Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #4 - Shania Twain

(Come on, you had to know she was coming up sooner or later)

Born Eileen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Shania Twain famously overcame a troubled and impoverished childhood to become one of the best-selling female artists of any music genre, dominating country and pop music on an international scale that was without precedent.  She displayed a remarkable ability to connect fully with the emotions expressed in her ballads, but she also delivered a plethora of catchy up-tempo hits as well.  In addition to her revolutionary songwriting, Shania's alluring image and unique music videos made her a cultural icon.

Shania released her self-titled debut album in 1993.  The album received positive reviews, but was initially a commercial flop, fizzling out at #67 on the U.S. Country Albums chart.  However, Shania's later success prompted renewed interest in her little-known debut album, which eventually led to the album reaching platinum selling status.

Shania's charming debut single, "What Made You Say That," was largely ignored by country radio, peaking at only #55 on the charts.  But the song did gain some attention for its accompanying music video.  The video was controversial at the time, due to the fact that Shania's midriff was exposed in some shots.  Previously, it was unheard of for so much skin to be shown in a country music video.  The video was originally banned from CMT, but was later re-added after the controversy died down.

Shania's debut album met with greater success in the European country music market, which let to her receiving CMT Europe's Rising Star of the Year Award.

Shania's early musical output also served to attract the attention of rock music producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who met Shania at the 1993 Fan Fair, and offered her his services as producer.  Mutt and Shania quickly became very close, eventually marrying.  The two wrote or co-wrote all of the songs that formed Shania's second album The Woman In Me, which would provide her commercial breakthrough, as well as win a Grammy Award for Best Country Album.

The album's first single, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under," was Shania's first major career hit, reaching #1 in Canada, and just barely missing the Top Ten in the U.S.  Her performance of the clever and quirky lyrics was full of spunk and personality, making "Whose Bed" one of her most memorable singles.

The follow-up single, "Any Man of Mine" was a groundbreaking moment for country music.  In that song, Shania displayed a unique female point of view in her declaration that men should accept their women the way they are, while constantly striving to deserve their affections.  Many female artists (Jo Dee Messina, Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, etc.) followed in Shania's footsteps in exploring similar lyrical themes, demanding respect from men, and refusing to play the part of the victim.  With the arrival of Shania Twain with songs like "Any Man of Mine," the era of the self-pitying country heartbreak queens had officially come to an end. 

Shania's point was driven home by a heavy, danceable, boot-stomping beat backed with prominent fiddle and steel.  Both the single and video received many award nominations, taking home the Canadian Country Music Awards for Single and Video of the Year.

Shania third album Come On Over, released in 1997, would establish Shania as one of the first female country artists to achieve major crossover pop success.  It was an unprecedented runaway success that amassed worldwide sales of 39 million, and becoming the best selling country album of all time, as well as the best selling album by a female artist.

The album's third single, "You're Still the One," was Shania's first single to be released to international pop markets, ultimately becoming one of the most successful singles of her career.  "You're Still the One" topped the country charts in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart and the Australian ARIA chart.  It was also Shania's first Top 10 single on the U.S. Hot 100 chart, and also entered many European pop charts.

In the lyrics of "You're Still the One," Shania proudly looked back on a relationship that overcame doubts and beat all odds to stand the test of time.  Shania's soft emotional vocal delivery was another asset that made it one of the greatest country-pop love songs of the decade.  Shania's fine songwriting and vocals earned her Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance, plus a nomination for the all-genre Record of the Year category (which she lost to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On").

Shania threw the ultimate bachelorette party with her 1999 girl power anthem "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"  The single was a Top 5 country hit, and also achieved a measure of crossover airplay.

Throughout most of her career, Shania received very little CMA love.  But when the CMA finally recognized Shania, they did so in a big way, bestowing one of country music's highest honors upon her.  Thus, Shania ended the nineties decade as the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

Shania's success continued into the early years of the 2000s.  In 2002, she released her fourth studio album Up!, which scored several more country and pop hits.  Her first Greatest Hits package followed in 2004.  The compilation included the Top 10 country hit "Party for Two," a previously unreleased song that featured guest vocals from then-newcomer Billy Currington.

Shania has been on hiatus ever since 2005.  In 2007, she announced plans to record a new album, but such plans have yet to take shape.  The new album was delayed several times, with one delay factor being Shania's split from Mutt Lange.  Shania returned to the Spotlight earlier this year when she appeared as a guest judge on the popular FOX-TV talent competition American Idol.  She later returned to Idol to mentor contestants as they prepared to perform her songs on the show.

Recent developments have suggested that plans have been set in motion for the new album.  When/If a new Shania album comes out, you can bet I'll be the first one to go out and buy it.