By Mikaela Bella.
It took that self-instructive horse sense for Shania to finally commit to the challenge of releasing Now. Baulked by turbulent years of illness and a traumatic separation from her longtime songwriter/producer and husband, the highly anticipated follow-on from Up! has been fifteen years in the making. But, Man! Doesn’t it feel good to have her back?!
What’s better is that she’s back…and in leopard print! Fans will remember the original ensemble from the clip to ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’, still Shania’s favourite song from her catalogue to perform. And now the glamorous album cover looks a reprise to the glory days of Shania party tracks and chart-topping ballads. I don’t know of any other artist with so many exclamation points (!) in their song titles, and every one is an expression of her copious energy.
“My career was fast paced and overwhelming in a lot of ways and I honestly didn’t really enjoy the moments while they were happening,” Shania confessed to Country Update.
Her unsurpassed musical achievements include charting multi-platinum album sales in 32 countries, moving 75 million albums (including one million in Australia) and winning five Grammy awards. She’s created film clips you can’t look away from, twirled media into frenzy with Sean Penn as video director of ‘Dance With the One That Brought You’ (from her debut album) and in 2016 was awarded the Billboard Women in Music ‘Icon Award’.
“There were lots of times back 15-20 years ago when I simply couldn’t absorb it all. But now I’m reflecting on it as such a great period in my life and I’m actually appreciating it more now than I ever have,” she says. All of Shania’s career accolades up to Now have been collated from just four studio albums. Now for the first time, she’s not only the star, but also the songwriter and co-producer on a 16 track release.
What we get from Now is a sound less familiar than the Shania we knew from the ‘90s, although she threw in her trademark “Whoo!” for old times sake. The lyrical themes unashamedly bare dark origins and her timbre is as deep as we’ve ever heard it, due to permanent injury sustained to her vocal chords. Lyme Disease attacked Shania after she contracted a tick while horse riding in Virginia, U.S. Although reports of her condition have alleged things were onset by the psychological trauma of her divorce from Robert “Mutt” Lange, she simply puts it down to bad luck.
“I was hesitating and procrastinating for a long time…years in fact. I’d lost my voice and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to record again,” she says. “I do lots of vocal physiotherapy now but I can never actually cure the nerves. Shows take me one and a half hours to warm up for and I can’t sing spontaneously [like karaoke] any more, which is hard.”
For the consummate professional or otherwise, the undertaking of this album presented itself as a return to the drawing board. Lange had mentored and urged Shania to the peak of her career as her most trusted collaborator, and her sound was effectively his vision manifested. Then after their split, during her rehabilitation, Prince came a-knocking. “[Prince] was the very first person that called me, who reached out to me [to produce it] before I’d even written the album,” Shania said, labeling it her “professional regret” never seeing the offer through. Prince toured and eventually passed before Shania felt well enough to work again.
One can only dream of what could have been between Prince and the Queen of Country Pop, but eventually a number of producers came to work on the project. “I told anyone getting involved musically to forget about my other records,” she told Rolling Stone recently. “I didn’t want it to be related to Mutt’s productions at all. I wanted a more organic approach.”
Read the full story in Issue 86…