The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel and AC/DC. Six musical giants that are widely acknowledged as being among, if not the very best artists in their genre. In addition to the fact that they are known all over the world, and have influenced countless numbers of bands, they are also the only groups (or solo artists) to ever have an album that has sold more than this album has. With 35 million global sales to date, it is fair to say that this album can be counted as one of the most surprising successes in musical history. This was in fact Shania Twain�s third album, although her previous 2 barely made ripples in the music world, and following the relative disappointment of the follow up album to this (2003's Up
), it is safe to say that this album will almost certainly forever remain the peak of her achievements.
Although there are several reasons for this, probably the most important is simply the quality of songwriting on here. Although pop music is often heavily criticised on these boards, there are very few pop albums that are as packed with infectious songs to the extent that this one is, with it being possible to see virtually every song being released as a single. This is particularly evident with the number of small touches contained on this album, which make it all the more effective. From the opening slow ballad, You're Still The One
, which has a piano hook going in the background, to You've Got A Way
, which is one of the most musically layered, yet intimate songs on the album, there are small things going on in the background, which, while unnoticeable to a casual listener, draw anyone listening to them into the album; one of the marks of a good pop album.
Similarly, although Shania Twain does not have the voice of a Mariah Carey, someone who has one of the best voices in popular music today, she has nevertheless one of the better voices in pop music. Although she follows the traditional format of containing basically two sorts of songs on this album; slower, more introspective music, along with more urgent, upbeat pop, unlike many pop artists she isn't noticeably worse at one any more than the other. In a way this is typical of the album. It doesn't have any major weaknesses, although it has some minor flaws, but is so polished and filled with hooks that it's very easy to have in the background and enjoy, without actually having to really pay much attention to the music, or have your attention especially grabbed by it.
Having said that, there are a handful of tracks on here that rise up above the rest of the album into the realm of truly brilliant pop songs. The most notable among these is the global smash hit, Man! I Feel Like A Woman!
. In spite of the appalling title for this song, this is a high point of the album with it being a classic example of upbeat feel-good power-pop, which is notable both for the production, something that is notably strong throughout the album, but also for the instrumental quality present. It's possible almost to feel the enjoyment that was present in making this song when listening to it, and there's even a guitar solo, which again pulls the listener in.
Another stand out song is That Don't Impress Me Much
, which is similar in structure to Man! I Feel Like A Woman!
, in that it's another upbeat song. However, it also contains some of the better, funnier lyrics on here, with the song effectively running through problems with assorted men. Again, it's nothing new, it's been done before, but it's not so often that it's done quite so successfully, well, and consistently over an album. Come On Over
is one of the slowest songs on here, and was featured on the soundtrack for British film Notting Hill
, as it fits the mood of this film perfectly, due to it's stripped down, more emotionally intimate tone, with an acoustic guitar present throughout in the background. It also has a break mid-song in which the tempo changes somewhat, making the song more interesting than it otherwise would be.
There are flaws with this album though. Although the songs aren't too long, the album itself could probably usefully be trimmed, simply by removing the last two songs, which I think are the two weakest, from the album. If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!
, again a terrible title, is similar to the other songs on here, without quite having the same sense of the song having any real purpose or direction, while Rock This Country
is an attempt to be more of an Avril Lavigne style song, which is probably the one time on the album that a song actually fails. It's disappointing that these 2 songs are placed right at the end of the album, as they would be better off hidden somewhere in the middle, if they were to be on the album at all, as they leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, at the end of what is a very good pop album.
Although this album doesn't stick in your mind as a result of any particularly quirky touches, which was one of the reasons I didn't do a track by track review, what it does do is linger as a result of the outstanding production and pop songwriting, which accomplishes everything that a good pop album should do. Pop is far from my favourite style of music, but this is an album that can be returned to, and listened to in its entirety without any real sense that the album is growing repetitive or boring; something that many artists and albums struggle with. While it's still surprising that this was as successful as it was, on listening to these songs it should not be surprising that this was a worldwide hit, although, given the quality of her albums before and after this, it is surprising that Shania Twain made a record as consistently good and polished as this one. Both her and her record company also showed strong judgement in putting out some of the best, most catchy tracks from here as singles, which undoubtedly helped this album's success, as, while there are many songs that would have made good singles, there are inevitably some which stand out. It's not flawless by any means, but this is probably one of the best pop records of the last 10 years, and one that it's worth listening to a few songs from even if you dislike the genre.
Man! I Feel Like A Woman!
That Don't Impress Me Much
You've Got A Way