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 ...
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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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