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Review: "Now" - Shania Twain

by Jeremy Williams-Chalmers,

Aside from a couple of new songs on her Greatest Hits, a live album release and a sporadic single here and there, Shania Twain has pretty much been absent from the 'new release' section of every decent record store since 2002's Up!

Fifteen years ago, Shania had the difficult task of following the epic international success of 1997's Come On Over. In order to please all areas of her fanbase, Up! was released in three formats - a pop version, a country version and an international version. Although it never reached the impossibly high sales of it's predecessor, nobody anticipated it would wave goodbye to that chapter of Shania's life.

While her professional career was peaking, her personal life collapsed and in response, Shania wisely retreated from the spotlight. Although she has taken to the stage for a residency in Las Vegas, the last fifteen years have mostly been lived away from the showbiz circuit. All that is set to change as she finally returns with Now, her fifth studio album. With the bar set high, can Shania's latest release satisfy her hungry fans?

While with Up! Shania tried to please all her fans by releasing the album in assorted versions, with Now, she simply states who she is as an artist. Yes, she may have once been close to stealing the Queen of Country crown, but she is now happy to leave that territory for Dolly Parton as she focuses on the more pop-centric that took her success to stratospheric levels. Although there are tinges of her country leanings throughout Now, this is an album that essentially sees Shania make the full move into the pop territory that she clearly wished to inhabit earlier in her career.

Having written and co-produced each of the album's twelve tracks, Now is as insightful and inspiring as all her earlier releases. Ever the playful wordsmith, this is a record full of twists and turns. Although the vocal effects demonstrated on lead single Life's About To Get Good are at play throughout the album, they actually add in to the overall finish of the record rather than diminish her achievements.

Without doubt the lead single is one of the album's stand-out moments. A real nod to who she once was sonically, with a bitingly enjoyable relish of who she is now, Life's About To Get Good will please fans old and new. Following a similar format, Swingin' With My Eyes Closed has radio appeal written all over it. Yet is the clap along anthem You Can't Buy Love that feels the most real, and as a result, is the most enjoyable up-tempo.

While she proves she still has a playful side, it is actually within some of Now's more subdued and reflective moments that Shania shines the brightest. Although the album doesn't have a From This Moment On or You're Still The One within it's walls, it does the poignant Light Of My Life and pointed I'm Alright, which show she can still slow it down in relation to her current outlook.

Now introduces a very different Shania to the one we knew and loved 15 years ago. The vocals sound a little more digitally enhanced and songs, while still playful, have a more serious undertone. However, it would have been boring and predictable for Shania to simply pick up where she left off 15 years ago. This album may not tick all the right boxes for her old school fans, but it is certainly an impressive set of songs that will reignite the public's love affair with this Canadian songstress.