For Shania, the right time is Now

Canadian country icon re-emerges as older and wiser

Winnipeg Free Press
May 12, 2018


Shania Twain

• Sunday, 7 p.m.

• Bell MTS Place - Winnipeg

• Tickets $59.95-$499.95, available at Ticketmaster

Looking at the laundry list of hit singles attached to Shania Twain’s resumé, the fact she has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and her almost omnipresent place in pop culture, it seems almost impossible that her most recent release, Now, is only her fifth studio album — and her first new record in 15 years.

But in those 15 years, she was anything but quiet; the country-pop icon completed a two-year Las Vegas residency, powered through a huge headlining tour in 2015 in preparation for the release of new music, and who could forget her 2017 Grey Cup halftime performance, complete with dogsled and bedazzled hot pink bodysuit?

Among those highs, however, there were some staggering lows. Twain contracted Lyme disease, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, which she battled for eight years. While it didn’t kill her, it did take its toll on her vocal cords, which meant Twain had to spend a lot of time training and re-learning how to sing.

Her vocals sound different on Now — deeper and more aged — and it’s not a bad thing. If anything, the newfound grit adds a deeper layer of emotion to the tracks about another low moment — her divorce from her co-writer/husband Robert (Mutt) Lange after a soap-opera-worthy cheating scandal.

There are a few tracks on Now that address her heartbreak after the split, but the most effective is Poor Me, the second single [correction: it was a promo track] she released from the record, dishing the dirt fans had been waiting to hear for years. The lyrics of this track are blunt — "He never told me how long I’d been living in the dark, no one turned the light on, I fell and broke my heart" and "Still can’t believe he’d leave me to love her," for example. Sonically, it is probably one of the edgiest tracks in her catalogue, in refreshing opposition to her usual loved-up, sunny reputation.

Twain, who wrote all the songs on the album, has said that some of the darker tracks on Now pull from difficult childhood memories of growing up poor in Timmins, Ont., when she cared for her three younger siblings after both her parents died in a car crash.

The record is not all doom and gloom, though; there are still the party-starters and feel-good anthems Twain can always be counted on to provide, such as the triumphant country-pop track Life’s About to Get Good and the foot-stomping album opener Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed.

All of the emotions on Now - both the pain of what’s behind and the optimism of what’s ahead — are felt harder and fuller than any other collection of songs Twain has released in the past. The content of the album solidifies the importance of the title; she’s a woman trying to find and understand her place in life, a place that connects her past and future, and that place is Now.