There couldn’t be a better time to have Shania back.
You might assume that the best-selling country music album of all time is something by Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks. What about the best-selling solo album by a woman? Mariah? Britney?
The answer may surprise you! Shania Twain’s third studio album, Come on Over, released in 1997, holds both honors. How did an album that may not seem to register in today’s pop firmament get to be so successful?
Man, it had hits! Come on Over featured a whopping 12 twelve singles, 10 of which hit the country music Top 10. Twain and producer Mutt Lange took a look at the singer’s most successful singles and gauged exactly where the marketplace was moving, so the album focused mostly on up-tempo songs. Unlike many albums that see a singer and/or producer’s focus slip as more influences come on board, Twain kept her team small. She co-wrote every song with Lang and he produced every song on the album. They went into the project not with intent of making a coherent album, but with the single-minded goal of making each song a hit.
Twain cultivated global appeal, and her background didn’t hurt. Although she had genre chart success in Canada, at the time, country music wasn’t entirely welcome to those born outside of the middle and southern United States. Twain was still palatable for country audiences, her often-tragic upbringing in rural Canada a suitable substitute for being a coal miner’s daughter, but it also prompted those outside of the US to take notice. The star smartly jumped on this opportunity; recognizing that country music wasn’t as popular overseas, she released slightly different, poppier versions of the album for that market. As a result, Twain became a huge star in Europe (particularly in the U.K.), in Australia and particularly in Asia.
Perhaps more surprising than its success, what’s remarkable about Come on Over 20 years after its release is how well it fits into feminist themes of the late ’90s. Just like Sex and the City and Titanic the album presented a woman who was strong yet romantically vulnerable. There are no bra-burning anthems here, but this sequence of songs about falling in love come from a woman who demands that it happen on her own terms. Songs like “Man, I Feel Like a Woman!,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “Honey I’m Home,” and “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” are playfully yet firmly feminine and feminist, Twain explaining that a man can earn her love – or get lost.
While this might warrant comparison with that other mega-selling album by a Canadian ‘90s feminist, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Twain doesn’t push her country audience too hard. As demanding and firm as she is, she’s all romance on super hits “From This Moment On” and “You’re Still the One,” her two biggest US hits.
While Come on Over was a mammoth success, this wasn’t Shania’s only hit album. Her previous set, 1995’s The Woman in Me, and her subsequent effort, 2002’s Up! achieved astronomical sales as well, both certified platinum many times over. Her first album after a 15-year hiatus, Now is set for release just a few weeks shy of the 20th anniversary of her breakout record. Though progress has been made in Nashville (and the world) in the last twenty years, we are at a point where we need as many strong female voices as possible. There couldn’t be a better time to have Shania back.