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Glam black Shania Twain’s Begun Over is a neglected feminist masterpiece


Glam black Shania Twain’s Begun Over is a neglected feminist masterpiece

I was seven years old when Come On Over was released in the UK. It was 1999, and my half of the bedroom I shared with my younger brother was littered with cassettes, felt-tip pens, and books by Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson. Downstairs, we had a CD player and shelves stacked with my parents’…

Glam black Shania Twain’s Begun Over is a neglected feminist masterpiece

Glam black

I was seven years old when Come On Over was launched in the UK. It was 1999, and my half of the bed room I showed my younger sibling was littered with cassettes, felt-tip pens, and books by Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson. Downstairs, we had a CD gamer and shelves stacked with my parents’ albums: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Alarming Straits for my dad; Kate Bush, The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac and The Police for my mum. I ‘d heard “Guy! I Feel Like a Lady!” on the radio and asked my mum to let me purchase the album with my spending money. Against the odds, America’s greatest c and w star found her way into the family collection.

Seven-year-olds don’t truly listen out for things like how good the production is, or whether the lyrics reference some odd poem. Instead I lasered in on Twain’s warm, Canadian twang singing big choruses over fiddles made to seem like synths. I felt the thrill of trying to replicate her brassy confidence on that most cutting of lines: “OK, so you’re Brad Pitt? … That do not impress me much!” Later, I ‘d learn that the majority of these tunes were carried out in a significant secret, so it’s no surprise they were such a delight to sing along to. I had a dance regimen for every one of them.

With the help of her manufacturer and then-husband Pooch Lange, who had actually formerly dealt with arena rock albums for the likes of AC/DC and Def Leppard, Twain made the definitive country-pop album. Begin Over is a slam-dunk of hits, and one that taught me about female empowerment. A complete 15 years before the #MeToo movement, Twain was singing about authorization on “If You Wan na Touch Her, Ask!” and domestic abuse on “Black Eyes, Blue Tears”. On the defiant “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, meanwhile, she flouted every guideline about what a demure country chanteuse was supposed to be and she inverted Dolly Parton’s “9-5″ on ” Honey, I’m House”. It’s the most conventional sounding tune on the record however it sees Twain requiring that her partner take care of her when she gets back from a crappy day at work. “Shania’s brand,” the singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose told Wanderer in 2017, “was ‘I will take no s ** t and all of your money, thanks!’ … nobody stepped on Shania, particularly not the men in her songs.”

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There was even a dig at the Nashville purists on the album: “Rock This Nation!”. Shania wasn’t afraid– she was hard as nails, raised in a household in Timmins, Ontario, where food was scarce and her mom and stepfather took part in a tumultuous, typically violent relationship. By the time she was 8, she was singing in bars to help support her household. And she wasn’t afraid of taking dangers with her music, either. Her 2nd album, 1995’s The Lady in Me, made her a star in country music but stopped working to chart at all in the UK and so in order to go international, her noise needed to change into something nation that resembled pop. Lange spent four months remixing the album to remove a number of the conventional country aspects from the album’s original United States version which’s the variation that I heard as a child. What stayed was Twain’s message, one shared by the popular female artists in the late Nineties, from Alanis Morissette to Madonna, that explored empowered female sexuality.

However scandalised Nashville was by Twain’s pop hooks and glam-rock closet, the remainder of the world was offered. Begin Over is a monolith that shattered market records and was a No 1 nation album throughout four different years, eventually topping the UK charts in 1999, 74 weeks after it had originally been launched here. It is still one of the biggest-selling records of perpetuity, shifting over 40 million copies worldwide. Songs such as “That Don’t Impress Me Much” have the type of winking, ironical tone that Taylor Swift– who decided to pursue her own profession after hearing Twain’s music– would later on inject into hit songs such as “Blank Area” and “We Are Never Getting Back Together”. Without Shania, there likely would not be a Taylor.

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Artwork for the global variation of Come On Over.

However Begin Over‘s success didn’t always eclipse its critics. In 2000, Come On Over became the best-selling album of perpetuity by a female solo artist and yet a 1999 short article in The Observer entitled “Could this be the worst year in the history of popular song?” regreted Twain’s “phony nation”. Not just that but the music press was still hardwired to pit female artists against each other: just a few months later, the same publication instructed Twain to “move over” as it profiled another rising female nation star, Faith Hill.

The truth was that 1999 was a specifying year for women in music. The 41 st Grammys was called the “Grammy Year of Women” due to the fact that each of the candidates for Album of the Year was a lady or a band fronted by a female, while Lauryn Hill was to set a market record as the very first lady to win five Grammys in one night.

In the previous few years, pop writing has evolved so that “major” music sections in national publications can just as quickly release a think piece on Britney Spears as they can on Bob Dylan. But there is still a gorge in between the two: you still might not expect to see Shania Twain‘s albums advised by a “severe” author, and it frequently fails the cracks of poptimist criticism. However I would argue that Come On Over has actually stood the test of time just as much as anything by Fleetwood Mac or The Beatles. It exceeded and boundaries and prospered in being delighted in by as lots of people as possible, and it has some killer riffs.

For me, it’s the album I always return to. I listen to it when I’m cleaning my flat; if I’ve had a rubbish day and need cheering up; when a member of the opposite sex really pisses me off. I in fact stopped listening to music in 2015, after breaking my ankle, which is a frightening situation for any music critic. I was bed-bound and fell into a depression. But, even though I couldn’t dance, Come On Over was the album that pulled me out of the fog. Shania, you’re still the one.

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