Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Almost All The Best Of Shania Twain In One Place: Shania Twain's Greatest Hits Pops!

The Good: Good vocals, Some good lyrics, Memorable songs
The Bad: A few decent songs missing from the collection.
The Basics: Fun and enduring, Greatest Hits offers all of Shania Twain's most recognizable songs alongside a trio of new (now) hits.

Shania Twain, as I quickly learned when I chose her for my October Artist Of The Month, is an incredibly successful but not terribly prolific artist. Her music has basically become popularized by her collaboration with Robert John Lange, whom she married, and were it not for that, she might have dwelt her life in obscurity at Mercury Nashville. There is, perhaps, no greater evidence of this than the fact that Shania Twain's Greatest Hits is comprised only of songs worked on from the three albums Lange collaborated with her on.

In truth, Shania Twain's Greatest Hits is a simple compilation of the most recognizable songs from Twain's albums Up!, Come On Over, and The Woman In Me, with three new songs (one done twice) special for this album. One of the songs is a Lange-written song ("You Win My Love") and this is a very poppy album overall. Fans of Shania Twain are likely to fall for the album to have a complete collection of her radio played hits, but those who like her albums are as likely to find songs missing that are equally enjoyable. So, for example, the more I listen to this album the more I miss Twain's songs "In My Car (I'll Be The Driver)," "Nah!" and "It Only Hurts When I Breathe." Twain escapes any real responsibility for those being on this album by the fact that they were never "hits." If this were a "Best Of" album, I'd take more issue with that. As it stands, there is enough of an issue with the fact that Twain puts two different duets (Country and Pop) of her new song "Party For Two" on the album proximate to one another. This is a poor way to arrange the album. Generally, though, the album is well arranged with her recent singles leading the listener back to her earlier ones.

With twenty-one tracks clocking out at 77:08, Greatest Hits is an ambitious collection that does an excellent job of putting together Shania Twain's most recognizable pop-country songs from the three diamond-certified albums that made her a household name. This album is truly the collaboration of Twain and producer Lange as they co-wrote all of the songs, save "You Win My Love." Their talents as singer and producer make for a collection of easy-to-listen-to, largely pop-sounding songs that are as fun and relevant today as they were a decade and a half ago when they were originally released. There is something to be said for a meteoric rise to fame.

Twain might be a decent co-writer, but she plays none of her own instruments. She sings all of the primary vocals and given that Lange is her creative partner, one suspects that his production of the songs meets with her standards. For those curious, the three songs from Up! are split: two from the pop album ("Forever And For Always," "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!") and one from the country mixes ("Up!"). Twain seems content to lean more toward pop with her Greatest Hits, even choosing the pop radio edit of "That Don't Impress Me Much" for this album.

That said, this greatest hits collection is largely pop anyway. The primary instruments are guitars, bass and keyboards and songs like "That Don't Impress Me Much," "From This Moment On" and "Forever And For Always" lack anything that might define them as Country musically, thematically or in the vocal presentation. In fact, all that seems to be required in the Twain/Lange version of Country is the presence of the pedal steel and/or fiddles - like on "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" Anyone who likes good pop music will find this fits the bill more than adequately and those who have only heard Twain's radio hits on pop stations are likely to find most of the album familiar (though, ironically, not the songs released just on this album).

Shania Twain is a mezzo-soprano and her voice is clearest and most impressive on the album's slower songs, like "From This Moment On," "You're Still The One," and "Forever And For Always." Songs like "You Win My Love" allow Twain to show her abilities to articulate at speed, as opposed to over an extensive tonal range. In general, Lange produces the vocals to be at the forefront of the songs, but on a few - like "Honey, I'm Home" - there are moments where the instrumentals drown out the vocals.

Thematically, Greatest Hits is largely a collection of love songs. Twain does take on a few other topics outside love and loss, like the daily strains of life on "Honey, I'm Home" and for the most part she tackles them well. Still, the more one listens to this albums, some of the more predictable rhymes like "feet/eat/treat" on "Honey, I'm Home" grate on the listener. So, too, does the simple repetition of the same lines over and over again, as in the song "You Win My Love" where Twain repeats the refrain beyond most listener's ability to even fake caring.

That said, Twain and Lange are able poets. It is easy to see how she perfectly pulled the heartstrings of listeners with lines like "They said, 'I bet they'll never make it' / But just look at us holding on / We're still together still going strong / (You're still the one) / You're still the one I run to / The one that I belong to / You're still the one I want for life / (You're still the one) / You're still the one that I love / The only one I dream of / You're still the one I kiss good night" ("You're Still The One"). Twain uses simple, direct language to sing about the simple bliss of monogamous commitment and endurance of relationships and she makes it sound good.

As for the new songs, they illustrate Twain's willingness to sing about her own endurance ("I Ain't No Quitter") as well as more universal themes, like her desire for relationships to work out. While "Party For Two" has an inviting, playful, new relationship feel to it (both versions on this album), her song "Don't!" is much deeper. On that new song, she plaintively sings "Don't fight.. don't argue / Give me the chance to say that I'm sorry / Just let me love you / Don't turn me away.. don't tell me to go / Don't.. don't give up on trust / Don't give up on me.. on us / We could just hold on long enough / We can do it.. we'll get through it" ("Don't") in ways that anyone who has ever clung to a relationship can and will likely appreciate.

The only real problem with any of the lyrics on this album is Twain's tendency to lean toward the singsong rhymes. Her song "Come On Over," for example are particularly irritating in the rhyme scheme. On that song, she has a surprisingly common and dull vocabulary that leads her to rhymes like "grip/trip," "seat/feet," and "star/are" that are disappointingly simply when one listens to the album over and over. Unfortunately, "Come On Over" is not the only song like that, but it is a good example.

The album is not bad, though, and it is a good collection for fans of the radio-played Shania Twain. Anyone who likes pop rock with a feminine flavor - both the soft and the assertive - will find more than enough to enjoy on Shania Twain's Greatest Hits to justify purchasing it. But those who want Twain as a Country artist or who want a well-rounded view of her best works are likely to miss what is not here more than enjoy what is.

The best song is "You're Still The One" and the low point is the utterly unmemorable "No One Needs To Know."

For other Shania Twain album reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Shania Twain
The Woman In Me
Come On Over
Up! (Country mixes)


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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