Release Date: February 3rd 2023
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Giddy Up!
- Brand New
- Waking Up Dreaming
- Best Friend
- Pretty Liar
- Inhale/Exhale AIR
- Last Day of Summer
- Queen of Me
- Got It Good
- Number One
- Not Just A Girl
- The Hardest Stone
- On Three (Target Bonus Track)
- Done and Dusted (Target Bonus Track)
- Bone Dry
- Wanted Man
- Inhale/Exhale AIR (feat. Breland)
- Queen of Me (Acoustic Version)
- Giddy Up (Malibu Babie Remix)
Everyone knows Shania Twain…or they should. Famous country singer-songwriter that was prevalent, prominent, and profound, especially in the 1990s, was an artist that unveiled albums throughout that time that revolutionised not only country music, but music in general. I’d say she’d have to be one of the most impactful and influential female artists within the realms of country music, maybe even rivalling Dolly Parton and Reba…then agan, isn’t her impact and influence a given anyway? Her chart-topping album Come On Over was released in 1997…way back in the day. Featuring singles like ‘From This Moment On’, ‘You’re Still The One’, ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’, ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman!’ and ‘I’m Holdin’ Onto Love (To Save My Life)’ (to name a few); Come On Over allowed Shania to reach the stratosphere, and as of 2023, that particular album has impacted a plethora of other artists that have come after Shania- artists like Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, Carly Pearce, even artists like Rascal Flatts and Faith Hill, who both had successful country crossover appeal, was because Shania herself paved the way beforehand with the genre-crossing album Come On Over. As of 2023, Come On Over is the highest grossing studio album by a female solo artist…ever (The Bodyguard Soundtrack by Whitney Houston, is officially classified as a soundtrack album, instead of a studio one), and that should be saying something.
Shania’s music has anchored the 1990s and the 2000s, and her songs like ‘From This Moment On’, ‘You’re Still the One’, ‘Forever and For Always’, ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’, ‘I’m Gonna Getcha Good’ and ‘Any Man of Mine’ are all synonymous with the period of the 1990s and the 2000s decades, as we’re reminded of the influence of Shania’s music all these years later. I’ve been hearing these songs on the radio for years, even before I knew of Shania and knew that she was the singer behind these songs. Shania’s impact on country music, and influence on music culture in general, is reason enough as to why I wrote a blog about her impact on music, way back in 2019 when I was first starting out in writing my blog series about Influential Artists of all time. I wrote that blog post in mid-2019, where I catalogued her 5 albums (to date), and spoke about the significance of her music, and her as a person, during a time where country music was grounded and impacted by a lot of female artists during that time of Shania’s rise to fame- alongside Shania Twain, in the 1990s and the 2000s in particular, we had other artists and bands rising to the challenge of succeeding in country music (or even just in music in general) as well- from Faith Hill, Martina McBride, The Chicks, Alanis Morissette, and LeeAnn Rimes, to Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, SheDAISY, Lee Ann Womack, Sara Evans and Jo Dee Messina. Even seasoned veterans like Dolly Parton, Wyonna Judd and Reba were all successful in the 1990s (and to a further extent, the 2000s as well), while Celine Dion had arguably the most recognisable hit of the 1990s decade- ‘My Heart Will Go On’.
Needless to say, Shania’s music is impactful to say the least, and transformative and identity building to say the most, which is why after a mere 5 years of ‘inactivity’ (her previous full-length newly written album Now was unveiled in 2017), Shania is once again back with new material. In mid-2022, Shania unveiled a compilation best-of project Not Just a Girl: The Highlights, together coupled with a Netflix documentary also titled Not Just A Girl. Both the documentary and the soundtrack are meant to be watched and listened to, together; and since the release of both the Netflix documentary and its companion digital album, I’ve been appreciating Shania the artist more and more. In early 2023, Shania released her first full-length album in 6 years (between NOW in 2017, and Queen of Me in 2023 is 6 years!), and around a few months after that, there was a ‘Royal Deluxe Version’. Now, in early 2024, I’m here to put my own ‘two cents’ on this album release; and write down my own short musings as to whether Shania’s music (at least the music in this album) has kept up with the times, or has it stayed seemingly true to her music that was presented to us in the 1990s/early 2000s. And whether we as fans of her older music material, should in fact listen to this new album or not.
Let me just say from the outset- I admire Shania was a person, and how she was able to pick herself up after her divorce, and throw herself back into music, making a comeback album in 2017 called NOW, and releasing music post-Lyme Disease, and that, in and of itself, is pretty courageous. But…because of such setbacks, her music NOW and post-NOW is never going to be the same as her Come On Over era. And herein lies the point. Compared to her most recent material (NOW and this current album), Shania’s most recent material is pretty good, all things considered- her two singles in ‘Not Just a Girl’ and ‘Waking Up Dreaming’ are both musical standouts, while other tracks like ‘Brand New’, ‘Inhale/Exhale AIR’, ‘Number One’ and ‘The Hardest Stone’, are standouts as well. But…if you compare this album to the Shania Twain of the 1990s and the 2000s…well, then you might as well not listen to Shania’s currently music, if you don’t want to be disappointed. Because you will be. Frankly, this sounds nothing like the Shania who sung songs like ‘From This Moment On’, ‘You’re Still The One’ and ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’…nor shouldn’t it be. But alas, maybe that is why for me (who still loves and prefers Shania from 25+ years ago), I felt a little bit of a disconnect with this album as a whole- with so much autotune and synth production (just to hide the fact that she’s pushing 60), the songs don’t sound unique and interesting anymore. ‘Giddy Up’ feels forced and stale, and at times throughout the song, it sounded like Shania was creating a sex-joke song about…well, we all know what it’s about now, right? ‘Last Day of Summer’ just meanders along in these 3 minutes, as this acousticaly driven melody speaks about Shania’s reunion with an ex-lover, and her asking him if he waited; while ‘Got It Good’ is about her stating to her listeners that she ‘got it good’- and that her platform is indeed now used as a way to help fans who may not have it as good as she has, currently. Other than those songs…nothing much else. Not to say that she doesn’t try her hardest in any of the songs she’s created, she does; gone are the days where she can produce 12 singles from one album (as what happened for Come On Over in 1997). Maybe that’s ok, but maybe, just maybe, her music currently is just not relevant to me anymore. Not with all the plethora of autotune that is ridden (rightly or wrongly) in these songs, from top to bottom.
Shania’s music is revolutionary- but this album, not so much. Queen of Me is definitely not a standout album of 2023, nor is it one of Shania’s best. In fact for me, I felt like this as a whole, may be her worst album to date, unintentionally. Nevertheless, people will love this album (just not this reviewer!), and Queen of Me will succeed at the charts. But sometimes, an artist should know when to move on into another career path. And, because of her voice, and just her unfortunately stale songwriting; Queen of Me, I reckon, should be her final album. She’s pushing 60, but she sounds like she’s pushing 70. Still, Shania’s a fighter. Maybe she’ll create a forthcoming album that is just as good as her 1990s material. Probably not, though. Nevertheless, this album is for any diehard Shania fans. And that…isn’t me. I still love Come On Over, and Queen of Me has most certainly made me appreciate Shania’s earlier work, now more than ever. But aside from the intriguing album cover (her posing semi-nude upon a horse and a cowboy hat), and a couple of other standout songs, this album is…forgettable. Here’s hoping that whatever comes next, will be a step in the right direction for Shania, after this mess of an album, one that I would like to unfortunately forget.
3 songs to listen to: Not Just a Girl, Waking Up Dreamin’, Inhale Exhale AIR
RIYL: Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, Sheryl Crow, Sugarland