Trailblazer Shania Twain celebrates the girl power of Man! I Feel Like A Woman! in the #metoo era

The Courier-Mail - Australia
By Kathy McCabe
February 17, 2018

BACK in the 1990s, you might judge a person based on their opinion of Shania Twain.

The Canadian singing sensation rewrote the rule books with her country crossover sound, paving the way for another ingenue called Taylor Swift to match her genre-bending influence on pop culture almost two decades later.

For every one of the 1.2 million Australians (40 million people worldwide) who celebrated Twain’s stranglehold on the airwaves and charts with her breakthrough third record Come On Over in 1997, there were millions of others who begged for respite.

Yet absence made the heart grow fonder, and not only for Twain’s legacy fans, as she launched her comeback last year with Now, her first studio album in 15 years.

It debuted at No. 1 here, the US and UK and her homeland, and tickets for her upcoming tour generated the kind of buying frenzy last week which demanded extra shows in Australia within minutes of going on sale.

The stats speak loudly as evidence of her enduring popularity. What wasn’t as expected was Twain’s arrival as a much-loved social media star and comedic talent.

That kicked off a few years back with her fellow Canadian superstar Drake serenading her at the Juno Awards in 2011 and then declaring his Nashville concert in 2016 his “love set for Shania” who was backstage.

In January, she starred opposite fangirl Kelly Clarkson [correction: Meghan Trainor] in an hilarious Drop The Mic rap battle, trading barbs until the pair confessed their mutual admiration in the final rhymes.

“I think anyone who has seen me live knows I am easy-going and spontaneous,” she says.

“But among artists, like Meghan Trainor who listened to me growing up, there’s now a real cool connection, regardless of music style. I would say it’s more of a pop culture connection,” she says.

A couple of weeks later, dozens of music blog sites which would never have mentioned her without a snarky aside championed DJ Cummerbund’s mash-up of her 1999 hit Man! I Feel Like A Woman with Marilyn Manson’s 1999 altrock single The Beautiful People.

Marilyn Manson and Shania Twain make beautiful mash-up together

Twain loves it, calling the unlikely meshing of the two songs a “compliment all way round”.

“I love it, it’s so funny and a great mash-up. If you listen to it from a distance, it’s completely Man! I Feel Like A Woman but if you hear it loud and close, it’s totally Marilyn Manson,” she says.

“Something like that reminds you a lot of music goes beyond the artist to take on a life of its own. Some songs are so independent, they belong to whoever and have this lasting power that goes beyond who the artist is.”

Twain has a raft of those songs. If you were a 90s child — or parents of one — you instantly recall That Don’t Impress Me Much on hearing the first few bars and probably dedicated You’re Still The One or From This Moment On to your significant other.

The 52-year-old singer and songwriter recognises the nostalgic power of these songs and delights in performing them. But the reason for the Now tour is the new record; it’s not just a trip down the greatest hits road.

Twain busted the barricades of the country music fortress 20 years ago and she pushes out even further on Now, with reggae, Motown and even a dash of tropical house added to her pop palette.

“The music I make and have always made, has always been a reflection of my eclectic influences and nothing has changed. As far as my creative landscape goes, I am that diverse artist who gravitates towards my loves which are not traditional in any sense,” she says.

That non-traditional approach which changed everything back in the late 1990s divided the country music establishment in Nashville.

heir lack of support didn’t impress her much, but Twain weathered the resistance and opened doors for not only Swift but countless other artists including Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and Sam Hunt who blend pop production and rock sensibilities into their sound.

“I don’t think anything has changed with me and Nashville, to be honest,” she says.

“There are always those who embrace me and those who didn’t and it’s the same now.

“I always will be, to some degree, considered an outsider, especially to the country music industry, but not to the fans.”

What has changed is Twain is the sole architect of her music. The reasons for her long absence from recording and performing are well known. Her vocal cords were damaged by dysphonia as a consequence of Lyme disease and she feared she might never be able to sing again.

As she battled illness, her marriage to Mutt Lange, the famed producer behind her late 1990s chart juggernauts, fell apart when she discovered he was having an affair with her best friend.

Twain would eventually marry that best friend’s husband, Frederic Thiebaud, in 2011.

She wrote all the songs and helmed the production of Now, aided by four producers she chose because they would not be tempted to revisit her sonic past.

There is a grit to the polished vocals of her previous records, no doubt partly due to the ravages of her illness.

Staring down a year of touring, Twain says her greatest challenge is to maintain a routine which will protect her voice.

“I take my health seriously. There is a lot of discipline involved for me personally, eating properly, getting the right amount of rest, self-care and self-maintenance. You have to put the performance first and I take that very seriously,” she says.

Just as seriously as she loves Man! I Feel Like A Woman! That clever lyrical pun now resonates as an anthem for the TimesUp equality movement just as effectively as it does to a Marilyn Manson mash-up.

Shania Twain celebrated her girl power with monster hit Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

Twain said at the time of writing it, she was thinking about “my own female spunk from a youthful place” and the disrespect she often felt from the male powerbrokers of the music industry.

“When you are young, there is a lot disdain and no one is listening to you. When you are young and a woman, even less people are listening to what you have to say. It felt very liberating to say that in a song and celebrate being that minority, the young woman with a voice,” she says.

“Now I embrace it even more because now I feel I know that message as somebody who is older. I have lived through that message and the reason for writing it.”

Shania Twain’s Now tour kicks off in Perth Arena on November 30, Botanic Park, Adelaide on December 2, Brisbane Entertainment Centre on December 5 and 6, Hope Estate Winery, Hunter Valley, December 8, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, December 11 and 12 and Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney on December 14.