Shania Twain, Now | Album Review
Canadian country-pop artist Shania Twain returns after a 15-year hiatus with her sixth studio album ‘Now.’ Unfortunately, it’s not quite the comeback she deserves.
There’s good news and bad news. Beginning positively with the good news, Canadian country-pop artist Shania Twain is back. After a 15-year hiatus, Twain returns with her highly-anticipated sixth studio album, Now. Now for the bad news. Now isn’t the glorious return that it should be for the 51-year old country-pop diva. While it has its fair share of moments, it also has its fair share of flaws.
“Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed”
There’s plenty to like about opener “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed.” The production work has a little bit of everything stylistically. There’s some country, some reggae, and some pop. The chorus is catchy. Vocally, Twain sounds fine, but at times, it would be nice to hear her push a bit more as opposed to being a bit even keel.
After a respectable start, “Home Now” doesn’t reach the same heights. The country production cues – fiddle, banjo, and guitar – are selling points. The song itself is merely okay, a problem that plagues Now from being a better album than it is. While the subtlety of the guitar shines on “Light of My Life,” the song suffers from uninspired verses melodically and lyrically. While the chorus brings some redemption, it’s sung a bit too casually, where more conviction would’ve provided a spark. The vocal production on the lead vocals seems a bit off.
The first observation one will make about “Poor Me” is how pronounced the pop sensibilities are. If nothing else, it’s slick. Unfortunately, its ill-executed. Vocally, the mix is odd. Too often, Shania Twain sounds as if she’s singing in an undertone, without much bite. She has some respectable nuances, but the vocals just don’t pop. Ultimately, “Poor Me” is a disappointment – it clearly underwhelms. Something feels like it’s missing.
“Who’s Gonna Be Your Girl” falls into the same pitfalls of the preceding songs. Twain doesn’t come off as a truly commanding lead vocalist. This is attributable to a lack of interesting melody, pedestrian lyrics, and ill-conceived vocal production. The production overall isn’t particularly conducive to thrills. The sound of “More Fun” is interesting, particularly the use of piano and synths. Even as one of the ‘bolder’ palettes backing Shania, it feels too restrained – sanitized to an extent. Again, “More Fun” isn’t more fun for the listener because it’s too ‘tight,’ devoid of the necessary tweaks to drive it to the next level.
“I’m Alright” is more countrified than “More Fun,” but not without some subtle modern cues. There are some solid moments, while melodically, this record is close to achieving its aspirations. If nothing else, it’s more listenable than most. “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” leans more into the pop as opposed to country. It feels a bit ‘out of character,’ yet it’s somewhat understandable – it only appears on the deluxe edition. Unlike may deluxe versions, the deluxe version of Now includes various bonus tracks throughout the album as opposed to being tacked on to the end.
“Where Do You Think You’re Going”
“Where Do You Think You’re Going” is a perfect example of a song that there’s ‘something there,’ but it’s not perfectly assembled. Oddly, the verses are in a major key, while the chorus is moodier, in the parallel minor – until the final chord. “Roll Me on the River” is another ‘close, but no cigar’ joint. There’s a bite, thanks to the production and minor key, but still, the listener is waiting for more oomph and a better-rounded song.
“We Got Something They Don’t” features an excellent, driving groove. There’s a degree of soulfulness, thanks to intriguing production cues, including the horns. An instrumental section which marks one of the biggest selling points of the record. Vocally, Twain sounds easy-going, delivering a casual, but effective performance. The chorus is okay, but not necessarily ‘the second coming.’ While a tad bit clunky, it ranks among the better moments from now.
“Because of You”
For one of few times on Now, there are consecutive highlights – depending on the version of the album you buy. “Because of You” shines thanks to simplifying things. This is a country record and there’s no conflicting stylistic endeavors. This actually plays to Twain’s strengths. Unfortunately, it only appears on the deluxe edition of the album. On “You Can’t Buy Love,” she goes beyond country, embracing vintage pop and retro-soul. Incorporating some ‘tongue in cheek’ vibes, “You Can’t Be Love” ends up being one of the most fun, memorable songs from Now.
“Life’s About to Get Good”
Naturally, the sound of promo single “Life’s About to Get Good” is as enthusiastic as the title. The production naturally straddles country and pop. While it’s pop-heavy, there’s enough banjo, not to mention the four-on-the-floor beat to solidify its country music cred. All in all, the sound, as well as the song – about rebounding from a shattered relationship – is appealing. The chorus is the crowning achievement.
“Oh, life’s about joy / Life’s about pain / It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away / I’m ready to be loved / and love the way I should / Life’s about / Life’s about to get good.”
If “Life’s About to Get Good” on the back-half of the album, it should probably be the final song. Unfortunately, it’s not. “Soldier” isn’t bad, but doesn’t quite reach that ‘next level’ status. Splurge and “All in All” serves as the final cut. It’s a bit too simple.
This one hurts. As aforementioned, the return of Shania Twain herself is awesome. Unfortunately, Now is a disappointing comeback for a worthy queen. It has its moments, but lacks a signature hit. Furthermore, too often, the production is ‘all over the place,’ while the vocal production doesn’t always do Twain justice. The material at best is so-so, save for a select few moments. She deserves credit for ending a 15-year hiatus, but Now ends up being underwhelming – not good enough after such a lengthy drought.
Gems: “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed,” “We Got Something They Don’t,” “Because of You,” “You Can’t Buy Love” & “Life’s About to Get Good”