The cynical genius of Shania Twain

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Shania Twain’s new album, Up!, for two reasons: it was on sale new for nine bucks, and I was curious about this concept of selling two versions of the same album, one “pop” and one “country”. For those of you who don’t pay any attention to popular music, Up! is a two-disc set - both discs contain the same 19 songs, but one is mixed as a pop album and one is mixed as a country album. I was rather disappointed to hear that they’re not really substantially different: the country disc replaces some synths and electric guitars with banjos and shit. But the vocals on both discs are exactly the same; only the backing instruments are changed. That’s weak, man. It’s also kind of a cynical statement on the part of Shania and producer/husband Mutt Lange on how close they think “country” music is to pop these days.

How about the music itself? I was thinking about writing about it, but then I read the (rather overly lengthy) review at The War Against Silence, and dude - those are exactly my thoughts. So no need. The best line? “Up! requires no preparation or acclimation, and rewards no dedication, unless you count getting the fold-out poster off the booklet staples.”

I will say this, though: whoever writes Shania’s songs (does she write her own? probably at least some of them, I’d guess) is a fucking genius in his or her own way. The album is so full of ridiculously catchy melodic hooks that it’s, well, ridiculous. Practically every song has two or three melodies that are somehow instantly appealing on some base level. No wonder she’s one of the top-selling artists in the past decade. Of course, there’s nothing there past the hooks, but I guess sometimes that’s enough.

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