'I'm absolutely underrated': Shania Twain embraces her career revival

Stuff - Sydney Morning Herald
By Robert Moran
November 28, 2018

It was February 1999 the last time Shania Twain toured, amid the chart-topping success of Come On Over.

That album fuelled by hits From This Moment On and That Don't Impress Me Much is still the highest-ever selling album by a female artist in Australia, an 18-times platinum, 1.26 million copies-selling juggernaut only bested by Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell and Farnesy's Whispering Jack.

"I would say it's about time I'm back, it's overdue," Twain, 53, laughs over the phone from Los Angeles, her Canadian modesty intact.

After a 15-year hiatus between albums a period that saw Lyme disease ravage her vocal cords to the point she was unsure if she would sing again, and the dissolution of her marriage to producer Mutt Lange following an affair with her closest friend Twain's easing back into the spotlight.

"It wasn't all negative and bad, some of it was just plain wanting to stay at home and be a mum," she says of the break.

"I was busy, I just wasn't making music. For me, I needed a reason to make an album. I had a lot of living to do."

Of course, on any comeback trail a hiccup's to be expected.

In April, she stepped right into that most 2018 of circumstances: a surprise social media backlash, after she suggested she would've voted for Donald Trump (she later apologised, saying she did not hold "any common moral beliefs" with the US president).

Twain, in a media style that's lost none of its polish, sidesteps any serious discussion of the false start.

"I wasn't surprised," she says of the controversy. "I mean, it's a sensitive topic. It's sensitive times and that calls for sensitive responses."

She's bubblier when discussing the lingering legacy of her late 90s peak, her work embraced by the internet generation.

"It's a huge compliment. I was always true to myself and concerned about being a good example, and maybe that had a lasting effect? I don't know," she says.

It's also, to borrow a line from another 90s stalwart, ironic considering the critical indifference that initially met her work as a country-pop crossover, decades ahead of Taylor Swift.

"I'm absolutely underrated, of course!" she says with just a hint of jest.

"I wasn't traditional in my music style or in my image, I was different and different makes some people uncomfortable. I had to have broad shoulders and not let it bother me. Instead of changing to suit naysayers, I carried on.

"Those were the best career years of my life and I felt very appreciated by fans, but funny enough I feel even more appreciated now, all these years later."

Take Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, for example, an empowerment anthem whose cultural relevancy has only increased in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

"It's liberating, that's what that song meant to me at the moment and it still means that," says Twain.

"I was reaching a point in my life where I was only beginning to appreciate being a woman. Growing up I didn't see the value in fussing over my femininity, because it just brought stares that made me uncomfortable. So when I found the fun to be had there, I embraced it and I made an exclamation out of it.

"I think that song does still speak for a lot of women: we are what we are, and we're not going to be intimidated into losing our self-expression."

The inter-generational appeal has also opened up an unexpected career path, says Twain. A cameo on the millennial comedy Broad City led to her first major film role, playing John Travolta's love interest in the romantic-drama Trading Paint, set for release next year.

"I look back at Man! I Feel Like a Woman! as one of those moments too," she says. "To keep my life interesting, I need those challenges, to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with things. I enjoy not being Shania in the spotlight sometimes."

Shania Twain's Now world tour arrives at Spark Arena, Auckland - December 18, and Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - December 22