling egotistical storms, to say nothing of how Black women like Mickey Guyton have effectively been shut out of the industry. Some radio programmers have insisted that women artists just don’t have the same appeal to audiences as men do; Twain’s enduring adoration has long been authoritative evidence to the contrary. It was an excuse handed ad nauseum to Kacey Musgraves, a direct heir of Twain’s sparkling empire who nonetheless followed her arrow toward the commercial and critical success of 2018’s Golden Hour.

Shania Twain reached the rare stratosphere of country-music fame by trusting the unifying appeal of pop music, by pointing at underseen, under-engaged women and saying “Yes, you, too.” “Be a winner, be a star,” she declares on the title track. It’s a vague, ridiculous proposal, but she makes it sound fun and feasible enough to try.

Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Shania Twain - Come On Over Music Album Reviews Shania Twain - Come On Over Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, November 07, 2021 Rating: 5

0 comments:

Post a Comment