Maybe contemporary country music will make sense again, now that Shania Twain is back to set the record straight.
The 51-year-old, Canadian-born Queen of Country Pop has just announced the September 29 release of NOW, her first studio album in fifteen years. A new song from it — the sunny, funny, totally Shania single "Life's About to Get Good," below — hit the Internet this morning, propelled by a turbo-charged kick drum, full of the smart little sonic details that made Twain one of mainstream music's most revolutionary forces during her mid-'90s reign as the best-selling female recording artist in the world.
"Life's About To Get Good" reflects the reality of a matured Twain; still sunny and musically adventurous, but with a bit more gravitas, gained through artistic and personal struggle. After separating from her husband and longtime producing partner Mutt Lange in 2010, Twain completely lost her voice, a terrifying development that at the time she believed was caused by stress. She was subsequently diagnosed with Lyme disease (a condition that's also affected the singing careers of punk pioneer Kathleen Hanna and country legend Kris Kristofferson). Medical treatment and diligent physical therapy allowed Twain to regain the warm, confidential tone that made her beloved across the globe, along with the strength to project it in performance.
"Life's About To Get Good" reflects Twain's determination — and her savvy in finding a new sound that reflects her classic one, but that accommodates her vocal instrument as it is now. What Twain brought to country, and the world, was a fearless defiance of genre boundaries. Hits like "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" blended rock punch, New Wave novelty and soulful sensuality with country's deep songcraft and conversational wit. "Life's About To Get Good," written by Twain and produced by Ron Aniello and Matthew Koma, known for working with artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Zedd, feels more careful than Twain's earlier work. It builds gradually over the course of its three-and-a-half minutes, slowly (for a pop song) revealing elements of a varied sound bed: strings, a churchy keyboard line, banjo, that big drum. Twain's voice, staying in a warm midrange, communicates the kind of optimism that's a choice, not a reflection, of entitlement. The way the track builds, subtly and resolutely, mirrors Twain's journey; it begins with her singing "I was shattered," before concluding that "life's about joy."
To some it all may still sound like fluff. But it's the depth of the fluff — its artfulness in combining elements and in projecting the confident stance of a woman who "leaned in" years before that was a thing — that makes Shania so important.
All those current stars, — Sam Hunt and Maren Morris and, for that matter, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley — who treat country as a land of possibility far bigger than Nashville? They owe an immeasurable amount to Twain. Now she's back to school them. You know she'll do it with a dazzling smile.