Review Summary: In three colours, Up! hardly remains to keep the listener "up" throughout it's entirety. This being said however, the release is still fairly enjoyable, even it is solely based of the success of Come on Over.
Pop + country = success, or at least in Shania Twain’s case it certainly does. Her smash hit album, Come on Over (1997)
saw over 35 million in sales and practically became affixed to every women’s mantelpiece. Record store owners probably had to hire more staff just to compensate with the influx of zillions of fans – fans who mainly consist of women in their 30’s accompanied by their daughters, and husbands, who share their own crush for Shania’s glamour. This being said, Up!
isn’t as solid as her previous release, which showed that she could create an album where practically every song was to be a hit, and also demonstrated that the country genre itself wasn’t to be confined within a set equation: weird song title, a clangy guitar track and heartbreaking lyrics. Her first release The Woman in Me (1995)
is perhaps her closest article to this formula, but since that, she has delicately brought more pop into her mix – and Up! is no exception towards this.
The presence of sugary pop on the release is thanks to Robert Lange, who is both her producer and husband. A proficient songwriter himself, Lange has written for pop acts such as Britney Spears
, The Corrs
and the Backstreet Boys
, making it no surprise that he is perhaps the god father of many of Shania’s hits; after all he is within the writing credits stapled within the liner notes. Clearly, they both couldn’t re-release Come on Over with a different album cover and so Up! comes with three discs, red, green and blue, which are essentially different mixes of every song, pop, country and international respectively. Lange, in fact had so much work cut out for him he had to recruit the efforts of British-Asian producers, Simon and Diamond Duggal, to add the necessary character to the Blue disc. Irrespective of this inundation of audio, the album, for the most part isn’t sonically or musically much different to Come on Over making it feel like a b-sides collection.
The style of production that outlines the edges is reflective of Lange’s other efforts with The Corrs 2000 release, In Blue
, and at times there is a direct recognisable similarity between the two. While the production is well maintained, and very clean, releasing three different mixes, unfortunately detracts from the album’s creative force. Each disc has its moments, but for many it’s going to just be easier to keep the one in the car on the way to work rather than muddle between them during peak hour. Maybe Lange sensed that the album was a little too "samey" by itself, but to be completely truthful, musically it would have done better with a gathering of songs from each mix, rather than going balls out on all three. Despite the fact that this effect becomes cured after the second or third listens, flow itself is still not achieved, and then you realize that you still have two mixes to go! Furthermore, the lack of standalone hits coupled with the lack complementing transitional tracks makes the album drag on a lot longer than what it really should, making the 19 songs feel like 30.
In each song though, there is one ingredient that Shania stays true towards. That is the lyrics are, or appear to be designed to have the listener immerse themselves within. She does this and always had done it wonderfully well. It is also what makes her such a prevailing force over the hearts of women when she sings romantically about love, relationships, or just life in general, in songs like “Waiter! Bring Me Water!,” “Forever and for Always”
and “When You Kiss Me”
– while at the same time having a definitive energy towards the male listeners whilst she speaks of politeness, care and responsibility, particularly when girl-power anthems hit the ground running, such as “She’s not Just a Pretty Face”
and In My Car (I’ll be the Driver)”
, Another addition to this is witnessed within universally accessible “Ka-Ching”
, which is one of the more triumphant moments of the album. After being left puzzled, thinking that your playlist has suddenly skipped to Pink Floyd’s “Money,”
you’re left nodding your head in agreement towards her wonderfully constructed lyrics about materialism.
This album appears for the most part to be transitional; a cross between the pop-country orientated Come on Over, and what ever is to come. There is no doubt that Shania poured her greatest efforts into this album, but unfortunately, it appears that she and Lange went a little bit too far off the edge of the Earth in terms of musical content. Sure there are many great songs, carefully constructed from the success of Come on Over and placed into the cake mix of lolly pop production that Lange clearly specialises in, but on the whole, Up! will not be as of greater success or as thoroughly enjoyable as her earlier work.