Shania Twain reflects on breakout album that changed country
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The record that turned Shania Twain from a struggling singer-songwriter from Canada into a global superstar also changed country music for years to come.
Twain is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of “The Woman in Me” with a deluxe reissue set out Friday that includes remastered versions of the original 12 songs, remixes, live versions from her Las Vegas show and early recordings of the songs.
Twain’s self-titled debut album in 1993, which she largely didn’t have a hand in writing, failed at the charts. But her life changed after “The Woman in Me,” her Grammy-winning second album released in February 1995, which was the best-selling release by a woman in country music at the time.
“I was a poor kid and then a struggling artist all of those years until this finally happened,” said Twain in an interview with The Associated Press from her home in Switzerland, near Lake Geneva. “It was life changing for me and career changing as well.”
The determined singer overcame an early childhood marred by violence and helped raise her siblings after her parents died in 1987.
After her debut album sank, Twain met rock producer-songwriter Robert “Mutt” Lange and they married in 1993. Lange was mostly known for crafting hit albums and songs for AC/DC and Def Leppard, but he was the first to recognize that she had a distinctive voice as a songwriter that others had overlooked. Songs like “Any Man of Mine,” which became her first country No. 1 and her first crossover onto pop charts, showed off her sassy, flirty and confident side. The record centered around Twain’s point of view on songs like ”(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!,” “The Woman in Me (Needs the Man in You)” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”
“In my mind, I was just being myself and that was the great thing of all — to just be able to be myself and let my personality come through in the music,” Twain said.
Twain’s crossover success based on her own songwriting, which would be fully realized with her third and most popular album “Come On Over,” opened the way for the next generation of genre-straddling artists like Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris.
“I think we were all definitely influenced by Shania, even if we don’t realize it,” Carrie Underwood told The Associated Press in 2016 at a CMT Artists of the Year event in which Twain was honored. “(Her music) was so different and kind of revolutionary at the time. She definitely paved the way for a lot of us.”
“The Woman in Me,” also introduced Twain as a visually creative artist who knew how to use music videos to broaden her reach since she had not yet started major touring. Her early videos featured her multifaceted sides with Twain out on the range riding horses, or baring her midriff while dancing (sometimes without a bra) or wrapped in white in front of Egyptian pyramids. But she was also taking a risk as a country artist to be so forward with her sexuality and her classic supermodel looks.
Twain said that her label told her that female fans would think she was flaunting her beauty and male fans would think she was “too forward thinking for a woman.”
The album earned her the first of five Grammy Awards as well as Academy of Country Music awards for album of the year and female vocalist of the year. “The Woman in Me” is 12 times platinum, but she later broke her own sales record with her follow-up, “Come On Over” two years later. It is 20 times platinum. “The Woman in Me” was the first of three of her albums that have been certified diamond, which means they have sold more than 10 million copies.
Despite taking a long break from recording between 2002’s “Up!” and 2017’s “Now,” Twain is still the best-selling female country artist, according to the Recording Industry of America. But 25 years later, Twain still refuses to be fenced in by genre lines.
“My intention was to always be a part of the larger world,” said Twain, who has been working this year on writing new music for her next album, as well as curating her own Apple Music radio station. “That’s what I expected from myself as an artist: to be an international artist. Not to be limited to one specific genre.”
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